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22/05/2012 14:27, Report by Adam Marshall
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Review 2011/12: September

The Reds’ exciting start to the campaign showed no sign of ending when Bolton Wanderers were put to the sword at the Reebok Stadium.

Expecting a difficult test against local opponents, the champions instead went ahead after only five minutes, thanks to Javier Hernandez. A quickfire double by Wayne Rooney then had the points wrapped up inside 25 minutes before the striker became only the fourth player to bag back-to-back hat-tricks in Barclays Premier League history.

Although the two forwards dominated the headlines, Phil Jones’ thrilling performance at right-back properly announced his arrival as a player of real potential. There was bad news for Tom Cleverley, though, who picked up a serious injury.

A midweek trip to Portugal heralded the beginning of Champions League football and yielded a satisfying 1-1 draw at Benfica, courtesy of a stunning Ryan Giggs strike. Thankfully, there was no European hangover four days later when Chelsea came to town. Indeed, some clinical attacking play had the Reds 3-0 ahead by the break, despite conceding chances to the visitors. Chris Smalling’s header was followed by a Nani howitzer and Rooney plundered a third after Jones’s bold run had sparked panic in the Blues’ defence.

Fernando Torres reduced the deficit immediately after the restart, and when Rooney slipped as he took a penalty the nerves started to creep in a little. However, the tension was lifted by Torres somehow contriving to miss an open goal in front of the Stretford End before Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov came close to adding a fourth.

Another midweek cup tie followed, although this one had added spice: an old-fashioned Carling Cup tie at Elland Road. A blend of experience and youth (Sir Alex handed three players first-team debuts) was good enough to silence the Leeds

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