Archive for the 'Ranting' Category

01
Dec
10

A Tale of Two United’s –Unbeaten run ends with a whimper in E13

"You can stick your fooking England..." not what the 2018 committee would want to hear

"You can stick your fooking England..." not what the 2018 committee would want to hear

When Dickens wrote “It was the best of times it was the worst of times” it’s blindingly obvious he must have been a Manchester United fan.

The last five days have been the strangest of times in recent memory for many United fans, myself included.

From dancing out of Old Trafford having seen Blackburn well and truly put to the sword, to trudging through the snow in East London having been demolished by relegation certainties West Ham, the life of a United fan is anything but predictable.

While I refrained from getting carried away with the emphatic win over Big Sam’s Blackburn, at least in print, there can be no denying that the thought of United sweeping all before them from now until the end of the season did briefly enter my mind.

Thank god then for those footballing colossuses Jonathon Spector and Carlton Cole for reminding me not to get carried away with the fickle mistress that is football.

While the win over Blackburn highlighted just how good some of United’s best players can be on their day, the Carling Cup loss to West Ham merely underlined the faults some of the supporting act need to work on if they’re going to be of any use in a title challenge or big Champions League game.,

It wasn’t the fact that United failed to mount any real shots on of note on Robert Green’s more than fragile goal for much of the game, or that 36 year-old Ryan Giggs was the most determined and enthusiastic player on the pitch that was the real disappointment of last night’s game.

No the real disappointment was the same old questions rearing their ugly head that have already been asked and not really answered for some time now.

John O’Shea. Need I really say any more? Just what does the man have to do for Sir Alex Ferguson to realise he’s nowhere near United-class and has gradually got worse over the past few seasons. The fact that O’Shea’s been recently rewarded with an 80k a week long-term contract is the biggest example of rewarding ineptitude since the Americans voted in Dubya Bush for a second term.

Speaking of Americans, when a player of the calbre of Jonathon Spector more than doubles his tally for the past 12 seasons-probably- in a game against you, then something is desperately wrong with your choice of personnel.

While there’s no need to suddenly start screaming and panicking at what is almost a reserve side getting beaten by a Premier League team away from home .there are certain factors that cannot or should not be ignored.

The form of Jonny Evans is now so worrying, I can’t believe there isn’t something deeper behind it. I’m not talking evil spirits or a secret drinking problem- although if it makes him play like Paul McGrath it might be an idea. No, what I mean is how can the player that you could rely on to boss and stamp on Didier Drogba, who once made me actually write the words: “If Rio Ferdinand cannot be relied upon regularly maybe its time to make Evans first choice”, how can he be so consistently worrying?

Even against Blackburn I felt he could have made it a bit harder for Christopher Samba to score, but against West Ham he was quite frankly awful. Evans looks as though he’s totally out of his depth against players that a year or so ago would have been lucky to get a touch of the ball let alone grab a brace.

Carlton Cole was shockingly bad for much of the game and showed why he’s not even always managed to hold down a first team place at West Ham this season. At times, watching Cole lose the ball or fluff a shot was laughable and actually made me forget the fact that I could no longer feel my feet.

it all seemed to start so well for United with Gabriel Obertan very nearly opening the scoring after only a few minutes. Yet it proved to be a false dawn. Even with Mark Clattenburg doing his party piece of consulting with the linesman to rule in United’s favour- thereby disallowing a West Ham goal that had already been announced over the Upton Park tannoy, United couldn’t seize the initiative.

Too many players just didn’t perform, with Darren Fletcher being one of the main culprits. The reason I single out Fletcher -who to be fair was by no means the worst player on the pitch, is that his performance seemed to sum United’s night up. If the man who dealt with the likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric only a few games earlier cannot cope with a player of the calibre of Victor Obinna then there’s something seriously wrong. I only hope that Fletcher does his usual job of playing not so well against poor opposition and gets back to his best for his other usual job of keeping Cesc Fabregas firmly in his pocket for the upcoming visit of Arsenal.

United fans wonder why we ever let Jonathon Spector leave

United fans wonder why we ever let Jonathon Spector leave

Even Tomasz Kuszczak who’s required to play a maximum of eight games a season, seemed a little out of sorts and other than one good save in the first half looked a little indecisive and dare I say less than bothered.

While you can hardly judge players on one game in the snow it’s obvious that Bebe and even Obertan cannot be called upon in big games just yet. I just hope Nani and Giggs stay fit and Antonio Valencia can make a full recovery because I can’t imagine the top teams having too much difficulty in dealing with either.

The full back merry-go-round only underlined the problems United had in dealing with a West Ham side playing for their only chance of success this season. O’Shea swapped flanks with Fabio who replaced the Irishman in performance as well as position and neither of them looked anything other than dodgy. Poor Rafael was subsequently thrown on for his brother only to suffer the indignity of getting the p*ss took out of him by the now rampant Obinna.

