It Smells Like 2004 - United Aren't Good Enough
OK, so after a workmanlike win over Birmingham, United slumped to a pathetic 1-0 defeat at newly promoted Burnley in only the second game of the season. Doesn't bode well, does it?
I've said all along that we won't win the league with this squad unless... well, there are thousands of criteria, I won't list them all. However, it looks fairly clear now that most of them won't be met.
For a start, we should have bought a central midfielder. Neither Giggs nor Scholes can be regarded as good enough for that position, Anderson seems to go backwards - he was pathetic tonight even though his role was less than clear to me and Hargreaves is unlikely to be a proper player ever again - which leaves us with Fletcher and Carrick.
And if one of them is absent and the other is having an off day - as we saw it tonight - then we're in big trouble. As we were tonight. It's nothing new: most United fans have been saying since the end of last season. While I can understand the faith in Anderson - he's still only 21 - only my immense respect and admiration and affection towards Giggs and Scholes prevent me saying that they hold the team back.
I'm trying to avoid knee-jerk reactions in the case of Michael Owen but it's difficult as I was against the idea of signing him from the start. He looks slow, unambitious, he seemingly lacks courage and confidence. He was invisible and when a ball found him he missed the chances.
Park is an honest tryer and a good tactical option - but it was utter madness to start him when skill and inspiration, rather than hard work was necessary. He offered very little and therefore the only real width came from Patrice Evra who was our best player by some distance.
My other problem is that we only woke up in the second half - more precisely, after 70 minutes. The arrival of Berbatov and Valencia helped a lot but we lacked the quality, the creativity, the imagination to weave our way through the solid wall that Burnley created.
And in that sense this game smelled like the 2003/04 or the 2004/05 season. Those campaigns saw the least creative Ferguson sides and I'm afraid we could be in for a repeat this season. This performance was every bit as pathetic as the Wolves defeat in 2004 January, against a team we should have beaten easily. It's not a knee-jerk reaction: it simply looks like that we won't get away with the lack of significant strengthening. As we've suspected ever since Ronaldo departed.
And before I finish this, one more thing. Burnley deserves credit and they deserve the three point. They scored a wonderful goal, defended brilliantly and their keeper Brian Jensen made a magnificent save from the penalty. Well done to them; shame on us.