Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jaded United allow Liverpool off hook and leave Fergie in search of answers...

United have become so accustomed to winning at Anfield these days that we now expect to win, whereas in years gone by it was the other way around, so losing by the odd goal in three as we deservedly did was something of a shock. The result has given United fans and Ferguson in particular a lot to think about regarding selection issues.

Going into the game which is always fiercely contested, many were looking forward to seeing Dimitar Berbatov making his United debut. After just three minutes the Bulgarian started to repay the huge transfer fee invested him when he set-up Carlos Tevez for a trademark thunderbolt from the edge of the Liverpool area after neat work by the former Spurs star. At that early point in the game United fans will have thinking it wasn't so much a question of are we going to win today, but by how many. It was the perfect start for the Champions; the Kop had been left in silence and shock at how easily their back-four had been breached.

Sadly, apart from some nice football in the opening 25 five minutes and another Carlos Tevez chance that should been converted, from then on it was all downhill. After that opening period the Reds were simply not in the game and when we had possession, all too often it was gifted back to the home team.

Edwin van der Sar had an absolute stinker and looked suspect on a number of occasions. Every time the ball was passed back to the Dutchman, which was all too frequent, United fans hearts would have collectively skipped a beat. In fact it was all too reminiscent of years gone by when we United fans joked about Liverpool using the pass-back, but such was the pressure being exerted on the visitors that they had to play it back to van der Sar - whose kicking isn't good.

It didn't come as a total shock when the United 'keeper gifted Liverpool an unlikely way back into this game when he made another error of judgement when failing to deal effectively with a low cross. As a result of the Dutchman's stupidity, Wes Brown had the misfortune of scoring another United own goal at Anfield which seems to be a habit these days.

If van der Sar's schoolboy error was bad, second-half substitute Ryan Giggs was even worse when he failed to put the ball out for a corner, instead he criminally lost possession on the United by-line as Babel went on to win the game for Liverpool.

After the game the United manager was quick to highlight where it all went wrong. United could not tackle and Liverpool wanted the victory more with their players collectively getting first to the ball all over the park.

Scholes in particular looked very tired and couldn't cope with Liverpool's industry, the Ginger one wasn't so much a prince today but a passenger. It wasn't just Scholes who was off-key, and no excuses for him about being tired from international duty. Rooney, who did extremely well for England against Croatian did not play well in his new position of right-wing and here again the impending return of Ronaldo will give Fergie a lot to consider.

United lacked pace up front today and of course the inclusion of Ronaldo will solve that problem at a stroke. More worryingly for Ferguson is how best to accommodate Berbatov, Rooney and Tevez, because as we saw today the Red Devils midfield could not cope and on too many occasions we were second to the ball.

Apart from his part in the opening goal Berbatov did not instil a great deal of confidence that United have at last found the answer to their striker problems, but it is of course very early days.

Going off what we saw today Ferguson has some big issues to resolve. How much longer can he keep faith with Scholes in the engine room? What to do about van der Sar, is he becoming error prone at the age of 37?
Who will make way for the returning Ronaldo?

Ferguson will be very concerned about the result and in particular the manner of this reverse, because collectively United were rank bad from front to back, only Tevez and Ferdinand came out of the game with any degree of credit the rest were average to poor at best.

The fixture computer has not been kind to the Champions and following the late sending-off of Vidic, United may well have a mountain to climb following a difficult looking away trip to Chelsea who we face next in the league.

There will no doubt be many clowns in the press and the media who will write-off United, just like they did last season, they do so at their peril. Ferguson has the tools to do the job, the trick is finding the right balance and it needs to happen prompto.

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