A Scary Collapse - But We're Still The Favourites
Should we panic now? After all, the team and the manager committed dreadful mistakes, our fiercest rival punished them all and achieved a stunning victory at Old Trafford where they have had little success since 2004.
The answer is no. There's no reason to panic. The task is to point out the mistakes and do not repeat them.
The most horrible errors came from the most unlikely source: Nemanja Vidic, the world's best centre-back. His performance was shocking, no doubt about that - he should never have allowed Torres to equalise and his foul on Gerrard ensured that United had no way back into the game.
But a great deal of blame for yesterday's terrible farce must be laid at Fergie's feet. It was the second consecutive game that cried for the inclusion of Fletcher - yet on Wednesday he used Scholes, now he fielded Anderson. Against Inter he got away with it - almost - yesterday he didn't. Anderson was overrun, his positioning was dreadful, he was non-existent in our midfield.
Many praised the contribution of Carlos Tevez which is a tad baffling - he worked hard, granted and his pass to Park resulted in the penalty. But otherwise he was ineffectual, losing the ball with alarming frequency, he could not be found with it - he was terrible apart from his workrate.
The obvious question is: why Fergie did not take them off in time? Well, only the boss knows but he waited until the 74th minute when subtle tactical alterations were no longer possible - he simply opted for a desperate throw of the dice by bringing on Scholes, Giggs and Berbatov. What did he expect of Scholes... I'll never know because sending him on while taking Carrick off was close to suicide.
Had he replaced Tevez and Anderson with Berbatov (or Giggs) and Fletcher at half-time, we might have had a better chance of equalising. Because it was closer than it looks now, with the final result known. In the second half, when Rooney started to play football, we were the better team until the third goal: Liverpool camped in their own half, concentrating only on fending off our attacks.
But these attacks were so ineffective: we could not breach the penalty area. The only chance - Rooney's pass across the face of the goal - was wasted because of Tevez's bad positioning.
And of course despite all the pressure Liverpool scored as Vidic totally lost his head for the second time and Van der Sar did not even dive for a free-kick which was nothing special and could have been saved easily.
All these raise uncomfortable questions about the mental toughness of this team - but we have seen last season that these players are capable of performing under great pressure. We were excellent in the big games last season but now complacency has creeped in, seemingly. There was none of the urgency and concentration that we witnessed at the San Siro: Liverpool players were quicker, they were first to every ball and harassed us all afternoon.
We, on the other hand, gave them licence to roam all over the field as Anderson was nowhere to be seen and Carrick tried in vain to do the job of two men. How we missed Fletcher... the penalty which Evra (surprisingly slow and sluggish all afternoon) would have been avoidable had we had a midfield on the park...
Well, it's by-the-by now. The one week rest comes at exactly the right time and Fergie will have plenty of time to think about his own mistakes and to make it clear to the players that their performance was not good enough and that he wants sharper focus for the tasks ahead.
We are still the favourites for the league title and this sobering defeat might have come just in time to warn our players that they can't expect to win every game by simply going out onto the pitch. Let's hope we pull ourselves together - and that we'll get Liverpool in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
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