Still deploying a version of 4-4-2, Ferguson went for a more expansive shape by picking two orthodox wide men in Nani on the left and Antonio Valencia on the right. It's a tradition with United — handing over the flanks to old-fashioned wing play. Sometimes it thrills, on other occasions it renders the midfield vulnerable. No prizes for guessing yesterday's outcome.
Related ArticlesLampard: United need MessiWigan 0 Man United 5Ferguson: strikers must stop misfiring'Rooney better than Ronaldo'Sport on televisionNot that everything was perfect. Despite setting up Michael Owen for his first United goal, Nani continues to frustrate with his final ball. There were times when he linked up smoothly with the overlapping Patrice Evra, others when a move fizzled out because the Portuguese had been careless.
Valencia, on the other hand, just needed to express himself more by being braver in possession. Perhaps someone had a word at half-time because the new boy came out after the break in much more positive mood, his cross setting up Wayne Rooney for the all-important first goal. That contribution alone would have done Valencia an awful lot of good. He will continue to improve as long as he forgets about trying to fill Cristiano Ronaldo's boots.
At the back, the return of Nemanja Vidic instantly added more aggression and authority to a rearguard unusually generous in midweek. It was a similar story in midfield where Darren Fletcher vied with Rooney for man of the match. Controlling central midfield with elegant poise, Fletcher's importance to the team grows by the game.
Further forward, it's amazing what a goal can do for an individual suffering a little. Dimitar Berbatov's body language had reeked of discontent when things weren't going his way. Fortunately for the visitors, that didn't happen too often in a game United virtually dominated from start to finish.
From an attacking point of view, in fact, it could almost be described as the prefect day: all three of United's main strikers getting on the scoresheet and someone stepping up to convert a spectacular free-kick.
Nani, however, will never be Ronaldo in the same way that United will never be the same without their old star. But that's the whole point. The champions are heading in a different direction.