Refs and racism in focus amid muddle of tactics



It was never going to be a quiet affair. Manchester United at Anfield rarely is and Liverpool’s rejuvenation in recent times ensured a feisty contest from the outset on Saturday lunchtime. Controversial refereeing and post-match accusations of racism simply add to the drama of the occasion, which remains Britain’s biggest and most intensely fought match.

Yet, whatever wrongs United will feel at Charlie Adams’ tumble or Patrice Evra at Luis Suarez’ alleged racist language, Ferguson’s bewildering tactics and team selection also deserve attention. In truth it was not one of the Scot’s finest days, an observation he will only briefly reflect on as fixtures come thick and fast in the coming weeks.

United’s team and formation felt wrong from the start, with far too much negativity, and too many players out of position. That Ferguson’s side went to Anfield in search of a point says much for the Scousers’ progress in recent months, however inconsistent, but for also for United’s attitude after three defeats in-a-row at Anfield. Ferguson sought and was happy with a point from the trip 30 miles west.

The safety-first formation, without Wayne Rooney and Nani until 20 minutes from the end, also included Phil Jones and Darren Fletcher as central midfield holding midfielders. The formation left Ferguson shorn of this campaign’s two best players, while Danny Welbeck was isolated in attack. Meanwhile, Park Ji-Sung, the coward’s winger, focused on retaining United’s shape and not providing attacking impetus. No wonder United appeared so disjointed against a Liverpool outfit that has improved only marginally under Kenny Dalglish from a very low base.

Rooney, said Ferguson, was left out of the fixture after learning of UEFA’s three-match Euro 2012 ban. It was, and remains, a limp excuse, smacking of a manager’s distrust of the player’s recent performances at Anfield. Or his maturity. Or, perhaps, both. “He’s devastated by the suspension,” said Ferguson disingenuously. “I felt with these circumstances that he’s better off starting from the bench.”

Nani’s omission was simply tactical, with Park’s defensive discipline preferred over the Premier League’s leading dribbler and, according the statistics, second best crosser this season. Security over creativity and end-product. It was the same story in central midfield, with Anderson – so often lauded as a potential fantisista (albeit rarely delivering) – dropped in favour of Jones, for the youngster’s first game in midfield for his new club. At Anfield of all places. The experiment failed.

And the muddle so nearly ended in defeat, with Liverpool bossing possession and creating more chances than United, until the final quarter-hour, when Ferguson’s side finally found its attacking feet.

“It only became a good game after Liverpool scored,” Ferguson added. In truth the match only came to life when the Scot introduced Rooney and Nani, and then, with 15 minutes remaining, the match-saver Hernández. Each should have been on from the start demonstrating the bold, creative, attacking play for which United grabbed so many plaudits early in the season. All that now feels a long time gone.

“We looked upon it as a two-team situation as we wanted to make sure there were no silly mistakes,” Sir Alex explained.

“They had no real chances apart from Suarez when there was a lucky break but, other than that, they were never a threat to us. That job had been done, that’s why we were bringing Wayne and Nani on when they scored the goal.

“It was probably a typical United-Liverpool game. It was very intense, of course, and I don’t think the game really got started until Liverpool scored. It was a good game after that. When you’re one-nothing down with 15 minutes to go you can’t be confident, but we’ve got the players who can do that.”

But this tactical muddle has been vastly overshadowed by subsequent events.

First, there is the controversy surrounding Adams’ 67th minute dive to earn Liverpool the goalscoring free-kick. Adam’s was a tumble so blatant that MUTV was today forced to censor United defender Jones’ angry interview on the matter. Midfielder Adams tacitly admitted the dive – albeit under the guise of a denial – claiming that “it’s just the way it goes” when there is minimal contact. Of course it is Charlie, when you live in Steven Gerrard-land!

Then Evra accused Suarez on French TV station Canal Plus of calling the 30-year-old Frenchman a “n****r” at “least 10 times.” It is an accusation that United will take to the Football Association after Evra reiterated his grievance in a meeting with Ferguson on Monday. Uruguayan Suarez “vigorously” denies the allegation, although player and club are hardly likely to do anything else.

“We spoke to Patrice today and he’s adamant that he wants to follow it on,” added the United manager.

“It’s not an easy one because everyone knows that Manchester United and Liverpool have great responsibilities in terms of what happens on the field. I thought Saturday’s game was a terrific game and both sets of fans were good; there was none of the silly chanting we’ve heard in previous years and both sets of supporters deserve praise for that.

