Date:Saturday February 20 2010
OK, this is as bad as it gets. United lacked any kind of fight, motivation, bite, steel, will to win - you name it, we lacked it. And so we were deservedly embarassed at Goodison Park as Everton cruised to a 3-1 win.
United, lining up in a 4-4-2 for a change, did alright for about 20 minutes. Berbatov was influential, Valencia was full of running and the midfield dominated. We took the lead with a clinically taken goal from Berbatov - and then it all fell apart.
Bilyaletdinov's equaliser was as brilliant as avoidable because it was the result of a schoolboy error: namely, that both Jonny Evans and Patrice Evra attacked the ball that flew towards Louis Saha. Had Evra covered Everton's unspellable hero instead of jumping for the ball with Saha, he wouldn't have had all the time and space in the world to score.
Still, United still held on. We could have taken the lead again soon enough but Rooney - who had an awful game - failed to convert Berbatov's magnificent pass as his touch let him down after rounding Howard. But there were signs that we were creaking, as we were bound to be with a back four of Neville, Brown, Evans and Evra. Yes, Rafael and Vidic were watching from the bench...
And then the second half. That horrible, disastrous second half. It seemed that our players are quite unhappy with the idea of running and moving off the ball, those sorts of things and they stopped doing them at all. They were ambling disinterestedly all over the pitch while Everton covered more ground, fought harder and quite simply overran us in every department. There always seemed to be an Everton man available and we were always outnumbered two to one and I don't think they cheated to bring more men on the field: they ran, we did not.
A goal was inevitable even though Fergie tried to save the day by bringing on Scholes for Berbatov with 68 minutes gone. It worked, too, temporarily at least: it gave us a little more stability and Everton suddenly found those wide open spaces hard to come by.
But our players weren't bothered to make it work, to do anything with this newfound stability: a couple of unconvincing attempts on goal aside we quickly allowed Everton to gain the upper hand again and on 76 minutes they took the lead through Dan Gosling after a well-worked team move. It was nothing less than what they deserved.
Fergie tried to coax a response by sending on Michael Owen for Antonio Valencia - if there ever was a hopeless substitution, this was. Predictably, we could not muster a chance before the final whistle - indeed, the rampant hosts added another, Jack Rodwell finishing us off.
This is a low point: our players have to wake up and realise that winning at AC Milan did not send waves of terror throughout Europe. We are still seen as a vulnerable team which we are and teams won't hesitate to take advantage of it. So the least we can do is not making their job easier by not turning up...
Vidic and Ferdinand should be back for the midweek game against West Ham and Rooney surely won't have another stinker like today so the only way is up. But one has to suspect that any chance of a league title has been blown today: Chelsea laboured, in thoroughly unconvincing fashion, to a 2-0 win at Wolves and quite simply it's hard to see United matching their consistency in the final part of the season. Oh well, we can concentrate on the Champions League...
Date:Saturday February 20 2010
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