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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 fans, as the Reds ran out comfortable 3-0 winners.

United went from one hostile atmosphere to another, and Sir Alex was happy enough to grab a point at the Britannia Stadium, despite seeing his team lose its 100 per cent league record. A string of fine saves from David De Gea ensured the result wasn't worse after Nani's solo strike was cancelled out  by Peter Crouch's header.

The month ended in bizarre fashion, though, as the Reds required a last-minute equaliser to rescue a point in Europe

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