The biggest shame for me came in the fact that Carlton Cole who’s touch reminded me of Emile Heskey on an off day, managed to turn Jonny Evans with such ease. Cole’s second which came from a cross by the now Ronaldo-esque Obinna was the final insult. My biggest sympathies lay with Ryan Giggs, who battled for every ball and seemed to remember what shirt he was wearing  and my fellow travelling fans. As I’m working in London for the week, I only had a trip to Tooting to contend with but I can only imagine how sh*t the drive back up the M6 must’ve been for many.

My only real comfort from such a dire evening is the memory of how a League Cup quarter final loss at White Hart Lane over ten seasons ago led to not too bad a season……



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13
Nov
10

Five things we learnt from the game against Villa

Vidic- was he pushed or did he jump?

Vidic- was he pushed or did he jump?

In the words of Morrissey ‘stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before,’ United draw away from home, dropping valuable points and leaving Chelsea rubbing their hands in glee-that’s happiness not the annoying American singing show.

United’s away form has gone from causing concern, to being a real worry, to now almost being accepted as inevitable. Saturday’s early kick-off, after all a three o’clock start for the Reds is even rarer than an away victory, was yet another disappointing example of mediocrity.

A sixth away draw from seven is quite frankly abysmal and while the glass half full types will point to a 25 match unbeaten run, and the longest start to  a premier league campaign without defeat for United in eleven years- there is no denying that 12 dropped points at this stage isn’t good enough.

The game against Aston Villa, may have been a case of a point won for United as they were two goals down with less than ten minutes to play, but the Reds’ comeback was only necessary after what was 80 odd minutes of the worst performance by a United team in recent memory.

So what did we learn from the Villa game other than the difference between jumping into the crowd and being pushed, oh and Darren Fletcher is no so well known he no longer needs a name and number on his shirt?

Here’s five things I fathomed from United’s trip to the Midlands.

1. It’s time for the midfield to step out of Scholes’ shadow.
I wrote before the Villa game that I felt that Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher needed to show that they could offer some creativity in the absence of Paul Scholes. To say I couldn’t have been more disappointed would be an understatement. I know neither player is renowned for their attacking prowess but the fact remains both are capable of doing more than tackling -Fletcher- or passing it sideways -Carrick- yet that was all either offered for most of the game.
I’m a big fan of both players but when Scholes is unavailable one of them needs to take a bit responsibility, Saturday just wasn’t good enough and if things don’t improve then Fergie has to get his cheque book out or recall Tom Cleverley.

2. Nani is a livewire that United need. Against City Nani was poor and for much of the game against Villa he wasn’t much better but still managed to come up with a superb cross for Nemanja Vidic’s equaliser. It may not have made up for 85 minutes of rubbishness but he’s one of the few match winners United have at their disposal. He may at times be one of the most frustrating players ever to wear a United shirt but as he’s proven time and again this season, the ridiculous is often followed by the sublime. With Antonio Valencia out of the next few months, United will just have to suffer the torment of the Nani show.

3. Time to throw caution to the wind in these away games. Had United lost three and won three of the six drawn games then they’d obviously have been three points better off. Although by the end of the Villa game United were the far more attacking side, it was obvious after an hour in that it just wasn’t working.

Against City Sir Alex Ferguson decided to bring off Berbatov for Chicharito, against Villa he brought off both for the pair of Gabriel Obertan and Kiko Macheda. It’s time to start going for these games earlier. Leaving at least two strikers and two out and out wingers would have been a start. Chicharito hadn’t been  getting much joy but may have benefited from having Obertan trying to whip some crosses in for him and Macheda alongside him. Fergie could have left Berbatov on and taken off Park who was obviously struggling. Whatever the scenario, seeing Chris Smalling playing upfront was as bemusing as it was embarrassing and should simply not be happening in a United side.

4. Berbatov is not to blame for all United’s woes but his form is worrying. I’m a big believer that Berbatov was a good signing for United, that he does exactly what it says on the tin and that he should not have been sold in the Summer. As long as I live and breathe I defend any man who scores a hat-trick against the dippers. Even without those three goals I’ve long admired Berbatov and think that any suggestion  United should not have signed him and instead tried to keep Carlos Tevez, is flawed on many levels.
That said, the Bulgarian’s form cannot be ignored, no goals in eight games for a United striker is a worry and even though I know he brings more to the team than just goals- and was bought for such- it cannot be ignored. Berbatov seems to suffer from fluctuating confidence and against Villa he seemed, as did many of the United team, well off the pace. The problem for Berbatov, is that while nearly all the United team underperformed his poor showing is often highlighted by some fans and certain sections of the media who cannot wait to chastise him.

Berbatov’s performance against Spurs was one of his worst in a United shirt but I felt he was much better against City, however against Villa, the fact that he missed what was really a golden opportunity in the first half, will only add fuel to his detractors fire. He may benefit from having Rooney alongside him but he needs to realise his positives and try and get his mojo back before the fans he has won over, desert him again.

