United slip to third away draw

Sir Alex Ferguson returned to the Manchester United bench but could not prevent his side drawing a third straight Premier League game on the road. United’s defensive frailties came to the fore once again, with bright attacking play cancelled out by some loose play at the back. It hardly surprised, with the Reds unable to plug the leaks away from home.

Nani’s wonderful strike and Michael Owen’s late headed equaliser earned United a point but on a weekend when both Arsenal and Chelsea lost, Ferguson may see the draw as a further two points dropped. After all United has won this fixture four out of the last five seasons.

If United’s attacking play merited more than a draw, then Ferguson must surely be deeply concerned about the fractious nature of his side’s rearguard. United simply cannot win the Premier League title in May by defending in such a haphazard fashion.

Indeed, Ferguson could hardly contain his disappointment, briskly shaking Owen Coyle’s hand at the end. The hair-dryer no doubt out in full force.

“I thought the first half we should have done better. We had some tremendous chances and we played a lot of good football,” said Ferguson.

“We did well to come from behind. Our chances were reduced in the second half although we had plenty of the ball. We showed some character coming from behind twice. A lot of teams will find it difficult coming here – they are a handful.

“The Premier League is like that, teams drop points when you don’t expect them to. Away from home we’ve only got three points and it shows a measure of the quality in the league.”

Ferguson, returning to the United bench after the midweek trip to Spain, left Rio Ferdinand out of his starting line-up, with Valencia coming up on Wednesday. The 32-year-old defender is just 180 minutes into his campaign with no pre-season behind him.

If Ferdinand’s absence caused concern for a defence that has shipped more goals in September than any other top flight side, then Jonny Evans’ poor recent form compounds the problem. It was always likely to be a tough day for Evans whose talent is not in doubt but ability to deal with physical very much is.

United started brightly though, monopolising possession and Wayne Rooney offering at least a glimpse of a return to a form of old. Not that Coyle’s side allowed United an easy ride of it, contesting possession every bit as competitively as under Sam Allardyce.

United had been warned. Lee Chung-Yong struck just wide before the Bolton’s opening goal as United’s tendency to invite the home side forward allowed Bolton back into the game. Zat Knight, stealing in ahead of a static Evans’, headed home the resulting corner, with Patrice Evra straying from his post. After Smalling’s outstanding performance in midweek, Ferguson will surely take note if Ferdinand’s absences are repeated this season.

Of the many weaknesses in the United squad creativity from wide areas is not Ferguson’s concern, with Nani at the heart of many of the Reds’ best moments. While the Portuguese twice wasted possession in the opening half there was no sloppiness about United’s equaliser, with Nani running from inside his own half to lash past Jussi Jaaskelainen in the Bolton net. A simply stunning strike and just reward to United’s overall dominance.

Indeed, the visitors began the second period in much the same fashion, hogging the lion’s share of possession and chances, with Berbatov forcing Jaaskelainen into a smart save on the hour as United sought the breakthough.

Perhaps unsurprising, given the upcoming fixture list, Rooney was withdrawn on the hour with liberal amounts of ice applied to the striker’s left ankle as the Scouser sat impassively on the bench. With Ryan Giggs also withdrawn early due to a hamstring strain that will keep the Welshman out for a fortnight, Ferguson’s options for the Spanish trip may be reduced.

Nani continued to be United’s main creative force but for all United’s possession Ferguson’s side rarely tested Jaaskelainen. United paid for the profligacy too, with the other Bulgarian, Martin Petrov, finding the back of United’s net after Johan Elmander’s smart layoff. Against the run-of-play perhaps but symptomatic of United’s play away from Old Trafford.

Ferguson threw caution to the wind, pushing Nani forward, with Michael Owen and Federico Macheda joining the fray to create an old-fashioned 4-2-4 formation. If Ferguson is ever-prepared to gamble then the move opened up United’s already fragile defence. Elmander should have hit Bolton’s third with 15 to go, firing over Edwin van der Sar’s goal with only the ‘keeper to beat.