“It’s not something that we want to level at Liverpool, and it’s not against Liverpool. Obviously Patrice feels very aggrieved at what was said to him and it rests in the hands of the FA now.”

More concerning though is Liverpool’s reported demand that Evra face sanction should the accusation against Suarez not be proven. In a case that is likely to come down to one man’s word against another, with no conclusive evidence yet forthcoming, the Anfield club’s call is tantamount to denying Evra his moral right to freedom of speech.

Few expect the FA to act on Adam’s dive nor Suarez’ alleged racism, even if the latter is proven.

Highly important though issues of racism and diving are, neither should obscure analysis of United’s sixth average performance in the past seven matches. The other was the reserves’ victory over Leeds United at Elland Road in the Carling Cup. And each has come without Tom Cleverley, in whose absence the heart has grown significantly fonder.

Yet all this adds to a ‘Lancashire’ derby that although no spectacle on the pitch has become one of the more dramatic in recent times. Indeed, the fall out is set to roll on while the FA conducts an investigation of Evra’s allegations. United, meanwhile, may have cause to warn Jones of the negative headlines inflammatory remarks always bring, no matter how in-the-right United’s 19-year-old defender may be.

Meanwhile, Ferguson may well reintroduce the aforementioned Nani, Rooney and Hernández at Romanian no-hopers Otelul Galati in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Figure that one out.

Galati, aside from being the weakest side in this season’s Champions League, is a club also under scrutiny for racism, with the Romanian FA having fined the Romanian champions for racist supporter chanting against Rapid Bucharest earlier this year.

All we need now is an outrageous dive and a controversial goal to complete the full circle this week.

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  • Andy

    I agree with most of this apart from the team selection bit. If we go back over the last 10 maybe 15 games at Anfield. You’ll find very few where United have had total control if any. It’s not the tactics or the players, it’s a type of mentally the players and the manager have. This shouldn’t matter but it does. At Old Trafford the style of play and the type of team we’d play would be totally different even if we had the same selection of players compared with a side at Anfield. Apart from that strange game were we got beat 4-1 at home, I’ve seen United take Liverpool apart over and over again. Last season how Liverpool got back into the game was a shock, between 1-0, 2-2 and 3-2 we had control. They got very lucky. At home the pressure seems to be off but at Anfield it just isn’t. Fergie knew if he played an attacking formation as he has done in the past and it starts to go wrong, we’d get battered and would never get back into the game. Especially with the last few games where our defending has been pretty awful. I expected us to lose at Anfield so the point for me, is great. Fergie knew he had to play a safe game and that starts at the back. Put it this way if it wasn’t for Adams dive and Giggs bottling it, we’d have had a clean sheet and could have possibly taken all three points. This Sunday we’ll see something totally different.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    hehe, the cowards winger

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    I’m not happy with giggsy at all, that was diabolical, was he trying to be clever or did he just bottle it

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    I don’t think he bottled it… he started to move before the ball was struck.

    I think, that he expected Gerrard to go round the wall, and moved to make the wall wider… dumb… you need to trust your keeper to have set the wall properly.

    Gerrard himself admitted that it was a rubbish effort… he obviously meant to go over the wall, and just didn’t get under it.

    Whatever… definitely Giggs fault.

  • RedDevilInArizona

    It appeared to me that the game plan was to tie up the game in the mid field, make sure that the Liverpool diving team did not get to much momentum, absorb the pressure and them and tie them out, then bring in the attack players and up the tempo. It came so close to working; a very soft foul on Adams; the wall forgets what it suppose to do and we are playing for a tie instead of a win. I think SAF did try and win this game, however; he was willing to give up points in this one to make sure we do not drop any more Champions League point until we are qualifies.

    SIDERANT, is this what our game has come to? The slightest contact and down a player goes like he has been mortally shot, no effort in trying to continue because they know their best chance to score will come from the free kick.

  • SKW

    Park, the coward’s winger?

    Really? Ouch…

    The guy has done marvels for us…

    • Mongoletsi

      Yep, harsh. 9 times out of 10 you know Park will do a decent job and not stop running. We don’t call hime “3 lung” for nothing.

  • http://damiangarside.com Damian Garside

    Not a great performance or result from a championship-seeking perspective, especially since Chelsea and City both won. City are going to come at us at OT like you won’t believe: so will Sir Alec do the heroic thing and play for a point?

    What happened to the goalfest we started the season with?

    Thgose of you who are interested in how the Glazers other team is doing, might have seen that they lost 48-3 to the 49ers last week. Not so bad, give that SF are now 5-1 and looking a bit like Superbowl material once again.

  • Violent Banana

    Thought Fergie got the tactics spot on, though I was surprised by the personnel he chose. Quietening the crowd and slowing Liverpool’s tempo down at Anfield is very important – and was the blueprint for those consecutive 1-0 wins we had there. We’ve been far too open at Anfield the last three years – and they’ve simply outmanned and outfought us in midfield.

    I believe Fergie when he says he was bringing Nani and Rooney on at 0-0 to go on and win it in the last 20 as well. It was just unfortunate that they scored the moment before they came on!

    People who expect us to go to Anfield and win 3/4 nil seriously need to have their head examined. It was a solid point for us, and it could make all the difference later on.

  • RedAlert260599

    I understand why SAF wanted to keep the opposition quiet but I still don’t understand the tactic of launching the ball to an isoalted Wellbeck at every opportunity. All that did was to hand over possession. And it’s not the football we should expect from our team. We started off the season playing like Barca – now we’re playing like Bolton! Can we have the Barca style back please Fergie?

  • Mongoletsi

    Ed, disagree mostly I’m afraid.

    First you dismiss Liverpool as underwhelming opposition. They’ve made good signings, and at home with their talisman returning (thus adding further class), they will be a very tough side to beat.

    Secondly, do you *honestly* think our “nomal” 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 would’ve have survived a midfield onslaught? Who exactly is going to out-muscle or out-play Liverpool in the middle?

    Liverpool are sitting pretty in 5th, and will no doubt overhaul Newcastle. To claim we should have gone to Anfield expecting a win is disingenuous in my (admittedly irrelevant) opinion. Fergie didn’t get it as wrong as you made out; but for a dive and Giggs’ inexplicable movement, we could have won it.

    A point at Anfield is always “satisfactory” for me.

  • shauno

    We have played Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs all at home and Liverpool away 10 out of 12 points. If we picked up draws at Chelsea Arse and Spurs and beat the dippers at OT then thats 4 points from 6 in all those head to heads. Would be better than last season. As for city they really haven’t played anyone yet. Just an under strength Spurs. 1-1 at Anfield, midday KO, good result.

  • captainhormone

    this^^

    citeh played no cunt yet..get a grip lads

  • sidney

    Aye. City played Tottenham at the right time (as did we). And when they came up against Bayern they got done, and collapsed on & off the pitch
    An interesting point… After just 10 games we will have played all of last seasons top 6 finishers: Chelsea, City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton. And Stoke away. Very tough.

  • Ashish

    What amused me was the fact that prior to this game,Fergie claimed how this match is still among the biggest and what it means to the fans blah blah.

    And yet,who honestly expected United to play for a draw.

    Had this been Real Madrid,no doubt people would have had no qualms labelling them as ‘anti-football’.

    And speaking about Liverpool’s goal,Ferdinand himself admitted that he made contact with Adam didn’t he?

    Pretty decent article.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Commenter said:
    And speaking about Liverpool’s goal,Ferdinand himself admitted that he made contact with Adam didn’t he?

    Sorry Mate… not having it.
    I know it’s the letter of the law, and more or less the norm in football now… but I’ve played American football, and I’m telling you, that if you don’t want to go down, it takes a fuck of a lot more than… “contact”.
    I love football… it’s my favourite sport… but this aspect of diving and ref baiting, really spoils it at times.

    “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.”

    • Mongoletsi

      I’m with you – I watch a lot of Rugby LEAGUE and frankly it’s embarrassing watching the play acting sometimes in footy. That said, there was slight contact, Rio left his leg in… what can the ref do?

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Commenter said:
    I’m with you – I watch a lot of Rugby LEAGUE and frankly it’s embarrassing watching the play acting sometimes in footy. That said, there was slight contact, Rio left his leg in… what can the ref do?

    He can book Adams for being a diving cunt for a start… and be consistent in his application of the principal… “diving earns a yellow”.

    It’s a blight on the fuckin game… and the only way to sort it out is to embarrass the cheats into behaving like men. If you’re going to give a foul every time players brush leg hair, then you’re condoning diving… and players will dive… call them out, call them diving little fannies and give them a card.

    I’d also like to see a post game panel… if a player is deemed to have dived, then hand out retroactive cards… three cards for diving… three match ban… and if the diving offence leads to a goal, (penalty/free kick)… automatic 3 match ban…

    This might lead to players having a bit of a “rethink” after a dive, that the ref gives a foul for… and getting up and saying, “sorry ref, my fault”. I remember Fowler doing that once… he went down softly… earned a penalty, but got up and said… “no, no, it wasn’t a foul”… but the ref carried on, gave the pen and Liverpool scored… and Fowler got barracked for trying to be honest… how the fuck is that right?

    I can hear some saying “for fuck sake, you’re just creating problems”… but you have to start somewhere… once players start behaving with a bit more honour, then these things will even themselves out… but at the moment the game is being ruined… and the fan is getting used to it, and accepting it as “part of the game”.

    • Digga

      Spot on Ed… god awful team selection! I couldnt belive my eyes when i saw the line up. The free-flowing attacking football of early season replaced with utter negativity.

      i dont mind going to Anfield and playing it safe, but you still need your best players on the pitch surely! I bet liverpool were rubbing their little bin dipping hands together when they saw rooney and nani were both on the bench.

      A point isnt a bad result…but in the end we were lucky to get it!

  • Alfonso Bedoya
  • captainhormone

    TBF TERRY COMES ACROSS AS A RACIST CUNT. IT IS NOT FOR THE 1ST TIME EITHER

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    DONT WE ALL

  • han

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    DONT WE ALL

    no
    only racist cunts like u
    u cunt

  • han

    anyone who sees the clip, can see that cocksucker england captain call ferdinand a black c*nt
    how he has the balls to deny that is max clifford territory

  • captainhormone

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    DONT WE ALL

    lolololololol

  • sidney

    Terry has admitted to using racist language, but said he meant it in a nice friendly way. Very odd. You’d think he’d come out and deny using any racist language whatsoever, and then get all cunty towards anybody who questioned him
    But yeah, it’s important to remember that Terry spoke out against the BNP at a press conference the other year, during a crucial time when even some right minded people considered them to be a legitimate political party – not a bunch of old NF fascist despots like we now know post-QT

  • Just1n

    Yeah Terry is a regular standup guy. If his not getting a blowwie from a young fan in the renties car park then his asking to be paid for doing a stadium tour or spitting on Tevez in the CL final. Yeah captain material all right.

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    It will be interesting to see what Everton do tomorrow.
    If they have any aspirations for this trophy they’ll field a strong team, but that could leave them knackered for a noon kick off on Saturday.

    “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.”

  • han

    they better not field any of their black players or else unclefuckhead’s new bezzie mate tezzer will have a field day……….

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    FFS Mate… take a day off.

    “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.”

  • sheesh

    Rat-faced cunt Suarez has been charged by the FA:

    http://www.thefa.com/TheFA/Disciplinary/NewsAndFeatures/2011/suarez-161111

  • sidney

    Well done the FA
    If he’s found guilty, will Liverpool get rid? I think they’d have to. Surely a bullshit PR campaign wouldn’t bring this one back
    That would be £30m down the shitter, and their best most quality x factory player gone too, leaving only the domestic shit like Carroll and Adam and Downing

  • ltel

    no chance they will get rid…

  • han

    probably promote him
    scousers are notorious rascist fuckwits
    for all their alleged wit and humour, it has an underlying tone which is pretty thickly laced with bile

  • sidney

    ltel said:
    no chance they will get rid…

    I think they would have to

    If a fan is found guilty of using racist abuse on the terraces, he/she is banned for life

    Footballers shouldn’t be treated any differently

  • sidney

    Gus Poyet accuses Patrice Evra of ‘crying like a baby’
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2011/nov/17/gus-poyet-luis-suarez-racism?newsfeed=true
    And informs us about the time he played football in Spain and copped 7 years of abuse because he is South American, and proudly boats that he did fuck all about it – like we’re going to say ‘well done, Guus!’

  • Alfonso Bedoya

    Poyet is a complete pillock!
    On Blatter, he says…
    “I respect him as Fifa president but I don’t listen to him when he talks about football”…
    So what do you listen to him talk about?…
    If Ferguson even bothers to comment… it will probably be with a sort of disgusted pity… like when a retarded kid shits his pants, and then starts rubbing it in his hair…

    “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.”

  • sidney

    Roy Keane “I didn’t rate Gus Poyet as a player, I don’t rate him as a manager and I never will rate him as a human being.”

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    clearly better manager than roy tbf

  • Just1n

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    clearly better manager than roy tbf

    true that.

    Roy was great at intentionally breaking opponents legs but at least he never called Cole a gollywog.