Man Utd did enough to beat Birmingham, 1-0 despite the absence of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, their regular center backs both out with injuries. Jonny Evans and John O’Shea took their place and managed to keep the Blues away.
Michael Owen came on the 74th minute for Dimitar Berbatov and had some nice touches. He even scored a goal which did not count as he was a yard offside, had another more legitimate chance a minute later but his shot bounced off Joe Hart’s foot and went out for a corner. The other debutant Antonio Valencia also had a quiet game showing some glimpses of his athleticism and crossing abilities.
The star was Wayne Rooney who is discovering his scoring touch after being pushed into the background by Cristiano Ronaldo. He scored his 99th goal for his club and his goal (link) came courtesy of an on the money cross by Nani who shows he is ready to throw of his showboating shackles for a more meaningful contribution.
Berbatov had his moments in the opening minutes and then woke up late in the second half as his brilliant header was saved on the line by Lee Carsley before his substittution. I think Man Utd fans by now have seen enough of Berbs to realize that his basal metabolic rate resembles that of a sea cucumber only sparking to life when a defender clatters into him. But these sparks are dangerous and attractive to watch. His form will be much debated during the season.
Ben Foster showed in an instant why Fabio Capello thinks so highly of him when Christian Benitez raced down the pitch, cut inside, and angled a shot to the far post which the Man Utd back up was able to flick over. A late equalizer would have made Sir Alex very unhappy.
For Birmingham, there is satisfaction in knowing that although they lost the match they never shamed themselves. Joe Hart was a monster in goal and he was helped by some stellar defending by Frank Quedrue, Gregory Vignal, and Stephen Carr. Up front Cameron Jerome was a forceful threat, James McFadden was a workhorse, and Sebastien Larsson created a number of openings. But it is Christian Benitez who might have the most impact. I have seen the Ecuadorian play and he is a physical force; quick, strong, and hard to bring down.