The Swede lived to regret his wastefulness when Owen superbly flicked home Nani’s free kick to equalise moments later. It was the former Liverpool striker’s first touch and one of very few meaningful goals the former England international has scored in his time with United.

With time ticking down Scholes’ wonderful pass opened up Bolton’s right flank, with Nani cutting inside Robinson and firing just wide on his left foot. A wonderful move that could have brought United better reward. Moments later and the flame-haired midfielder fired just high as Ferguson’s side sought the winner its dominance deserved.

It didn’t come.

“It’s always a tough place to come but we created enough chances and dominated most of the game,” said goalscorer Owen.

“We’re obviously frustrated. We wanted to get the three points with the results that have come this weekend and we had the chance to close to gap at the top.

“We were helped with a few nice results yesterday but when you don’t capitalise on it, it leaves you with disappointment.”

In such details are titles won and lost.

Match facts
United – 442 – van der Sar; O’Shea, Vidic, Evans, Evra; Nani, Scholes, Fletcher (Owen 71), Giggs (Park Ji-Sung 53); Rooney (Macheda 61), Berbatov.

Attendance: 23,926
Man-of-the-match: Nani

Possession: Bolton 41% – 59% Man Utd
Attempts: 15 – 12
On target: 9 – 6
Corners: 7 – 12
Fouls: 16 – 18

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Comments

  1. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    evans has hit a wall an needs out the firing line for a bit i keep fucking saying it, rooney an all actually

    play rafa ffs oshea is horrendous

    rio fucking sort yourself out

    an we miss bollockless carrick in front of the centrehalves, what a state of affairs we miss that cunt, fletchers pointless running about is getting us nowhere

    451 for the next few weeks

  2. sheesh says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    evans has hit a wall an needs out the firing line for a bit i keep fucking saying it, rooney an all actually

    play rafa ffs oshea is horrendous

    rio fucking sort yourself out

    an we miss bollockless carrick in front of the centrehalves, what a state of affairs we miss that cunt, fletchers pointless running about is getting us nowhere

    451 for the next few weeks

    Every time Evans plays we concede goals. It was like this last season as well. The man likes to get stuck in but he can’t pass for shit.

  3. Sidsidney says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    evans has hit a wall an needs out the firing line for a bit i keep fucking saying it, rooney an all actually

    play rafa ffs oshea is horrendous

    rio fucking sort yourself out

    an we miss bollockless carrick in front of the centrehalves, what a state of affairs we miss that cunt, fletchers pointless running about is getting us nowhere

    451 for the next few weeks

    True about Carrick. But even if he played, he would probably be shite. I think he wanted out in summer

  4. Bill says

    4-5-1 almost a certainty now against Valencia. Berbatov up top, Rooney on the bench – his ankle injury a convenient way out of a difficult selection dilemma. He might make the bench though.

    Ferdinand surely in for Evans, right back spot TBC. Midfield of Scholes, Fletcher & Anderson in the middle with Park & Nani out wide.

    Suddenly our midfield options look thin with Giggs, Carrick, Hargreaves & Valencia pretty much all ruled out. Not sure I’d trust Gibson/Obertan/Bebe away from home in a big European game.

    Some of the big name players are going to have to put their hand up on Wednesday if we are going to get a result!

  5. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    evans has hit a wall an needs out the firing line for a bit i keep fucking saying it, rooney an all actually

    play rafa ffs oshea is horrendous

    rio fucking sort yourself out

    an we miss bollockless carrick in front of the centrehalves, what a state of affairs we miss that cunt, fletchers pointless running about is getting us nowhere

    451 for the next few weeks

    It doesn’t matter what 11 you pick from our current squad… they wouldn’t be good enough… at least not consistantly.

    If we had every player fit, and picked our best 11… you’d still have serious weaknesses from players either not quite ready, or players too old to play every weak.

    And then… if we have an injury or a player needs a rest, or even if Fergie just wants to make a tactical change… the squad players are cack…

    This is the worst United squad Fergies ever had… and it was supposed to be the foundations of the best.

    We need to replace (with class)…. VDS, Scholes, Giggs, Neville… so they can retire.

    We need to replace (with class)… Fletcher, Valencia, Carrick, Park… so they can be the squad players… that’s there limit… at least for United.

    We need a keeper… a winger… and a midfielder… these are must haves… and they need to be class players.

    This is not a complete overhaul… just 3 class players. Those along with the likes of the Twins and Cleverly give us plenty to work with… might take a season to sort out, but so what?

    And the most important thing of all… we need Ferguson to come clean… be honest with the fans that we are being fucked over by the financial management of the Glazers.

    Ferguson telling us that they are terrific owners and the problem is there’s no value, etc… these are nothing short of lies and are the biggest problem.

  6. Bill says

    Despite these set backs nothing much has changed in terms of the end result IMO. 2nd/CL QF/cup win.

    Nani will be seen as replacement for Giggs, combination of RDS for Nev. Scholes won’t be replaced directly. VDS by a combination of a new signing & the PIG.

    Pity Foster went as he would have been ideal to fight for the no. 1. To be fair to him you can’t blame him for not waiting around until the end of the 2011-12 season when VDS retires! TK might not be able to wait that long either.

  7. Onside says

    I’ll tell you why we couldn’t win this match. It’s Sir Alex’s fault, that’s who! The big mistake was taking out Fletcher, thus conceding the midfield to Bolton. No wonder we couldn’t muster an attack in the last 15 minutes.

    Fletcher had a near perfect game. Yes, the ball deflected off him for their goal but these unlucky things happen (ask our 2nd top scorer, OG). But he was everywhere up to then. Aiming shots ON TARGET (take note Scholes), creating our goals (won the header to Rooney who then fed Nani etc…), and nullifying Kevin Davies’ threat by standing in front of him and clearing all the dropped balls.

    That last one was his most important job, and you could easily see that when he went out, all the dropped balls were collected by Bolton as they forced us back in the last 10 minutes.

    You goofed, Sir Alex, you goofed.

  8. You've been owened says

    I think our defensive frailities are largely down to two reasons.

    Playing 4-4-2, away from home, with no holding midfielder, leaves us very vulnerable. On the counter attack, there was plenty of space for Davis and Elmander to exploit in front of the back four. Even if Rio and Vida were playing in their prime, they’d still struggle without any midfield shield.

    Jonny Evan’s form is erratic. You say he can’t deal with the physical threat, but he was desperately poor in Milan last year, and Ronaldinho, Pato and Huntelaar are hardly beasts. He almost gifted Bolton a third with some sloppy distribution giving the ball straight to Elmander. Time and time again, especially in away games, he’s fallen short of the standard required. I think he’s a good player, but in all honesty I don’t think he’s consistent enough to be a top Manchester United defender.

  9. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    only three new signings seems a bit light, think we atleast need a striker an all, a ‘definite’ as apposed to the ‘probably nots’ hernadez an diouf and the ‘wont be allowed to’ welbeck, cant say i fully trust berba yet either

    probably a second mid an all, lets get shot of the likes of carrick an fletcher instead of consigning em to backup

  10. Fazal says

    When you see the way Evans is playing you can only rue the departure of Pique! How the fuck did Fergie think he had too many central defenders? Now we have only 1 good CD-Vidic and can’t fucking afford to buy anyone else! Ferdinand seems only interested in playing for England-which is a joke. Evans is going the way of O’Shea…great start but fizzling out faster than Gordon Brown’s popularity. Smalling is another ‘potential’-we have so many of them. Wes Brown only plays on equinox days; Neville has pass his ‘sell by date’. Oh well we’ve been spoilt for success in the last few years…now we know how Liverpool fans feels…or some of us old enough to have supported United in the 1970s and 1980s!! I know Fergie will sort it out but watching United is aking to a visit to the dentist these days…you have no choice but to bear the pain!!

  11. RobDiablo says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    [1] It doesn’t matter what 11 you pick from our current squad… they wouldn’t be good enough… at least not consistantly.

    [2] We need to replace (with class)… Fletcher, Valencia, Carrick, Park… so they can be the squad players… that’s their limit… at least for United.