5. The missing player excuses have got to stop. Rooney, Valencia, Giggs, Scholes, Hargreaves or whoever may be missing but so what?! Villa were playing with a bunch of names I’d never pretend to have heard of, Hogg-wonder if he‘s related to Graeme, Bannan, Albrighton- okay I knew the last one. The point it is, Villa were well under strength and that shouldn’t matter anyway. Any players in the United squad should be good enough to do a job against the likes of Villa and on Saturday too many players just weren’t good enough. Had Villa’s second goal been indicative of the afternoon- United pressing and getting caught on the counter- I could have understood it, but it wasn’t.

United were poor throughout the team, admittedly certain players looked below fitness, Patrice Evra seemed to be struggling and Ji Sung Park look absolutely knackered, but if that’s the case then others should be stepping up. United have won the League over the years because they always gone at teams no matter who’s playing, there’s always been that United belief and pride, and I hate to say it but on Saturday for 80 minutes or more only one team really wanted it.

18
Oct
10

Five things we learnt from the game against West Brom

Rio and Berba do their best to make Nani look small

Rio and Berba do their best to make Nani look small

Another weekend, another Manchester United lead thrown away, another draw for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men, another Wayne Rooney being dropped story doing the rounds, another ‘we’re still unbeaten’ argument being put forward by a few and another reason why it’s time to stop making excuses.

Yes United are unbeaten but they’re also in fourth place, have drawn more games than they’ve won and can be trusted to hold on to a lead about much as a Korean chef.

So what exactly did the latest disappointing result from United tell us other than Owen Hargreaves is still not match fit? Well despite doing the best to ‘look on the Brightside’ it’s now time to be a little more critical if United really want to win back ‘their’ trophy. Unlike previous draws which came away from home against established Premier League sides, the latest points dropped at Old Trafford to newly promoted West Brom have left more than  a few fans calling for drastic measures. While ‘Fergie needs to go’ type hysteria is as ridiculous as it is embarrassing-certain things need to be addressed.

Wayne Rooney should have figured more than 20 minutes- as a striker. Let’s not ignore the obvious or pussyfoot around it. The decision to drop Rooney backfired as not only did United fail to win what should have been an easy game, but subsequently all the headlines were full of the usual drivel about the striker either being Madrid-bound or ready to meet Fergie in the car park for a bit of a straightener. There’s even been talk of the noisy neighbours being his next destination- although that talk probably emanated from everyone’s favourite nonsense merchant Gary Cook- or someone equally as deluded. The recent stories surrounding Rooney’s ‘I’m fit’ comments, which went against what the United manager had been saying were a little over-the-top for me as everyone knows the striker would say he’s fit to play if he was hopping around with his amputated left leg tucked under his arm.
However Fergie’s decision to not only start Rooney on the bench but to then bring him on with just over 20 minutes left and stick him out on the left wing, have only encouraged the Chelsea fans of Fleet street to pour more fuel on the ‘Rooney Fergie Rift’ fire.

Regardless of the negative press connotations the fact is that for this game with United looking for a goal, Rooney should have been brought on a little earlier and played upfront. Personally I thought starting Cheech-a-ree-toe -just for a few commentators who seem to be oblivious- and Dimitar Berbatov was not a bad idea as I genuinely felt they’d do the job. However with a two goal lead thrown away, either striker could have been substituted for last season’s top scorer to fit into his natural role and finally, maybe silence a few critics.

Edwin Van Der Sar is human and not to blame. Fergie got it spot-on when he claimed the ‘keepers clanger which gifted the visitors the equaliser was not the real reason behind United’s failure. While it was a real cock-up of Massimo Taibi proportions, VDS is more than anyone entitled to the -extremely- rare mistake and it really shouldn’t have mattered.

 This wasn’t the final minutes against Chelsea, it was with a good 35 minutes left on the clock at home to a team that finished second in the Championship last season and have been beaten 6-0 by the champions already.  Roberto Di Matteo’s men may have improved a lot since their hammering at Stamford Bridge but they should still not have been too much trouble for United to overcome with such a large portion of the game still left to play. Van Der Sar’s error merely highlighted the fact that United seem to have lost that ability to dig deep and carve out results when the game turns against them. If Bolton was frustrating, West Brom was infuriating.

Resting the central midfield is a step too far. Giving Paul Scholes a break was risky, doing the same to Darren Fletcher for the same match was a recipe for disaster. Without the creativity of Scholes United looked less effective in the middle of the park and bereft of Fletcher’s engine they also lacked their energy and drive. West Brom were able to expose United’s midfield deficiencies with great effect in the second half and although Scholes was brought on with twenty minutes to go, it was too little too late. Darron Gibson was absolutely anonymous for United when he replaced-the injured Ryan Giggs. Take away Gibson’s shooting and he does nothing, which is acceptable if he’s banging in 20yard screamers but not so much if he’s not even having a go. Carrick is fast becoming United’s favourite fall guy but despite not really getting a firm grip on the match, he was probably a little less cr*p than Anderson and Gibson.

