Manchester United - The Importance Of Fletcher And Hargreaves Is Scary
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The Importance Of Fletcher And Hargreaves Is Scary

United have to face Blackburn Rovers without being able to call on any of their two ball-winning midfielders, Darren Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves. A combination of Carrick, Scholes and Anderson might be sufficient do to the job against Rovers who haven't won away from home for ages but in the long term you just can't do without these players.

It's not exactly a heartwarming thing that football's gone this direction. Every big team needs a 'destroyer' now, even such a technically accomplished and creative side like Barcelona. Look at the way Liverpool beat us. Look at the key of their defending: he's called Javier Mascherano.

And the guy can hardly be called a footballer, for heaven's sake. He can't pass the ball, can't shoot, can't dribble. What he can do is closing down, harassing and tackling. Yet he's the most crucial element of Liverpool's defensive work.

Both Fletcher and Hargreaves have a wider range of skills than him but it's their tenacity, stamina and tackling ability which make them so important. We wilted at Liverpool without their influence in midfield and we'll certainly fold at Chelsea as well because Carrick, with all the good will in the world, will never be able to constantly press the opposition and hassle players off the ball, that's not his style while Scholes... Scholes is 35.

Anderson is wayward a little even though he's got the bodily strength and the stamina for the job but he's too young, needs to mature and might be more useful in a more attacking role anyway. So there we are: in my opinion our reliance on Hargreaves and Fletcher is scary, especially considering Fergie's preferred playing style of recent years.

What I mean is that the boss, especially in big away games, goes all continental on us: disciplined defending, few risks, patient approach. You need at least one good, tenacious defensive midfielder for this, otherwise it's simply not gonna work. A Carrick-Scholes-Anderson midfield three is very unlikely to give you a disciplined defensive display. Fletcher-Carrick-Hargreaves - they will.

Of course there's also the chance of reverting to nineties style when we don't have them available: risk a lot, attack all the time, use the energy of Anderson and the brilliant passing of Carrick - and expose ourselves to lethal counter-attacks. Fergie doesn't seem to prefer that, somehow. He's grown out of it I guess.

Of course there's also an argument that keeping the ball is a perfect way of defending as when you have the ball it's very unlikely you'll concede (unless you happen to employ Richard Dunne). And yes, on paper the Carrick-Scholes pairing should be able to keep the ball well. On the pitch they find it difficult now, in 2009, as both lack the necessary mobility to exploit space effectively when paired. Which takes us back to Fletcher and Hargreaves who certainly possess that quality.

And why is it scary that any argument leads us back to the overwhelming need to have them fit? Well, one of them is a skinny Scottish lad who'll never be a Makelele even though he's become a real quality player and the other hasn't played for over a year now and it's not certain he'll ever be a proper footballer again. For the sake of our season we must hope he will be.

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

The Journalist

Writer: Zae Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Friday October 30 2009

Time: 8:50PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

Change to most recent first
I disagree about Mascherano. You are a fool of a writer, provoking without any cause. What a f(cking joke.
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31/10/2009 04:02:00

Zee,For a change i agree with you.fletcher's importance is scary.without him you lot will be raped all the time,remember barca,liverpool?even worse is the fact that carrick only plays well when fletcher's on the pitch.
Report Abuse
31/10/2009 06:44:00

At last even the rags are beginning to wake up to the paucity of their midfield options. Not a title winning (or Champs League winning) midfield by a long way.
Report Abuse
31/10/2009 10:02:00

Don't forget Burnley Blueogre - Flethcer didn't play that night either.
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31/10/2009 10:03:00

I completely agree, it is scary. Anderson isnt at all consistent enough to give us what we need, week in week out, but I still feel I'd rather see him giving it a good go than watch giggs, scholes and carrick just watching the ball go by them helplessly. Without the ability to pressure the ball we are always open to counter attacks no matter how much possession we have. The thing is this situation isnt new. It cost us a champions league final last year. It got us destroyed by liverpool and there were numerous indications of this situation the season before. We have Anderson, Gibson and Possebon - none of which can anyone guarantee are good enough - however, like the giggsys, scholes, butt and beckhams they need to be given that sink or swim chance to prove themselves. I'd rather put them in for 5 games get smashed each time and know that they are crap than watch formerly great players chasing shadows all the while worried that the players we have to replace them with might not cut it. Let the youngsters have their chance now and that way januarys objectives will be clear cut and we can hopefully have a very good second half to the season.
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31/10/2009 16:01:00

Very true tuscan. I don't know why Gibson didn't play against Barnsley midweek. I know Rafael needs games but to have played him in centre midfield when you got Gibson wasn't wise. Possebons out on loan until end of the season so will be intersting to see how he's devoloped I don't even know if he's getting regular football out at Braga (I believe thats where he is). I honestly think Gibson should be given a chance in the league, there's something about this kid that makes me believe he's got a bright future.
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31/10/2009 16:13:00

I was hoping either scholes or giggs would slowly slip out of the frame whilst Gibson, Anderson or Nani would prove themself and slip into their position.
One United 92
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31/10/2009 19:04:00

It really isn't looking too good for the midfield is it? This is not a dig, or a sly remark, it really is true. What the hell happened? Taggart just seems to have let it slide recently - which really could have far reaching consequences, no?
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31/10/2009 21:56:00

