Sunday, September 13, 2009

United pass Spurs test as the "lucky general" continues to shuffle pack...

Manchester United came back to win impressively against Spurs on Saturday after the champions had conceded a goal in the opening minute of what turned out to be a pulsating game in north London. It was Jermaine Defoe who opened the scoring with an acrobatic over-head kick following a Peter Crouch header, the goal came about after United had lost possession in midfield as the visitors tried to play the ball out of trouble.

At that point the millions of on-looking United fans will have feared it was going to turn out to be a mauling, because truth be told the team Ferguson had sent out will have bemused many supporters.

New signing Atonio Valencia was axed and Ryan Giggs was preferred to Nani and Park. Surprisingly, the Welshman was selected to play wide-left, but if that decision raised eyebrows, Fergie's decision to play Fletcher on the opposite flank was equally as baffling. Few people apart from those within Fergie's inner-circle will know how the manager arrives at such decisions, because we've been told umpteen times recently that Giggs no longer plays on the wing. In recent games we have seen Anderson playing left-wing with Giggs being deployed in the centre of midfield, but yesterday the roles were reversed as the Brazilian was selected alongside Paul Scholes.

The make-up of United's midfield was puzzling; selecting two veterans against high-flying Spurs was surely asking for trouble, but there was some mitigating factors on a day when the manager's tinkering was fully vindicated with a thoroughly deserved victory.

United take on Besiktas in Istanbul on Tuesday and you do wonder if Fergie had decided to rest players like Valencia ahead of that game. The decision to play Anderson instead of Carrick will raise further question marks about the manager's confidence in the former Spurs midfield star. However, Scholes will surely be benched for the trip to Istanbul and so we can probably expect Carrick to come in from the cold. The Spurs game came on the back of an international break and that could be another reason why Fergie selected Scholes and Giggs, who have both retired from the international scene.

As for Anderson, he had a decent game against Spurs as he went on to score his first goal for the club which gave United the lead before the interval, that was after Ryan Giggs had equalised with a stunning free-kick that beat Carlo Cudicini all ends up.

Giggs isn't renowned for his free-kicks, which tend to be very hit and miss, but his effort against Spurs will live long in the memory because it was technically quite brilliant. The free-kick came about after Berbatov had been brought down just outside the penalty area, but it wasn't that far out that Giggs could blast the ball knowing it would dip once it cleared the Spurs wall of defenders. The Welshman curled the ball with just enough power to clear the wall and the flailing arms of Cudicini. The Giggs effort was right out of the Zinedine Zidane scrapbook, it really was that good; it had subtlety, deftness of touch and direction, it was the perfect free-kick.

Once the champions had equalised they bossed the game and had further opportunities to score. Patrice Evra robbed Arron Lennon midway through the first period and his low cross found the feet of Rooney, but his first time effort was saved by Cudicini who then made a double save to deny Berbatov, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Despite dominating the game, United didn't have it all their own way and Peter Crouch was proving to be a big thorn in the side. The former Liverpool striker had out-jumped Rio Ferdinand and could easily have scored on a couple of occasions, the closest he came was just after half-time when another header hit Ben Foster's cross-bar. Foster had to be on his toes to make a fine fingertip save from Jermaine Jenas not long the Spurs substitute had entered the action at the break.

Paul Scholes was controversially sent-off by Andre Marriner who was having a mixed game in the middle - the referee had somehow managed to single-handedly break up two United moves when getting in the way of the ball - far worse still was his decision to issue the second yellow card to Scholes for his challenge on Huddlestone - who it should be noted was a total disgrace when feigning a facial injury when in fact there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. United might well appeal, as most fair minded observers’ would agree the second yellow card was harsh - that is unless you happen to be MOTD pundit Alan Shearer who said the decision to send off Scholes was a fair one.

Even when United were reduced to ten men they looked the more likely to score and it was nice to see Evra once again dispossessing Arron Lennon which set Rooney free down the left, but on this occasion Cudicini rescued Spurs with a good safe at the near post. However, the Italian stopper's luck ran out a few minutes later when Rooney raced through to middle as he latched on to a fine ball from Darren Fletcher and then fired home to seal the points.

