Date:Saturday March 21 2009
Another day, another defeat - no response was forthcoming despite Sir Alex demanding one after the Liverpool disaster. But this defeat, 2-0 at Fulham, is largely his fault.
First, the players clearly weren't up for it in the first half as he himself admitted. I'm sorry but mental preparation is the manager's job and Fergie's supposed to be the best at it in the business. He failed though.
But we often got away with questionable amounts of effort this season because of our abilities. But that needs a good team selection and I think Sir Alex got it badly wrong this time.
When I saw the eleven names I thought Fletcher and Scholes would play central midfield and Giggs would act as the linkman between the midfield and Berbatov in a 4-4-1-1 or 4-2-3-1 if you like.
So I was shocked to see Giggs and Scholes playing centrally and Fletcher being deployed on the right. What was the logic behind it? I'll never know but we were on the back foot even before Scholes' sending-off which was an absolutely inexplicable piece of stupidity by one of our most experienced players - baffling.
And we were swamped afterwards, Edwin kept us in the game as Fulham came at us repeatedly and fired from every position. They were very, very good while we were very, very bad. Worse than last week I'd say.
However, the second half performance showed the importance of psychological preparation. Fergie managed to fire up the troops, moved Fletcher to the centre, brought back Ronaldo to the right and replaced Berbatov with Rooney.
We began to play football at last but we were very unlucky. Mark Schwarzer was brilliant, clearly motivated by the memory of his abysmal OT display and the 4-0 drubbing the received in the FA Cup, while our players missed everything. There was a 'how-did-it-stay-out' moment when Park hit him from three yards out then he somehow blocked Rooney's follow-up as well.
We had chances afterwards but none bigger than this and when Gera's admittedly spectacular goal sealed things you had to feel an air of inevitability about it. These days simply nothing goes our way but you had to expect it after 11 straight wins.
But we're still first, still four points clear - though Liverpool can close the gap tomorrow - and Fergie and the team might wake up, just in time. The international break is a nuisance as always but at least gives the manager time to reflect on his decisions. Hopefully he'll not be immune to his own criticisms...
Date:Saturday March 21 2009
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