Keep This, Fix That: Manchester United v. Bolton

So, Manchester United v. Bolton. At Old Trafford. After Manchester’s lackluster and rather disappointing last shows in the EPL, fans were hoping for a little reprieve today in the form of a solid win. Bolton, being in the bottom three of the table, wanted to be the next miracle team to beat up on the Red Devils.

Manchester United's Paul Scholes celebrates after scoring his first goal back with the Red Devils.

Surely by now, you know Manchester United won 3-0. And you probably have heard about Paul Scholes’ first goal in his return to the Red Devils (during the dying minutes of the first half, by the way), the wacky goal from Danny Welbeck off a Wayne Rooney stumbling pass and Michael Carrick’s sweet skipping shot into goal, so I’m going to try a little something different here. I’m calling it “Keep This, Fix That.” Instead of telling you what you probably already have read on ESPN about the game’s outcome, here are my thoughts on what worked for both teams and what they probably need to look at.

Manchester United, Keep This: That amazing, glorious, wonderful, awe-inspiring passing in the first half. Seriously.

Example: Third minute – Michael Carrick lifted in a beautiful pass from midfield to a waiting Danny Welbeck who only had Bolton’s keeper Adam Bogdan to beat. It didn’t result in a goal, but the pass, just gorgeous.

And that was just in the third minute. It didn’t stop from there. Passes from United within the first 10 minutes were absolutely gorgeous. From Rooney to Nani, Carrick to Welbeck, the movement off the ball in the midfield to push up to goal were encouraging signs from the Red Devils and great to watch.

And it just continued through the first half. Beautiful, fluid passes to players who were coming up to meet the ball and stay with it to run on goal. Even Paul Scholes got a chance to fire off one of his famous cracking shots from at least 20 yards out (didn’t result in a goal, though. Scholesy return goal came from a scramble in the box during the last minute of extra time in the first half. He was completely unmarked when Rooney’s pass landed at his feet and he notched it in the back effortlessly).

It’s the type of passing you want to always see from your team, through a whole 90 minutes.

Bolton, Keep This: Adam Bogdan. I don’t know what you’re feeding your keeper, but damn, whatever you’re doing, keep it up.

This man was on his game all 90 minutes.

When his back line was out in God knows where, Bogdan was there to clean it up. He came up big when Rooney stepped up for a penalty in the first half, not only reading the striker perfectly, but confidently punching out the shot.

You could see Bogdan’s confidence build through the game. From the first, big save where he came way out of his box a little timidly to the massive blocks he stacked up against Rooney and Welbeck’s shots, Bogdan stepped up for Bolton today. It’s hard for a keeper to be tested like that again and again and keep his line, but Bolton fans can praise their keeper.

Yes, Manchester United got three goals into the back of his net, but that really shouldn’t take away from the great performance this keeper put in. On his A game, with a solid defense backing him up, Bolton could shake up the EPL a bit. Yes, that’s how strong Bogdan looked between the posts.

So, don’t look at the score line and think Bolton’s keeper didn’t do well, because that is quite the opposite. Bogdan actually saved the Wanderers quite a few times today.

Manchester United, Fix That: Stay concentrated on the game in the second half (oh, and finish on goal too). I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this happen to United. They come out to start a match strong; strong passing, great midfield, pushing against the opposing back line. Then the second half comes along and it’s like they all look at each other and go, “Eh. We’ll just sit back on this one.”

This is not a good strategy. I don’t know what you have to do to fix it, I don’t know how to get it in their heads, but something has to be done. Yes, I know. They won 3-nil, with two goals in the second half, but that’s not really the point, is it? Compared to the first half, the second was scrapy. To be successful, to be a strong, solid team, you have to have two strong, solid halves in a match. And one thing that has been following United like a bad plague this season is the fact they rarely have an entire 90 minutes worth being excited about.

(Oh, and finish in the final third! Please, please, be on target and get that ball in the back of the net!)

Bolton, Fix That: The back line. Yes, three goals were let in, but that was by chance of God and keeper Bogdan. It could have very well been five or six.

I understand the need to push up and help the midfield when the situation is dire, but too often than not, when Manchester made runs toward Bolton’s goal, the defense was sprinting to get back to defend against the attack. There were even times that Mark Davies, a midfielder, came back to make some defensive moves for Bolton.

You have got to get a solid back line to keep on guys like Nani, Rooney and Welbeck. Giving them space to make passes like they were will hurt you in the end, as Bolton found out with the three goals leveled against them. A keeper can only do so much, and Bogdan more than did his job today. Defense needs to help him out.

 

All in all, it was a decent match to watch. Manchester United were solid enough and Bolton could have done worse (they had a few great, heart-stopping runs in the second half that made things interesting). While the match doesn’t help Bolton in any way out of the bottom part of the table, the three points will definitely bolster United as they continue their quest against City for the top of the table.

Saturday EPL Results:

Aston Villa 1 – Everton 1
Blackburn 3 – Fulham 1: This is a surprising resulting, considering Blackburn were down a man after
Yakubu Aiyegbeni received a red card in the 23rd minute.

Tottenham 1 – Wolves 1
Chelsea 1 – Sunderland 1
Liverpool 0 – Stoke 0
West Brom 1- Norwich City 2

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