Saturday's win pushed the champions into second place in the Premier League and while the performance was undoubtedly polished the result probably said more about Spurs ambitions of becoming a 'top-four' club. Spurs lost Luka Modric through injury in their last game and his absence was a factor on a day of disappointments for Harry Redknapp's team.

For their part United will be rightly delighted about the performance and the result, but there are still many question marks about the current squad. Against Arsenal at Old Trafford two weeks ago Fergie started the game with just one striker when leaving Berbatov on the bench, the champions were extremely fortunate to win that game. It is to be hoped that Ferguson continues where the team left off against Spurs because the manager had started with Rooney and Berbatov up front - but the manager's pre-season promise that the former Spurs striker would be pushed further up front was abandoned because in point of fact it was Rooney who was the focal point of United's attack.

Ferguson's inference that Berbatov could become a target-man has been greeted with scepticism - at least it was on this blog - and so far this season there has been no evidence to support Ferguson's assertion.

Ferguson left Berbatov on the bench against Arsenal, many would say this was purely down to a lack of faith in his midfield. Those questions continues will continue to be asked about United's engine room. There will also be questions about the continued use of Rooney who will eventually suffer from player burn-out, it is only a matter of when as things stand.

United needed to sign a genuine target-man this summer, an all around striker, someone who could lead the line and score goals. Adebayor wanted to sign according to Ferguson - the United manager must surely now be regretting that public admission, because Manchester City are United's next opponents in the Premier League and the former Arsenal striker has been quite superb thus far and his performances have served to highlight the value of a genuine target-man which has given Mark Hughes the option of playing five in midfield.

On Saturday City scored four goals against Arsenal, the man of that match was Adebayor who was at times un-playable. City's win over Arsenal wasn't as clear-cut as the 4-2 score-line suggested, but make no mistake the Citizens will take more points off the leading title contenders.

Against Arsenal recently United were lucky to win, they were also lucky in that Modric was injured for Spurs. There must be a very strong possibility that Ferguson could be about to get lucky again because if there's any justice Adebayor will be banned for at least three games, if not more, for his clear stamp on the face of Robin Van Persie. If Adebayor does manage to get himself banned and misses the Manchester derby, it will add further weight to the theory that Ferguson is indeed a lucky general.

There was nothing lucky about United's win over Spurs and it is be hoped the team that played so well at the weekend can repeat that performance against Besiktas and especially Manchester City, it would be very nice to become the first team to take three points off them this season. Bring it on.

13 comments:

  1. Was at the game yesterday what you failed to mention was. The two footed challange by vidick,the head butt on Defoe off the ball and the blatant diving by berbatoss,not to mention the whole team swarming round the ref trying and suceeding to get Palacios booked,also in the same instance scholes and feltcher should of been booked for desent,but don't forget your not allowed to win against united as past seasons have shown!

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  2. I appreciate the vast sum of money your Mr Ferguson paid me to save his shitty team from another thrashing at the hands of Spurs

    Apparently he does it every time his rubbish team plays Spurs

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  3. Yid,

    And what you failed to mention was your team was well beaten and by ten men for a large part of that game. Your balance was all wrong and your team couldn't overcome a team with two veteran midfield players.

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  4. Marriner was a disgrace. A good old fashioned brown envelope job. He gave united all the help they needed. He sent off scholes to try and cover his tracks. Happens all the time with them. No one will beat united with officiating like that. They would have won with five players with that ref. Disgraceful.

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  5. Insert,

    Not sure what point you're making. But in reference to large sums of money - we have bankrolled Spurs with the signing of Berbatov and Carrick, both were sold at highly inflated prices. Spurs appear to have spent that money quite well. In short Spurs have a lot to thank United and Ferguson for.

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  6. Ya, I'm excited about the City match too.

