Familiar failings haunt United



“They don’t like it up ‘em!,” Lance-Corporal Jack Jones of 1970s BBC sitcom Dad’s Army fame so often declared. Yet, it wasn’t Jerry, sent packing back to Berlin after invading the home counties, but Manchester United – 19 times champion of England – that was cowed at Goodison Park on Monday night. New season, same old story, as Everton bullied Sir Alex Ferguson’s team into submission.

It was oh-so-familar. Defensive injuries, a midfield over-run by a physically superior opponent, and a lack of penetration in attacking areas. Such was the pattern of United’s performance in defeat on Merseyside that many supporters were prone to recall the Reds’ collapse at the back-end of last season. Deja vu? Not half.

Yet, for all the trauma of defeat, this is, as the Lance-Corporal might add, no time for panic; a single game into the bright new season, there is much more to come from United. Certainly, Ferguson wasn’t helped by a glut of defensive injuries that robbed his side of four first team centre-backs in Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. The quartet’s return – any of them – cannot come soon enough.

Yet, for all the injuries that have enveloped the Scot’s squad in recent months, perhaps even years, United’s problems against Everton ran far deeper. Michael Carrick’s turn at centre-back was a mitigated disaster. After all, despite Carrick’s defensive nous the 30-year-old midfielder was too easily beaten for poor position in and around United’s penalty area. That is to say little of Marouanne Fellaini’s ability to single Carrick out for a through going over in the air.

It was little surprise when the Belgian outjumped his marker to score Everton’s winning goal on 57 minutes.

But if Carrick’s relative struggles in defence proved to be United’s undoing at a set piece, the player’s absence from midfield was even more keenly felt. Despite his many critics, Carrick’s ability to screen defensively, while recycling possession, is central to what control United exerts in midfield. Without the Geordie, Paul Scholes and Tom Cleverley offered little protection to a back four that contained two midfielders.

In that there is also familiarity. Injuries, and the positional juggling that accompanies them, disrupts United’s rhythm. More often than not in midfield. Yet, while more than £40 million was invested in Ferguson’s squad this summer – a not inconsiderable sum by Glazernomic standards – none of it brought in a central midfielder to complement the plethora of injury-prone players already at the manager’s disposal.

Indeed, while Scholes and Cleverley put up impressive numbers on the night, helping United to secure around 70 per cent of possession away from home, neither was able to provide a platform for United’s attacking players to turn territory into chances, and opportunities into goals.

More worryingly still – and not for the first time in recent years – Ferguson’s team found itself bullied by a physically superior opponent. Marouane Fellaini’s brilliance was complimented by non-stop running from former Reds Phil Neville and Darron Gibson in midfield, and a superbly organised back-four.

Further forward, Ferguson can only worry about the fitness, form and – frankly – interest of star striker Wayne Rooney, who had ‘one of those games’ at Goodison Park. The £27 million striker’s performance was mirrored in its mediocrity only by Nani, who is unique among elite players in his ability drop to abject lows with such alarming frequency.

None of this is new to supporters. Been there, seen it, got the very well-worn and washed t-shirt. No surprise either that Ferguson used his post-match media duties to deflect attention away from United’s deficiencies, and on to Everton’s direct approach to the game.

“I have no criticism of my team tonight, they applied themselves well,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“They got their shots on target and our goalkeeper did very well. We had a couple of moments. I thought maybe Danny Welbeck was pushed as he went into the box. That was a big moment and Tom Cleverley had his shot blocked by Phil Jagielka on the line in the second half. We played really good football at times.

“Fellaini is a handful. He’s a big, tall, gangly lad and they just lumped the ball towards him all the time. That’s all they did and they worked it from that base. But he got the goal for them so it’s justified.”

Yet, there were positives despite United suffering opening day defeat for the first time since 2004. While Cleverley maintained his normal up-beat pass-and-move style, Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa impressed with a range of passing and movement in the hole behind Rooney. Both auger well for the remainder of the season.

Kagawa in particular had fans intrigued; a player of the type Ferguson has never signed previously, deployed in the central position – floating between midfield and attack – that brought so much joy for Borussia Dortmund in the past two years. Any more of this and Kagawa’s £17 million fee will be the very definition of value.

Then there was Robin van Persie, who made a low-key debut as a late second-half substitute, but will surely contribute far more over the next nine months.