Time could be running out for Anderson.- a lot faster than he is.
For West Brom’s first goal, Anderson’s lack of pace was woefully exposed and it isn’t just due to match fitness as he also looks a little out of shape. The Brazilian’s always been a bulky type of player but for me he seems a tad heavier than usual and it showed in his performance. If he’s not crashing his car, or supposedly falling out with Fergie, or making noises about wanting to leave, then Anderson can be a quality player but he needs to step it up. Time is rapidly running out for a player who was once deemed one of the brightest young stars in world football and the excuses are sounding more desperate. I’m aware he’s just returned from injury but he’s been at United for long enough now to have staked his claim as a truly United-class player, yet he still hasn’t done that. If Anderson doesn’t score or create goals, then running with the ball and putting the tackle in are really the least we can expect. However the shape he’s in at the moment Anderson doesn’t look fully capable of doing either of those things, and while talk of his longing to return to Portugal may have been slightly misinterpreted, the time may be arriving where Fergie’s more than happy to pay for his ticket.

It’s time for the return of Carlos Queiroz. It sounds daft to argue that a different assistant manager could have made a difference against West Brom but does Fergie need a less sycophantic right hand man to challenge his decisions?

Mickey Phelan is doing an admirable job, one imagines, but there’s no denying that over the past ten years the best United teams have had Queiroz as the coach. The reason Saturday’s game highlighted the need for the former Portuguese national teams manager to return, is that he may have been able to convince Fergie to make the necessary changes sooner- or possibly even start with a stronger side. Ferguson has supposedly trusted Queiroz with input into team selection in the past and with United relying more and more on the ability of Nani, could his fellow countryman be the perfect coach to get the best out of him? Admittedly this final suggestion is based on a lot of conjecture but with no option to buy anyone for another three months- even then its doubtful depending on whether or not you believe David Gill, then Fergie’s only possible signing could be the one that saves United’s season.

04
Oct
10

five things we learnt from United’s game at Sunderland

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Manchester United may remain  unbeaten but their away form continues to disappoint as
Saturday’s match at Sunderland can really be considered yet another missed opportunity.

Although like previous trips on the road there were positives, not even the best MUTV-style spin can hide the fact that no wins in four away games is simply not good enough for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Forgive me but I for one am a little tired of trying to ‘look on the brightside’ as Chelsea edge further and further away at the top of the table-and let’s not even mention the noisy neighbours.

When a Liverpool defeat is the highlight of your footballing weekend, you know that certain issues need to be adressed and its time for United to deal with them before its too late. Yes Sunderland are a good side- just like Fulham, Everton and Bolton- but you cannot win league titles by failing to win your away fixtures and watching City leapfrog over United in the table merely underlines the fact that something’s not right.

Of course, as I’m thinking of getting tattooed on my forehead ‘its not all doom and gloom’ but like Mickey Phelan’s penchant for wearing shorts no matter what the climate, United’s  failure to beat what is essentially a mid-table team is getting rather troubling.

So what did we learn from the trip to the second-best Stadium of Light in football other than the fact that it’s becoming compulsory to put ‘draw’ on the accumulator coupon next to a United away game?

Rafael is the present not the future. Rafael Da Silva picked up where he left off in Valencia with another quality display at right back. Okay he made the occasional mistake but how else is he going to learn if he’s not given the chance to make them? When it comes to mistakes the young Brazilian has a long way to go before he matches the amount John O’Shea can usually muster, so it looks like it may be time to give him a proper run in the side. Defensivley Rafael can be a tad worrying but that will surely improve and the lack of an outstanding candidate at right back- even though I think Wes Brown is world-class, but for some reason Fergie doesn’t agree- it is now time to give the youngster his chance.

Saturday’s performance was another reason why its now time to give Rafael the run he deserves, he may be young and occasionally a little reckless but he’s a quality player and a real threat going forward, as someone once sang ‘the time to hesitate is through.’

Too many strikers can get messy. I’m all for having five options up front but if United are going to make the most of them then Fergie needs to work out the right ones to use for the right games. Michael Owen  was totally anonymous in the first half and while he can lament the lack of service- rightfully so- it was obvious United would have benefitted from the energy of Chicharito or the class of Dimitar Berbatov. I realise that Berbatov had played a mid-week game as a lone striker and Fergie may have felt he was not up to ninety minutes but surely if he can play one half he can manage two. United looked a far better team when Berbatov was on the pitch- ditto Chicharito- and had either of them been given more minutes then we may have seen a different result.

