Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Reds beat Roma, but Moscow final looks like a forlorn hope..

Manchester United came nowhere near producing the kind of football that destroyed Roma when they thrashed the Italians 7-1 in the Champions League last season, that was a one-off as we have been rightly told umpteen times going into last night's game.

Wayne Rooney won it for the Reds with a late second half pile-driver after Nani had found the England striker lurking on the edge of the Roma box, that was the most memorable moment in a game that didn't live up to expecations and one which was short of highlights and goal-mouth action as far as United were concerned.

United didn't seriously test the visitors keeper enough. Rooney had the Reds only other really meaningful effort on goal in first half when once again Nani was the provider, but Rooney's effort was high wide and not so handsome. The Portuguese winger also hit the crossbar with a second-half cross and Tevez hit a fizzing long-range low-rising drive from outside the box.

However, it had taken United 27 minutes to register a shot on goal, in a game that from the start looked like both teams would have settled for a draw. United had started the game well enough with a passage of crisp passing in the opening moments, but as the first half wore on the Reds became ragged with Scholes, Nani and Carrick all giving the ball away cheaply to Roma or else putting it directly out of play.

Scholes isn't looking anything like the player that we know he can be and he's playing too deep, often just a few yards in front of the back four. Carrick looks as though his confidence has been shaken by the arrival of Hargreaves and his subsequent benching, because his passing has been poor too.

Fergie had rung the changes going into the game, Giggs who has been awful in his last two outings was dropped in preference to Nani and Tevez was rested as Saha started.

Nani for his part did some things very well, but on other occasions he was sloppy when losing the ball in dangerours areas. Saha was starved of decent service and he also looked a bit rusty at times too.

Ronaldo was well marshalled by the Roma defence and so as an attacking force United did not function individually or collectively, apart Nani who managed to create two good openings for Rooney.

The visitors looked nothing special really, Totti spurned a decent second-half chance to score, but thankfully his lobbed effort sailed over the crossbar. Alberto Aquilani and Mauro Esposito had chances to score, the latter should have equalised late on but instead he blazed wide of Kuszczak's far post.

United had to hang on for the victory as Roma piled on the pressure, but in the end they just about deserved another 1-0 win. Going off recent performances United need to improve massively if they have any serious ambitions of reaching the final in Moscow next May.

Fergie doesn't seem to know what is best team is at present, too many players are playing well below their capabilities and this is not helping the manager one bit. The latest injury to Hargreaves who could be out for up to a month is a big blow because United desperately need him fit and firing in that engine room which is not functioning at present.

In perspective though, it would be wrong to ignore the positives which are that United are currently second in the league table, they are top of their Champions League group and they are not conceding goals and are winning - if not in the United way in terms of style. It would be all right for just about any other club to be getting 1-0 wins, but not United, such are expectations.

The Red Army would love to be making plans for Moscow, let us hope that doesn't turn out to be a forlorn hope.


  1. Your post has pretty much accurately summed up the current state of play at OT although you have been kinder to Nani than I would have been. I know it is early days yet & I don’t want to be premature in my judgement. Last night he just didn’t seem to want to run with the ball, he gave it away to easily & his corner kicks were not best ever. Will we have to add him to a growing list of midfield failures at OT?

    I think you have got the Carrick situation spot on. He just looks completely without confidence. Since his arrival it appears that the whole crowd has to tell him when to shoot. Even in the dying minutes he had a perfect opportunity to run on goal with the ball, but it appeared to be 70,000 fans that prompted him to do it.

    It just seems like the whole squad has got a communal cold at the minute.

    Of late Vidic is the stalwart getting the defensive plaudits but I would just like to mention Rio. On at least two occasions in the second half I saw him throw his body into the path of the ball making extraordinary blocks. From where I was say it appeared that he had saved what would have more than likely been a goal.

    Rooney as always displays a passion to win & I would appear to me that Tevez is showing some of that same lust also. When he came on with 10 minutes to go he was like a Tasmanian devil.

    I guess we are all suffering from a little of the anti climax blues. Due to the slow start performance wise after the unusually quick & large number of signings made in the off season. I for one was rubbing my hands together at the prospect of watching Hargreaves, Nani, Anderson & then Tevez slot into the premiership champion team.

