Thursday, August 06, 2009

Fergie no nearer solving striker conundrum as big kick-off looms large...

United were in action last night in another pre-season friendly as the champions ran out two-nil winners over Valencia at Old Trafford, the star of the show was Antonio Valencia who helped to create a glut of goal scoring opportunities. Michael Owen spurned four good chances, but he was eventually replaced by Macheda on the hour. Wayne Rooney and youngster Tom Cleverly were on target as the Reds enjoyed another useful work-out.

While Fergie will have been delighted with his new signings, the most serious pre-season test will come this weekend when United take on Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley. Ahead the traditional curtain-raiser to the season proper Fergie is still without Nemanja Vidic which must now be a major concern for the United manager. Edwin van der Sarr is also out with a broken finger, but the champions have decent cover in the form of Ben Foster.

Injury problems aside, the most intriguing questions about the new United, post Ronaldo and Tevez, concern how Ferguson will set about re-shaping his team. We have been told that United will play a different way this season, no one (including Fergie one suspects) knows what this actually means, because prior to the Valencia clash Rooney and Owen hadn't featured on the pitch at the same at any point during pre-season, let alone been paired together in tandem as the main strike pairing.

However, last night Owen and Rooney were up front for United and the conclusion is Fergie is still tinkering with his forward-line in search of the most productive combination. It begs the question, who will play up front against Chelsea on Sunday and what will the United formation be?

With Owen being withdrawn on the hour against Valencia it seems almost certain that he will get the nod to start against Chelsea. As for the champions formation, given Chelsea's power in midfield and knowing that Fergie is unlikely to dare to play 442, it's a knocking bet United fans can look forward to Wayne Rooney playing wide left again with Antonio Valencia on the opposite flank in a 433 formation.

Ferguson isn't renowned for his tactical nouse and so can the fans look forward to more of the same regarding tactics ; will United play differently this coming season? For the toughest looking games, Rooney could once again find himself on the left flank; there will also no doubt be question marks about the strength of United's central midfield, as exposed by Barcelona in the Champions League final.

We cannot rule out that Ferguson will surprise us all by opting for a different formation in a bid to get the maximum from his squad, but so far this summer there's been no signs of that actually happening, so chances are we can expect more of the same.

Prestige aside, Sunday's result means little, but onlookers will be looking for signs that Ferguson does indeed have a post-Ronaldo plan, because it's one thing to write off rivals like Liverpool and Manchester City, quite another proving it on the pitch where off the field talking counts for nothing.

United know what to expect from Chelsea and the fact that Fergie is still striving to find his strongest team is no bad thing in some ways; the players will be only too aware that places are up for grabs, so players like Macheda will no doubt be relishing the opportunity to prove that he is worthy of a starting place.

I personally expect United to come off second best on Sunday, but it could be an interesting game if Macheda enters the scene and he is given enough time to show what he is capable of.

7 comments:

  1. Its pre season thats why he keeps mixing and changing the forward line. Rooney and berba will start up front, no doubt. (shame cause the more i see rooney up front the more ineffective he looks, i prefer the role he had in the 433 formation) Owen missed great chances but i was impressed with his sharpness and runs he made in order to have the chances.

    Now valencia, this guy is a beast, i know its pre season but i have been hugely impressed. i knew he was good technically and had great strength but didn't realize he was so fast!

    Lets not forget about obertan who is an extremely exciting player to watch, immature at times but in time will be great(pretty much like the young cr7). Hargreaves return will be like a new signing, so relax im sure we will cope domestically. But i will say i really doubt we will be a threat in the cl this year.

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  2. "Its pre season thats why he keeps mixing and changing the forward line" ....that's one way of putting it.

    I'll wager you sportsman's bet Berbatov starts on the bench and it'll be Rooney on the left with Owen down the middle and Valencia on the right...

    As for Atonio Valencia, it will be very interesting to see how he gets on against Ashley Cole, I suspect they will cancel each other out and if that happens United might well struggle to create openings.

    I'm not that bothered about Sunday's result but I will be looking for evidence in relation to how United will perform differently this season - I'm expecting no changes at all in point of fact, which is what I've been posting ever since Fergie vowed to make changes.

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  3. Tony,

    I forgot to add that I'm slightly concerned about Obertan because Blanc, among others, has questioned certain aspects of his attitude...

    I'm more excited about prospects like Adem Ljajić and Davide Petrucci.

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  4. Obertan has been followed by fergie since he was 16/17, so i trust his judgment in terms of his footballing ability. Everyone has their own views but i personally like players with a bit of personality about them. The sort of attitude that thinks 'no one likes me and i don't care'. In football that sort of attitude has made many of the great players (Maradona, cantona, young zidane, c.ronaldo there are many other cases). The same was said about van persie's attitude when he joined arsenal(they got him for 3mil!). If anyone can get this boy to sort his head out and reach his potential its fergie.

    If fergie does play owen upfront with rooney and valencia supporting him, i will be really surprised as he has been playing 442 all summer and has stated we will be playing a different system this season.

    Valencia v Cole...if the lad has a bad game against cole i won't be too worried as Ronaldo never in my eyes got the better of cole. I can't even remember ronaldo having a great game against chelsea. The only winger iv see roast cole is Lennon.

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  5. Tony,

    With ref to Obertan, time will tell, but this is without the lad's biggest ever chance and so his future is in his own hands, but in over 40 years of following United I don't recall the manager of a selling club ever questioning a player's attitude...which concerns me.

    So I take it our little sportsman's bet is on then? :0)

    Fergie won't dare play 442 on Sunday and if he did who would play on the left?

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  6. I reckon he will play Giggs,Carrick,Flecther,Valencia in midfield. Giggs will start on the left but will float into the middle quite a lot. If he doesn't play 442 he is in my eyes showing too much respect to Chelsea by changing his system. If he plays 451, surely he will play Rooney as the lone striker after all the pleas by Wayne. With Anderson being added to the midfield and Giggs playing off Rooney.

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  7. Tony,

    I actually cannot remember the last time Fergie played 442 against Chelsea....I don't see it happening on Sunday, but we shall see.

    The thing is Fergie knows that Chelsea have two attacking fullbacks and so he needs to ensure whoever plays left side of midfield doesn't end up getting exposed by two attacking players - this is why he's been using Rooney out wide - but as you say he could just as easily use Giggs in a 442..

    So you think it will be Berbatov and Rooney up front? I say Berbatov will be on the bench...

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