And it is the role of Ferguson’s new signings that fascinates most, with the 70-year-old manager needing to crowbar Rooney, Kagawa and van Persie into the side, while multiple attacking options compete for what might be just a single remaining place in the side.

In this there remains a problem – how to balance plentiful flair, with the need to exert some control in midfield. At Goodison United failed to square that circle, despite enjoying so much possession. But while ball retention may be nine-tenths of the law, United so rarely looked like troubling old-boy Tim Howard in Everton’s goal on Monday night.

The question now is both how Ferguson finds the right balance, but perhaps more importantly, how he compromises United’s better players the least. It may be no time to panic, but the after just one game of the new season old failings ring some highly audible alarm bells. Particularly through midfield.

A comfortable win over Fulham at Old Trafford next Saturday will go some way to dampening the chorus, but it is unlikely to be the last time this debate is aired over the season.

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Comments

  1. Good summary Ed. My frustration really stemmed from the same issues being there yet again – and Everton did literally nothing different from the last time they caused us bother, except they were significantly tighter at the back. It was a frustrating joke at some points.

    I suppose Fellaini was brilliant, and fair play to Everton’s back four.

    But, Nani’s utterly abject performance wasn’t just disappointing, it was disgraceful. I am sure he would love to be earning the big money and maybe even earning the big cash at United – but, given the regularity with which those kinds of performances crop up, he’s miles away from that size of contract.

  2. Herbie Simms says:

    I read today that Nani has declined again to sign a new contract so he could be on his way out. And Van Persie is saying he does not want to play anymore for United because the club has no direction. I keep repeating that the style of football that we play is not attracting the big name players. Its time for SAF to step down. We’ve got bigger problems than we had last season. Smalling, Jones and Evans were out injured longtime ago and Vidic was still recovering from a knee operation, so why did SAF not bring in central defenders on loan until these players recover? Teams now know we are very weak down the middle and Fulham will already feel they can come to Old Trafford and get all three points. We need a right fullback, so why keep buying strikers? Mourinho said today that he is still waiting to hear from SAF in regards to Kaka coming to us on loan. What the hell is wrong with SAF? He is just too old for this job now and its time for him to go.

    • CoombesOn says:

      “Van Persie is saying he does not want to play anymore for United because the club has no direction”

      this is some pretty hilarious schizz

      Nice trolling Herbie

      I love the lack of credit that Everton are getting for their role in all of this

      They have never been a team the you can steamroll and their first 11 matches up very respectably against most teams (I think I read that they have a better record vs Mancini’s Citeh than we have)

      Added to which, when you have a few players in inspired form (Fellaini and Jagielka deserve particular credit) you’re going to find it tough when your more influential players are having an off day (or, possibly, suffering the consequences of a summer spent chain smoking and pounding the beers)

      On a separate but vaguely related note, I feel like United often struggle on narrow pitches like Goodison

      Given the width we always look to play with, we struggle when we physically lack the room to stretch teams

      I feel like the home field advantage we seem to have stems from that (well certainly more than the fans at Morgue Trafford)

      Paul/Ed – any thoughts on this?

    • Mongoletsi says:

      Herbie, nobody here gives a flying fuck what you “heard” or “read”, or what your “friend” inside the club told you is DEFINITELY going to happen.

      // And Van Persie is saying he does not want to play anymore for United because the club has no direction //

      Where? Where did you read/hear this? Give us a link, or fuck off.

  3. Violent Banana says:

    Just buy a bloody midfielder Fergie.

  4. Herbie Simms you are an idiot. RVP said he doesn’t want to play for united any more? Get your head out of your ass

  5. Herbie… What!?

  6. @ Herbie
    You’re a class A muppet. Fergie nearly achieved the impossible last season with both hands tied behind his back given City’s recent spending and injuries to key players. Van Persie and Kagawa are both world class players and were outstanding last season at their former respective clubs. Any perceived lack of ability to attract world class players is all about economics and not Fergie who is the only reason we can get players like Van Persie and Kagawa. Van Persie wanting to leave due to lack of direction? How gullible are you? I still remember the mess Fergie inherited when he joined in 1986. Thrust me, he is still the man.

