Slack United sacrifice title advantage on the altar of conceit

“A man’s work is in danger of deteriorating,” said the eminent American playwright Eugene O’Neill, “when he thinks he has found the one best formula for doing it.”

There are, perhaps, no more apt words for a Manchester United side that believed it had set upon the canon of victory at Old Trafford on Sunday. For what could explain the stupefying casualness with which Sir Alex Ferguson’s med approached the tie with Everton, but for the assumption that the game was already afoot.

Indeed, it took barely two minutes for the restless Old Trafford crowd to conclude that something was amiss in Ferguson’s men. Call it complacency – that most clichéd of football phrases – or over confidence, but not for the first time this season United’s performance lacked all sense of intensity and concentration when those were patently the abiding virtues required.

With just three games remaining in the Premier League season, including the now season-defining visit to Eastlands on Monday week, the sense of antipathy with which United defended in the 4-4 draw against Everton sent the Old Trafford crowd home questioning whether the Reds’ destiny is in their own hands this season.

After all, defeat to City on 30 April will leave Roberto Mancini’s Blues ahead of United on goal difference, with the Reds still to face high-flying Sunderland at the Stadium of Light on the final day of the season.

Given the sides relative form United supporters can no longer count on the Reds securing a result in eight days time; the two points lost against Everton may yet prove to be every bit as calamitous as many fans fear.

“Throwaway,” Ferguson called his team’s performance, after the Scot witnessed some of the most slipshod defending seen this season – and that includes the Derby-day defeat to City last September.

“It was a throwaway, an absolute giveaway,” said a stunned Ferguson.

“We just needed to see the game out and it was a travesty because some of our football was fantastic. The goals we scored were great goals. To give away four goals at Old Trafford in a home game like that which was so important to us is unbelievable. I can’t believe it.

“We’ve created our goals with really good football but I think they got their goals easily. Rooney and Welbeck were a real threat to Everton today, their combination play and understanding of each other was terrific. They should have got more out of the game than they did.

“Defensive lapses have cost us. In previous matches recently we’ve actually defended very well. But this was a bad performance defensively. It was a real blip for us today to get a performance like that. I think the goals we conceded were soft goals.”

Not for the first time the 70-year-old Scot called for a response from his men. Nor for the first time will Ferguson be given pause for thought about his players hunger and quality.

Yet, shockingly, it was some of the manager’s most trusted lieutenants who let him down on Sunday. In midfield it was Michael Carrick, outstanding all season, and veteran Paul Scholes, who repeatedly gifted Everton possession and with it impetus.

Everton’s tactic of hustling the 37-year-old, and his passive midfield team-mate, was a decision both obvious to the observer, and superbly executed.

But it was in defence where United’s outrecuidance shone through. Northern Irishman Jonny Evans, who has been truly superb in a career defining campaign, was at least partially culpable in three Everton goals.

Praised by Ferguson as the “best central defender in the country” this week, Evans lost Marouane Fellaini for Everton’s second, criminally moved away from his defensive zone for the third, and then was all too easily out-maneuvered, once again, by the Belgian for the Toffees’ final equaliser.

Evans was certainly not alone though, with both United full-backs – Patrice Evra and Rafael da Silva – guilty of too easily allowing crosses to come in from the flanks, while the Brazilian made the naïve mistake of following his defensive colleague Evans for Everton’s fourth.

While there is no alternative to Evra at Eastlands next week, Rafael – who has been in fine form during the run in – may be sacrificed for the more defense-minded Chris Smalling for the crunch match with City.

After all, City need the win, while United must simply fight the fight as if it is the final of their careers; a response of unprecedented proportions.

“We’ve given City the initiative, there’s no question about that,” added Ferguson, who is seeking his 13th Premier League title.

“It makes the game at the Etihad Stadium a really important game now. It makes it the title decider really. We’ve given ourselves a real task at the Etihad. We’ll go there only three points ahead.

“We make it hard for ourselves but we have to go there knowing we’re capable of getting a result. We need to get a result now at the Etihad, there’s no question about that. There’s no reason why we can’t do that. There’s been an expectancy from City that this could be their decider. But it’s our decider too.

“There’ll be a reaction from us obviously. There’s no question about that. A derby game next Monday against City would always have been a derby game of the highest proportions.”

United cannot guarantee results against Swansea City at Old Trafford and Sunderland – not with the Reds having taken just four points from games with Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa, and Everton – but defeat to City would surely be momentous.

But at least there will be recognition from Ferguson’s players that they have one final chance this season; an opportunity on Monday week to wrest the initiative away from a City side that has hit form just in time this season.

In that there should be both anger and genuine fire from United’s stars – youthful and veteran – in whom Ferguson has placed so much faith during an époque of comparative parsimony from the boardroom. If the Scot’s men cannot respond to this latest self-inflicted wound then even the most partizan United supporter will concede that a 20th domestic title has not been earned.

“There is anger from the players, of course, because we wanted to win. We’re disappointed to lose four goals. But that’s football. It can happen sometimes,” Portuguese winger Nani told MUTV.

“The concentration was not the best in the last few minutes – that’s why they were able to create chances and score goals. We had a lot of possession and played some fantastic football in attack. But we conceded too many goals and we’re not happy about that.

“We have to keep believing in our qualities because we still have a great opportunity to win the title. It’s a huge game [at City] – there will be a fantastic atmosphere there. It will be a difficult game, but if you want to win the league you cannot think about the atmosphere or the opponents, we must just think about the way we play and try to win the game.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson is likely to string five across midfield at Eastlands, with star striker Wayne Rooney – who’s brace against his old employers were the 32nd and 33rd strikes of a productive season – either dropping deep to augment midfield, or ploughing a lone furrow up front.

And there will be little surprise if the Scot deploys his favoured ‘European’ tactics of containment first, and entertainment second. If nobel prize-winning playwright O’Neill, ever the arch realist, was alive he might well concur.

United supporters will welcome a point in lieu of free-flowing football, of course. What nobody will countenance is another bout of conceit.

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Comments

  1. squigs says

    United still have the advantage, 3pts ahead and City after United have Newcastle away which is the last place anyone would want to go having to win at the moment.

  2. says

    More golf trips and media bumming up of Evans by taggart please.

    We were victims of one the greatest epl defeats of all times 1-6, they have nothing to loose, they have better players, better gd, and a manager who is learning his trade a proven winner as a player and his home country.

    Ironic that we are going to apparently rely on Newcastle to do us a favor! Keegan will be pissing his pants.

    • DeadRevel says

      What so you think Newcastle have a bigger chance of beating City than United do?

      Grow up Polly Pissypants.

  3. sheesh says

    If City beat United, I reckon they’ll go on and beat Newcastle as well. It won’t be easy but the momentum will be well and truly in their favour and that could prove to be decisive.

    I believe that if we lose the derby, City will win the league.

  4. han says

    after being arse raped in october – the worst day in my footballing memory supporting united, when i couldn’t eat anything and went to sleep at 8pm and i still cannot bear to bring myself to watch that game – every single united fan would have given their left gonad to be 3 points ahead of the blue scum going into the game at the Etihad.

    yes, it was disappointing in the extreme this afternoon, but ffs we don’t need to do anything suicidal next week

    they have to come at us but we can get a result i’m sure of it, we have been written off so many times already and to be 8 points ahead with 6 games to go was making it too easy for the players; now its tite arse time and rooney and co will drag us out

  5. han says

    danniitronix said:
    More golf trips and media bumming up of Evans by taggart please.

    We were victims of one the greatest epl defeats of all times 1-6, they have nothing to loose, they have better players, better gd, and a manager who is learning his trade a proven winner as a player and his home country.

    Ironic that we are going to apparently rely on Newcastle to do us a favor! Keegan will be pissing his pants.

    newcastle have to play wigan and chelsea away before the blue cunts so i don’t think they will do us any favours in a fortnights time

  6. Daniel says

    Han, Newcastle’s games are both difficult and even if they win them both they would still need to get something out of the City match.

    But I agree that if City win, they’re unlikely to spoil it. The lads need to get themselves together and repeat that cup performance from this year or the 1-0 Scholesy win two years ago. This was always going to boil down to this match, remember: City also had their “screw-ups of conceit”, it averages out. If United is to win its 20th title, they need to do it the old-fashioned way.

  7. says

    sheesh said:
    If City beat United, I reckon they’ll go on and beat Newcastle as well. It won’t be easy but the momentum will be well and truly in their favour and that could prove to be decisive.

    I believe that if we lose the derby, City will win the league.

    Simple.

    • DeadRevel says

      Apparently they were good in the first half and stopped playing in the second. The increase in intensity from them at OT probably a direct result of that game…

  8. 19 and counting says

    We need the performance of the season just to get a draw at the etihad. It’s possible but unlikely after that defensive debacle at home.

  9. DeadRevel says

    lol City were shit yesterday. Barely even deserved the win against Wolves. Gave the ball away constantly, let Wolves control the play for significant periods.. they were mediocre at best. Wasteful, and Tevez was shit.

    As usual too many pussies on the comment section.

    Mancini is useless and that’s why we’ll win the league.
    Most transparent mind game failure I’ve ever experienced.

    “We need the performance of the season just to get a draw at the etihad. It’s possible but unlikely after that defensive debacle at home.”

    Grow some bollocks Suzie Frillypants.

    • 19 and counting says

      Yeah you’re a tough guy calling people pussies on a forum. You would probably shit you’re panties and run home to mommy if we were face to face. I gave my opinion and I think it’ll be tough to get a point given the circumstances. If you don’t like it then fook off you cvnt.

  10. triggs says

    Yaya and Silva are still not playing well.

    Provided Fergie does not throw a curveball in his selection, we’ll be fine.

    • DeadRevel says

      I agree.
      I also like the fact people are writing us off… the pressure is back on City now. And not only do we have to react to the Everton game, we also have vengeance for the 1-6 game.
      Confident we’ll get a result.

  11. says

    i don’t think people are right us off, rather laughing at us.

    giving it the big-un about Evans, the return of the Ginger Prince, Giggs can go on until he is 40, we are so cool that we go golfing in Scotland to give us some team spirit. fuck off.

    we are still favourites and i think we will still win the epl but as fergie has already said, citeh have given him the shits – and this is his biggest derby ever.

    with the bullshit antics of Young, I can’t see us getting any penno’s of refs favours, and they have too much power.

    yaya seems fucked but Tevez is rejuvenated.

    i hope Mancini plays Balotelli and the cunt gets sent off.

    evans shat his pants in the last game against Citeh and his head needs to be sorted.

    rio and evra need to play well, fucking pussies need to get their arses into gear.

    • DeadRevel says

      “evans shat his pants in the last game against Citeh and his head needs to be sorted.”

      This is true. It’s the only thing I’m really worried about going into the City game.

      Don’t see why you’re mentioning Scholes though. Didn’t have a great game but it was still a brilliant decision for us to bring him out of retirement.

      I’m wondering if Cleverley might play next Monday. Can’t help but feel we would have beaten Everton if he’d come on after we’d got the 4th goal.

  12. Sidsidney says

    Concentration levels will be higher for the City game. They won’t sit off and be cunts like against Everton.

    I think we’ll draw.

  13. DamnedUnited says

    I don’t understand why Everton play like Lions against us but like scared little pussies against Liverpool.

    Do Liverpudlians really hate people from Manchester that much?

  14. Just1n says

    Commenter said:
    You saw the phrase ‘Suzie Frillypants’ in a comment and decided to take it seriously.

    Oh, and it’s ‘Mummy’ you cunt. I’m not a Yank.

    but he got the cunt part right.

  15. han says

    Commenter said:
    I don’t understand why Everton play like Lions against us but like scared little pussies against Liverpool.

    Do Liverpudlians really hate people from Manchester that much?

    YES + a little bit more

  16. han says

    Commenter said:
    OUt of idle curiosity as i did not watch the match, how did Everton lose to Liverpool in the semi?

    they scored one, the scouse cunts scored two………..

  17. han says

    danniitronix said:
    i don’t think people are right us off, rather laughing at us.

    giving it the big-un about Evans, the return of the Ginger Prince, Giggs can go on until he is 40, we are so cool that we go golfing in Scotland to give us some team spirit. fuck off.

    we are still favourites and i think we will still win the epl but as fergie has already said, citeh have given him the shits – and this is his biggest derby ever.

    with the bullshit antics of Young, I can’t see us getting any penno’s of refs favours, and they have too much power.

    yaya seems fucked but Tevez is rejuvenated.

    i hope Mancini plays Balotelli and the cunt gets sent off.

    evans shat his pants in the last game against Citeh and his head needs to be sorted.

    rio and evra need to play well, fucking pussies need to get their arses into gear.

    im pretty sure that mankini said bollocktelli wouldn’t play again this season…oh yes he also said that about tevcunt so anythings possible with the dodgy italian – SAF sure was right about checking under the pasta for the sauce

  18. Will says

    Poor result against Everton, although the away side played some good attacking football. Genuinely concerned going into the derby – Evans and Ferdinand will have to be on their game. May be a case for playing 4-5-1 with Cleverly or perhaps Giggs breaking from midfield to support Rooney, and the wide players pressurising City’s full backs. Being over run in the centre of the park with only Carrick and Scholes is a possibility, especially if Silva starts to roam.

  19. dozer says

    Commenter said:
    Poor result against Everton, although the away side played some good attacking football. Genuinely concerned going into the derby – Evans and Ferdinand will have to be on their game. May be a case for playing 4-5-1 with Cleverly or perhaps Giggs breaking from midfield to support Rooney, and the wide players pressurising City’s full backs. Being over run in the centre of the park with only Carrick and Scholes is a possibility, especially if Silva starts to roam.

    Blind Fergie will probably play Jones in the middle of the park and lose us the game.

  20. Herbie Simms says

    Wigan v United and Everton v United, results of match fixing. Have you ever seen United play so badly before against a team at the bottom of the league? The team actually did nothing on the field. If you believe what Fergie said that Wigan is playing some of the best football in the league, then you all must be crazy! In the Everton game, United through the game, thats how it ended up 4-4.
    This bullshit has to stop! Teams and players get away with this in football, but in cricket matches, the authorities are more vigilant to catch these bastards. Its different if we had played a good game and lost but we did not even play any kind of constructive football for a team that is at the top of the league. Something is really wrong here. But the amazing thing is, we will go to Man City on Monday and beat them at home by playing some of the best football this season. Now figure that one out.

  21. han says

    Commenter said:
    Wigan v United and Everton v United, results of match fixing. Have you ever seen United play so badly before against a team at the bottom of the league? The team actually did nothing on the field. If you believe what Fergie said that Wigan is playing some of the best football in the league, then you all must be crazy! In the Everton game, United through the game, thats how it ended up 4-4.
    This bullshit has to stop! Teams and players get away with this in football, but in cricket matches, the authorities are more vigilant to catch these bastards. Its different if we had played a good game and lost but we did not even play any kind of constructive football for a team that is at the top of the league. Something is really wrong here. But the amazing thing is, we will go to Man City on Monday and beat them at home by playing some of the best football this season. Now figure that one out.

    you really believe all this don’t you…

  22. squigs says

    Match Fixing in football is gambling related, this isn’t like AFL or NFL were throwing of games allows preferable draft picks. On an average game in England you can get all the money from the betting shops and online customers. In the first 90 seconds of play the money from the Far East will start to arrive. This would out number the UK money by a ratio of 10:1. If a match attracts £5 million of bets from Uk gamblers we will expect £50 million from Asia to flood the market.

    Match Fixing occurs in some form in a lot of European leagues. the Premier League has had a few suspicious games as well as other top leagues. I have worked in odds compilation and trading before. Bookmaker systems are very good we could identify certain risk factors and suspect betting patterns and identify pools of money looking for less likely outcomes. Bookmakers bet across an unbelievably diverse range of matches and not all can be assured of being uncorrupted. We got stumped by a tournament last year where we couldn’t verify if the referees were even official. The awarding of about 3-4 penalties a game didn’t assure anyone.

    I assure you Herbie is being a loon, United – Everton was a big win for the fixed odds bookmakers. The premier league do not fix games for entertainment sake. Games which might be possible fixes are usually down to Far-East money. The current Italian scandal is regarding games last year, we knew that the fix was on before the games had even kicked off. You can rely on the Italian league to throw up shocking results approaching the end of the season with draws which trade around 23/10 suddenly been bet at 1/3 on. we had a game involving two of their champions league teams last year which was a blatant 0-0 draw.

    I’m not going to give individual matches here but one of the games last year was a big game with a result no one could envisage after 10 minutes. The player suspected of being involved is currently with a top English club. It was a high profile game and one which effected the title race.

  23. says

    It was the defence that switched off, four flipping times, I’ve been saying all season the continual backing off will be our downfall, why do we refuse to put a tackle in, in midfield, why do we continually refuse to press the ball, you could see Rooney was doing his nut over it.

    Personally I blame Phelan, his tactics are shite, a game we needed to win and at 4-2 we are still playing 4-2-4 !

    We will need to do a lot better at the council house, just pray Carrick is injured.

  24. bman says

    squigs said:
    I’m not going to give individual matches here but one of the games last year was a big game with a result no one could envisage after 10 minutes. The player suspected of being involved is currently with a top English club. It was a high profile game and one which effected the title race.

    Doni or Riise with Roma?

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