Manchester United - The Tale Of A Once-Brilliant Defence
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The Tale Of A Once-Brilliant Defence

Manchester United lost another big game and it is very worrying now: we simply seem to lack the hunger, we are not up to the fight. We are the new Arsenal, if you like.

We lost at the Gooners who showed resilience and character and some quality as well. But don't expect me to sing praises of them because, unfortunately, they didn't have to produce anything special in attack to break down our woeful defence.

It is a really sad story as this back four was undoubtedly the best in Europe last season. Conceded only 22 goals in the league which is a remarkable achievement in itself - but the really big thing was the Champions League where United let in only 2 goals in 7 games during the knockout stages. Astonishing. But this season they are nowhere near to this level.

Arsenal's delivery from the wide areas were very good but our marking was shocking. I mean they played with a lone striker and he was allowed two free headers within the space of 5 minutes during the opening exchanges. How our defenders failed to spot Bendtner, I have no idea.

But it looked like that we're riding Arsenal's early wave and beginning to assert ourselves with the traditional 4-4-2 formation, Carrick and Anderson flanked by Ronaldo and Park in midfield with Rooney and Berbatov playing up front. Carrick could have scored as early as the second minute then Rooney spurned an absolutely golden opportunity to give us the lead after magical build-up play by Anderson, Berbatov and Ronaldo.

All the promise, however, came to nothing as Arsenal took the lead with a comical goal. Berbatov headed out a corner straight to Nasri who rifled in a shot low. The ball got a deflection off Gary Neville, wrongfooted Edwin van der Sar and found the net. A lucky goal but our defending invited trouble.

Still, those who'll say Arsenal played us off the park could not be more wrong. Though we were in danger of being embarassed at the back where Rio, Vida, Evra and especially Gary did not seem to know what they were doing we were still very threatening in attack. Clichy almost equalised for us but he flicked a header just wide after a Ronaldo-freekick - would have been a much-needed break for United but it never materialised.

Despite our attacking threat, the danger signs were there. We did not really seem to be eager to fight for 50/50 balls, our players backed off too often, they were not willing to chase down balls, to harass Arsenal on the ball.

And it resulted in an embarassing goal at the start of the second half. It was even worse than those we conceded at Anfield. Quite simply, the Gooners passed the ball around for two whole minutes and no United player made even a token effort to close them down or trying to tackle any of them. And then only two intelligent passes were required to carve us open thanks to the comedy positioning of Vidic. Nasri, of course, hammered the ball home with an excellent finish.

Luck, of course, wasn't on our side either. Webb failed to award a penalty for a Clichy handball in the first half and then when we went 2-0 down we could have got back into the game almost immediately. Berbatov's cross landed neatly in front of Ronaldo who sidefooted it just wide of the far post from close range.

And even the two-goal lead did not look unsurmountable as, I repeat, we were at least threatening in attack. Then Fergie went and blew our chances with a baffling substitution. He hauled off the lively Anderson and introduced Giggs - as a result, predictably, we totally lost our shape and the little drive and energy we had. All this after an encouraging first sub: Rafael on for Gary Neville who is simply not up to the task any more it seems.

With Giggs on we lost all chances. And then Fergie delivered the fatal blow: Tevez on for Rooney. Rooney, for heaven's sake, who at least had chances. United's attacking completely fell apart as well as the defending and it was a minor miracle that we almost came back into the game: Rafael's sublime goal and six minutes of stoppage time gave us the chance to get something.

We didn't, however, because, I must repeat myself, we weren't really up to it. WE were afraid to 'get stuck in', to use a quite common phrase... why is that, I don't know. Maybe simply battle fatigue.

And that could be what plagues the defence but it is clear that something needs to be done and quickly. Every team can score against us easily and this was not the case last season. Rio and Vidic must wake up and in the absence of Brown it looks like that Rafael is by far the best option we have.

Don't get me wrong: we still have a brilliant squad with world-class players. But they need to wake up and start to fight for their title. These lame surrenders away from home simply won't do. This is not good enough from the European Champions and Fergie has the responsibility of getting it across to them.

