Vital Football

Latest Manchester United News

It Was The Defence's Turn Again

It Was The Defence's Turn Again

We equalled Juventus's record of ten straight home wins in the competition and advanced to the quarter-finals. It's a fact so we should be happy.

I was happy, too, when I saw Fergie's starting line-up. The combination of Carrick and Fletcher provided the backbone for some excellent performances (4-0 v Arsenal, 7-1 v Roma) and I felt Anderson could be in his element here.

In the first ten minutes, it was the usual nervy stuff. United were not patient enough, hoofing up the ball towards lone striker Rooney at the first opportunity. However, we soon settled down and began to dominate.

Until the half hour mark, Lyon barely crossed the halfway line and posed no attacking threat whatsoever apart from a long shot from Toulalan which was saved well by Van der Sar. But we had the majority of possession, Carrick's angled passes and Fletcher's energy told while Nani, Ronaldo and Evra all managed to get behind the defence regulary with ease.

Their crosses and final passes were just as regularly sloppy and therefore clear-cut chances were virtually non-existent in this game. United looked by far the more dangerous team though and you began to wonder how the French plan to score a goal?

The breakthrough, somewhat strangely, arrived after a quiet period when there were a lot of midfield tussling but very little genuine quality. However, Nani's pass to Brown on the right was full of real quality and the overlapping right-back provided a good cross. Aided slightly by Grosso, the ball found its way to Anderson who either scuffed his shot or tried to set up Ronaldo, we'll never know but the ball found its way to the Portuguese winger. Clerc could have cleared the ball but he somehow failed, and Ronaldo produced a beautiful touch to get it past him and then rifle it into the back of the net.

United did not try to kill the tie off in the remaining 6 minutes though Lyon were stunned by the goal as it came out of nowhere to be honest. But at least we were set to advance to the last eight.

Here I was hoping that in the second 45 minutes, United would pick their opponents off with pacey counter-attacks while keeping it tight at the back. Well, the defensive part of the plan was certainly flawless as was the performance of the back four but on the other end of the pitch, things were not very encouraging.

Fergie has often been criticised in the past for being overcautious and stifling in Europe and it seemed he stifled his own team again. His favourite mantra about European competition is that you have to keep the ball and this mission was accomplished flawlessly during most of the first half.

However, in the second half we did not keep the ball - we kept giving it away cheaply. No change of rhytm, no patient build-up, we did not try to draw out Lyon and hit them on the break. What did we do? Get the ball, hoof it up at once or pass it to someone who was trapped. If someone found a teammate who had some space that particular mate did not take the ball down and turned around to pick the best pass, they invariably chose to try some kind of Hollywood pass, we tried to play very directly without any sophistication or patience...

Lyon sensed that we are up for grabs and strung good passes together. Yet they spectacularly failed to overcome two difficulties, namely Darren Fletcher and our back four.

The Scottish midfield has once again demonstrated that we can rely on him: he was our best tackler and, somewhat unexpectedly, our best passer of the night - it is a bit sad that the latter is rather an indication of our sloppiness than his sterling display...

But the real credit must go to the defence who, not for the first and hopefully not for the last time, were totally unbreachable, the back four was an immovable object where even Lyon's most promising attacks faltered, with one obvious exception: subsitute's Keita's burst into the box and the subsequent shot that hit the post. It woke up United, it seemed though looking at the replays one must say Van der Sar covered it.

But as I said, it woke the team up and in the last 10 minutes, with Tevez increasingly active and Rooney finally enjoying some space, we went for the kill. That Rooney missed two golden chances is even smaller surprise than that he beat defenders with embarassing ease when he had space to run at them. Unfortunately, he displayed his worrying knack of not scoring when a goal would kill the game off... But in the end, United got through and that's what matters.

It wasn't a sterling display, far from that but when our usual attacking excellence disappears (as it did in these two games against Lyon) then there is always that formidable rearguard to rely on. But we should not be overreliant on them... not even in Europe, with all these attackers we have.

On a final note: have you noticed how we tend to struggle to break down French teams? Bordeaux, Marseille, Lille four times, now Lyon... they have a knack of nullifying our attack in a way that even Italian teams rarely do. Interesting. But that's for a later debate as we won't face a French team in this competition again this season. Fortunately.

Writer:Zae
Date:Tuesday March 4 2008
Time: 11:31PM

Comments

0
Fletcher is a good player, rate him.
Real Deal
04/03/2008 23:53:00
0
Rooney tries to hard. Instead of simply putting the ball in the net, he tries to back heel it either into goal or over to Ronaldo who was making the run in open space. The goal is right there, take the friggin shot.
Paulinho
05/03/2008 06:28:00
Page 1/1
  1. 1

Login to post a comment

Recent Manchester United Articles

Depay Set for Old Trafford January Exit

Albeit, reportedly, on loan.

FA Cup Ball Numbers Known (3/12/16)

With FA Cup second round ties taking place this weekend, the ball numbers for the third round draw of the competition have now been allocated.

Everton (a) - Fascinating Stats

Manchester United travels to Goodison Park this Sunday for a Premier League fixture against Everton.

Martial`s Confidence Boost

The midweek win, in the EFL Cup quarter-final tie against West Ham United saw Anthony Martial get back on the score-sheet.

Archived Vital United Articles

Vital United articles from

Site Journalists

Red Boy
Editor email
Profile
Charlie Bacchus
no email
Profile

Current Poll (see more polls)

MOTM v West Ham (EFL Cup)
Suggested By: Red Boy
De Gea10%
Valencia3%
Rojo0%
Jones0%
Shaw0%
Carrick0%
Herrera3%
Mhitaryan72%
Rooney0%
Martial6%
Ibrahimovic3%
Blind0%
Schweinsteiger3%
Rashford0%
ScoopDragon Premier League Network Sites

League Table

# Team P W D L Pts. GD
1 Chelsea 13 10 1 2 31 19
2 Liverpool 13 9 3 1 30 18
3 Man City 13 9 3 1 30 17
4 Arsenal 13 8 4 1 28 15
5 Spurs 13 6 6 1 24 9
6 Man Utd 13 5 5 3 20 3
7 Everton 13 5 4 4 19 1
8 Watford 13 5 3 5 18 -4
9 WBA 13 4 5 4 17 1
10 Southampton 13 4 5 4 17 1
11 Stoke 13 4 4 5 16 -5
12 AFC Bournemouth 13 4 3 6 15 -4
13 Burnley 13 4 2 7 14 -9
14 Leicester City 13 3 4 6 13 -6
15 Middlesbrough 13 2 6 5 12 -3
16 West Ham 13 3 3 7 12 -10
17 Crystal Palace 13 3 2 8 11 -5
18 Hull City 13 3 2 8 11 -17
19 Swansea 13 2 3 8 9 -10
20 Sunderland 13 2 2 9 8 -11
Write for Vital Football
Latest F1 News
Latest Vital Boxing News
The Vital Football Members League

Recent Manchester United Results (view all)

Manchester United Fixtures (view all)

Dec 4 2016 4:00PM : Everton (a)
Barclays Premier League
Dec 11 2016 2:15PM : Tottenham Hotspur (H)
Barclays Premier League
Dec 14 2016 8:00PM : Crystal Palace (a)
Barclays Premier League
Dec 17 2016 5:30PM : West Bromwich Albion (a)
Barclays Premier League
Dec 26 2016 3:00PM : Sunderland (H)
Barclays Premier League
Dec 31 2016 3:00PM : Middlesbrough (H)
Barclays Premier League
Vital Football Comment