Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Reds to march on Moscow - but only after a serious wobble...

So quite remarkably on the back of two of their most unmemorable performances in Europe, the Reds are going on the march to Moscow in May for the Champions League final, courtesy of a first-half thunder-bolt from the "Ginger Prince" Paul Scholes. Yet, it is Barcelona who must surely still be questioning how they managed to contrive to lose this semi-final, given how much of the ball they had.

Like in the first-leg, the Catalan's completely out-played United, even the goal came from a Barcelona mistake rather than from United's normal free-flowing attacking football, which was sadly lacking in evidence over the two ties.

Quite how United managed to secure their place in the final will no doubt be a talking point over the coming weeks ahead, rival fans will be keen to point out that Barcelona were the better team - and they rightly were - if only they'd not forgotten how to score a goal. The truth of the matter is that Barcelona while completely out-playing United over this semi final could not finish. The Red Devils had no answer to the quite brilliant Messi who seemed capable of beating the whole team on his own.

At the other end United could not keep the ball with Nani in particular gifting it back to the visitors. Throughout the game Ronaldo was urging his team-mates to support him, but to no avail. While the visitors laid siege to the United goal, they were thankfully unable to lay a metaphorical glove on the Reds.

In truth, Barca barely tested Edwin van der Sar, who at times did his level best to help the Catalans - it looked at one point as if the big Dutchman was playing with his bootlaces tied together - so atrocious was his kicking - though to be fair he wasn't helped one bit by Wes Brown kneeing him in the head twice.

It is therefore something of a minor miracle that United did not lose both legs of the semi-final given how little we actually had possession of the ball, but at the same time Barcelona will believe that they only have themselves to blame for not progressing to Moscow.

United fans wont care one jot - we are in the final - that is all that matters. Let us not forget that rivals Liverpool have crabbed their way to two recent finals aided by a fair few very dodgy decisions - at least you cannot level that against United - quite the reverse in fact as Ronaldo was denied a second cast-iron penalty in the first leg, by a homer of a referee.

It doesn’t alter the fact that United's performances over the two semi-final legs have been nothing short of embarrassing really, both in terms of tactics and from an attacking standpoint.

The Reds saving grace over this semi-final has been that the defence has played quite well - but watching this semi-final has not been easy, we fans had believed that this team was as good as any in Europe and some say perhaps United's best ever. Those views will have to be revised given how comprehensively we have been outplayed by a Barcelona team that was said to be low on confidence.

Despite his goal, Scholes has been little more than a passenger over the two ties, he no longer has the legs to support from deep, thankfully he managed to make one of those now rare trademark runs that led to him scoring that wonderful goal. Fergie has gone on record saying that Scholes has to start in the final - that assertion in my view is a complete nonsense - shouldn’t the team be picked on merit? This is not lads and dads football, where the favourite son always gets picked - Fergie has to act like the manager of a team in the Champions League final and not like a misty-eyed old grandad when picking the side.

United were at the best last night when Tevez got about the visitors, largely because the Argentine was charging around the Old Trafford pitch like a Tasmanian Devil, Scholes can no longer do this, and it is partly why our midfield currently has more holes in it than a Grimsby trawler fishing net.

United needed Anderson in the engine room - but bizarrely last night was once again he was completely ignored, while another veteran Giggs was brought on as a substitute. True, Fletcher was brought on too, but given the qualities of the Brazilian it is baffling beyond belief that he was ignored in preference to two lesser players given the task at hand.

Has Fergie forgotten how Anderson dominated Gerrard at Anfield? The Brazilian is by far our best ratter, but against Chelsea at the weekend he was played too far up front in the old Scholes role - we needed him deeper - just as we needed him there in both legs of the Champions League semi-finals and no doubting in the final too.

Over the last fortnight, as if confirmation was needed, Ferguson has proven that he is clueless where tactics are concerned. It is no wonder that we have failed so many times in the Champions League and it is entirely down to the manager.

Not only that, the manager has made some serious errors of judgment, in doing so putting a season's work potentially in jeopardy. Ferguson played Rooney against Chelsea knowing that he should have been rested. We still do not know the full extent of this folly, and the next three games will provide an answer to that question.

