Thursday, April 30, 2009

United may well live to regret letting Arsenal off the hook...

United's first-half performance against Arsenal last night was very good, the Champions League holders took a well deserved first-half lead through the unlikely source of John O'Shea.

United could have and perhaps should have put the tie to bed by half-time. Almunia denied Ronaldo and Tevez with point-blank saves and Ronaldo hit the crossbar in the second-half, but the champions failed to score that vital second goal that would have given them confidence and a cushion ahead of the semi-final return leg next week at the Emirates.

Going into the game Arsene Wenger had promised to attack United, but Edwin van der Sar was rarely troubled, indeed the United 'keeper was at the centre of the biggest scare of the night late on when he made a schoolboy like mistake when coming for a high ball that was never going to be his following an Arsenal free-kick, as a result the clumsy Dutchman took out Rio Ferdinand who is now said to be an injury doubt for United's next game away at Middlesbrough, which could prove to be very costly for the champions.

While Arsenal lacked punch up front they did take a measure of control in midfield for much of the second-half. In the opening period the visitors had been penned back deep in their own half. Wenger's half-time team talk clearly influenced the balance of play as it was a far more even contest after the break.

For their part United's midfield trio of Carrick, Fletcher and Anderson worked hard; the latter was by far the most effective on the night so it was somewhat surprising to see the Brazilian replaced by Giggs. Fletcher was the player who should have been replaced, because frankly he was awful throughout.

To his obvious dismay, Carlos Tevez, who against the odds had started this game, was also replaced by Berbatov, not long after his introduction the Bulgarian's lack of pace was cruelly exposed when he came second in a race with Toure that he should have won comfortably.

Fergie's substitutions had barely any impact on a slightly disappointing second half which eventually fizzled out with both teams cancelling each other out.

Looking ahead to next week, United fans and the players alike will not be as confident as they should have been given the chances the Reds squandered in the first half. Arsenal can and will play an awful lot better in the return leg and the champions have yet to win at the Emirates. I personally cannot help but feel that United will have to score at least one if not two goals next week.

Player ratings:
Edwin van der Sar 3 - shocking decision making late on could potentially cost United the league and Champions League, looked slow to react at times when he needed to come off his line quickly.

Evra 4 - once again, well below his best but he did manage to pretty much keep Walcott in check

Vidic 6 - Kept Adebayor at bay, steady and dependable as ever

Ferdinand 5 - Looked a bit suspect at times and indecisive

O'Shea 5 - Scored the goal but wasn't really tested

Fletcher 3 - Huffed and puffed, gave the ball away a lot

Carrick 5 - Did okay but no more than that - can and must do better

Anderson 6 - United's star man in midfield, his surging runs with the ball impressed, faded in the second period but didn't deserve to be subbed, but United lost control of midfield for which he must take some of the blame

Ronaldo 6 - United's most dangerous attacking player, should have scored with his first half header, unlucky not to score when hitting the woodwork. Can do better and will have to next week

Tevez 5 - Worked hard as ever, unlucky not to score first-half didn't really deserve to be taken off, but Fergie needed to try to change the game..

Rooney 5 - Worked hard but didn't really put his stamp on the game.


  1. Fletcher was one of the best players on the pitch, no doubt about it.

  2. Funny how we saw his performance differently because you're not on your own, but for me he was very poor. He nearly cost United a goal in the first half and his passing was poor throughout the game.


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