Sunday, November 09, 2008

Did Fergie hand points to Arsenal and is Rooney set for axe?...

If you're like you me you will have been slightly concerned at the likes of Ronaldo who was quoted in the press saying that he expected to win ahead of Saturday's clash with Arsenal. It was only a few weeks ago when going into the Liverpool game at Anfield that we heard the same over-confident noises coming out of Old Trafford (and yes, if we're honest the fans expected a win too). In both games our rivals were well below full strength and yet United still ended up losing on both occasions, arguably deservedly so.

The Anfield defeat was in some ways far worse, because the manner of the reverse was quite worrying as United's midfield was virtually over-run as Liverpool powered to victory, albeit thanks to an error ridden second-half showing and a schoolboy error by Ryan Giggs, who gave the ball away in criminal circumstances which ended with Ryan Babel scoring the winner.

Going into the clash with Arsenal on Saturday, Fergie had to decide who would play right-back and who should be deployed on the left side of midfield. The choice for the right-back slot was straight-forward; Gary Neville or South American star Rafael da Silva.

Fergie went for the experience of Neville, but in my view this was the "Wizard's" biggest tactical mistake of the day. Time and time again Neville was too slow to react, Arsenal mounted several attacks down their left flank and of course it was Neville who had the misfortune to score the Gunners' crucial opening goal with a deflection.

Question; would Rafael have reacted quicker than Neville and would he have booted the ball to safety? We will of course never know, but on the evidence of what we have seen so far Rafael is much sharper and quicker to the ball than Neville, which is only to be expected given their respective ages.

Make no mistake what happened on Saturday will not be forgotten by Fergie, especially as Rafael scored a wonderful goal after coming on as a second-half substitute for Neville.

The United manager will no doubt be wondering about the wisdom of selecting a 34 year-old over the rising star that is the young Brazilian. I don't want to labour the point, but Neville didn't do much right against Arsenal, he was slow in the tackle and when he had the ball his distribution was poor. To muddy the waters even further Fergie gave the captain's armband to Neville.

The fact of the matter is the captain's armband is currently being awarded on the basis of long-service. It is not being awarded on merit through performances on the pitch. Is it not about time that Fergie ended this charade once and for all and in so doing hands over the armband to Rio Ferdinand on a permanent basis?

Wearing the captain's armband meant something in the days of Roy Keane and Steve Bruce, right now there is a bit of a leadership void in this current United team. Before anyone reminds me, yes I know it was the same team and situation that led us to domestic and European victory last season. It doesn't mean to say that the current situation is right, neither Giggs or Neville deserves to wear the armband, after glorious careers, both are heading over the hill and Fergie needs to recognise that.

My third big gripe about the defeat to Arsenal was Fergie's decision to select Park. I have nothing against the South Korean and to be fair he had one of his better games on Saturday. However, I have another question; Is Park really better than Carlos Tevez? The answer to that is an empathic NO in my view. If Fergie wanted to play 4-4-2 then why didn't he put Tevez on the left flank? The Argentine did a fine job for West Ham on the left and he started for United on the left in the Champions League final albeit in a 4-3-3. I'd venture to suggest that Tevez would do a much more effective job than Park on the left even in a 4-4-2. With Tevez, more often than not there is an end product, with Park it is all too often the opposite. I love Park's work-rate, but he is not in the same class as the Argentine.

The beauty of this current United side (when we are playing well) is the fluidity of the team. We can talk about 4-3-2 and 4-4-2 all day long, but to a very large degree we have to rely on the intelligence of the players to know when to attack and when to defend and as I've mentioned several times recently, Rooney and Tevez can play alongside Berbatov and Ronaldo providing they do their respective jobs properly. For this to happen Fergie has to play them all from the start.

The big problem as I see it at present is that the manager has it stuck in his head that he can only start with either Rooney or Tevez. This perception of Fergie's is totally and utterly wrong, what's more you can bet that Rooney is set to be axed for our next game.

Fergie is getting it wrong at present with Rooney and Tevez, his insistence on playing one or the other is only serving to upset both players and perhaps worse still, the team is not functioning as it should going forward.

Fans will often refer back to the unprecedented treble winning season of '99 (we should have done it again last season) when Fergie had four great strikers' to select from. The United manager will no doubt be retelling the story of '99 to Rooney and Tevez, citing the words, 'rest and rotation'. All well and good when the team is playing well and you're winning, but right now, the current United team are not playing as well they should be given the current squad.