Click here to join in the debate on the club forum.

The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Saturday November 8 2008

Time: 8:59PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
united's defence is awesome but if i was fergie i would get a right- back in january get ryan shawcross back from stoke tough tackler and he's a united player through and through
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08/11/2008 21:10:00

Now, you have the right back problem.We solved it this season by buying Bosingwa.Have fun with Neville:D
German Blues Brother
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08/11/2008 21:24:00

"Luck, of course, wasn't on our side either. Webb failed to award a penalty for a Clichy handball in the first half" Nasri should've gotten a penalty in the second half after his shirt was pulled by Vidic, so the luck wasn't entirely against you.
Report Abuse
08/11/2008 21:58:00

Thank goodness you started Nev. Nasri couldn't believe his luck in the first half. But the man is not Roy Keane and has no right to ignore the oppo captain like he is this great player and hard man. To see him reduced to a laughing stock when he went off was kinda sad and funny at the same time.
Report Abuse
08/11/2008 22:09:00

watch carefully the movement of walcott on our 2nd goal, he completely pulls vidic out of position. It was a great goal, you are however correct to say your defence was unusually shaky.
Report Abuse
08/11/2008 22:52:00

Dodgy right back, and centre of defence. Ugly boy past his sell by date
Tiny T
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09/11/2008 08:53:00

Neville is nothing like as good as he was and it showed against the pacy Gooners. Mike Phelan admitted after the match that the game had been "too open" and that had cost you. Basically Wenger's young guns were too pacy for your defence, who were caught ball-watching twice too often
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09/11/2008 10:31:00

sad to say it but it's now between Brown and Rafael. Nev is just not up to it anymore which must be a dilema for saf as he is team captain. On an encouraging note...Rafael looked awsome again and the link up play with ronaldo looks promising.
Report Abuse
09/11/2008 10:31:00

Ha ive said b4 , Man Utd at best are a 4th/5th/6th position side when Ronaldo is not carrying them , now that he isnt on fire you are struggling. Enjoy battling with the likes of Villa 2 get 4th spot & enjoy having to see Liverpool above you every day you check the tables...Liverpool fan.
I Bling Red
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09/11/2008 11:12:00

Are you an idiot? Giggs was a bad substitution? Anderson did play well but your only attacking threat before Gigfs had been Ronaldo and Park also played very well. Giggs gave Man U more direction and penatration in the centre of midfield. However I do agree that Neville is past it, but that Rafael looks a great find. Not only was his goal superb but they way he handled himself throughout showed maturity beyong his years. I also dont believe that 'luck' was on your side. Clichy did handball it but it didnt prevent the ball from going in the danger zone. It could be argued till the cows come home whether its intentional. Also Carrick's foul on Diaby and Vidic's tug on Nasri's shirt. But a great game. It was good to see both teams able to play without 10 players defending all the time.
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09/11/2008 11:38:00

we just had a bad day and were unlucky
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09/11/2008 18:41:00

can't be bad and unlucky, unless the ref didn't add enough time on for you to score again that unlucky.
Tiny T
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09/11/2008 20:37:00

last season your defensive mentality was spot on. now it's lazy and arrogant, and the results you've been getting are totally deserved.
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09/11/2008 21:05:00

well... i hope u all enjoyed that game
Report Abuse
09/11/2008 21:56:00

I feel Carlos is slightly missed as assistant coach.
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10/11/2008 04:54:00

If Milan play Manchester in near future it will be like watching my grandads playing beach - football . Old Old Old . I read Fergy is complaning to fixtures , , he is not complaning when ManU is toping table so he should fight instead of wineing , , , or Ronaldo made all devils to wine . .maybe . . .
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10/11/2008 06:52:00

"That was the result I wanted", as I believe Fergie once said. And Neville's face. Classic
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10/11/2008 08:36:00

united fans keep the faith united have only twice in the league which aint a bad record
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10/11/2008 11:40:00

The title will still be down to us and Chelsea, no way Liverpool or Arsenal are in with a look, regardless.
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10/11/2008 14:12:00

