Sobering loss poses serious questions



Sir Alex Ferguson promised faith in youth this season, although he may have cause to rethink the assertion after his team’s humiliation in East London on Tuesday. That Manchester United’s 29 match unbeaten run came to an end in such empathic fashion so soon after scoring seven at the weekend was surprise enough

That the Reds surrendered so meekly all the more shocking. But while Ferguson’s younger players failed to perform, arguably it was his experienced pros that truly let him down.

True, West Ham United exposed all of Bébé’s many weaknesses and Gabriel Obertan often looked lost too, while Chris Smalling was often uncomfortable and Jonny Evans – not for the first time – physically dominated. Fabio da Silva demonstrated his inexperience too.

Yet United, with Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Ryan Giggs deployed in central midfield, hardly lacked for big match nous. The addition of John O’Shea and Tomasz Kuzsazck offered yet more experience to a side whose average age was nearly 25. Not 20.

Sir Alex Ferguson brushed off the defeat, blaming individual mistakes and ‘soft’ goals, which is no surprise. He cannot but support younger players who have yet to build a reputation or the confidence that goes with it. But the nature of United’s drubbing has sparked a debate not only about the quality of the club’s youngsters but the squad’s strength-in-depth too.

“I didn’t expect that, that’s for sure. If you analyse it the goals we gave away were absolutely too soft,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“We had one or two half chances and Gabriel Obertan had a shot saved by the goalkeeper (Robert Green) which then hit the post.

“The goals killed it. You can’t just give goals away at this level. That first goal was a break for them. We were in control in the early part, played some good football. But goals change games.

“The thing that sparked it was the goal that was disallowed because it got the crowd up. It spurred them on.”

Not that Ferguson is likely to criticise his youngster’s potential having very publicly placed faith in the group before the season’s start. Indeed, there’s some sympathy with Ferguson’s view in the match statistics, which saw United dominate possession – 55 per cent – and create as many chances as the hosts.

Moreover, arguably the worst performers were United’s senior men, with O’Shea, Giggs and Fletcher performing poorly. Anderson, after dominating midfield against Blackburn last weekend, seemed less than interested in the first period; presumably Ferguson’s hairdryer inspired a less insipid response after the break.

Kuzsazck simply confirmed that his exit sooner rather than later is to be welcomed not feared. Not least by Smalling, who has looked so assured in previous outings, but turned into a nervous wreck in the freezing cold on Tuesday night.

Yet, one cannot but be struck by Bébé’s failure on the right-wing. After scoring in the previous round, and netting a stunning double for the reserves recently, much was hoped – if not expected – of the £8 million Portuguese. Instead the winger’s commitment to running down blind allies and delivering without any quality was total.

Meanwhile, Obertan’s quality with the ball at his feet is potentially outstanding but his understanding of the game rudimentary at best. Even Hernandez had one of his least effective games in a Red shirt, demonstrating that without true support he is unable to dictate the flow of United’s attacks.

For all the defender’s attacking endeavors, Fabio’s failure was summed up in the opening period when he let a simple pass roll under his foot and across the touchline. Not a good day at the office.

But if one player’s ignominious failure at the Boleyn Ground was a case study for the team, then Evans takes it. The Ulsterman’s embarrassment by Carlton Cole for a second time this season mercifully ended in the second period with his substitution. That United fans had already sung for Wes Brown surely not a coincidence.

Of course, time rather than conjecture is the ultimate judge of whether United’s squad and younger players are up to the job. Humiliation in East London can do little to the players’ confidence though. Indeed, Obertan, Bébé and Fabio will now see little action, save for the upcoming dead rubber against Valencia at Old Trafford, before the season’s end.

Unless Ferguson risks deploying them in the FA Cup third round fixture against Liverpool. After Leeds United at the same stage last season, surely that’s a risk the Scot is unwilling to take.

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  • nrmiller0102

    I’ve got to say, it was a tough game to watch. But because everyone underperformed, I don’t feel as disappointed in the younger players. An off night, a write-off for the likes of Giggs and Anderson.

    But Obertan, who does have wonderful touch and pace, still suffers from poor decision making. And Evans just can’t find the form that he had two years ago, when Real Madrid was sniffing around. I know they’re both young and have time to grow, but all the same, I’m not feeling confident about them. Similar sentiments about Fabio, who has so much potential, but with injuries and Evra in the way, just hasn’t progressed like he could. Here’s hoping.

  • Flirting Pineapple

    Serious questions? Perhaps, but our youngsters did help us win two consecutive CC’s – so I don’t think we should turn on them after one performance.

    It was our defending which let us down so horribly, every goal could have been avoided. Evans slump post San Siro continues – he really needs to get his confidence and performances back on track.

    I simply don’t understand the Kuzsazck bashing – he couldn’t have done anything about the goals. And he’s hardly had a regular run in the team – you need that to push up consistency and performance levels. Just look at Park (or wait, should we still have sold him?)

  • bruce thomas

    Taxi for Mr Evans

  • swapnil

    surely i’m not the only one who thinks that evans should be out!!evans is responsible for almost 70 per cent goals we’ve conceaded this season and if he keeps playing his mistakes are gonna cost us the league title.SAF’s decision of choosing evans ahead of pique seems laughable now.

    • redevil_83

      pique chose to leave. SAF did not ‘chooose’ evans over pique

  • http://none ian

    A real hammering (sorry) does allow us to see how players react when under the cosh. Who reacted well? Nobody. Anderson & Smalling were moderate; Hernandez had no service;Obertan was out of his depth. Having watched the team for over 50 years I think that Bebe might turn out to be one of the worst ever players we have bought. He makes Ralph Milne seem a star; his touch is atrocious. Quite what O’Shea offers I do not know; somebody tell me; built in radar to pass to the opposition? Evans from being very promising has become a liability, but he is young enough to turn it around. Sorry Ryan you really ought to see that it is time to hang up your boots while you are still revered. The real worry is Fletcher. At the moment he is just going through the motions. We urgently need him back to his best.

  • sheesh

    Unregistered User said:
    I’ve got to say, it was a tough game to watch. But because everyone underperformed, I don’t feel as disappointed in the younger players. An off night, a write-off for the likes of Giggs and Anderson.

    But Obertan, who does have wonderful touch and pace, still suffers from poor decision making. And Evans just can’t find the form that he had two years ago, when Real Madrid was sniffing around. I know they’re both young and have time to grow, but all the same, I’m not feeling confident about them. Similar sentiments about Fabio, who has so much potential, but with injuries and Evra in the way, just hasn’t progressed like he could. Here’s hoping.

    Real Madrid were after Evans? Looking to add to their list of shite defenders?

  • captainhormone

    “SOBERING LOSS POSES SERIOUS QUESTIONS”

    tbf, you need your face smashing in with a piece of dog shit for taking it all so seriously…..we all know we are shit…..

  • realist

    swapnil- i dont think fergie chose evans over pique. pique was ready to play regular, so too were rio n vida. no brainer really!

  • herbie simms

    SAF did not put the team together properly. Remember, Man Utd were the cup holders. He should have used his youngsters in a team that looked like this:

    KUZSAZCK
    RAFAEL VIDIC SMALLING EVRA
    NANI EIKREM ANDRERSON GIGGS
    HERNANDEZ ROONEY

    SUBS: AMOS, FABIO,FLETCHER, OBERTAN, BEBE, MACHEDA.

  • http://minesuhpint.tumblr.com GeorgiaJon

    Seen posted earlier, “Evans’ fall from grace has been astonishing”, and I agree. I was really, really impressed with him around the Drogba Kung-fu kick era. Will he return to form??

    Really itching to see Cleverley and Welbeck back in January.

  • http://minesuhpint.tumblr.com GeorgiaJon

    forgot to mention Barry’s stat on Football Weekly, this season when Evans is playing, we concede something like 1.45 goals/game. When it’s Rio and Vida, we concede close to 0.75

  • bman

    If only Fergie had seen Rio’s fitness problems, which started happening almost immediately after we let Pique go if I remember right. Pique and Vidic – what a powerhouse combo.

  • RobDiablo

    Writing about United’s (non-existant) strength in depth. What’s next, a profile of Father Christmas? Not meant to be a dig at you, Ed, but rather at the man who hasn’t bought any quality players in the last three transfer windows, the man who won’t buy any in the window opening in January, and the man who will probably spend a great deal of time between now and August trying to fabricate a believable excuse for his not buying any at that time.

    • Geno

      Rob, I totally agree with you but I also think there is an elephant in the room that Fergie and Gill won’t acknowledge publicly, and in Gill’s case probably even privately, about how attractive a destination Utd would be for potential transfer candidates next summer.