Its too early to say fergies let it slide because to find a time when we were in better shape in central midfield you'd have to go back to the scholes and keane partnership. That was ages ago and its not like we've done badly since then. If we can get into a situation where we can CHOOSE a midfield partnership from Hargreaves, Fletcher, Carrick and Anderson then we will be in a FAR better position than we have been at any point in the last few years. I recognise that man for man that the other teams at the top of the premier league can claim to be equal or better than us in this position but this is surely more worrying for everyone else - year on year we're told we are a lucky team, who play badly as soon as we come up against a good team, our defence is shaky, our midfield is inferior and our strikers dont score - yet as a TEAM we continue to make our mark each season. If we ever manage to get a first choice defence fully fit, find a central midfielder who has nearly as much quality as cesc, lampard or gerrard, or produce a striker who is as lethal as torres, drogba or van persie - the premier league would cease to be a contest. Our frustration isnt that our midfield isnt good enough to achieve our aims - its that if it were better we could achieve our aims in the style we are accustomed too. The situation is essentially one of greed and self indulgence. Whereas chelsea were happy to win their first two titles by any means necessary, we want to win it by playing attractive football. Maybe fergie has adapted to the threat of chelsea by becoming more like them - he's let go of his gung-ho attacking football in favour of a more ruthless style that is solely concerned with putting points on the board. Maybe he has let the quality of our midfield slide by accident and our recent success has merely been a smoke screen for impending doom. Its too early to tell.
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01/11/2009 09:57:00

It is reported that Hargreaves is to be offered a pay-as-you-play, should he want an extension. And yet, this article says you rely on him. It does not bode well does it?
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01/11/2009 11:52:00

Tuscan - I don't think he's let the midfield slide by accident, it's just that several of the young prospects he's brought in have not lived up to expectations, or are taking longer to make the first team than anticipated, and I'm sure he didn't anticipate Hargreaves being out for so long. Wonder if any heads rolled amongst the medical team who certified Hargreaves as fit when you bought him?
Report Abuse
01/11/2009 12:23:00

Mascherano the Captain of Argentina, future Barca star with a 35m price tag on his head, cant be called a footballer??? Then what the hell can Fletcher be called?? Another stupid article aimed at winding up Liverpool fans. Hes a dirty player yes, but hes far superior in every aspect to Darren Fletcher. FACT. Hargreaves is good when fit (id still personally take Masch) but when the hell will that be? Pleb
Report Abuse
02/11/2009 00:28:00

I completly agree with tuscan...and also huddersfieldyiddo....when masch is playing his game with the confidence i have seen him play in before he is a very good footballer.....he is in a whole different class in my opinion than any other def medfielder when on top of his game in today's game....fletcher at his best remains an average player
Report Abuse
02/11/2009 02:16:00

Mascherano's been crap this season for both club and country.
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02/11/2009 08:48:00

NeRD - Mascherano is clearly missing Alonso. Masch is not a passer and relied on winning the ball and then giving it to Alonso who then distributed it. Without him Mascherano's shortcomings are highly evident. I also think he's got one eye on deserting the sinking SS Scouser for Barca come the summer. Did you know that he's only on abot 35k per week at Liverpool? A lot for you & me, but not great for an international footballer at a big club and I'm sure he can't wait to get out.
Report Abuse
02/11/2009 12:21:00

so basically mascherano is everything Alonso isnt, making him not much then.
One United 92
Report Abuse
02/11/2009 15:37:00

Didn't you have a go at me for calling people childish names and here you are still at it. Just off after all that other stuff that went down got no time for you or your opinion you bitter blue tosser.
Report Abuse
02/11/2009 18:48:00

Toys - pram eh NeRD?
Report Abuse
03/11/2009 16:36:00

NRD like you said ignore 'em, they live off winding us up, dont feed 'em then they die, figuratively speaking of course.
One United 92
Report Abuse
03/11/2009 17:03:00

I like to think of NeRD as an affectionate nickname for one of Vital manure's most humourous posters. Although I'm pretty sure you're not trying to be funny.
Report Abuse
03/11/2009 19:27:00

Whoever said "make love not war" clearly never met an aggrevating City fan like you FCB.
One United 92
Report Abuse
03/11/2009 22:02:00

ooh GET HER...
Report Abuse
03/11/2009 22:35:00

P.S. You have a go when I take the mick, I understand that. But why be such a bunch of sad tossers when I'm merely discussing the affairs of other football teams? You are merely showing a lack of class, but then again, once a red always a rag eh?
Report Abuse
03/11/2009 22:37:00

You fcb can take the blame for this one, NRD expressed an opinion and then you provoked a comeback with those nicknames which you said were so pathetic.
One United 92
Report Abuse
04/11/2009 08:16:00

Not me complaining about the nicknames ou92, don't have a problem with them at all. Just don't particularly like the use of invective on what is supposed to be a forum for debate.
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04/11/2009 10:05:00

The biggest problem we have is that Carrick is actually considered a decent footballer by some, the fact that we rely on Fletcher now is worrying considering how bad our midfield has become, all of our title winning sides had quality in midfield but now with Scholes and Giggs past it we're *****ed, we got raped by a ***** poor liverpool team and I can only imagine what will happen on Sunday, we do need Hargreaves back quick but thats only half the problem our midfield lacks movement and creativity look at our options, Carrick a player who no one knows what he actually does, Anderson a supposed att midfielder who took 3 years to score a goal, Nani well he's more likely to appear on Rooneys street football skills show, Fletchers a workhorse that lacks imagination and Hargreaves is just unlucky and Tosic, has he arrived yet or just gone home. We need some serious investment plus the sale of half our wasters if we get our act together in January we might sneak the title if not its Chelseas.
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06/11/2009 17:08:00


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