    On the brighter side we are playing off colour but are still in prime position, so God help the rest of the footballing world when they find that spark that has been temporarily misplaced.

    I just hope it hasn’t been sold on eBay;

    Uniteds Spark -

    starting bid £800,000,000

    buy now priceless

  2. But the thing is the United of last season did well enough without Hargreaves, and so in theory United should be able to function well enough without him. But somehow, all of the players seem ragged and, as you said, not to their full potential. It is hard not to play to your full potential, and the only time it happens is when you are low on confidence or low on energy. Maybe the lack of squad depth (at least in comparison to Liverpool and Chelsea) has adversely affected the situation at United, although it didn't look like happening last season, where they were sustained by an extraordinary amount of self-belief and confidence, when it is not there (with the unsettling of the team by so many new players), their lack of fitness shows, as it did with Tevez for a while. United are certainly in a predicament, and they will be until they get the 1-0s out the way.
    On the one hand the 1-0s do not provide that much impetus for change, I hope that United face a tremendous defeat soon to revitalise their progress and bring back that enormouse self belief, or at least that they have a tremendous victory to do the same. The 1-0s merely give a false, superficial sense of safety, where all gains are short-term.

  3. Look at this article on

    It pretty much reflects the points I was making earlier on in the dip in United's confidence and its causes.

  4. There's no doubting United aren't firing on all cylinders at present and you'd hope that they will soon come back to something like the team we know they can be. As Granny says, just wait until we start playing...

    No way are United the new Chelsea, that line might appease rival fans and the agenda of any ABU hacks, but it wont happen any time soon.

    The big difference between United and say Arsenal (of old) Chelsea and Liverpool (of old) is that they had managers and teams that set to out to win first at all costs but importantly not to lose - especially away from home.

    This style was more to do with an attitudes and the mindset of men like George Graham, Jose Mourinho and to a lesser degree perhaps Bill Shankly. Back in the days of Shanks it was two points for a win and one for a draw. The old maxim was win at home and do not lose away - that was Liverpool's formula. They were the masters of winning one-nil. I think they managed it 17 times in one season in the 70s.

    United's (unwritten) ethos has always been to attack - because we always have done - we've never been good at defending the lead and so we've always found that our stregnth lies in going for the other team. I doubt this will change despite this current poor run. Sooner or later they will bounce out of it.

    Though I don't want to see a heavy defeat to bring it about.

  5. Excellent Man U blog! I just came across your blog while surfing the internet. I look forward to reading future postings from you.

  6. “I hope that United face a tremendous defeat soon to revitalise their progress and bring back that enormous self belief”

    What like a crucial 3 points in the premiership or in the knockout stage of the champions league?

    Come on!

  7. The Champions League knockout is over two stages, and a sufficient shock can rally a team to tremendous victory, and the Premier League right now, is not at a decisive stage, so better a shock and then a progressive increase in confidence, then an unsteadying wavering of confidence, being up and down due to consistent 1-0s, because they players aren't really sure whether they have done enough, whether they Actually Need to put that much Effort, especially when they are not on a burst of confidence, but on progressive rough patch (as Carrick's case shows). We need some sort of revolutionary event to revitalise the team in all aspects of the game .

    One can also argue that being pushed out of the champions league will be a positive for a team competing for the premiership, as they have to undergo that many less games. So we must always look at it holistically and never be satisfied with what little United are putting forward.

    What I meant to post about is Carrick's injury, whats your take on that Mr. Ryddel?

  8. Your points about winning being a confidence booster are very valid. Winning is very much a habit as is losing.

    United are winning whether it be in the league or Europe and as you rightly point out, this could lead to better things as the season progresses, but it also could go the other way - against Roma and Sporting Lisbon both games could and perhaps should have been drawn. The worry is that while the Reds are winning they haven't been convincing, nor are they creating chances a plenty.

    Liverpool (spit) have been very successful in the Champions League over the last few seasons, they have gathered momentum as they've gone along, because they've not been seriously involved in the league title race for a couple of seasons. Once again as you say this has helped them.

    If I'm honest I'd have to say that I believe Ferguson is hopeless when it comes to tactics and much more than in the Premier League this shows up in Europe time and time again.

    Trophies or no trophies come next May, I'd like to see United playing the United way plain and simple.

    I will answer your Carrick question in my next post!


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