Manchester United - So Familiar: Nervy United Miss Unmissable Chances
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So Familiar: Nervy United Miss Unmissable Chances

Oh, here we go again. Nothing changed in the summer, it seems: the league opener against Birmingham was very, very similar to countless of last year's 1-0 wins.

There is a belief that United are very, very efficient against the so-called lesser sides of the competition and you may say that statistically we are. But if you actually watch the games you'll be forced to conclude that all too often we make it hard for ourselves by missing too many chances and letting the opposition off the hook.

And really, once again we had only ourselves to blame. Birmingham defended well and worked hard but we carved them open almost at will; Joe Hart looked less than assured in goal - only our inability to take our chances prevented us from achieving a much more comfortable win.

It was a blow that Rio Ferdinand had to miss the game because of a calf injury so our defence looked very unusual: Fabio, Evans, O'Shea and Evra lined up at the back. Carrick's exclusion was another surprise: we do not yet know why he wasn't even on the substitutes' bench but he did not make it, neither did Park, leaving the stage clear for Nani.

The Portuguese was, once again, one of our poorer performers but for most of the first half it looked like it would not matter. There were two quite sticky moments after we took the lead but Jerome fired wide from a good position and Evra headed a flick-on off the line after a Birmingham corner. But apart from these incidents, it was all United and we should have been out of sight by half time. Rooney worked very well with Berbatov and Valencia looked lively even though he should have taken more risks.

Our goal on 34 minutes was preceded by some excellent build-up play and Rooney was both lucky and unlucky: unlucky that his header rebounded off the post but lucky that it landed at his feet again and he only had to tap it in.

Right on stroke of half-time Nani and Evra combined fantastically to set up Fletcher who somehow blasted it high and wide from 10 yards out, from a clear chance. It was a shaking-your-head-in-disbelief moment and also the last moment of the first half.

Giggs replaced Nani at the interval and a much more focused and brave Birmingham came out and started to cause us some problems, especially as the presence of the two old men in midfield started to show on the game. Still, we should have had a penalty when Berbatov was clearly fouled inside the box; Rooney headed wide from a good position; we had plenty of blocked shots and near-misses.

But it was frustratingly familiar: all too often our players opted for another pass instead of shooting or waited until the defenders got back or took just one touch more than necessary. Bad decisions and profligacy, again - it was the same with Ronaldo last year and the same without him this time around.

Even Michael Owen was affected: he came on as a substitute for Dimitar Berbatov who played reasonably well and should have wrapped the game up on 92 minutes when sent clear by the excellent Rooney - man of the match by a mile - but fired straight at Hart.

It did not matter, in the end, in no small part thanks to Ben Foster who was confident this time around and made an excellent save earlier, denying Christian Benitez who beat Brown with embarassing ease inside the box before firing from a difficult angle.

At least we started with a win this time, unlike in the last two seasons. But we must be more focused in front of goal, we must improve our decision-making inside the box - every single player was guilty of letting good opportunities pass them by. We weren't agressive enough, we should have been more direct and determined. We were meek in front of goal, that's the truth and that's what we have to cut out and quickly.

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

The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday August 16 2009

Time: 4:26PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
dude i'm just happy we started with a win and just when i thought today can't get better liverfools lost to tottenham.... good day
Report Abuse
16/08/2009 18:24:00

It was nice to see Rooney taking more shots on from distance. Once he finds his range, I think he'll score a few of those this season. Nani was disappointing for me, but I have a feeling he is playing through pain so that he doesn't lose his place. Foster looked far more at ease today, so I'm hoping the shield was a one-off. Our biggest problem was quality and intelligence on the ball. Scholes has it in abunance of course, but his lack of mobility means he has fewer chances to use his quality as he struggles to get into the positions where he can be dangerous. Fletcher cannot read the intelligent play of scholes, berba and rooney so cannot support them with or without the ball - but his harrassing of the opposition is obviously required in Hargreaves absence. Valencia may just be settling in but I have to say he seems a bit predictable - teams will still struggle to contain him but it won't usually be because of anything other than his physical superiority (strength, pace and stamina).
Report Abuse
16/08/2009 19:02:00

Your strikeforce has the rest of the premiership quaking in it's boots.
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16/08/2009 23:50:00

I agree with you that nani probably played thru the pain....i mean how does someone dislocate his shoulder and we expect him to be at a 100%... but even though he was poor....he setup roo for the goal....he also was important for what should have been the second to me.....he had a decent game....I mean if he is so poor yet assists two goals then i don;t mind so much...
Report Abuse
17/08/2009 01:17:00

Rooney was excellent - but we look very dependent on him now. Could be a big season for him, but the rest of the squad will have to perform too if it's to be a big one for United as well.
Man utd champions
Report Abuse
17/08/2009 12:37:00

I honeslty believe nani could sieze this chance to make a name for himself....i am still not too happy about valencia...i dont think he is good enough for the shirt....but then again for so many years i was never convinced of oshea or fletcher....but they do their part and they are i could still be proved wrong about valencia...i hope so anyways
Report Abuse
17/08/2009 20:54:00

First game of the season a 1-0 win. Improvement on last two years opening day results I'll take it. Extremely funny to see those dippers getting outplayed and losing to Spurs. Nani did ok, bring on Burnley!
Report Abuse
18/08/2009 09:08:00

I am sorry guys but did anyone watch the city game...i saw highlights and i saw something that i thought was odd but yet very funny....tevez left us to be a starter(or so the traitor claimed) and he was sitting on the bench for city....and when he came on it looked like they put him on the wing instead of robinho.....I laughed really hard.... I know it sounds mean/rude/... but I don't like the guy...i'm not sure if ppl from west ham would feel the same about him....or u guys for the matter....but as much as i liked him before i hate him now....i hope he has a miserable career at city
Report Abuse
18/08/2009 15:59:00

tuscan3000, could have written it myself. Exactly.
Man utd champions
Report Abuse
18/08/2009 17:26:00

Ibrahiy - "Sign him up Fergie"!!!! What selective memories you all have. And if you bothered reading a sports page somewhere you'd know that Tevez only played 15 minutes of first team football in pre season so was clearly not fit enough to start.
Report Abuse
19/08/2009 00:43:00

dude...i did admit that i liked him b4...who doesn't like a player who runs and runs and looked to be playing his heart out....but he turned his back on us...and we got over the feelings and we started paying more attention to the fact he has never been able not even at west ham to get a decent amount of goals without(freekicks, penalties...) so as much as i liked him then it is safe to say he won't be ever welcomed in old trafford...i think other ppl share my feelings of betrayal.... and u are probably right i haven't been following ur team cuz i don't see them as a threat...yet anyways....but i just came across the lineup for the games and i thought it was funny that he was on the bench..
Report Abuse
19/08/2009 04:20:00

speaking of which if he plays who will go on the bench...
Report Abuse
19/08/2009 04:20:00


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