We have had our ars** handed to us by your team enough over the years to know this was never going to be easy and on another day it could of been any combination of scores. Your defence wasn't great, but we are one of the best attackers along with yourselves and this was the only time this season you have been carved open on many occasions (we are used to that happening to us lol) so don't be alarmed when it happens because of us, we can do that to most teams and for the majority of this season your defence has been solid, more so than most other teams. except the most defensive of them out there, who naturally concede fewer goals due to style of play. It was an enthralling game and we were fortunate and delighted to come out on top, hardly a defining moment in terms of trophies this season though!
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10/11/2008 15:17:00

It will be a tight season with many dropped points, the battle is far from over. The madness that is the January window will soon be here & teams will adjust accordingly.
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10/11/2008 15:28:00

Tosswink - How can you say that when you were only 4 points better off last season and we have 2/3's of this one to go?? Rash and very arrogant indeed!
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10/11/2008 15:32:00

Im just annoyed still! :( In all honesty it should be us two fighting for the top two places and not lucky liverpool and the evil chelsea machine!
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10/11/2008 15:35:00

The bin dippers have stunk up the league this season with some very fortunate results. They saved their best performance for you guys in the 2nd half though!
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10/11/2008 15:38:00

So long as that's all they have in the tank we shouldn't be unduly worried! Chelsea, however, shadow the league with ominous portent...
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10/11/2008 16:03:00

Our defence's current inability to um... DEFEND is worrying me. Everytime Arsenal came forward, I expected them to score. We just look like we can't quite be bothered. United just worry me all over the pitch at the moment... van der Sar is showing his age; the defence looks uncharacteristically shaky; the midfield seem okish but not prepared to break up play; and the finishing in front of goal is appalling (Mr Rafael exempt). Ronaldo is scoring, but I still worry about the rest of his game; Tevez hardly gets a chance; Berbatov is settling in, and has shown some lovely touches but his scoring rate is average to be generous; and Rooney.... Rooney. I don't quite know what to say. He was doing incredibly well, then he went to Everton, and since then, his old bad temperament (which had previously started to fade into uncommonly occuring) has returned, he doesn't seem happy, and his finishing has gone back to being appalling - he's missed several absolute sitters. It's no coincidence that Rooney playing well = United playing well. I do worry. If we start winning games 3-0 and 4-0 and the other teams drop points, then I'll be happier, but right now, all I can say is, astounding though it may seem, we are really struggling.
Man utd champions
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10/11/2008 16:11:00

I worry by the time we get it right, we will be too far behind to change things. On Rooney, unless he is in danger of being sent off, or very seriously injured, you should never EVER bring him off. He is the drive of United; he is the one who can win the game for us. It seems to me that Fergie just hauls Wayne off when United aren't doing that great - he's done it several times this season. Benching Rooney often works cos he's that determined sort of character who will react well, but in a game, he inspires the team, and we need to keep him on.
Man utd champions
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10/11/2008 16:19:00

LondonGooner you have a lot of mouth coming from a club that hasnt won a trophy since 3G Phones came out. Holloway Rd is a crackhead , tramp infested trash hole with high crime rates aswell so you fall into that same Bin dipping category yourselves.I know because i used to live around there. Can you even remember what winning a trophy actually is?
I Bling Red
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10/11/2008 16:57:00