      Let’s assume that Utd has money to spend in the summer, even though we know that’s not likely. Say you were a top young talent like Sergio Aguero or Eden Hazard – how keen would you be to join a club, even a top side like Utd, when you know that the manager you’re signing for is unlikely to be there for more than a year, let alone the length of your contract, and you’ve no assurances that the new bloke in the job will rate you? Sure, if you’ve no other options it’s no big deal (step forward Anders Lindegaard) as Utd will always be a big side and can only ever be a step up from where you were financially and reputationally. But if you’ve got other top Euro sides chasing your signature, I’m not sure how keen you’d be to signing for Utd.

      I’m pretty sure that issues like this are part of the reason that Fergie has stepped back from his comment last season that he didn’t see himself being manager of United for more than another 3 years max. But it’s obvious that he is going sooner rather than later now.

  • Champchamp

    It is a bad night for all. But Evans is getting from bad to worse and worryingly so. I have been called a racist when I singled out 3 players who coincidentally are Irish but can anyone seriously tell me that Darren (no workrate, cannot tackle, lottery-shooting) Gibson; John (all over the place) O’ Shea and Johnny (Irish bank of Manchester) Evans are United’s calibre?

  • herbie simms

    If United win the premier league, Fergie will retire at the end of the season. He will go out on a high by breaking the tie between United and Liverpool for most wins. Word is Pepe Guardiola is the front runner and Carlos Ancelotti a close second. This is coming from inside the club and not newspaper stories.

  • Onside

    Fergie does sometimes say the weirdest things: “the thing that spurred them on was the disallowed goal!”

    Is he trying to say that he would have preferred that the goal had stood? So, it would have been better for them to have taken the lead with the disallowed goal, because disallowing it spurred them on to… take the lead!

    Well, Fergie, from now on, let us give every home team the lead immediately when we visit them, just not to spur them on.

  • bman

    Fergie and Gill and the Glazers already know when Fergie is going to retire, and they won’t give any hint of it until the day he announces it, and it will be the same day he announces his successor, and it will probably be right at the end of the season (maybe even the end of this season), leaving the new manager the whole summer to establish himself and maybe buy some big players of his choosing. He will leave in a very orderly, well organised manner, that’s what’s most important to him.

    That’s also the emphasis on young players, because they’re his legacy. He’d rather people spend the next ten years marvelling at how good Bebe, Obertan, Nani etc. turned out to be and how wise Fergie was, than them saying “well Torres is a great player, but no bargain at the £40M Fergie paid for him”. Besides, why would he put his reputation and the club’s finances on the line buying big name players if he’s leaving in a season or two?

  • RobDiablo

    Geno, Herbie, and bman – Your comments about the possibility of Sir Alex’s retirement being more near than distant future, as well as the effect it could be having on United’s doings in the transfer market makes sense. If he were sane and cared about his legacy, Sir Alex would do well to do his best to get that nineteenth title and retire, and that is all the more reason to buy at least one quality midfielder in January: the Premiership is there for the taking. It would take too long and cost too much to put together a side that could seriously challenge for the CL, so putting United above Liverpool in league titles is his only realistic aspiration, and I don’t think it could get much easier to win than it appears to be this year.

  • meraass

    Evans has never been any good and has only had decent games when the opposition have had an off-day!

    The massive positive from Tuesday is that hopefully Fergie now realises that Evans is not of and will never be Utd standard.

    P.S. How can a player who doesnt get a chance that often, finally gets it, playing for MUFC and still plays that poorly.

    P.P.S. irrespective of getting no service, Macheda looks completely disinterested all the time (I’m yet to see him bust a gut). Berbatov always looks disinterested but to be fair he has backed this up with goals and always tries to make himself available for the ball.

  • http://none ian

    I’m not too sure. Fear & andrenaline. I think that he fears that without the buzz it will be a slippery downhill slope. He will do it when it’s right for him not the club. There must be one man on earth to whom he will listen. That man please tell him, with one quality midfielder we will have a good season; without we won’t.

  • herbie simms

    Yes Rob, thats the way I see it also. Get that nineteenth title and retire. At his age it would make sense for him to do that because next year he will be 70 years old and I would say it would be time to go.

  • dingleberry

    evans covered well for rio last year. i think the talent is there but his mind has gone since san siro. couldnt handle a bollocking and never recovered.

    macheda, imo, is the worst striker we have has at the club since prem league began … if anyone thinks different please let me know who is worse …

  • bman

    Unregistered User said:
    evans covered well for rio last year. i think the talent is there but his mind has gone since san siro. couldnt handle a bollocking and never recovered.

    macheda, imo, is the worst striker we have has at the club since prem league began … if anyone thinks different please let me know who is worse …

    Well young players often take a step back, so it’s hard to say as he’s still only 22 and central defense is a position where experience counts for a lot. But still, he’s taken a big ol’ step back.

  • RedScot

    FFs this is the team we are provided with bye the current custodians.I have said till I am blue in the face We support the players that are on the field, dont we!
    If we are shit? What does that say about our alledged title challengers.Pure class dismissing a pure Blue(Butch) from the Bridge regime, and the inevitable happens.
    Dont destroy the youngsters at the Club, its madness to do this.Review how well our youngsters like Cleverley Welbeck, Diouf are performing at lesser clubs.As far as i know bye reading its the United way through the youth.Rome was not built in a day, neither was Moscow or Barcelona.
    Support our players.
    LUHG.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    send evans back to sunderland for a spell, give him a spell away from fergie before he turns him into oshea and we suddenly start seeing him playing fullback or in midfield next to a winger, probaby obentran, this is gutting what’s happeneing to the cunt, I saw shades of buchan in him, like I did with oshea at the start, oshea was even better than evans at the start ffs, don’t let fergie do this again, he’s the reason we’ve not produced a good player in nigh on 20 years

    that spacky bebongo cunt, jesus…

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/members/danniitronix/ danniitronix

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    send evans back to sunderland for a spell, give him a spell away from fergie before he turns him into oshea and we suddenly start seeing him playing fullback or in midfield next to a winger, probaby obentran, this is gutting what’s happeneing to the cunt, I saw shades of buchan in him, like I did with oshea at the start, oshea was even better than evans at the start ffs, don’t let fergie do this again, he’s the reason we’ve not produced a good player in nigh on 20 years

    that spacky bebongo cunt, jesus…

    he’s shat his pants; it’s not as if he has been played in midfield, upfront, or out wide, ffs – he’s been played in defence and mostly central defence, which last time I heard is his job

  • sheesh

    Evans isn’t a real footballer but a puppet who is controlled by Fergie. Fergie puts his hands up Evans’s arse and moves him around the pitch. No wonder Jonny looks so clueless.

    Yep, it’s Fergie’s fault.

  • uncleknobheadforfucksake

    well why did brown and oshea get shitter and shitter after starting off brilliant and why’s it happening now with evans

  • han

    knobhead
    knobend more like
    and then some
    evans has believed his own hype and consequently become a twat on the pitch this season – until he knuckles down again and concentrates on the football instead of the criticism levelled his way over the past few weeks, he will follow kieron “bentley boy” to the stadium of shite

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/members/danniitronix/ danniitronix

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    well why did brown and oshea get shitter and shitter after starting off brilliant and why’s it happening now with evans

    both brown’s legs got fucked and before that he was mega – almost as good as Rio an def as good as vida.

    o’shea got shitter because he failed to develop and then the game passed him by.

    contrast with Ronaldo, Rio, Vidic, Keane, ince, Giggs, Cole, Ruud, Nani, Evra – ffs, even Sheringham was 10 times the player compare to any point in his career, when he finally moved from United.

    Evans has bottled it just like Ben Imposter. Evans needs a slap and get down to basics. Thinks he can just swan into defence and give it the big-un; do me a favour.

  • http://www.unitedrant.co.uk/members/danniitronix/ danniitronix

    han said:
    knobhead
    knobend more like
    and then some
    evans has believed his own hype and consequently become a twat on the pitch this season – until he knuckles down again and concentrates on the football instead of the criticism levelled his way over the past few weeks, he will follow kieron “bentley boy” to the stadium of shite

    add to that Bardsley

  • sheesh

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    well why did brown and oshea get shitter and shitter after starting off brilliant and why’s it happening now with evans

    Wes Brown has always looked slightly suspect as a centre back in terms of his ability in the air and being attacked one on one (where he always turns his back).

    Over time, opposition sides work these things out.

    This isn’t some brand new development.

  • captainhormone

    sheesh…on the subject of losing your edge…how is your cunt moistening up these days?

  • sheesh

    LOL

    Well in these temperatures not very well, mate. May need some lube if you’ve got any to spare.

  • captainhormone

    plenty