    I really think, for once Ferguson tactically outplayed Redknapp. I'm not sure but I think he played a 4-2-3-1, with Anderson and Scholes the deep-lying midfielders. And Giggs, Berbatov and Fletcher the attacking midfielders. While Rooney and Berbatove switched positions at times.

    This midfield setup allowed for swift counter-attacks, and the choking of Tottenham's play through the central midfield forcing them to make punts to Crouch, which, even if he won them, usually fell to Scholes or Anderson.

    I'm not sure, while the second yellow might have been harsh thanks to replays, I was certain that he would be red-carded. It was a fifty-fifty challenge, Scholes missed the ball, I'm certain the referee might have given a first yellow for the tackle. Both tackles were unneccessary, but its a good thing it didn't effect the result.

    Early on, I thought Giggs would be a major liability as he simply didn't have the pace to maintain counterattacks the way Rooney and Evra did. I think Evra also needs a rest, he played for France twice in the last week, and today. To me, he has been United's player of the season so far, regardless of what you might say for Rooney or Fletcher. He gave Lennon a master-class, giving Capello something to think about come a possible France-England fixture next summer.

    A superb performance by United, maybe Ferguson would like to stick with this setup for coming Premier League fixtures, although Redknapp made a huge tactical error in playing Keane on the left flank, he was anonymous the whole game, hardly giving O'Shea trouble.

    By the way, do you think Foster could have gone forward to catch the ball in the build-up to Defoe's goal. I don't know, but I somehow believe that Van der Sar would have gone for that ball and duly won it. Regardless, he made an amazing save after that and let's see how he shapes up in later games.

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  7. hahahah good responses to the blinkered Spurs fans too, I loved how United were hardly threatened despite playing the last half-hour with nine outfield players.

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  8. Uday, as ever you make some excellent points.

    With ref to United's midfield, I think Fergie had done his homework on them and had decided that he needed to cover is fullbacks; this was another reason he played Giggs and Fletcher out wide. But as you say Scholes can no longer cut it in central midfield, at least he cannot be relied upon to do that job consistently; hence the occasional run-out.

    Personally, and providing he is doing putting the work in, I'd rather see Anderson in the centre and I'd leave Giggs wide left and give him license to come inside if the need arises.

    Regarding the battle between Lennon and Evra, I think the Spurs winger was very tired, but nonetheless it was great to see Evra make up for last season. Not sure if we can read too much into any future face-offs.

    I think you are totally right about Keane on the left, I alluded to that with lack of balance comment.

    Overall Fergie did get one over on Happy Harry, but it doesn't alter the fact that there are deep underlying issues within the United squad.

    I think we are going to really struggle up front and I don't like this constant changing in midfield.

    I really don't know what will happen next weekend and in Istanbul, but nothing would surprise me. Hughes has a nice balance in midfield and City are well capable of hitting the opposition on the break with devastating effect and that's why I'm pinning my hopes on Adebayor being on the wrong end of a lengthy ban.

    Even with Adebayor United can beat City, providing they retain possession and Fergie comes up with a plan to take the ball off the former Arsenal striker. IF Hughes goes with just one striker up front he could well be handing the intiative to United and that is despite the form of Adebayor.

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  9. Stoney,

    Marriner had a very patchy game. I honestly didn't see the injustices you are referring to.

    He sent Scholes off wrongly - Huddlestone could have been booked for that disgraceful acting, but the ref missed that - that was the referee's biggest error on the day.
    He broke up two United moves.

    Crouch and Vidic had one or two clashes but that is bound to happen, but Marriner didn't miss any really big decisions that I can recall.

    The referee didn't favour either side, he was just very average plain and simple.

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  10. James Ryddel. You obviously weren't at the game so don't comment on what you don't know about. I didn't say anything about bug decisions. It was nearly every decision. Your guys pushed and shoved us around and marriner did nothing. One of our players only had to look at one of yours and he gave a free kick against us. I repeat again. Disgraceful. It's not sour grapes, it's a fact.

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  11. Stoney,

    I think your comments are way off beam.

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  12. You're right and I'm not going to disappoint you on this occasion.

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