And as for beating Man Utd big deal....personally im not bothered what they do... ive been saying all along that at best when HomoLadyboy Ronaldo isnt carrying Man U then they are at best 4th/5th/6th place quality & there current form shows it. Either they start drugging up Ronaldo or they will be fighting the likes of Hull all season like your curently doing. Man Utd fans are arrogant enough to think that us Liverpool fans are feelling exstatic over beating you. To be honest most of us just saw it as just another game. Playing Mancs home OR away really doesnt bother us , i expect Liverpool to beat Utd at OT aswell. We dont really see you as that pass the ball around very well which i admit , your strikers are quality and your defence is strong aswell , but the game is won & lost in the midfield but to be honest even you Manc fans now are beginning to get it trough your heads and see that your midfield play nice looking football but youre a bunch of weaklings and softies in the centre , thats why we blew through your midfield and over ran your bunch of girlies in the 2nd half. It was just a matter of time. Say what you want about Liverpool as we still arent playing our best yet & we still need to improve but 1 thing is for certain , Utd couldnt cope when Liverpool get theyre foot stuck in and start charging through the middle. Thats your weakness whther you admit it or not. Until you find another Roy Keane get used to geating beat every 6 - 7 games by a big club, i really dont mind playing you home or away because i know its just a matter of time before we overrun you in the middle , like weve been doing to EVERY team weve played this season whetehr we play bad or well . Hence weve been getting results. Oh and by the way to all those that say we will crumble b4 xmas. If you check the records you will see that after xmas Liverpool traditionally finish the strongest EVEN when you or Chelsea win the title. Go check the stats . Our only problem is usually by oct / nov stage we`re about 7 - 10 points behind. All Liverpool fans are hoping for is that we are within 3 points of the top around Xmas. If we are then you can forget about any hopes you may foster of winning the title. Just watch
I Bling Red
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10/11/2008 17:17:00

ibr can you even remember what winning a league actually is? and can you remember which team finished the mickey mousers almost 20 years ago?
fran merida
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11/11/2008 01:04:00

I Bling Red, I don't argue that Liverpool may traditionally finish well (I don't honestly know) but I have four points to make... a) United have more points than they did around this time last year... and what happened? b) United traditionally start slow (as they have this season) and really get ahead after Christmas c) all the teams will drop points at some time; after all, it wasn't long ago you lost to Spurs d) your team has little experience of being ahead in a title race coming into the final months. You may finish strong (when you are left with nothing to play for) but who is to say that if Man Utd, or indeed Chelsea are coming up strong behind, you will not falter? Believe me, the team we had in 2006/07 nearly fell when Chelsea got close before we effectively won the title with a magnificent comeback at Everton. When you start to drop points and the team behind you comes up strong, you do start to worry. And let me tell you this... we had a lot more experience than you do now. One defeat to Arsenal changes very little: everyone is saying Arsenal is back in the title race, and we are struggling, yet if we win our game in hand, Fulham at home (indeed we should) we will be above the Gunners. Sound like logic to you?
Man utd champions
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11/11/2008 11:03:00

A confident Liverpool fan? Is it really that time of year again?
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11/11/2008 11:58:00

Man Utd Champions - I accept you made some valid points ,but the only problem is that Man Utds whole " coming from behind strategy" is based on Ifs & Buts ... The same games you say you will most likely win , you could lose, you havent got those points yet and you just as well may not get them as confident as you are. The bottom line is that winning the title is no longer in your own hands . All Liverpool have to do is match Man Utd / Chelseas win record every time you win , that will prevent you from winning the title no matter what you do. You can beat the weak teams 10 - 0 every game , it makes no difference. Liverpool dont even need to beat you at home ..all we have to do is get a draw . As a Man Utd FAN you like all your brethren you should be concerned with the fact that you havent been capable of beating a top team this season because in previous seasons when youve won the title late on you have never struggled so badly against the other 3. Liverpool would have beaten you 3-1 had Vidic not pulled down Keane when he was through. The fact of the matter is that the title is now out of your hands & you are now having to rely on Chelseas, Arsenals, Liverpools results going your way no matter how much you try and "sex up" your predicted results list. Bottom line is that you need to buy a midfield general as Ronaldo cant do what he did last season again. As i said before Man Utd are unsually easy to overwhelm through the middle regardlss of who you start with & if you continue to have the attitude of "we will be allrite when the fixtures get easier you will be in big trouble as teams have improved since last season and you are not playing the same team squads as you did last season.
I Bling Red
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11/11/2008 12:53:00

keep the faith united fans there's a long way 2 go
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11/11/2008 13:57:00

So hows the view down there in 4th place lads?..
I Bling Red
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13/11/2008 16:15:00


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