In the aftermath of another crushing defeat for a weathered United side yesterday, an inquisition has begun into exactly what went wrong for Ferguson’s team over the past week. Defeat in Munich was by no means a ‘European result’, with an away goal the crucial, but it proved a demoralising experience and tactically a complete shambles.
With Ji-Sung Park deployed out wide, United was unable to force any pressure on a dominant Mark Van Bommel on Tuesday night. The stalwarts, Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, very much looked as if their ageing years have caught up and remained a liability throughout the game.
The golden oldies aren’t the only ones at fault. Michael Carrick seems to lack the big game impetus and Darren Fletcher appeared overwhelmed by the task in the Allianz Arena and was largely a passenger.
Even the normally reliable Patrice Evra got caught napping by appalling moment of complacency in the final minute, a characteristic that has sadly crept into his game.
Four days on and Chelsea’s visit to Old Trafford brought much of the same. United simply did not do enough and the visitors played through Sir Alex Ferguson’s side with little resistance.
The expected ‘hairdryer treatment’ at half-time spurred on United, with the players finally realising they were in it for more than their place in next week’s team sheet.
Despite a much improved second half display it was insufficient to overcome an impressive Chelsea.
Managerial and refereeing decisions played their part. Once again Ferguson selected Paul Scholes to play a holding role, something that the United legend clearly struggles with. The midfielder’s physical presence hardly strikes fear into the opposition, although what he lacks in stature Scholes makes up for in his passing.
However, Scholes struggles with some of the key responsibilities in this role – in particular tackling and working harder off the ball than on it. It’s an expectation that Scholes failed to meet at Old Trafford on Saturday and against Munich last week.
Even though United lost to an awful call by the linesman against Chelsea, Ferguson’s side must take responsibility for defeat. Ferguson got some key decisions wrong this week and only he can turn things around for the team.
The return leg at Old Trafford Wednesday against Bayern offers United a wonderful chance to exercise these demons and prove the side’s champion credentials once again.
Fans cannot expect a hesitant performance from either side, with Bayern not revelling in defence this season. United should approach the game planning on outscoring the opposition in an open attacking game. Perhaps an early prediction of 4-2 to the home side is not unfair, although this is of course a biased aspirations.
Something not in doubt is United’s record over the course of a season. No side has ever won the Premier League having lost seven games. That’s a fact even Ferguson cannot deny.