  7. In the run up to the opening game, there was plenty of talk from the United camp about how ready they were to reclaim the EPL title and there was even talk of another Treble. So, lets have a look at what went wrong on Monday? 1) No defence. How can a major sports team start a season with 4 of it’s 6 defenders injured? If we don’t get some back soon, City will probably put 10 or more past us 2) Wayne Rooney and Nani, two of our highest paid players didn’t turn up. 3) Our newly acquired £24M striker started on the bench and got only 20 minutes on the pitch 4) We had 69% of possession and could only manage 4 shots on target!

  8. CoombesOn says:

    “I read today that Van Persie has been placed on suicide watch following Monday’s result and his realization that United are a bunch of no hopers in terminal decline” – Herbert Simms

  9. CoombesOn says:

    “the style of football that we play is not attracting the big name players”

    Thanks for the giggle Herbert. I do love a good troll after the first game of the season.

  10. Much too early to be drawing conclusions or doing summaries in my opinion on the state of the team.

    Though I admit this defeat stayed with me longer on an emotional level but objectively looking at it, I’m not sure there’s much to worry about.

    Yes, there is still an argument about a central midfielder. I’m not convinced we need one BUT even if we did, who is this mysterious solution to our problems? Which player out there can come in and fill that role?

    Nani had a shocker but I’m more worried about Rooney in the main, he’s never become the player I think he could have become (may still do but time is running out). There’s something wrong there, whether it’s fitness I don’t know but RVP arrival I hope will prove to be a kick up his arse.

    Away from that, De Gea had a great game, good to have Vidic back, Kagawa shows real promise and allows us to play in a way we never really have, penetration through the middle.

    Everton away is a tough game and more so 4 centre half’s missing.

    • CoombesOn says:

      I had vowed to stop posting but Crip you hit on a really good point:

      “who is this mysterious solution to our problems? Which player out there can come in and fill that role?”

      People are so quick to throw names out there but I’m really not sure there is all that much available that would necessarily solve the problem

      The only chap who is proven in the prem at that position and potentially available for the right price is Tiote (Yannes M’Vila and Javi Martinez admittedly are alternatives – i just don’t really know enough about either to see them as legit solutions)

      The right price just might be a little too high for these Glazernomic times – esp after the drop in the ocean that is RVP

      But we should give the team time this season

      Maybe the solution already exists internally…!?

  11. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Commenter said:
    Nothing to say about Rooney’s performance??

    Ed didn’t say much about Rooney in the 9th paragraph, and yet he said it all. Rooney did not look fit, sharp, or interested. Early on, he was dispossessed of the ball three times in or around the penalty area, and he gave the ball away with wayward passes on a couple of other occasions. After that, the midfielders stopped moving the ball up the middle and just started aiding the ball on its travels from one flank to the other.

  12. A good summary of the situation, Ed. In my opinion, there’s nowt wrong with us that the return of some fit defenders and possibly someone new in midfield won’t solve. Up front we look like we’re going to be deadly once Fergie’s had a chance to work out the new system and get the new lads used to playing together. My main concern is that if the defensive injury crisis drags out for a few weeks, we might lose too many points in the league to give ourselves a good chance of competing for the title. The problem is that with Carrick playing as a defender, we have a dodgy defense and an even dodgier midfield than usual.

  13. So we’re over run and outmuscled in midfield , need to fit Kagawa, Rooney and RVP in the side and we’re defensively frail at times. Simple solution, when everyone’s fit…3-5-2. When we have most of our centre halfs fit we’ve almost go too many. Evans, Vidic, Rio, Jones, Smalling, and maybe even Keane to come but 5 or 6 into 2 doesn’t go. Rio ais losing a yard of pace and we’ve seen Vidic be turned a few times himself for pace. Put a n other with those two and you’e got a solid back 3 that would solve Fergie’s obsession with making sure we’ve got enough height in the side.

    Wing backs – let’s face it Evra and Rafael have never been the best defenders in the world but offer a threat going forward and playing as wingacks would give them more freedom. My preference though would be Valencia and the new lad Buttner, who actually spent most of last season playing left wing anyway. Attacking wing backs with good enough engines to get back and help a solid back 3.

    That then solves the midfield problem as well. 2 from carrick, scholes, cleverley and maybe Anderson after he’s lost a few pounds. That leaves Kagawa in the hole behind the front two. An ideal sscenario for United and stops Fergie trying to put square pegs in round holes so often.