Darren Fletcher needs to improve. Sunderland seemed to work out fairly quickly that keeping Paul Scholes quiet was a surefir way to stifle the brunt of United’s creativity. With Scholes was being closed down within seconds of recieving the ball it meant that it was up to others to try and conjure up something in midfield. Anderson gets stuck in but is still yet to get back to full fitness. The game was crying out for Fletcher to do more than just tackle people and give the ball to Scholes. At the start of the season I claimed that if United were to regain the title then Fletcher had to raise his game against the so-called ‘lesser teams.’ Put him against Chelsea or Arsenal and Fletcher’s like a man possessed, however he needs to do it more consistently. There is an argument that he’s merely a defensive midfielder not responsible for creating attacks. However we’ve seen Fletcher influence games in the past, moving the ball forward and it was crying out for something similar at the Stadium of Light. Like the game against Bolton the Scottish skipper seemed unwilling or unable to generate any sort of attacking moves and United suffered because of it.

Rio Ferdinand is vital. If United are to win the title, then they’re going to need Ferdinand for at least the majority of games. Rioferdy5 as he calls himself on twitter was back to his commanding best and United looked a lot better because of it. While Jonny Evans has done an admirable job filling in for Ferdinand he’s not quite in the same class and despite the fact that Nemanja Vidic was wearing the captain’s armband it was Rio who seemed to be marshalling the defence. United’s second successive clean sheet with Ferdinand back in the starting line-up is no coincidence.

Patrice Evra should not be ‘rested.’ Some may disagree- as they always do with a lot of what I write- but for me Evra is the world’s best left-back and is absolutely fundamental to the United team. Although he’s not looked as sharp since the World Cup -debacle- he’s still an immense threat going forward and the prospect of him and Rafael getting down the wings on the overlap would have been a scary one for Steve Bruce’s men.  In the second half we even saw Vidic getting down the left flank- my mate called it ‘disorganised’ I called it ‘total football.’ I’m aware that Evra played midweek but I feel dropping him was a gamble that backfired as although O’Shea did put in the -extremely- occasional cross he’s never going to be as much of a threat as Evra.

27
Sep
10

Five things we learnt from United away at Bolton

Elmander tries to protect his barnet from Nemanja Vidic

Elmander tries to protect his barnet from Nemanja Vidic

Another United away game another draw, it’s becoming something of a tradition this season for Fergie’s men. However unlike the previous two away games United didn’t throw away a lead- but don’t worry there were still the usual defensive errors to talk about.
While it would be fairly easy to copy and paste the last two ‘things we learnt from United’s away game’ there were still a few new realisations to talk about- or maybe just a reiteration of what we already knew- or how about a revision of previous thoughts seeing as were on words beginning with ‘r’.
It’s becoming increasingly frustrating having to see the same mistakes and obvious faults go unaddressed and this weekend would have -finally- been a chance for United to take full advantage of a Chelsea loss.
However although from a United point of view it is disappointing, it’s not all doom and gloom, there were still some positives to take from the game although the faults cannot be ignored.
So what did we learn other than the fact even in a brand new multi million pound stadium standing up can cause problems?

The two Jonnies cannot play in the same back four. While Patrice Evra is not quite back to his best and other players make mistakes, messrs Evans and O’Shea are becoming something of a worry, in fact that’s a bit like saying Malcolm Glazer isn’t on every United fan’s Christmas card list. Let’s start with my personal favourite John O’Shea, for many years now he’s been a fringe player used sparingly and only brought out for special occasions -usually against poor teams- a bit like putting away the nice china and bringing out paper plates for guests you don’t really like. Due to injuries and a case of mild insanity by Sir Alex Ferguson O’Shea has found himself as United’s preferred choice at right back. Now while I loved the last minute winner in front of the Kop a few years ago, I’ve always thought O’Shea is quite simply not good enough for United. I know that may seem harsh after all he’s been at the club since his youth and I don’t know if I mentioned it but he did score a winner at Anfield but for me its true.
O’Shea just seems to be a six out of ten player at best- giving the ball away needlessly, failing to meet passes and being a general weak spot in what is -usually- a reliable United defence. Against Bolton his lack of ability came to the fore once more.
It’s not O’Shea’s fault he’s not up to it,  he’s United through and through but unlike some players who have the ability but struggle with the consistency, O’Shea seems to actually not be very good at football. Just ask yourself how many top teams would O’Shea walk into compared with the rest of the United side? Not many. It’s got to the point where I’d rather see Owen Hargreaves wheeled out and dumped in the right back position than be forced to endure O’Shea again. Surely its time to hand the spot back to Wes Brown on a regular basis- or even give Rafael a chance.

