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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Fletcher Is More Important Than Rooney

The big question is: who will be passed fit ahead of Sunday's showdown with Liverpool? I do not really care about Torres and Gerrard, so this will about our own players. With Ryan Giggs, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Wayne Rooney all missing Wednesday's deserved 1-0 win at CSKA, they faced a race to be fit for Anfield.

Well, two of them have definitely won the race, according to Sir Alex but the other two has to face missing the big game.

'On the injury front I can't give a clear picture, there are still some doubts about Rooney and Fletcher,' Fergie said.

'Patrice is fit, and Ryan is also fine, but Ji-sung is out unfortunately. Everyone is fit from after Wednesday's game in Moscow.'

So we'll have a proper, quick, creative left flank with Evra and Giggs both fit - it's a big relief. But of course it would be brilliant to have the other two available as well even though it looks unlikely at the moment. Who is the more important though?

Well, the headline has already revealed my opinion: I'd say Fletcher's recovery is crucial and his absence would leave a bigger hole.

Why is that? I can cite a few examples from last season and two of those stand out: the 4-1 defeat to Liverpool and the Champions League final. In both games our midfield pairing was Carrick and Anderson and we were hopeless in both games as we had severe trouble with getting the ball back in time because of Carrick's lack of pace and Anderson's lack of positional sense and anticipation.

Liverpool will certainly have a player operating behind the main striker. It's likely to be Yossi Benayoun or it could be Steven Gerrard if he makes an unlikely recovery; doesn't matter because the important thing is that we must put this withdrawn striker/playmaker under severe pressure, something we failed to do in March. Fletcher, a big-game player, is excellent for this task.

We will need to get the most out of Michael Carrick's exceptional passing range but to achieve that he must not spend most of his time running after the ball. He's at his best with two energetic runners on either side of him in a three-man midfield - remember how excellent the Fletcher-Carrick-Anderson midfield three was against Arsenal in the Champions League, the only time we used this trio.

Rooney, on the other hand, represents a tactical dilemma. I firmly believe that the three-man midfield is the best answer to the physical superiority of the technically inferior Lucas-Mascherano pairing which means that either Rooney will have to be shunted out to the wing, a position he does not enjoy and with both being occupied by in-form players it might not be the wisest of choices.

Or he could replace Dimitar Berbatov as the attacking spearhead which, again, might not be the best idea. Rooney is an excellent, world-class player and when he's fit he usually plays and there's no problem with that. But for this type of game he might not be our best bet.

There are many teams in Europe who let you play, who do not put extreme pressure on the opposition whenever those happen to have possession. Liverpool are not one of them: you can expect immediate and asphyxiating pressure on our players when Liverpool lose the ball and that is where Berbatov excels: he's brilliant at keeping possession under pressure. He has the strength, the height and most importantly, the technique to do that.

Of course we could still play 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney playing in an advanced attacking midfielder role (this would effectively be a carbon copy of Liverpool's favourite formation) but there's a definite risk that we'll lose the midfield battle in that case. Lucas and Mascherano are not creative or skilful, they are not good passers of the ball but they have prodigious reserves of stamina and they will harass us all afternoon. This, and not Torres' pace, was the key to their win at Old Trafford (and at Anfield as well where they had Xabi Alonso available to give their passing some rhytm).

So, my line-up would be this:

an der Sar - O'Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra - Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson - Valencia, Berbatov, Giggs

And I would stick with this even if Rooney's deemed fit. After all, why risk another, more serious injury by starting him when he's such an excellent, world-class option to bring in from the bench if things are not going according to plan?




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The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday October 23 2009

Time: 7:48PM

Your Comments

Rooney would never want to miss this game! At the very least, I expect him to be on th bench with the possibility of him coming on around the hour mark.
ForeverUnited
I understand where you are coming from, but if Rooney's fit, hell you could play him in Fletcher's role and he would probably be the best player on the park!
elvido
Fletcher is more important to you than Rooney in that he constantly makes snide little fouls that upset the rythm of an opponent. Wouldn't be surprised if he is given the task of kicking Torres at every opportunity, something that Rooney doesn't do.
fifthcolumnblue
HEHEHE, oh dear! You are a card fifthcolumnblue. A little bitter perhaps, a little obsessed when you join a Manchester United forum to post your little jokes, but you are funny and that counts for a lot. But let's get serious. Fletcher is fast becoming one of Europes best midfielders. He has found a role that suits his fantastic engine. He has always been renowned as a young player of skill and energy and now the steel has been added. He will be thought of as a 'Keane' with technique in years to come. When he and Hargreaves are finally on the same pitch again then we will have a midfield that will be impossible to contend with in terms of strength, energy and committment. Scholes, Anderson and Carrick will have to show their creative best for the right to line up beside these two (if SAF even allows them to by playing 3 in that midfield area - 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 for example). The really good thing is that Fletcher and Hargreaves can be creative aswell. They can both score goals and can give a telling pass. If United are still in contention when this midfield pairing can be made - and who is there to prevent that happening? - then the rest can forget about United dropping points to teams outside the big four... and the title will most certainly be ours again. Bloody funny you are fifthcolumnblue
The Red C
i actually do agree with fcb...that's all that fletcher does does...no talent and sometimes i wonder how he is still on the field after kicking so many ppl.....sometimes he is okay doesn't foul as much and reads the game well but most of the time no...i would rather anderson and carrick starting..... to me roo-berba partnership would be needed at anfield unless sir alex will go with the 4-5-1
ibrahiy
The Red C (wot's the C for?)I was actually praising him by suggesting that he was good at breaking up the opposition's play, but as usual, the manure fans overreact. If he was doing anything illegal he'd get sent off, and sometimes he gets away with murder, but most of the time he just makes little niggling fouls. It may be "anti-football" to quote dear old Arsene, but it is certainly effective. So what's your problem with listening to my opinion? Oh I forgot, you are the mighty manure and no one else matters.
fifthcolumnblue
Oh, and whilst we're on the subject of Membership, can I point out that being a member of Vital football gives you the privelege of being able to comment on the affairs of other teaams, something that is unique to Vital. If you wind your neck in you might enjoy visiting other teams' sites and enjoying a bit of banter (if you are able to banter and not proselytise about manure)
fifthcolumnblue
 

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