    • Damian Garside says:

      Echoing a suggestion I made last season, which Ed responded too pointing out the inherent problems. But still think the back 3 and Wing-back formation suits what we have and compensates for our weaknesses

  14. Matt Leatherland says:

    Got to agree with Crip. Rooney was far from his best on Monday. In my opinion he had a poor end to last season and poor euros. Something’s definitely up. His first touch and ball control were abysmal against Everton, plus he made no effort to make any explosive runs to try and exploit their defence. I’m hoping it’s just match fitness or minor niggling injury. Berbatov and RVP would be a better option to Rooney in his current form. Maybe Fergie needs to drop him to give him a rest and some thinking time alone. On another note I hope uniteds new signing Buttner will the catalyst to give Evra a kick up the arse as he had a poor first game too and has maybe become a little too complacent in the past few seasons knowing he’s got no real challenge for his position.

  15. United take 2 months or more to try and buy Lucas Moura. They send a delegation to Brazil and also show him and his family around O.T. PSG on the other hand have him signed up within 48 hours. Hazard chooses Chelsea over United; we cant give away Owen and Berbatov; Pogba can’t seem to get away from Old Trafford fast enough; we seem to be lining up another unknown Mexican striker called Henriquez and Anderson is still a United player – why? What happened to the replacement for Roy Keane? I think we deserve a treat after all this shenanigans and Fergie should announce on Friday week that Kaka and Usain Bolt are his final two signings of the summer transfer window.LOL

  16. Probably would’ve helped if we’d played this formation as a team before now – in our last two friendlies when most of our players were back we were playing 442. You can only do so much with training. One of the failures of the system was Rooney still playing as a false 9 dropping into Kagawa’s hole. (It changed a 4231 into a 4240). With Nani and Welbeck both playing infield, it made it very easy for Everton to contain the threat. If Rooney still wants to be a playmaker instead of a proper no.9 we should use him as the left prong of attack and put RVP in the middle. Clearly the no. 9 role needs to be filled with someone who has a modicum of positional discipline. Despite playing out of position and barely being involved in the game, Welbeck was our biggest threat as the only player who actually made runs for Kagawa’s balls. I think as the system develops and our play gets better he will be capable of playing wide.

    Midfield didn’t look to bad against Everton – the only concern was their failure to track Pienaar and Osman for the Fellaini knockdowns. I think they provided a very good base for the attack to create – they even won the ball more than their Everton counter-parts. I don’t think the CM (on this occasion) should be blamed for the poor performances of the front three. They did appear to become more reluctant to pass through the middle as the game wore on – Anderson actually improved this in his brief appearance.

    There are only two games before the international break, so our defence has some time to recuperate before they have any more major tests (although Fulham have been a bit of a bogey team).

  17. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    Herbie was yo Momma taken advantage of by a diseased riddle ape 9 months before you were born, by any chance?

  18. Jumping Jesus says:

    I can’t understand why everybody on the planet has been saying for at least two years that we need at least one world class midfielder but Fergie squanders £24M on a 29 year old striker and once again ignores our need for a ball winner in the middle of the park. I’m sure that we could have got Tiote for £20M in the transfer window, which would have been well worth the money. I just don’t buy the view that Carrick is United quality, and never have. He’s a lightweight. He has good games, sure, but rarely against quality opponents. I have high hopes for our younger midfielders – Cleverley, Powell, Tunicliffe – but we need real steel and leadership in the middle to help them along. Fergie, strengthen our midfield FFS!!!!

  19. brianofnazareth said:
    Herbie was yo Momma taken advantage of by a diseased riddle ape 9 months before you were born, by any chance?

    Gang raped Brian gang raped though the apes did use a paper bag and Rohypnol.

  20. Damian Garside says:

    If we lose to Fulham, then I think we have to get rid of every none performing player: maybe we can swop them en bloc for a decent and above all, physically imposing CM. and bring in youngsters: having disproved Alan Hansen’s comment so definitively all those years ago, it’s getting to be like AF is treating it like a truism.

    If Rooney does get back to form very soon we should also seriously think whether we need him to continue as our ineffectual talisman

  21. moyesboyz says:

    As an Evertonian I have to say that this was only 1 game ..I don’t think Utd fans need to worry overmuch. Your lot will still be at or near the top come the end of the season and when you have a settled defense again the likes of us will get far less opportunities to pressure you in the way we were able to the other night. Console yourselves that you came up against a team that were ‘up for it’ and you still have a lot of quality to come… having said that I regret to say that City are now potentially looking like the team you need to beat.. target taking 6 points off them if you want to win anything.

