Charlton play well, but still lose
Diawara and Bougherra were central defenders in a 4-5-1 formation with Marcus Bent up front at Old Trafford, writes Erith Addick Paul May. Song and Ambrose featured in midfield with Hughes and Zheng Zhi on the bench and Thomas excluded. For United Ronaldo was replaced by Jisung Park who tried his luck with an early shot that went high and wide.
Diawara put a long ball up to Bent but he had no one to flick it on to. Rooney advanced on goal but was denied by Song. Park raced towards goal and shot towards the top corner but Carson got his finger tips to it and pushed it over the bar for a corner. United played the ball back in through Higgs but Carson dived to his right to deal well with a downward header from Saha. A free kick from Rommedahl went straight to Gary Neville.
Holland won the ball in midfield off Scholes, Rommedahl had a great chance through a lay off from Bent but he put it into the side netting to the evident frustration of Alan Pardew. Holland won the ball again well, the move ending in a Charlton throw in. Charlton won a second throw from the clearance and then a third. Kuszczak, deputising for the injured van der Sar, had to make a great save from a header from Ambrose, giving Charlton their first corner, but it ended in a goal kick.
Giggs used space that opened up well, Rooney put in a shot that was saved by Carson but Rooney was offside anyway. Rommedahl and Bent exchanged passes well, but the forward ball put Charlton offside. An excellent chest down by Bougherra sent Charlton on the attack again.
United won a corner despite a good tackle by Matt Holland. Resolute defending by Charlton prevented United from making anything of it. A bobbling ball in the area was dealt with well by Carson. Faye fed Rommedahl well, but he got the ball stuck under his feet and it went out for a United goal kick. Saha's boot made contact with the impressive Bougherra's face, but he recovered immediately.
Ambrose made a shot on target, but Kuszczak gathered. United launched a counter attack, there was a deflected cross into the area, Thatcher hesitated and Park rose on 23 minutes to put a header past Carson. Charlton attacked, Ambrose just failing to make contact with a promising ball, and United countered. Park advanced and Diawara cleared for a corner. The pressure was now on Charlton, who had been rocked by the goal, the revived home crowd chanting 'We shall not be moved.'
Charlton were starting to give the ball away cheaply and Saha had an effort from distance that did not go too far wide. A cross from Rooney went across the six yard box. Rooney put in another cross and United continued to attack, a header from Giggs being picked up by Carson. Diawara was booked for going in late on Saha. Faye picked up a knock and seemed to be struggling. Giggs supplied Rooney who missed by inches. Faye was taken off to be replaced by Zheng Zhi. Thatcher made a good tackle on Park. Ferdinand was down for some time.
Giggs advanced and the ball was deflected off Song for a United corner. Carson palmed it away and there was a moment of danger with Carson on the ground and a goalmouth scramble. Charlton launched an attack, but United were able to clear in time added on.
Half time: United 1, Addicks 0
A rare mistake by Bougherra let Rooney in, but his shot took a deflection and went over the bar at the expense of a corner. Diawara provided a good clearing header.
Rommedahl was hesitant on the ball in a promising position and Scholes was able to take the ball off him.
There was a good cross into the area from Sankofa, Zheng Zhi went for the ball but received a slight push. Song broke up a United attack, Charlton went forward well but the ball by Holland was disappointing. Rommedahl tried from distance, leaving Marcus Bent upset that the Dane had not played him in.
Charlton were moving the ball about well, but United counter attacked again. Rooney was closed down by Bougherra. A volley from Giggs went wide. Ryan Giggs was taken off and Larsson was brought on with United not having everything their way.
Zi Zi put in a first rate cross after running down the right and Vidic had to some last minute defending to deny Bent. United attacked again but Carson dived well to save. Bougherra went down on the edge of the box and the stretcher was taken on, but he limped to the touchline. After his excellent debut performance an injury to him would be a great loss to the Addicks.
Ambrose and surprisingly Matt Holland were taken off (but perhaps he was tiring) and Hughes and Lisbie were brought on. Lisbie won a free kick in a useful position off Vidic. Rommedahl's ball into the box was a good one and it went inches wide with the keeper beaten. Bougherra headed wide from the corner.
A ball into the box by Park was read well by Hughes. Charlton advanced well, winning a throw in level with the edge of the penalty area. A cross took a deflection off Vidic leading to another Charlton corner. United were able to break and Saha's shot was saved by Carson.
United took off Saha who was replaced by Richardson. Rooney advanced on goal, Carson saved with his legs, but Rooney played it back into the area and Fletcher scored with a header.
Rommedahl put a cross into the box, Lisbie had plenty of space and could have turned and shot but laid it into the path of Zi Zi who put the bar high over the crossbar.
Park tried to feed Larsson, but Diawara provided good cover. Charlton were still fighting. The thousand or so Addickted responded with a chorus of 'Valley Floyd Road'. Fletcher put in a good shot but Carson saved it well with his palm. Rooney and Song received a talking to from referee Riley.
The game against West Ham is really massive now, one of the most important we have had for years.
PS: Sir Alex Ferguson had some praise for us, Wyn: