Mid-season report 2012/13



It is one of the stranger seasons in Manchester United’s recent history. Sir Alex Ferguson’s reaction to Manchester City’s Premier League title victory on goal difference was to bolster his attack, while largely ignoring obvious problems in other areas. Ferguson spent more than £40 million on Robin van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and Nick Powell last summer – attackers all – in search of more goals and greater penetration. Never again, said the septuagenarian, would his team lose a title on goal difference.

Yet that equation has always been a balanced one; goal difference is, after all, the sum of those scored and conceded. Indeed, Ferguson’s decision to concentrate on improving his attacking resources last summer is mirrored in United’s tactical approach through the season – the Reds have largely been open and fluid. The approach has left Ferguson’s back four vulnerable and a certainly sense of inevitability that United would concede freely this season.

There is much to play for in the second half of the season, with the Reds top mid way through the Premier League campaign and looking forward to a Champions League Round of 16 tie with Real Madrid. Yet, history says that teams of United’s open nature rarely win the biggest trophies. While Ferguson’s team has scored plenty, the side has also lost five in all competitions. The suspicion is that United will have to tighten up at some point. The question is whether the team truly can. 7/10

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Sir Alex Ferguson
The 70-year-old Scot now has a stand and a statue at Old Trafford – cynics might suggest that United’s directors are sending a less-than-subtle word Ferguson’s way. Yet, Sir Alex is driving forward with a rare determination, seemingly invigorated by City’s Premier League victory last season. Still, there are plenty of question marks this season: the summer rebuilding programme, tactical approach, and his faith with a tranche of players clearly past their best. This side is certainly not one of the Scot’s finest, but it will challenge on most fronts come May. 7/10

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David de Gea
Generally labelled as a goalkeeper with significant weaknesses, it is only in November and December that the Spaniard has secured a consistent run in the first team. Still, there have been fewer mistakes and more confident handling to go with the outstanding reflexes. It is hard to find major fault with a young stopper still growing into the art. Yet, Ferguson’s insistence on rotating his keepers, or indeed dropping one or other seemingly without fault, is the source of much frustration among supporters. Presumably for the Spaniard as well. 7/10

Anders Lindegaard
Almost in contrast to De Gea, the Dane is billed as solid and dependable. Yet, there was little steadfast in goals conceded against Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey, David Luíz, and Daniel Sturridge among others. The suspicion, little changed from Lindegaard’s début at United, is that the former Aalesund ;player is good, but not good enough to be United’s first choice. It is seemingly an observation with which Sir Alex has only recently concurred. 6/10

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Patrice Evra
If Alexander Büttner’s acquisition was meant to put pressure on the Frenchman then it has certainly worked in a positive way. Seemingly in the doldrums for more than two years there is a new spring in Evra’s step this season, marked with four goals already. True, Evra has been either directly or indirectly culpable for goals conceded – then who hasn’t in United’s back four and central midfield? Moreover, a tactical system that emphasises attack and not defence has left the 31-year-old exposed far too often. Still among the very best, if no longer at his peak. 7/10

Rafael da Silva
It is surely a landmark season for the Brazilian youngster who has demonstrated a new maturity together with far more consistency this season. An injury-free run until the Christmas programme has certainly helped, as – conversely – has the long spell on the sideline suffered by both Phil Jones and Chris Smalling. On his way to become the classy full-back Ferguson always believed Rafael would become. Bravo! 8/10

Rio Ferdinand
Another solid campaign from United’s veteran campaigner who has overcome a series of back problems to feature heavily once again this season. Culpable for goals conceded at times, with the defender’s waning pace brutally exposed by Gareth Bale in Tottenham Hotspur’s victory at Old Trafford, but still as classy as ever on the ball. Will surely be offered another year at the club, especially with doubts surrounding captain Nemanja Vidić’s long-term fitness. 7/10

Jonny Evans
When Jonny goes marching down the wing he scores, he scores! Four goals from the Northern Irishman together with a string of solid displays mark another step forward in Evans’ career. The suspicion that there is a mistake – whether overt or more subtle – remains though and there have times when the 24-year-old has been caught out of position this season. But the days of Evans shirking a physical challenge are very much over. 7/10

Phil Jones
Long-term injury has restricted the former Blackburn Rovers defender to just seven games this season – three from the bench. There’s much more to come from the youngster, although no obvious place waiting for him in Ferguson’s team. n/a*

Alexander Büttner
Just a handful of games for the former Vitesse Arnham full-back who has confirmed suspicions that the 23-year-old was acquired for his price and not ability. Has sparked some life into Evra at least, but will never become an Old Trafford regular. n/a

Nemanja Vidić
Long-term injury followed an even lengthier layoff for the giant Serbian who began the season in rusty fashion following a six month break. There are still questions about Vidić’s fitness of course, which will be answered over the season half of the season. n/a

Chris Smalling
A frustrating campaign for Smalling who has spent much of the past five months in the Carrington treatment room. But Ferdinand’s age and Vidić’s fitness may provide more opportunities as the campaign progresses. n/a

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Antonio Valencia
There were few players as influential as the Ecuadorian during the closing weeks of the 2011/12 season. Valencia’s power, pace and consistency drove United forward and was a key factor in Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring run. The contrast couldn’t be more stark, with Valencia seemingly robbed of so much confidence that the winger rarely takes on a full-back these days. There is more to come from Valencia; the question is when? ;4/10

Nani
There have been few performances more abject in modern times than that of the Portuguese winger’s at Goodison Park on the opening day of the season. It has proven to be a barometer for the season. Not only has Nani rarely performed on the few occasions proffered by his manager, but Ferguson has lost all confidence in the player. Was it not for United’s shortage of wide players then Nani would surely be sold this winter. 4/10

Ashley Young
Injury has restricted the former Aston Villa winger’s appearances to little more than a dozen in all competitions this season – and there has been little consistency to date. Fine performances against City and Sunderland followed plentiful mediocrity in the preceding matches. Young will never become a star at United, but still offers an attacking option from the left. 5/10

Ryan Giggs
Stirring performances during United’s Christmas fixtures against Swansea City and Newcastle United brought memories of distant past. In truth, however, this has been a campaign that has served to highlight only the Welsh great’s decline. Giggs, says his manager, can play for another two years. He shouldn’t – not on this evidence. 5/10

Paul Scholes
Still among the very finest in Europe on the ball, but suffering physically this season. It is, of course, a hard observation to make about one of the finest players ever to grace Old Trafford, but Scholes influence is waning. Worse, in a midfield two Scholes has too often become a liability, opening up United and inviting pressure on a shaky back-four. 6/10

Tom Cleverley
It should be Cleverley’s breakthrough year. After all, at 23 and a full international, the Basingstoke-born midfielder is no longer the callow youth of old. Yet, the player has rarely enjoyed a long run in the United side. Still, there have been energetic performances in a deeper role than the midfielder enjoyed for Great Britain at the London Olympics. Could still become a key part of United’s central midfield. 6/10

Michael Carrick
The Geordie’s commanding performance last year were not replicated in the early weeks of the campaign. Carrick, it seemed, had regressed into his passive shell. Yet, aligned with Sir Alex’ view of the 31-year-old, Carrick has become stronger in the winter, once again demonstrating that he is the principal deep-lying creative force in United’s midfield. Consistently out-passes all, but could benefit from a more physical midfield partner when deployed in a central two. 8/10

Darren Fletcher
There are few players for whom there is such a groundswell of goodwill. The 28-year-old Scot’s illness has again restricted Fletcher’s role in Ferguson’s team, with just a handful of appearances, predominantly in cup competitions. 5/10

Anderson
Another frustrating campaign for the Brazilian, who has started just three Premier League matches in the campaign to date. Once again there have been flashes of the brilliance that prompted Sir Alex to pay €30 million for the player more than five years ago. They are far too infrequent. And then, once again, came injury as Anderson picked up a hamstring injury against Reading in early December. A career? An absurdest performance of Waiting for Godot. 5/10

Shinji Kagawa
With Kagawa came much hope. Creativity, touch, no little panache, and goals. Lots of goals in German football with Borussia Dortmund. Early season performances solidified the impression, until form dipped and injury struck. There is much more to come. n/a

Nick Powell
There is a feeling that Ferguson has bought a gem in the former Crewe Alexandra youngster, who so easily floats in between midfield and attack. There have been few opportunities to date, but already Powell looks at ease in higher company. n/a

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Robin van Persie
It comes to something when a £24 million 29-year-old injury-prone striker becomes a ‘bargain’, but can the Dutchman be described any other way? Ferguson’s comparison to Eric Cantona is fatuous – the Frenchman influenced a generation – but van Persie’s impact on the pitch is certainly no less to date. It is not only the striker’s goals – 16 – that have been so impressive, but the Dutchman’s all-round game. Class on and off the field. 9/10

Wayne Rooney
The Englishman is still United’s most important player, despite moving into a deeper role this season. Indeed, the former Evertonian has become the Reds creative hub 15 yards in van Persie’s shadow. True, there have been fewer goals, and at times flat performances – see Swansea for evidence – but fans need only witness Rooney’s star turn in the derby for evidence of his enduring class. Central to all United’s hopes and dreams in the second half of the season. 7/10

Javier Hernández
It was always going to be a frustrating season for the livewire Mexican after van Persie’s arrival. Not least because Hernández is alone among Ferguson’s strikers in being inflexible. Yet, 10 goals in all competitions have come, including and important burst during the autumn. Hernández will score important goals for the club this season – and 20 in all competitions is a reasonable ask – but will the player always be happy coming off the bench? 6/10

Danny Welbeck
Frustration abounds for Welbeck, who has become the principal victim of van Persie’s arrival at Old Trafford. The Longsight-born youngster had struck up a fine partnership with Rooney last season, only to see his importance to Ferguson’s team usurped. Welbeck will contribute this season, but it may not always be in his favoured central striking role – not while van Perise is fit. Still, time is on the player’s side and there will be a key contribution or more from the Englishman in the months ahead. 5/10

* ratings given to players who have made 10 appearances or more in all competitions

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Comments

  1. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Yeah… I think that’s a fair set of ratings… some might quibble over a point here or there, but the general identifying of who’s been worth their wages and who’s been gash is accurate.

    The issue for the second half, is once again the midfield… Scholes and Giggs are spent, and Cleverly and Anderson are not doing enough to convince anyone they’re the replacements.

    Powell looks the business, but I think still a good year, maybe 2, away from the first team regular.

    That really just leaves Carrick…

    But it seems to me that Ferguson sees a future for Rooney in the middle, so that suggests that he’ll try to get by with what he’s got, until Powell and Rooney are ready, and see if Cleverly/Anderson come good, while Carrick/Scholes/Giggs prop us up for now.

    One thing I’m sure of… no signings in January… better hope nowt goes wrong with Van Persie… cause he’s the only thing that keeps us scoring more than we concede.

  2. Great aryicle. Agree with most except DDG…I think that you are overly generous

    Great reflexes. Great talent. Can be a real star. And yes he was shortchanged with the rotation.

    But I still think he is too unreliable..always a second away from a calamity. The Fulham goal comes to mind. I also still think could have done better with both Swansea goal and Newcastle’s first…rewatching the Newcastle goal he essentially palms it away to the WORST possible spot..a foot to the left or right and there wouldnt have been any goal…

    Would you rather consistently average or brilliant one moment and calamitous the next? Thats our goalkeeper conundrum. Both are 5′s for me…

  3. Fair ratings generally, I think we’ve got every right to feel a bit confident this season as far as the league’s concerned though, we’ve stormed the league without really reaching the top of our game, and we do generally come good after Christmas and start really hitting form. On top of that, City have been found out by most of the league now and seem to be really lacking some cohesion, Chelsea are improving, but Benitez has been here before and bottled it, and beyond that, who is there to really challenge us? It’s a sad indictment on the quality of the Premier League that we’re likely to win the title by default rather than by holding off fierce competition from our rivals, but they all add to the tally when all’s said and done.

  4. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    theres a reason weve not reached the supposed top of our game, we wont reach it at any point this season, because the reason is a stubborn jock twat

  5. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    the three strikers are why we’re top

    the rotating keeper nonsense, the ridiculous lazy team shape and piss poor midfield and widemen are why our good performances through the first half of the season totals about two games

  6. so our success has nothing to do with the old man at all then?
    Fuck me I must have missed something over the last 25 years then.

  7. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    well the desire to keep coming back to win is obviously him

    the complacency that means we keep needing to is also him

  8. sir Alex just has desire to win then yes? No other attributes at all that make home the best manager over the last 25 years?
    Good grief are you for real?
    And our piss poor midfield? Does that include Carrick who would walk into most top sides?
    Is scholes piss poor just because he’s too old now and should have retired? What about the previous 10-15 years where according to most experts he was the greatest midfielder of his generation.
    Is he not simply a great of our club and therefore deserving of a little respect?
    Yes there are numerous areas where we’ve underperformed this season and fergie makes mistakes but God help us when he leaves.

    • Damian Garside says:

      The problem with Scholes and Giggs is that the opposition midfielders do not want to give them the fawning stand-off respect threat you think they deserve to be accorded. They just tear through them.

  9. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    yeah scholes is a great, so’s charlton, stick him in the side

    carrick would obviously not walk into most top sides, as all sensible people would agree

  10. I don’t see a better holding midfielder in the premier than Carrick – please tell me if there is one.
    He may not be Roy Keane or Bryan Robson and god knows we do need one of them but he is an integral part of what we do as a team and is quite often in the top 3 players of the season for utd.

  11. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    hes only integral because weve not signed a midfielder for five years and hes the only one whos not 40 odd, injury prone or the managers bastard son

    this is all obvious stuff

  12. he’s integral as he’s a very good player.
    We obviously need to strengthen in that area..but Carrick is not the problem.

    that is all obvious stuff.

  13. Commenter said:
    are you sure you support utd?
    You appear to have a similar opinion as my 12 year old niece who supports city

    she’s young
    you can still coach that out of her if you are strong
    be bold
    be brave
    and a word in your shell – unc is the biggest fan of SAF on here except he won’t admit it and prefers to be a WUM – he was the same with Berba and now is so pissed with him going to Fulham

  14. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    Commenter said:
    a word in my shell? Aaah bless

    I like this davek chap.

  15. brianofnazareth said:
    I like this davek chap.

    aye so do i
    wonder how to pronounce his name though – Davek or Dave K?
    we all know how to pronounce yours though Brian…”cunt” rolls off the tongue so nicely n’est pas?
    only pulling your g-string so don’t go getting a hard on over it

  16. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    <ci

    brianofnazareth said:
    I like this davek chap.

    Why?

    Sounds like another, “Fergie is legend, can’t be criticised”, numpty…

  17. we like you too Alfieeeeeeeeeeeeee
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  18. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    the blind pro taggart crowd are the biggest wums

    spud started that shite on here

  19. I agree with the thrust of the ratings — Carrick, Rafael, and RVP are obviously our top performers so far. In fact they’re practically our only acceptable performers. I don’t think there’s a lot of difference between Carrick and the likes of, for example, Modric and Alonso: if he had a dedicated enforcer alongside him the way those players always do, more people would recognise that.

    To be fair to Fergie, his main errors concern personnel and transfers rather than tactics or anything that happens on the field: when you look at the players he has and the constant injury crises, Fergie’s done very well this season and last. With 2 or 3 successful additions to the first team, we’d be competing with the best again.

    The big mystery for me is how we’ve managed to go overnight from a team that was 50% wingers to a team that at the moment basically ha two wingers, neither of which are playing well (Young & Valencia).

  20. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    well what about the fact our defence is a shambles no matter which pair we have at centre half, or that the whole side is usually stretched across the pitch so the oppsition can usually waltz through the middle with ease no matter who weve got in midfield, or that our sole idea of how to score a goal seems to be aimless crosses, do they come under tactics

    we’re at the top cause the managers always put the ‘never give up’ stuff into his sides and because weve got two unbelievable players plus hernandez scoring goals

  21. and don’t forget little mickey phelan holding SAF’s willy for him, Unc

  22. uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    the blind pro taggart crowd are the biggest wums

    spud started that shite on here

    At what point did I ever say that??

  23. I agree with most of the ratings (though harsh to put Hernandez on a par with Scholes/Cleverley). Having said that, it’s odd that our first choice back 5 are all rated over 7.

  24. Damian Garside says:

    It amazes me how posters here can speak of Sir AF today as if he were exactly the same Sir AF who won the Treble 13 years ago — as if it weren’t possible that he might have lost it to some degree. Of course he was a great manager and is a great manager when viewed historically. But look at his choices and decisions now and they look more and more looney tunes.

  25. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    Commenter said:
    It amazes me how posters here can speak of Sir AF today as if he were exactly the same Sir AF who won the Treble 13 years ago — as if it weren’t possible that he might have lost it to some degree. Of course he was a great manager and is a great manager when viewed historically. But look at his choices and decisions now and they look more and more looney tunes.

    the sort wholl rationalise park and rafael in centre mid because fergie knows best

  26. Commenter said:
    that is quite clearly not the point I was making and I didn’t mention giggs once.

    Davek
    a word…
    it doesn’t matter what point you make even if its entirely pertinent, if you don’t subscribe with Unc’s rhetoric, you will be crucified
    and whatever you do, don’t mention Berbatov…ever.

  27. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Fuckin hell Han… take a day off…

  28. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    Fuckin hell Han… take a day off…

    Lol, he would but they’d have to get another care worker to look after him.

  29. What does everybody make of the rumours about Lewandowski?  Selling papers or is there some truth to it?  Surely that’ll disappointingly spell the end for Welbeck… Unless we’re just going to play with a team entirely full of forwards rather than sort out the fucking midfield/defense.

  30. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    He’s 23 years old, great age. The deal is on and a bargain at £18 million.He’s a special player.

  31. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    I know you should never judge a youtube video but…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hf44DgCGHVA

    I can see why Fergie wants to reunite Kagawa with him. Dortmund play some beautiful football.

  32. threadoflength says:

    Commenter said:
    What does everybody make of the rumours about Lewandowski?  Selling papers or is there some truth to it?  Surely that’ll disappointingly spell the end for Welbeck… Unless we’re just going to play with a team entirely full of forwards rather than sort out the fucking midfield/defense.

    I would take Lewandowski over Welbeck any day of the week, the comparison isn’t even fair.

  33. He may have a point but….http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/20857613

    Maybe the BBC are pushing these quote more than usual but SAF needs to watch his ticker! He would do well health wise to wrap it up at the end of the season.

  34. brianofnazareth brianofnazareth says:

    threadoflength said:
    I would take Lewandowski over Welbeck any day of the week, the comparison isn’t even fair.

    Agreed. Welbeck is gash!!

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