Match Pressbox

Last updated : 01 October 2007 By Editor

The Guardian:

Manchester United continue to gather points without performances. Sir Alex Ferguson's team have won five consecutive Premier League games in which they have neither conceded a goal nor blinded opponents with brilliance. Sound goalkeeping, solid defending and the idiosyncratic ingenuity of Cristiano Ronaldo are keeping them at Arsenal's heels, but much of the old chemistry is missing.

Birmingham have not beaten United since November 1978, the month when the bakers' union went on strike. Steve Bruce's side used their loaves well enough in the first half on Saturday to put this record straight but were thwarted by a combination of Edwin van der Sar's saves and the support he enjoyed from his centre-backs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Soon after half-time a lapse of concentration by Franck Queudrue, Birmingham's left-back, offered Ronaldo a chance he accepted astutely. By then Van der Sar, suffering from a damaged toe, had given way to Tomasz Kuszczak who proved equally adept at frustrating Birmingham's better scoring attempts. Ferguson fears that Van der Sar will miss tomorrow's Champions League match against Roma, but the Pole should be an adequate deputy if the way he kept out a shot from Gary McSheffrey that Ferdinand looked like heading into his own net was anything to go by.

In the event Queudrue in a quandary came to the champions' aid. Ferdinand's vague heave upfield carried no threat as it reached the Birmingham penalty area but the French defender, facing his own goal as he met the ball, hesitated, seemingly unaware of the lurking Ronaldo who took possession and skilfully evaded Liam Ridgewell and Taylor before putting United ahead. "We made a horrible mistake and got punished," said Bruce. "To lose like that is cruel."

The Telegraph:

It might seem an exaggeration to suggest that a team lying second in the Premier League have problems, but this is not the Manchester United we love. Or hate. A goal difference of 7-2 from eight matches is hardly their customary style.

One-nil victories used to be the mark of Jose Mourinho - Chelsea cannot manage even that, for the moment - but not Sir Alex Ferguson. Only expensive natural talent, and not too much of it, is keeping United aloft. Co-ordinated teamwork belonged more to Birmingham, and, until their head of steam ran out, once Ronaldo had punished Franck Queudrue's forlorn error, United were a team in search of a formula.

Sebastian Larsson and Gary McSheffrey - "his best game in months," reflected Bruce - attacked full-backs Patrice Evra and Wes Brown with a verve that thrilled the crowd, only for the chances which the wingers created to go begging.

In the centre, the speed of Cameron Jerome and Olivier Kapo threatened to unhinge Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, the most reliable section of Ferguson's current team. That United held out for another clean sheet was thanks in part to a reflex leap by Tomasz Kuszczak, their Polish reserve goalkeeper, who replaced injured Edwin van der Sar at half-time. Kuszczak turned aside Ferdinand's desperate defensive header that was flying straight for the net shortly after Ronaldo's goal.

The Times:

If José Mourinho received his P45 for a perceived lack of entertainment from his Chelsea team, perhaps Sir Alex Ferguson is a whisker away from the bullet, too. Manchester United are playing poorly, with little hint of the "sexy football" that may titillate a nation.

Ferguson, though, should be safe. At least United are winning, albeit winning ugly, with five successive victories in the Premier League - four by a 1-0 scoreline, the other a 2-0 victory over Mourinho's former team eight days ago.

United won by a single goal again on Saturday evening, enduring a fierce barrage from Birmingham City at St Andrew's before Cristiano Ronaldo took advantage of a clumsy error by Franck Queudrue. That most of their galácticos continued to misfire did not unduly worry Ferguson. "I think we're getting towards top gear," he said. "You could see signs of that."

Birmingham 0

(4-4-1-1): Maik Taylor 6 - S Kelly 6, J Djourou 6 (sub: R Schmitz, 76min), L Ridgewell 7, F Queudrue 3 - S Larsson 7, M Nafti 6 (sub: G O'Connor, 84), F Muamba 4 (sub: W Palacios, 70 4), G McSheffrey 7 - O Kapo 5 - C Jerome 6.Substitutes not used: R King-son, N Danns. Booked: Queudrue, Nafti, Larsson. Next: Blackburn Rovers (a).

Man United 1 Ronaldo 51

(4-2-2-2): E van der Sar 6 (sub: T Kuszczak, 46 6) - W Brown 7, R Ferdinand 6, N Vidic 7, P Evra 5 - M Carrick 5, P Scholes 5 - C Ronaldo 6, R Giggs 5 (sub: L Saha, 64 5), C Tévez 5 (sub: J O'Shea, 89), W Rooney 5. Substitutes not used: Anderson, G Piqué. Booked: Evra. Next: Wigan Athletic (h).

Referee: S Bennett

Attendance 26,526