In a season which has already revealed the colour of Stephen Ireland's Superman underpants, Manchester has come to expect some originality in its goal celebrations. Carlos Tevez opted for a pink dummy, whipped from his shorts and placed in his mouth after he had scored the goal which restored some order for Manchester United.
For pure impact value, hardly in the same league as dropping your shorts but a welcome shaft of colour on an afternoon which even Sir Alex Ferguson said he had found funereal.
Tevez's actions were not quite as random as they seemed. When he was the club captain at Corinthians, the Argentine took to leading out his team with his baby, Florencia, in his arms and producing her dummy from his sock when he scored.
His delight at his 10th goal of the season yesterday was tempered by an ankle injury sustained in a first-half tackle from Liam Ridgewell which saw him shouldered down the tunnel by coach Mike Phelen after 70 minutes and which, Ferguson later revealed, may mean he missed Saturday's FA Cup tie at Villa Park. The injury will be assessed today but the prognosis is worrying.
"He's not the type to roll around and that gives you an idea of the type of tackle. It was a sore one," Ferguson said.
To judge by yesterday's tepid display, United badly need a fit Tevez, who was their most constant threat and twice hit the post on a day when Wayne Rooney was considered unfit for a return, though curiously the United manager reserved his wrath for a United crowd whose silence had all the hallmarks of a New Year's Day hangover.
"It's all right saying the players must play and make the crowd respond," the Scotsman said afterwards. "But in some situations like today the players need the crowd to respond and vice versa. The crowd were dead. That was the quietest I've heard [them.] It was like a funeral."
It was not the first time that Ferguson has echoed the views articulated most famously in Roy Keane's attack on the prawn sandwich brigade. Old Trafford atmospheres have been lacking the past, he said, Crowds go quiet, he said, "when we're dominant [and] crowds come to be entertained".
But United had only themselves to blame. There was precious little to inspire fervour as Alex McLeish, conscious that this was the footballing equivalent of "a water pistol against a machine gun", played five in midfield and showed minimal desire for a first win here since New Year's Day 1978.
All told, the minute's applause before the kick-off in acknowledgement of the late Motherwell captain Phil O'Donnell was about as emotional as it got.
Ferguson also used his programme notes to make his firmest assertion yet that he will not spend in the transfer window.
"I think we already have all the men we need. I will be happy to leave well alone," he said. And yet there was little to suggest at times either that the hairdryer treatment he had afforded his players after their defensive capitulation at Upton Park on Saturday had roused them from their slumber, or that he is right as seems likely to be the case to hold off on an approach for Dimitar Berbatoc until the summer.
Birmingham even seemed to pick up where West Ham had left off, creating two half-chances opportunities in the first 10 minutes, with Gary McSheffrey the threat. But the flowing, counter-attacking pace which has created so many exquisite goals here this season was in evidence again before it delivered United's goal.
Patrice Evra burst through a channel on the left of the box after five minutes to cross for Tevez, whose header struck the base of the post. The move which delivered a goal was better still. Ronaldo took two touches to control and backheel the ball with the same, right foot, to send Tevez through on a one-two. McLeish's assertion that the goals was "five-a-side stuff [that] we should cope with" did a profound disservice to Ronaldo's brilliance.
United might well have extended that lead early in the second half, as Birmingham's efforts to contain them began to fail. Maik Taylor saved well after Park Ji Sung, starting his first game since March 2006, crossed for Ronaldo, who headed firmly towards the goalkeeper's feet.
Then Park played in Tevez who stumbled as he turned in the box, but showed the industry to climb to his feet and shoot against the post. Ronaldo might have scored from the rebound.
McLeish, by contrast with his old friend Ferguson, is looking to reinforce his squad, though he was candid about the perilous position clubs like his are in when the transfer window arrives. "We hope that rather than commit millions of the club's money [there will be] loan deals," he said. "January is dangerous time to be committing millions if you don't maintain Premier League status."
After McLeish had introduce Mikael Forsell in the game's later stages, Birmingham began challenging in the United box and might even have sneaked a late equaliser. Their efforts hardly added up to McLeish's appraisal that his side had created "as many opportunities as I've seen a team have against United for a long time," though the afternoon certainly left the Ferguson as deflated as his fans.
"It was workmanlike," he said. "It wasn't a great performance."
Goals Tevez (25) 1-0.
Manchester United: (4-2-3-1) Kuszczak; O'Shea, Evra (Brown, 84), Ferdinand, Evra; Park (Hargreaves, 76), Anderson; Carrick, Nani, Ronaldo; Tevez (Saha, 71). Substitutes not used: Brown, Pique, Heaton.
Birmingham City: (4-5-1). Taylor; Kelly, Ridgewell, Jaidi, Queudrue; McSheffrey (De Ridder, 67), Nafti (Palacios, 81) Muamba, O'Connor, Larsson; Jerome (Forssell, 67). Substitutes not used: Doyle, Parnaby
Booked: Birmingham City Ridgewell , Palacios, Nafti. Manchester United Brown.
Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).
Man of the match Tevez.
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