Date:Monday March 2 2009
United are in a crisis! We haven't found the net in the last two games and our last win dates back to more than a week ago! Fergie must arrest this alarming slump soon.
OK, so the alternative view is that we've come away from the San Siro with a draw that flattered the opponents and then won the Carling Cup with a somewhat understrength team. But it's certainly true that Sunday's display wasn't a vintage United performance.
For a start, the Gibson-Scholes central pairing is not good enough against top flight opponents. Scholes doesn't have the legs, Gibson doesn't have the experience. They both can be very useful - but not with the other playing on their side. We were way too vulnerable in central midfield until Anderson's introduction.
It looked like the stage was simply too big for Danny Welbeck as he disappeared. The confidence with which he took on Spurs defenders in the FA Cup game was nowhere to be seen and he was totally low-key and marginal until being brought off with half an hour to play in normal time. He's still only 18, he'll get better and as I've outlined above he got precious little support from midfield.
Sadly, his strike partner was no better. Carlos Tevez was sluggish and too often isolated. He made very little impact, again, and his lack of pace seriously hinders him in the English game.
Nani does have pace in abundance but after a bright start he still faded dismally. Intelligence, decision-making: that's what he needs to improve and considerably. This Nani is a shadow of last season's one: I still hope it's only a second season syndrome.
Something like that is affecting Anderson as well but he's still useful. His introduction powered up a sluggish midfield but too often he was crowded out as Scholes offered him no support at all.
Evra looked tired after his heroics at the San Siro and for some reason he's always very uncomfortable against Aaron Lennon. He dealt with Messi much more effectively and that says it all.
The Evans-Ferdinand pairing worked fine even though Jonny is clearly not fully fit. Some minor mistakes but nothing serious, they did their job. The same can't really be said about John O'Shea who was lucky not to get sent off after a rash challenge on Modric minutes after his first yellow. The big Irishman was totally out of his depth yesterday, looked like he was still amazed how good he had been against Ibrahimovic.
Ronaldo also did not reach the performance level of Tuesday but the others are as culpable for it as himself. Tevez wasn't such an effective focal point as Berbatov was on Tuesday and there was no Park to do astonishing amount of work on the other flank. Still, the Portuguese almost won us the game in the 93rd minute: he cut in from the right and his vicious shot rebounded off the post. Had Nani taken a touch and squared the ball to the totally unmarked Anderson we would have won the game in normal time; instead he clumsily bundled it wide.
Ben Foster was caught out once in the first half but he was impressive, he was confident dealing with crosses and made two very good saves, from Lennon and Bent. And of course he set the tone of the penalty shooutout by beating away O'Hara's spot-kick. It would be stretching it to say that he simply frigthened and mesmerized Bentley but he went the right way with that penalty, too. He's a better keeper than Kuszczak.
In the end, it's another cup won and another lessons learnt. With Hargreaves out we need to wrap Fletcher and Carrick into cotton wool and give Anderson games to build up his fitness because neither Scholes nor Gibson could be called a safe bet against top quality opposition. The sooner Rafael and Brown come back, the better. Rooney and Berbatov are clearly the best strikers at the club and at the moment Tevez is only a distant third. Pull yourself together, son.
Date:Monday March 2 2009
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|Aston Villa||1||-||1||Man Utd|
|Man Utd||3||-||0||Hull City|
|2. Man City||17||12||3||2||+22||39|
|3. Man Utd||17||9||5||3||+12||32|
|4. West Ham||17||9||4||4||+10||31|
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