  22. why is rooney still allowed 90mins when hes playing like shit, was hoping for a berba-van persie double act second half, but i guess thats never going to happen, shame because i think they might compliment each other pretty well

  23. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    a utd side that don’t like it up em, are one dimensional, easy to play against and accept defeat when a goal down, never thought I’d see it under taggart (and taggart himself only coming up with like for like subs to try and change it instead of throwing the kitchen sink at em)

  24. Mongoletsi says:

    I always expect a draw at Goodison, so given the state of our defence, I’m not surprised or even disappointed.

    It’s a long season.

    Thought Kagawa looked really decent btw.

  25. Mongoletsi says:

    I always expect a draw at Goodison, so given the state of our defence, I’m not surprised or even disappointed.

    It’s a long season.

    Thought Kagawa looked really decent btw.

  26. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    yep I’m infact delighted to have lost

  27. Denton Davey says:

    Marion @ 12:55: ” If Rooney still wants to be a playmaker instead of a proper no.9 we should use him as the left prong of attack and put RVP in the middle. Clearly the no. 9 role needs to be filled with someone who has a modicum of positional discipline. Despite playing out of position and barely being involved in the game, Welbeck was our biggest threat as the only player who actually made runs for Kagawa’s balls.”

    Really insightful comment about BOTH TheWayneBoy AND DannyTheLad.

    One further point I’d make is that it was Welbeck’s lack of positional discipline on the corner that resulted in Fellaini’s headed-goal. The ball should have been blocked by the near-post defender but Welbeck had wandered into no-man’s land.

    Clearly, this version of TheLads is going to be a work-in-progress for the next six/eight weeks as SAF figures out how to fit the players to the system as well as the system to the players. The CraftyOldFootieKnight is not going to keep-the-faith with an old-fashioned 4-4-2; time marches on.

    The calls for a defensive midfield “destroyer” like Tiote miss the point of how SAF is having TheLads play the game – think Barcelona’s swarming defence with someone like Busquets/Carrick mopping things up. The only real, credible alternative would be to find a proper replacement for DarrenFletcherinho but Daniele De Rossi won’t leave ASRoma and I don’t see anyone else who could do that job.

  28. Over run in midefield again… I reckon I’ve spotted this talent that may be worth a punt from Fergie. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a player like him coming through. I’m going to recommend him to Fergie and see what happens.
    [video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke7C48qwGeo[/video]

  29. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Commenter said:
    …think Barcelona’s swarming defence with someone like Busquets/Carrick mopping things up….

    Let’s talk about the United to Barca comparisons. I admit to not having seen many Barcelona matches, but when I think of them, I do not picture three or four of their forwards quickly breaking through the opposition midfield and attacking the exposed central defenders, but this is exactly the picture I have in my mind of United. Counterattacking football has been United’s bread and butter for some time now.

    Most of the time, Barcelona seem to be facing a side with eight or nine men behind the ball, and they use a series of short, quick, and—most importantly—accurate passes to probe and create openings for a shot on goal. The scoreline and possession statistics would indicate that, while Barca spend a great deal of time in the opposition half, most of their attacks end in failure, but this does not deter them from continually trying to pass to a player making a run into the box. It seems as though Barca have little fear of losing the ball, and will make some outlandish attempts safe in the belief that, if it doesn’t come off, their swarming, ball-winning midfielders will get the ball back quickly. United, on the other hand, made only four or five failed attempts to work the ball through the middle against Everton before giving up and choosing instead to get the ball out to the wings for a series of non-threatening crosses. At this point in time, I do not see any reason to compare United’s football to Barcelona’s; they really are nothing alike.

    • Damian Garside says:

      I think your characterization of Barca’s play is really admirable. Remember when we were wondering what it would take for United to work out to counter the Barca’s style of play. Now we are trying to figure out what would a Utd XI look like that can actually string two passes together.

  30. Dinkinflicker says:

    All players have moments of skill. There’s a youtube compilation somewhere that makes Bebe look like the next Georgie Best.

    • to be fair he is pulling that trick off against AC Milan at the San Siro, not against a 4th division Portuguese team

  31. BiscuitBarrell says:

    Dinkinflicker said:
    All players have moments of skill. There’s a youtube compilation somewhere that makes Bebe look like the next Georgie Best.

    I think that Bebe compilation uses CGI to make it look like he can trap the ball.

  32. United were bad at passing the ball forward against Everton

    Michael Carrick was the person missing from the midfield who actually does a lot of passing forward

    HEY WAIT A MINUTE HE ONLY PASSES SIDEWAYS LIGHTWEIGHT NANI X FACTOR KEANO BIG NUTS BLAH BLAH BLAH

  33. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    carrick defers to scholes who hits it wide

    giggs is the only one who tries stuff in midfield

  34. Yeah, Giggs tries to pick the lock by going though the middle

    He’s the only one who is not scared of losing the ball

  35. Btw, Ed, can you sort out the formatting in this thread. It’s fucked. I know it’s been fucked since the forum started, but it’s well annoying.

  36. BiscuitBarrell says:

    sidney said:
    Yeah, Giggs tries to pick the lock by going though the middle

    He’s the only one who is not scared of losing the ball

    It’s symptomatic of the philosophy of the last 3 years. We haven’t got the quality right the way across the team, so the emphasis is on retaining possession, low risk strategies, few shots from distance. Individual skill is only allowed in specific areas (wide and occasionally the D), because the fear is that losing possession in the middle of the park will result in the midfield being outpaced on the counter attack. The lack of strength in the spine of the team results in a very formulaic style of attack. Teams can predict how we will attack and defend accordingly. It’s worked, to an extent, because of the quality of wide play (mainly Valencia, Giggs and Evra) and because Rooney has been fairly consistent until recently. Unfortunately against the Elite teams, it’s not enough.

  37. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Here’s an interesting read on the, “do we/don’t we” need a midfield hard man debate…
    http://www.football365.com/faves/8011059/F365-Says
    We didn’t cope with Fellaini… but that’s not why we lost… we lost because we couldn’t score…

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  38. Damian Garside says:

    By the time we find out whether we need a CM tough-guy or to develop a retention passing game so we can do without it may just be too late for the title this year. It would help if our key impact players Rooney and Nani were not playing like they have forgotten how.

  39. Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Here’s an interesting read on the, “do we/don’t we” need a midfield hard man…

    http://www.football365.com/faves/8011059/F365-Says

    We didn’t cope with Fellaini… but that’s not why we lost… we lost because we couldn’t score…

    Yeah that was a good article. I also liked this one on our new-look team at Zonalmarking: http://www.zonalmarking.net/2012/08/21/ferguson-showcases-a-4-2-1-3-against-everton/

    Overall, I have to say that I’m really happy with our transfer business this summer. Van Persie was probably the top performer in the Premier League last season, and Kagawa was one of the top performers in the Bundesliga. So regardless of how they work out or how much we paid for them, I don’t think anyone could argue that we’ve bought two top class players based on their recent accomplishments, and it’s all the more exciting that they both should add a lot of goals and creativity to our side.

    So that’s two headline buys that in my opinion are fairly comparable to Chelsea buying Hazard and Oscar in terms of direct impact. Then Powell looks very promising for the short to medium-term, and we got in someone to take some of the workload off Evra. Plus a few other young lads, as usual.

    At this point it seems greedy to want someone else, but obviously I’d be happy enough to see this Herrera lad brought in since midfield is a relatively weak area for us. But I can’t think of the last time any club bought a load of players and three or four all proved good. So if Kagawa, RVP, and Powell work out, then by the law of averages it seems to me that any additional first-team player we bring in is likely not to work out.

  40. RobDiablo RobDiablo says:

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Here’s an interesting read on the, “do we/don’t we” need a midfield hard man debate…

    http://www.football365.com/faves/8011059/F365-Says

    We didn’t cope with Fellaini… but that’s not why we lost… we lost because we couldn’t score…

    An interesting article, but, I thought, a little facetious as well. The suggestion that unless Keane was having a “Juventus” moment, he’d be chasing shadows, getting frustrated, and kicking people was particularly galling. Tell me that a ‘Roy Keane’ of similar age to Anderson wouldn’t be an automatic selection in our midfield, or if he were playing for a Notts Forest, City wouldn’t be trying to buy him. All that aside, I haven’t been agitating for the purchase of a Keane-like hard man in our midfield, what I want is Kean-like character and ability in our midfield: someone who refuses to be beaten, someone who’d put a boot up Nani’s ass when he’s being stupid, someone who would not look out of place playing for one of and against the rest of the best sides in Europe; if it turned out that he could also frighten the orcs who play for Stoke, Bolton, etc. that would be an added bonus.

