A bucketload of goals and a very decent points haul made for a festive feel to the fixture pile-up – despite an unfortunate final instalment as Blackburn ruined the party mood at OT on Sir Alex Ferguson’s 70th birthday.
The first test of the month, at Aston Villa, was passed cautiously, an inaugural Reds goal for Phil Jones combining with some top-drawer defending to earn three points. From then on, though, the goalscoring shackles came off. Wolves were the first to fall, shipping four at Old Trafford. Two-nil up at the interval thanks to Nani and Wayne Rooney, United’s lead was halved by a Stephen Fletcher header soon afterwards, but the Reds’ duo duplicated their first-half efforts to effectively end the contest just after the hour mark.
A week later at Loftus Road, less than a minute in, Rooney was on target again, and while the Hoops goal was breached just once more (a memorable Michael Carrick run and shot), a goal deluge seemed only a matter of time. It duly arrived, just down the road, at Fulham the following Wednesday. Again United struck early – Danny Welbeck sweeping home in the fifth minute; Nani and Ryan Giggs (continuing his record of scoring in every Premier League season) made it 3-0 before the break; and the Cottagers’ misery was compounded at the death by Rooney and then Dimitar Berbatov – off the bench to produce an impudent, injury-time backheel, his first league goal of 2011/12.
By the end of the next match, Wigan on Boxing Day, Berba had quadrupled his league tally, scoring three as United made it a second successive 5-0 (opener from Ji-sung Park; first league goal of the season for Antonio Valencia) against a Latics side down to 10 for most of the game. And so to Blackburn, where two further goals from Berbatov, wiping out Rovers’ shock two-goal lead, made six wins from six odds-on – until Grant Hanley headed the visitors back in front 10 minutes from time. Rovers refused to relinquish the lead this time, leaving Reds fans anticipating a three-point deficit following City’s game with Sunderland on New Year’s Day – not the case, however, as the Black Cats ran out 1-0 winners at the Stadium of Light.
Unfortunately, early December meant the final Champions League group games – and the death knell for United’s 2011/12