"D'You smell that? Smells like.. Victory!"
For the second year Bolton arrived at Old Trafford with no
one giving them much chance of surviving. For the second year they came away
with three points, leaving Man United's highly expensive reputation in tatters.
Bolton won this game because they wanted to more, it's as simple as that
(and even Sir Alex Ferguson had to admit it). Bolton came to the game with
a plan and executed it perfectly, spent most of the first half outplaying
a team which cost roughly 20 times what they did and were unlucky to go into
the break without a goal to count for it.
The instigator of most things in the first half was Youri
Djorkaeff, who far from taking it easy after retiring from international
football seems to delight in embarrassing his younger competitors, passing
and probing through a United midfield that didn't seem to know what each
other was doing despite (with the exception of Veron) having played together
since they were 16 years old. Ricketts also had a towering game, his best
in a while and a cheeky backheel sent Pedersen through (see the first movie
on the left) but Barthez was able to palm away the shot Henrick tried to
place past him.
Not that Bolton had it entirely their own way of course :).
United are a massively talented bunch, even if they weren't functioning as
a team much at all. It's some indication of how the game was going though
that they had to wait until the 24th minute for an effort on target, when
Jussi had to prod away Solskjaer's looping header. The game was flowing,
open and played at fearsome pace but Bolton were more than holding even footing,
Barness and Djorkaeff going close before Bolton got a spot of luck their
work ethic had earned them. Veron sent Van Nistelrooy through but his cannon
of a shot came back off the bar and bounced away having never crossed the
line (see the seccond movie file). So the teams went into the second half
all square, both in score and overall performance
The second half was a tighter affair, both sides possibly
realising a 4-0 scoreline was out of the question and one or two goals were
all there was going to be. Bergsson had a header cleared off the United line
and Giggs fluffed a shot strraight to Jasskelainen. Then it happened..
Bolton won a throw in near the United penalty area and Kevin
Nolan tossed in a long throw. Bergsson headed it on to the penalty area where
Nicky Butt tried to volley it clear. The kick screwed off his boot and came
to David Beckham at the edge of the area. Beckham, rather than doing the
simple thing and heading it away, chested the ball down unaware that Nolan
had followed the ball's flight and was closing in. Then, crucially, Beckham
slipped. The ball bobbled loose, Nolan pounced on it and fired a left foot
shot across the goal which Barthez could only get a hand to. The ball hit
the inside of the far corner of the goal. A small corner of a large stadium
erupted as 58,000 people looked on in shock. Bolton were ahead (see the third
Goals win games they say but what happened next was just as
key to the result. Manchester United came forward from the kickoff and earned
a corner. Beckham whipped the ball into the near post and Solksjaer diverted
the ball at ferocious speed towards the goal. Jussi Jaaskelainen, who had
had a crucial role in last season's game at Old Trafford wasn't about to
let his guard and down and palmed the ball away, an amazing reaction save
(see movie file four). The ball ricocheted around the Wanderers area until
Jussi was finally able to grab hold of the ball from Silvestre's shot and
grab a chance to reorganise.
What followed next was something akin to a footballing version
of a siege warfare. Manchester threw everything at Bolton's supposedly aging
backline. Forlan had come on and United had every forward on their books
on the pitch. Crosses rained in. Whitlow and Bergsson, aged of leg but not
of will or mind, stopped it all. In the end Barthez was playing in the centre
circle and United had ten men around Bolton's area. But whatever they did,
however they tried to pick their way through, someone blocked them. In the
end the only real save Jussi had to make was to gather a bobbling Forlan
shot in the last minute on injury time.
And that was that. United fans were leaving long before the
end and the discontent that germinated in the 2-1 defeat to Wanderers last
season (which set a pattern that arguably cost United their chance of the
title) is now full grown. United fans are unhappy, their expensive array
of talents stuttering as Arsenal look like hardly breaking a sweat getting
to the top of the table. Bolton fans can simply look on in amusement, having
gained three points very few outside Bolton thought they could. Liverpool
and Arsenal face the Wanderers next and while both aren't quite the malfunctioning
unit United appear to be, they must at least know now that Wanderers are
nobodies whipping boy and should be afforded some respect.