    [3] We need a keeper… a winger… and a midfielder… these are must haves… and they need to be class players.

    [1] Unfortunately true.

    [2] I’d expect you to take some stick for lumping Fletcher in with that lot, but you are correct. If you took Fletcher back twelve years or so, where would he be in the United setup? He’d be vying with – and usually losing out to – Nicky Butt for the chance to fill in for Scholes and Keane whenever those two were subbed, rested, or out injured.

    [3] If you changed “midfielder” to midfield, I’d agree completely.

  12. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    only three new signings seems a bit light, think we atleast need a striker an all, a ‘definite’ as apposed to the ‘probably nots’ hernadez an diouf and the ‘wont be allowed to’ welbeck, cant say i fully trust berba yet either

    probably a second mid an all, lets get shot of the likes of carrick an fletcher instead of consigning em to backup

    Carrick maybe, but I like Fletcher… he’s as game as they come… he may not have the skill to be great, but he’s perfectly sound as backup.

  13. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    RobDiablo said:
    [1] Unfortunately true.

    [2] I’d expect you to take some stick for lumping Fletcher in with that lot, but you are correct. If you took Fletcher back twelve years or so, where would he be in the United setup? He’d be vying with – and usually losing out to – Nicky Butt for the chance to fill in for Scholes and Keane whenever those two were subbed, rested, or out injured.

    [3] If you changed “midfielder” to midfield, I’d agree completely.

    Now, now… don’t be greedy.

    Seriously though… one class man in the middle… and Cleverly… assuming he’ll make the grade.

    Don’t know if you read it in the gossip thread… but Sneijder has been flirting with us… there’s a signing that would excite me.

  14. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    sheesh said:
    Will he fuck.

    Over my dead body FFS.

    Alf, aren’t you a tad concerned by Fletcher’s poor form this season? When Hargreaves comes back, Fletch will have a fight on his hands keeping his place in the side.

    Fletcher was never that good Sheesh, but he made up for his shortcomings with graft… I still think he’s an excellent squad player. He’d walk straight into the first team of many PL teams… maybe not the top half, but that’s partly the point… if he was that good, then we’d never be able to keep him happy as a part time player… we might not anyway… but the fact is, if we had better, he wouldn’t play

  15. says

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/chalkboards/547RD4OhiS4V2LyaxN1K

    Evans v Vida passes

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/chalkboards/3f2d3781822ZJMB3372y

    Evans v Vida clearances

    Some of the criticism on this (volatile) blog debate doesnt add up. Aside from unluckily losing Knight for goal (misplaced block), he was our best defender today battling superbly with JE and KD. Interestingly the stats show that his performance was far more effective than Vidic but nothing said about that..? JOS also failed to complete over a quarter of his passes which left us vulnerable on the counter on a number of occasions.

    Evans is a fantastic talent, and responded well today to his indifferent start to the season. No doubt will become a mainstay in defence in future.

    Rio will probably free from virus to start however on Weds….

    • says

      Nikos – pull up the long balls played by Bolton and you’ll see a different story. Clearly targeting Evans. He may be a fantastic talent but he’s got a major weakness and teams are targeting it.

      • says

        I can see they are targeting him yes. But for me his only poor performance was Fulham. Handled Torres very well aside from very unfortunate penalty incident.

        Just hard to swallow the collective need for scapegoating we have at our club with clear crowd favourites such as Vidic and Rooney seemingly immune from any criticism whatsoever.

        (And no I dont want to criticise Wayne right now; The support for him was fantastic yesterday exactly what is needed when one of the lads isnt getting the rub of the green – - If only Berba received the same backing last year…..)

  16. says

    sheesh said:
    Will he fuck.

    Over my dead body FFS.

    Alf, aren’t you a tad concerned by Fletcher’s poor form this season? When Hargreaves comes back, Fletch will have a fight on his hands keeping his place in the side.

    Don´t you mean if Hargreaves comes back ? sorry im at the stage where I don’t listen to the sound bites coming from Fergies arse and will believe it when I see it.

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