Manchester United vs. Bolton Wanderers: 7 Things We Learned in United's 3-0 Win
Manchester United eased themselves back to winning ways in the Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 home victory over Bolton Wanderers, courtesy of goals from Paul Scholes, Danny Welbeck and Michael Carrick. Here we look at seven things the game at Old Trafford taught us.
Alex Ferguson shuffled his pack to line up with returning formerly-retired Scholes in midfield, while Anders Lindegaard kept his place in goal.
Wayne Rooney was partnered by Danny Welbeck up front.
Bolton never really troubled United with their 4-5-1 formation, which often left David Ngog isolated up front, and though United missed a few early chances—none more gifted than Rooney's penalty miss—once they got their noses in front, they never looked like dropping more points at home.
A relatively straightforward win then, which leaves United atop the Premier League, behind only leaders Manchester City on goal differential.
Paul Scholes: A New Role for the Returning Talisman?
Paul Scholes scored his first Premier League goal in well over a year in the 3-0 win over Bolton Wanderers, and perhaps his strike will have given Alex Ferguson food for thought.
Over the past few seasons, Scholes was deployed most often in a deeper central midfield role, springing passes all over the pitch and breaking up play, legally or not, in the centre of the park.
In his more youthful days, however, Scholes played as an advanced midfielder and even as a striker when he started out—and clearly he has not lost his anticipation and predatory skills in the opposition's penalty box.
United have been crying out for creativity in the final third, but perhaps Paul Scholes will give them a different kind of penetration to that which he provided prior to his cut-short retirement—a presence in the box, an ability to score a goal in tight situations and somebody to break through stubborn defences not by craft nor guile but by natural, instinctive movement and finishing ability.
Wayne Rooney: Time to Let Somebody Else Take the Penalties?!
Even though he failed to score against Bolton Wanderers, Wayne Rooney was a constant menace with the ball at his feet in the 3-0 win.
Picking up the duties of chief penalty taker, however, perhaps Rooney might feel now he ought to step aside after he missed his second penalty in as many matches, again letting the keeper—Adam Bogdan on this occasion, Costel Pantilimon previously—make a sharp stop to deny him from 12 yards.
Paul Scholes, Nani, probably even the likes of Rio Ferdinand, would all fancy getting their names on the scoresheet from the spot.
Rooney might continue taking them, but another miss this season and he could find the decision taken out of his hands, whether he likes it or not.
Owen Coyle Taking Too Long to Make Game-Changing Substitutions
Where has it all gone wrong for Bolton and Owen Coyle? A year ago he was rumoured to be on Liverpool's radar as new manager; now he is scrapping to save his job—and his team from relegation.
After holding out rather well against Manchester United for 45 minutes, his side conceded a poor goal, but Bolton were still in the tie at the hour mark and indeed enjoying long spells of possession.
Perhaps, looking back at the game, Coyle will imagine that this was the time to be brave, put on an extra attacker and look to peg United back.
He didn't, Bolton lacked the bodies and talent up front and United eventually extended their lead.
Sanli Tuncay was brought on with three minutes remaining, with his side already 3-0 down.
What he was expected to do then I'll never know.
Antonio Valencia vs. Nani: The Ecuadorian Wins All Day Long
Right from the first whistle in the match between Manchester United and Bolton, the home team's wingers were causing problems for the Trotters' back line.
Nani had the first shot on goal, cutting in from the left and curling a shot wide, but from there on in it was a quietly disappointing day for the Portuguese winger.
His teammate Antonio Valencia, however, had a field day.
He ran at Bolton left-back Sam Ricketts time and time again, beating him endlessly and sending over a succession of crosses for his forwards to attack.
Low and hard, curled or clipped, first time or after taking on his man—Valencia was a constant stream of attacking ammunition for United and he was arguably the best player on the park.
Manchester United's Experience to Count in the Run-In?
In amongst plenty of youngsters trying to push their cause for Manchester United, a 37-year-old Paul Scholes was replaced after the hour mark against Bolton by a 38-year-old Ryan Giggs.
Hardly the recent seeds of a fruitful Academy system either of them, but both of those elder statesmen have won so many trophies that the experience they can provide will surely be of huge benefit to United as they seek to overthrow Manchester City at the top of the table.
Maybe neither of them will contribute to games for the entire 90 minutes week in and week out, but between them they can certainly still show that they have enough left in the tank to win a game.
Scholes' effort in the first half effectively won the points for United against Bolton, and Giggs will provide similar benefits in matches to come.
Bolton Wanderers Face Crucial Six Weeks in Relegation Fight
19th in the Premier League and a point from safety, Bolton still have plenty of work to do to ensure their survival come the end of the season.
Despite the defeat to Manchester United, Bolton can take heart in fine individual performances from the likes of Mark Davies, Adam Bogdan and Nigel Reo-Coker, but they certainly face a tough test to garner enough points over the next six weeks to stay in touch with the teams above them.
Increasingly, it is looking like three to five teams will go down this season, with QPR, Blackburn, Wigan and Wolves all struggling along with Bolton.
A run of fixtures in the league from now until the end of February containing Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea means the Trotters are likely to have to give everything in the other matches against Norwich and Wigan to avoid being cut adrift at the bottom.
Four Huge Upcoming Games for Manchester United in the Title Race
Alex Ferguson, as well as being pleased at the comfort in which his team won against Bolton, might also be feeling a touch of relief at having claimed all three points.
His Manchester United side had lost their previous two league encounters and now face a mammoth task of playing Arsenal, Stoke City, Chelsea and Liverpool in their next four league games—sandwiched around an FA Cup clash with Liverpool and before a double-header in the Europa League against Dutch giants Ajax.
Points lost at this stage of the season can be very difficult to make up over the three months that follow until the end of the campaign. Ferguson will be hoping that his team can take this victory and use it to spring themselves into the upcoming fixtures with renewed optimism and confidence.