Ferguson has been a brilliant manager and he deserves great credit for all his achievements, including bringing this current crop of players together, but I personally believe that whatever happens in Moscow, it is time for Fergie to stand down - because he is not capable of taking this team on to the next level. We need a clear tactical thinker at the helm if we are ever going to dominate in Europe as well as at home.

8 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you. Even though scholes scored the winner, he should not play in the finals. Anderson needs to start. i just hope the old man gets starts thinking with his head rather than his heart over the next 3 weeks.

    Cmon United!

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  2. A bit overly pessimistic view of the team and their performance I'd say.

    Barcelona always has a lot of possession; in the Spanish league this year they're problem has always been that they cannot really score anymore. They try to pass the ball into the goal and SAF took advantage of this over the two legs. United had the better chances in yesterdays game, and defended as well as any United side I've ever seen. I agree it wasn't pretty, and these tactics won't work against a lot of other teams, but it got the job done.

    I agree that Anderson should be on the field, but the lad is not even 20 years old yet, and we all know that SAF likes to protect his younger players.

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  3. It seems that many United fans seem to think that we played well against Barca - when clearly we were outclassed, which seems ridiculous given our collective talents at the club.

    I'm of the opinion that Fergie seriously does not understand tactics, the two substitutions backed up that up last night.

    Fergie seems to be losing the plot by the week. This week he said that we'd gotten over being knocked out in the final four. How did he arrive at that?

    He dropped a big bollock playing Rooney at the weekend. I could go on and on.

    I hope we win the thing and Fergie rides off into the sunset that would be best for all concerned.

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  4. As long as Giggs will not be in the starting lineup, I think ManU is still in full team - not playing 10 men.

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  5. Lighten up, for Christs sake. You seem to have a real problem giving any credit. For me, its well done to the players, the manager and especially the fans at Old Trafford last night. It would be great to hear that kind of noise every home game. I was right when I posted on here that Scholes should start ahead of Anderson. It was always going to be a fine line between us and Barcelona and it took a great goal to separate us. Its not the first time Scholes has scored such a goal, and Anderson is yet to score for United. End of. You have to say Fergie got it right on the night. Park Ji-Sung's athleticism was awesome and was far more effective than Giggs would have been.

    And while we are at it, how about finally giving some credit to the Glazers. They are proving to be model owners, unlike the fools running Liverpool, Man City, and Chelsea. They have backed Fergie in the transfer market every step of the way, stayed out of the limelight and the results are there for all to see - most likely 2 championships and a european cup after this season. Thats an excellent return in my book. You may think its all a house of cards about to come crashing down, but sometimes, when the stakes are as high as they appear to be, it focuses everyone on the job in hand. Congratulations all round to the club and the fans on getting to the final.

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  6. Nani had a poor game, Anderson should have started. Park had a industrious and useful performance in. Barcelona were terrible in the final third despite potentially dangerous bursts from Messi, United did well not to bring him down on one of his runs.

    However Scholes did tackle clumsily and Anderson should have taken either his or Nani's place earlier on in the game. Brown, Ferdinand, Evra and Hargreaves had a tremendous defensive performance that ultimately won United the game.

    In essence, Ferguson played this game for a 1-0, he did not ask his players to play for possession or any more goals, he placed his money on Barcelona being poor in the final third as they have been all season (leading to Madrid winning the title with such ease), and just asked his players to pack the defence as they had done against Roma.

    It was certainly a risk given the players in Barcelona and how they might have had moments of inspiration, however, he had read Barcelona's game effectively, and as you said the troubled the United goal rarely.

    All in all, a great result for United.

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  8. Apart from his goal, Scholes was pretty much a passenger - as he has been for the last few weeks.

    The goal against Barca was only his second goal of the season, but he could have scored that goal, so yes from that point of view I'm glad he was on the pitch.

    Scholes should not start the final though - not if Fergie has ambitions of winning the match.

    No one can say with any degree of certainty what the Glazers legacy will be - I have yet to hear a single financial expert say that the deal that saw them takeover the club was a good one for the long term benefit of the club.

    Only Glazer's stooges support them and I guess you come into that category - either that or you're completely and utterly naive.

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