  41. bman said:
    Yeah that was a good article. I also liked this one on our new-look team at Zonalmarking: http://www.zonalmarking.net/2012/08/21/ferguson-showcases-a-4-2-1-3-against-everton/

    Overall, I have to say that I’m really happy with our transfer business this summer. Van Persie was probably the top performer in the Premier League last season, and Kagawa was one of the top performers in the Bundesliga. So regardless of how they work out or how much we paid for them, I don’t think anyone could argue that we’ve bought two top class players based on their recent accomplishments, and it’s all the more exciting that they both should add a lot of goals and creativity to our side.

    So that’s two headline buys that in my opinion are fairly comparable to Chelsea buying Hazard and Oscar in terms of direct impact. Then Powell looks very promising for the short to medium-term, and we got in someone to take some of the workload off Evra. Plus a few other young lads, as usual.

    At this point it seems greedy to want someone else, but obviously I’d be happy enough to see this Herrera lad brought in since midfield is a relatively weak area for us. But I can’t think of the last time any club bought a load of players and three or four all proved good. So if Kagawa, RVP, and Powell work out, then by the law of averages it seems to me that any additional first-team player we bring in is likely not to work out.

  42. bman said:
    Yeah that was a good article. I also liked this one on our new-look team at Zonalmarking: http://www.zonalmarking.net/2012/08/21/ferguson-showcases-a-4-2-1-3-against-everton/

    Overall, I have to say that I’m really happy with our transfer business this summer. Van Persie was probably the top performer in the Premier League last season, and Kagawa was one of the top performers in the Bundesliga. So regardless of how they work out or how much we paid for them, I don’t think anyone could argue that we’ve bought two top class players based on their recent accomplishments, and it’s all the more exciting that they both should add a lot of goals and creativity to our side.

    So that’s two headline buys that in my opinion are fairly comparable to Chelsea buying Hazard and Oscar in terms of direct impact. Then Powell looks very promising for the short to medium-term, and we got in someone to take some of the workload off Evra. Plus a few other young lads, as usual.

    At this point it seems greedy to want someone else, but obviously I’d be happy enough to see this Herrera lad brought in since midfield is a relatively weak area for us. But I can’t think of the last time any club bought a load of players and three or four all proved good. So if Kagawa, RVP, and Powell work out, then by the law of averages it seems to me that any additional first-team player we bring in is likely not to work out.

    Both good articles but they (somewhat) contradict each other. The 1st one says we dont need another midfield enforcer a la Keano, the 2nd one says:

    ” United’s problem here was a lack of physicality – not just at the back, but also in midfield. Having a creative number ten in conjunction with three forwards asks a great deal of the two central midfielders; Cleverley got stuck in but is a more creative player than he is a scrapper, while Scholes’ tackling has always been his weak spot, and he handicapped himself with a particularly silly early booking. The return of Carrick to midfield would be a slight improvement but not a solution.”

    I tend to agree with the 2nd. We might not need a Nigel de Jong, but we need some physicality in midfield…

  43. Denton Davey says:

    The zonal marking article

    http://www.zonalmarking.net/2012/08/21/ferguson-showcases-a-4-2-1-3-against-everton/

    was excellent until the last two paragraphs when the author esssentially turned back to tired line of “more physicality” in midfield.

    I watched Barcelona today against RM and with Biscuits in the shielding-role and Mascherano alongside Pique, it sure looked to me that they were playing a 3-5-2 since Danny Alves (one fucking incredible player and one fucking incredible prat, too) hardly ever “defends” so much as just making a nuisance of himself.

    What’s the relevance of that ? Well, a lot of people seem to think that Antonio Valencia isn’t a “proper full back” but he’s strong, fast and tracks back to make a nuisance of himself; NinjaEvra, too.

    Unfortunately, on Monday – as Alfonso Bedoya points out above – UTD lost not because of the defensive absences but because they couldn’t make the “new system” work. BUT, it seems to me that if one doesn’t get too hung-up on labelling formations, that the authors’ comments about UTD’s evolving style-of-play is very interesting – and very promising for those of us who want SAF to un-shackle the attacking talent that is brimming throughout the squad.

  44. I think we need “more physicality” not in the sense of a De Jong-style hard case, but an energetic big lad who puts himself about, gets up in players’ faces (without even necessarily tackling them), shuts down options, harasses, and in general makes the pitch seem awful small for the other team when they have the ball. I think a fully fit Fletcher like the player he was a couple of seasons ago would be perfect. He was just starting to come into his own when, we now know in hindsight, his intestines thing started to sap his energy. People gave him too hard a time because Fergie kept playing him in a more advanced role than he was suited for, because we had no one else to play there, but when he was able to play more of a box to box cleaning-up-the-mess role, he started to look very good. He was pretty immense the season he was ruled out of the Barca CL final because of the (bullshit) red card in the semi final.

  45. Commenter said:
    Ummmm…. Phil Jones anyone?

    we need someone who can do more with the ball than just run in a straight line.

  46. Denton Davey says:

    bman @ 4:06: “I think we need “more physicality” not in the sense of a De Jong-style hard case, but an energetic big lad who puts himself about, gets up in players’ faces (without even necessarily tackling them), shuts down options, harasses, and in general makes the pitch seem awful small for the other team when they have the ball. I think a fully fit Fletcher like the player he was a couple of seasons ago would be perfect.”

    Easier said than done – DarrenFletcherinho ( in his “football genius” mode) was a terrific player; it’s very hard to find a direct “replacement” for him. Besides, as I wrote yesterday, watching the swarming Barcelona-style of team defence doesn’t require the kind of “physicality” you’re suggesting. Rather, they defend by swarming the man with the ball and blocking the passing lanes – I mean, does anybody really imagine that Danny Alves is a “defender” ?

    It will be interesting to see how SAF sets up shop tomorrow –

    Anderson/Cleverley in midfield ?

    Carrick at CB ?

    AV7 at right back ?

    A RVP/TheWayneBoy/DannyTheLad/KagawaBunga “diamond” up-front ?

    Not much “physicality” in that group but lots of athleticism and attacking ability.

    A home match at OT against a no-name bunch like Fulham should be one of those “field-tilting” matches in which TheLads have 60% possession. The key will be to turn possession into goals – as didn’t happen at Goodison when TheLads had 67% possession.

  47. Commenter said:
    Ummmm…. Phil Jones anyone?

    Yeah maybe, it will be interesting if SAF tries to play him more in midfield this season.

  48. Always bloody set pieces……. Smalling awful marking to let Kompany nail the 1-0 anyone??…….. We really are afwul at set pieces, free kick, attacking corners,defending corners you name it…..

  49. We don’t need a destroyer or a Busquets – Carrick is the closest thing there is to that kind of player in the PL – a good ball winner/interceptor and a very good passer. Clearly we don’t have back-up for him, but let’s assemble a decent first choice midfield before looking at depth (Allen would’ve been my choice for that). With Carrick taking care of defence and most of the creative duties passed forward to Kagawa, Carrick’s partner does not necessarily need to be specialised. An all-round box-box player who is physically imposing might be the ideal, but we know no one new is coming in and that person is not at the club.

    The qualities that player definitely needs, for the new style we are heading towards are first and foremost to be comfortable in possession, especially under pressure and a good distributor of the ball – we don’t want to be giving the ball away this season. Secondly, he would have to make up for Carrick’s weaknesses, the most obvious one being mobility. Stamina and speed is important all over the pitch, whether for tracking back, covering for a fullback, joining an attack or pressuring the opposition. Thirdly, he’s has got to be able to reliably contribute to defence and offence when required.

    The available CMs we have are Scholes, Giggs , Cleverley and Anderson. Giggs, shouldn’t be played in this position – too much of a liability but he could be very good in Kagawa’s position where there is less defensive responsibility and risks should be taken with the ball. Scholes would work against teams we expect to dominate when he won’t be harried by opposing players. It could be a perfect role for Anderson – he is our most mobile and physical CM. Cleverley also looks like the right kind of player for this role – he describes himself as a box-box CM – although paired with Kagawa and Carrick, he completes a very lightweight midfield.

    It would be great to see Cleverley and Anderson complete a full season so we can stop talking about potential and bad luck. If we do bring anyone in, we don’t have to look for a particular type of player – we have the most important bases covered – he just has to be good.

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