Sir Alex Ferguson enjoyed a stress-free 64th birthday as Manchester United brushed aside Bolton at Old Trafford.
We were rewarded for a blistering start when Bruno N’Gotty put Kieran Richardson‘s cross into his own net.
Bolton equalised through Gary Speed‘s header but United were back in front at half-time after Louis Saha slotted in. United made it 3-1 when the outstanding Wayne Rooney set up Cristiano Ronaldo to tap home and the Portuguese winger wrapped up the win after a mazy run. Rooney later left the pitch to a standing ovation after yet another magnificent display, which meant the rested Ruud van Nistelrooy was hardly missed.United were in charge from the kick-off and got the goal their early pressure deserved when N’Gotty deflected in Richardson’s cross, with Saha waiting to pounce. They should have had more from an impressive first-half display. Rooney shrugged off two defenders but blazed his shot over, then flicked just wide before finally sending a stinging low shot straight at Jussi Jaaskelainen. A second goal seemed inevitable – but it was Bolton who scored it, completely against the run of play. Jay-Jay Okocha launched a trademark long throw into the penalty area, causing panic in the United defence. Abdoulaye Faye leapt highest to set up 36-year-old Speed for his third goal of the season.
Shell-shocked they might have been, but United were immediately back on the attack.Jaaskelainen had to be out quickly to smother an attempted Saha shot and Ronaldo was desperately unlucky to see his thunderous volley come back off the post. But Saha ensured United took a deserved lead in at half-time when he ran onto Tal Ben Haim‘s wayward back header and pushed a shot home from a tight angle – despite the attempts of the unfortunate N’Gotty to clear. United remained in charge in the second half. Ronaldo once again hit the post after a surging run through the middle but it was third time lucky when the Portuguese winger tapped in on 68 minutes after more brilliant work from Rooney. And Ronaldo wrapped up an emphatic win for United with a smart left-foot finish after some trademark tricks left the Bolton defence flailing.
Ji Sung-Park then came on at the end for Rooney, and looked at as spritely as ever. With Park, RVN & Gerard Pique (making his 2nd Premiership debut) all on, United had used all their substitutes and were beginning, once again, not only to show our true ability and what sort of team we are building for the future, but also the depth in our squad. Pique was a highly coveted teenager, a centre back, that Barcelona were extremely bitter about losing. One has to be pleased that Saha has seemingly come back to his old goalscoring form. Now that Smithy has been shifted to a makeshift midfield anchor role, we desperately need a quality striker that can help share some of the burden up front with RVN & Rooney. Giuseppe Rossi is still very green. It’s a great testament to SAF’s loyalty and management skills to see Saha back on song and one could see how pleased he was and his paternal reaction when Saha came off the field.
Man United Blog Man of the Match: Louis Saha