That brings me on to Jonny Evans who really and truly needs ‘resting’ or ‘dropping’
if were not going to sugar coat it.
Unlike O’Shea I feel Evans is a naturally gifted defender who is good enough to play for United. Let’s not forget that between him and Gerard Pique, Evans was considered the better prospect and seemed to progress quicker. The problem for Evans is that he’s been thrown into the United side almost regularly when by rights he should only be playing the minority of games. If Rio Ferdinand hadn’t had his injury problems we’d probably be commenting how Evans is a reliable back up and a future United starter. Yet because Evans has been forced to play week in week out for practically two seasons, his failings have been exposed. Unlike a young striker who can score a goal then miss a few chances and still be praised every mistake Evans makes comes under scrutiny and is often costly. Teams now seem to target him as a weak spot, against Bolton he didn’t have the worst game but with him and O’Shea both in defence it looks dodgy to say the least. There’s even been rumblings of giving Chris Smalling a start which says it all really, of course if Fergie had played Rio Ferdinand instead of resting him then it would be a totally different story. However with question marks still remaining over much United can really rely on Rio -I do love the letter ‘r’- Fergie may have to consider another option in central defence before its too late.

United need a real plan B on the left wing. Ryan Giggs on his day is still one of the top performers in the EPL and despite his age can still do a job against any team. The problem is that if Giggs is injured or needs resting United don’t seem to have a truly viable replacement on the left. We saw it against Bolton when Giggs went off, part of the problem is the injury to Antonio Valencia has now given Nani the right wing position whereas in the past Fergie was partial to sometimes playing him on the left allowing him to cut inside. Now though- and I realise its only been a couple of games, its seems as though Nani is being deployed exclusively on the right. While I actually prefer to see him in that position it does mean a lack of alternatives on the left. One answer may be to put either Ji-Sung Park on the right and Nani on the left when Giggs is out or even try Anderson on the left wing. However Anderson hasn’t really been a winger since his Porto days and Nani performances on the right are at times awesome. Maybe Park could be used as a straight replacement for Giggs but I doubt it. My suggestion would be to actually roll the dice and let either Gabriel Obertan or even Bebe have a go when Giggs is out. They may be young and fairly untried in the first team- especially Bebe- but why not just give it a go? If it doesn’t work then other options can be examined but throughout the years Fergie has often gambled on a youngster to reap the rewards now may be another time to give it a try.

It’s time to give Rooney some real time off. Before you start screaming either ‘United need him!’ or ‘He’s been rested he’s got a job to do!’ allow me to explain. Rooney’s ankle has not been right for several months now- in fact you can take the word ankle -and the ‘s’ after Rooney- out of that sentence. He’s struggling and while a couple of weeks ago I thought he may have turned the corner it’s become obvious he hasn’t. The sight of him with an ice pack on his ankle a the Bolton game said it all, against Rangers he seemed to pull up because of it and you could almost hear 70 odd thousand gasps. What I’m suggesting is actually a couple of weeks rest and recuperation not anything to do with his extra-curricular activities and shielding him from those nasty mean opposing fans but simply get him back to real fitness. Dimitar Berbatov has picked up Rooney’ mantle and United also have Michael Owen, Kiko Macheda and Chicharito – not to mention the option of returning to a 4-5-1 formation with Anderson or Michael Carrick- remember him- back in the side.
Don’t get me wrong I’m aware of how valuable Rooney is and how resting players at United has often backfired but I fear if Fergie doesn’t give him a break it may take a lot longer than a couple of weeks before we see him back to his best.

United gained a point. With all the usual hyperbole I’ve been hearing- and spewing- about shoddy defending, points dropped and over-reliance on Paul Scholes -again-it seems something has been forgotten. While a draw at Bolton is nothing to get a tattoo about, it’s not the end of the world. Chelsea lost. United drew. Unlike the previous weeks where Carlo Ancelotti’s men have moved a little bit further away from Fergie’s, this time United made up ground. Okay it’s frustrating to fail to win a third away game on the bounce but at least there were some positives in the fact that United were able to twice come back from behind and show some fighting spirit rather than throw away a lead. I know it’s not much to hang on to but we’ve got to have a little bit of positive thinking -after all it could be worse, United could have been beaten at home by West Brom.

13
Sep
10

five things we learnt from United’s draw with Everton

"your exit points are here and here"

"your exit points are here and here"

Manchester United’s defeat, sorry draw against Everton at Goodison Park on Saturday was tagged as a shining example of the drama of the Premiership by some in the media. For many United fans however it merely underlined certain frailties that haven’t been addressed since the Fulham game and left a bad taste in the mouth.

While following that disappointing result at Craven Cottage- from a United point of view, there were still some positives to be taken, it’s a little harder to keep your chin up when your side gives away a two-goal lead in stoppage time. It was so painful that I couldn’t put myself through it again on MOTD , me and a mate actually debating whether to watch a sky + recording of X-factor his missus had taped when we got home from the pub. Eventually though it was time for some honest reflection and while it still makes me feel slightly sick, it’s not time to buy a City shirt and sell my soul to the devil just yet.

There are several lessons to be learned from Saturdays game and none of them involve Wayne Rooney- that’ll be the last time he gets mentioned in this article I assure you. Evra’s human and men approaching middle age get tired are among two of the things we learned from Saturdays game at Goodison.