One could argue that after Rooney was benched for the Bolton game he came back all the stronger, by the same token you could argue it didn't work on Saturday after being left out against Celtic last week. While blaming Fergie for poor decision making, Rooney has to take his share of the blame for missing a couple of easy goal-scoring chances on Saturday.

Fergie has to get his starting selections right and soon, because if he keeps on getting it wrong, Chelsea and Liverpool will be waving cheerio via their rear-view mirrors before Christmas. The way the team is performing and based on Fergie's baffling decision making, United are in serious danger of becoming the fourth best team in the Premier League.

If United somehow contrive to end the season in fourth place, then serious questions will need to be asked of Fergie, because the Reds did not spend £30m on a new striker to drop three places, especially given that our rivals barely stregthened at all in the summer. To me and to many others it will be almost inconceivable that United will have effectively gone backwards, but already I'm hearing United fans say "...we are not going to win anything this season".

United do not have a divine right to win anything, but given our expectation levels after all Fergie has done it is understandable that we the fans do expect yet more glory. Fergie, Fergie sort it out.

Replay the Emirates goal action here


  1. so true, Rafael for Neville would have been brilliant, even at half time i think it would hvae changed the complexion of the game. Tevez for Park though is a bit more contentious, I don't think Tevez or Rooney should ever play mid left or right, unless Ronnie isn't playing. Having 3 and a half( rooney is decent but can also be rash) players on the pitch who don't win the ball cleanly and don't help out the defence is too much of a risk, and would unbalance the side to much. I would rather see Nani, Park or Giggs on the left, and Tevez and Rooney up front in the centre. Berbatov isn't all that important if we aren't dominating possession and overwhelming oppositions with our passing game.

  2. Quieroz was Fergie's tactical brain, without him he is in trouble! Look at te year Quieroz spent at Madrid also, and then check the results for the same year. Leaving the highly inefferctive Berbatov in, and bringing on the explosive Tevez only at the end was a bad mistake. Regarding the Brazillian left back, bear in mind he came on when attack was needed. If he had to defend against Nasri, he might have done worse than Neville.
    Fergie is not a great tactician, he is a great motivator, and needs a top tactcian by his side!

  3. Glad we agree on Rafael..

    IMO, Tevez would do a more effective job on the left than any of the players you have mentioned, and that includes Giggs.

    Nani suffers from the same problems as Park, in that his passing and final ball are not good enough. Tevez is a grafter and a creator, just like Rooney.

    Also as I alluded to in my post, the formation would be flexible and it would allow for either Rooney dropping back into central midfield or Tevez filling in on the left when the need arises.

    I accept that it is a game of opinions though...

  4. Although he was only on the field for a short while, Rafael's tackling was far more effective than Neville's, who was skinned on a few occasions. Rafael made one superb tackle on the wing, the boy can play if only Fergie stops messing around gives him games from the start.

    As for the point about Queiroz, I'm not sure that I totally agree that tactics were his biggest asset to United. I saw Queiroz as being instrumental in keeping harmony with our Portuguese and Brazilian stars. That said, I have little faith in people like Mike Phelan.

    The worry is Fergie is making basic mistakes, leaving out Neville at the stage of his career is a no brainer for me.

  5. Well said Mate !!! Many ManU supporters are in a dream world that they have a world beating team and no one can beat them ....this season has been poor to say the least and to say we will have a roaring second half of the season is making it ridiculous seems SAF when has a lots of players in hand to pick doesnt know to pick the best XI

  6. Beautiful football match, 2 top attacking teams, a joy to watch! No wonder about a billion people watch this match, the best club match in the world, rivalled only by Barca-Madrid!

  7. I think some of the comments by Man U fans are misplaced.

    I am an Arsenal fan, and believe that United created the more clear-cut chances in the game, but did not take them. Its as simple as that.

    To blame Fergie in any way for the result is absurd.

    In a big game like Arsenal v Man U, a manager is always going to go for his more experienced battle hardened fullback, especially away from home. Park did not have a bad game - great dummy for Rooney, he also had to be taken down cynically by Sagna when he was in full flow.

  8. I don't expect an Arsenal to appreciate how absurb Fergie's selection policy has been so far this season because you don't follow United.

    I've already mentioned Rooney missing chances, if he'd taken them then maybe there wouldn't be so much of a focus on who has been left out and who has started, but all the points raised are valid.


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