1. Kill or be killed. While three goals is usually enough to see United beat even the strongest of attacking sides, there can be no denying that there was ample chance to put the game well and truly to bed before the final two minutes. Both Dimitar Berbatov and Nani- it’s him again- could have, well should have, done better with chances they had when the game was at 3-1.

What’s particularly frustrating about it was that both players are capable of doing much better than they did with their final opportunities and it was a case of being far too lackadaisical and treating the game as though it was won. There’s no real excuse for not making sure. Berbatov has been on fine form of late and its seems harsh to apportion any of the blame for United’s failure to win at his door. It still grates though that what should have been a simple goal for Ryan Giggs or Nani had the Bulgarian squared the ball, ended with a rather timid shot that went wide. Nani’s decision making also again was called into question, as he also wasted a good chance at the end when he had better options.

2. Patrice Evra is human. It’s been a long, long time -in a galaxy far far away- that I can recall saying the words ‘Evra had a ‘mare’ but unfortunately on Saturday he did. Not since his debut against City can I remember my favourite United player looking so out of sorts. It was a strange sight to witness and not one I want to see again, but United’s left back gave the sort of performance that you’d associate with John O’Shea on a very bad day. It was totally out of character and hopefully not something we’ll see again soon. Why was Evra so bad? Well he’s had his fair share of bad press since the World Cup plus his appeal against his five match French ban was recently turned down so that may have affected him. Perhaps Fergie should have rested him for an extra week following the World Cup and he is actually suffering from a bit of fatigue. Either way United need all their top players performing to the best of their ability with some more tough games coming up. On Saturday Evra showed that he’s not infallible, let’s just hope it was a minor blip rather than any real problem the Frenchman is suffering from.

3. Rio’s return can‘t come quick enough. The name on almost every United fans lips at full time, was not Wayne..sorry I almost forgot, was not any missing striker, it was that of Mr Ferdinand, who’s return now seems to be more vital than ever.

 The freedom with which Cahill managed to score Everton’s second was slightly worrying, the fact that Mikel Arteta had enough time to make a brew before he banged in the equaliser was shocking. A few people pointed the finger at Jonny Evans for either -or both- goals and while I think it was a team -lack of- effort that contributed to them rather than one individual there’s no doubt that Rio’s return would help sort the defence out no end. The question is will Ferdinand be-in true Take That style- back for good? After all a man who last season was behind Ledley King in Premier League appearances can hardly be counted on to play the majority of games.

 In the past I’ve actually advocated giving Evans a chance even if Rio’s fit just because the Irish defender stays fit and would benefit from a stable run in the side. However, even I have to admit that it would be foolish not to put a fit Ferdinand back in the side. His organisational skills or ‘silks’ as he calls them on twitter, were sorely missed at Goodison. While were on the subject of changing the defence, is it not time to forget about playing Gary Neville in difficult games?

That may sound harsh but I for the life of me can’t work out why Wes Brown has become a reserve team regular recently and also why he no longer seems a viable option at right back? People will say Rafael is too inexperienced but how is he going to gain big game experience if he doesn’t play in the big games. Like Evans It wasn’t Neville’s fault for the goals but is he really the best man for the job at right back? I think not.

4. We‘ve got a squad so we need to use it. Having three outfield players over 34 playing a full 90 minutes was a bit of a strange decision by Sir Alex Ferguson to say the least. Both Neville and Scholes looked a bit dead on their feet towards the end of the match, and had either or both been replaced then things may have been different. Neville gave the ball away for their third while Scholes failed to pick up Arteta, yet can we be surprised? Neville’s hardly had any match practice while Scholes has been ever-present this season. I can understand why Fergie took off Evra for Park, but I don’t see what harm it would have done to introduce Rafael or Darron Gibson- or both -for Scholes and Neville. Then there was Nani who seemed to disappear towards the end, leaving poor old Gary Neville totally exposed down the right hand side. Why Fergie was reluctant to change it, when there were obviously tired legs out there baffles me slightly.

5. Teams aren’t giving up anymore. In the past even away from home it’s not been unusual for certain teams to simply accept that they’ve lost the game when United are leading with only a couple of minutes left. I’m not claiming that teams cannot be bothered, just that some opposing players allow their heads to drop slightly in the closing minutes as they succumb to the idea that the game is now lost.

 However, this is no longer the case. As Fulham showed two weeks ago and now Everton have proven, teams are not going to roll over and die against United anymore. If United are to wrestle the title from Chelsea’s grasp- and for the record I’m not buying into the idea that it’s practically impossible after only four games and no defeats- then they’re going to have to prepare for battle. A result against United is still the premier scalp for many players, and the air of invincibility that Fergie’s men had a couple of seasons ago has long gone.

Teams are willing to fight to the death- not literally , unless its Wolves if the press is to be believed- so it’s time for United to roll up their sleeves and get ready for 94-minute slogs. Last season many a United fan -myself included-laughed at the ‘noisy neighbours’ penchant for conceding late goals- well if their not careful that particular affliction could become one associated with the Red half of Manchester.

10
Sep
10

“It was on his weaker foot…” so!?!

irwin- showing he can also use both arms as well as both feet

irwin- showing he can also use both arms as well as both feet

I’m no football expert, anyone that’s read any of my articles will no doubt testify to that, but I do watch a lot of it and am able to occasionally question certain things. Usually my questions are explained or answered within a short amount of time and I’m left to ponder new wonders such as ‘can I allow myself to get carried away with England’s start to qualifying ?’ or ‘When will Mick McCarthy stop being so excitable?’

One question though that I’ve had been pondering ever since I saw Jason Wilcox in an England shirt that has yet to be answered is ‘why can’t players use their weaker foot?’
It’s one of the most shocking aspects of professional football that men who can bend 30 yard free kicks round walls, can volley a ball on the turn past the keeper and into the top corner and can pick out a 70 yard pass that drops into a player’s stride cannot be trusted to even shoot when the ball is on their weaker foot.

Wait I hear you cry ‘most Premier League footballers can use their weaker foot’ Really? Let me ask you this how many times when watching a top player miss a decent chance have you heard yourself – or the commentator make the excuse ‘it was on his -usually- left foot.’ The thing that baffles me most about a lot of player’s inability to use their weaker foot is the simple fact that as a professional footballer you’d think that not using 50% of the feet available to you would be barmy. Take boxing for example, all fighters have stronger hands, but would a boxer not use his left at all because it’s his weaker one? No of course not, he’d train just as hard with his weaker hand as he did with his stronger one. So why don’t footballers do the same thing? Why are so many top class players unable to use their weaker foot for anything other than standing on?

Not all players are like this of course, anyone who remembers Denis Irwin will know that some players seem equally at home using either foot. Irwin was one of the few players who it was almost impossible to tell which his stronger foot was. He spent nearly all his Manchester United career in the left back position yet was actually naturally right-footed. If it wasn’t watching him on dead ball situations you’d never have guessed as his passing, crossing and even finishing with his left was world class.
One of the biggest debates you can get into with a United fan when it comes to which was the better team, player era, etc, is who’s the better left back Irwin or Patrice Evra? I’ll go for Evra because I’m blinded by love, but to be honest many would say Irwin shades it. When you consider that one of them is actually right-footed it seems amazing there’s even room for a debate.

Of today’s crop of players not many can be considered ambidextrous when it comes to the feet department. Look at the England national sides problems over the years with the left midfield position. It actually makes you wonder how any of us- myself included- can think ‘this is gonna be our tournament’ when we can’t even muster up a player who feels comfortable for one of the essential positions. Unlike some positions on the pitch such as the anchor or supporting striker role, which can be abolished with different formations, the left sided midfielder is fundamental.

Some of the names who’ve donned a three lions shirt in a bid to solve the problematic left wing position merely highlight how few top players can use their left foot. As well as the aforementioned Wilcox, there’s also been the likes of Kieran Richardson and Stewart Downing- neither particularly bad but are they honestly England class? Then there’s the host of players who’ve been played there out of position- Paul Scholes- yes you read that correctly Scholes, one of the finest central midfielders of his generation was actually moved over to the left wing to play in a system that accommodated Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard in Euro 2004.

Then there’s been Gerrard himself, a player who’s made his name either just behind the striker or in the middle but yet again has been moved out to the left. Now you could argue that Scholes and Gerrard were moved simply to accommodate the Lampard/Gerrard ‘partnership’ – if you can call it that. But let me ask you, if we had a real top class left footed attacking player- or a right footed one who could actually use his left would it be possible to use the left wing position as a form of tactical quarantine zone, to stick players we don’t want to drop into so there still on the pitch just out of harm’s way? No. If we had a Ryan Giggs – it was inevitable he would have to get mentioned- then the England manager would be forced to play his strongest midfield pairing. Of course Giggs is just as guilty as any other player of being unable to properly use his weaker foot; he just gets highlighted because he’s naturally left-footed.
Players like Steve McManaman and Joe Cole have also been used for England on the left with varying degrees of success, it’s just a shame that over the years there haven’t been more who’ve been able to successfully make that position their own.
The point I’m making is that it still shocks me that so many gifted players are unable to use their weaker foot, youngsters are often encouraged to regularly practice with their weaker foot so why aren’t fully developed professionals?

Part of the problem may be that once you are fully developed its much more difficult to get accustomed to using your other foot, although considering many footballers spend hours training this argument is a little shallow to say the least.
Even someone like Wayne Rooney who is one of the greatest players I’ve ever seen, can still struggle to finish, what for him should be a fairly routine shot, with his weaker foot.

Part of the solution may be a weaker foot day in the Premier League where each player is only allowed to kick it with his weakest one, sounds crazy? Well so did playing Premier League fixtures in Africa but that nearly came about so you never know.