Monday, October 26, 2009

Marriner sinks in Anfield atmosphere as Liverpool expose glaring United weaknesses...

United deservedly lost 2-0 at Liverpool on Sunday, going into the game all the talk was of crisis at Anfield, the focus was on Rafa Benitez, but when the final whistle blew the focus of attention had switched to the performance of rookie referee Andre Marriner and Manchester United, who were pretty much second best all over the pitch.

Andre Marriner is not the first referee to buckle under the pressure of the Anfield crowd and he won't be the last. It was Marriner's first really big game and he failed the test, it wasn't the fact that he sent-off Vidic and Mascherano, because he was right to do so.

Marriner was guilty of giving Liverpool too many first-half decisions, he booked Patrice Evra for his first poor tackle. In sharp contrast, Lucas committed a catalogue of equally poor challenges yet his name did not enter the referee's notebook. Dimitar Berbatov was also booked in the first-half, it was another harsh decision by an in-experienced referee.

There were other questionable decisions; Ryan Giggs was fouled inside the Liverpool penalty area, and Carragher could have been sent-off late on in the game, but Marriner gave the benefit of doubt to the home team when denying United a spot-kick and only issuing a yellow card to the Liverpool defender.

Marriner was poor throughout the game and no doubting whoever makes these appointments will argue the case for promoting an in-experienced referee in a bid to gain experience. How else will they learn?

Whatever the questionable performance of Marriner, United cannot use that as an excuse for their own shortcomings, this against a Liverpool team that had lost four games on the spin, as it turned out, it was the visitors who looked out of sorts and short of ideas.

In midfield Fergie had elected to start with Scholes and Carrick with Giggs and Valencia on the flanks. Scholes guilty of wanting too much time on the ball and he very nearly cost United in the first half when he lost possession on the half-way line.

To suggest United were totally out-played would be wrong, because they had an equal share of possession; the problem was there was no cutting edge up front. Berbatov didn't look interested and Rooney didn't look 100% match fit.

Ferguson has a major selection dilemma with this squad, he cannot realistically start with a lone striker, because none of his current first-choice forwards are best suited to playing in 451/433 formation, if he does, against a top team at any rate, the opposition will easily regain possession quickly and the ball will keep on coming back at United's midfield and defence.

Without any question the most suitable formation for this United squad is 442, however, Fergie doesn't currently have two monster central midfield players to call upon. Scholes was excellent against Stoke City recently, but on Sunday against Liverpool he was found wanting, he didn't have the legs and so it came as no surprise that Fergie eventually substituted him in the second-half.

While 442 should be Ferguson's preferred formation, until such times as Owen Hargreaves and Darren Fletcher are both fit again, the champions will struggle in central midfield in the biggest of games.

By his own admission, Fergie could have signed Adebayor in the summer and he would have given United a different dimension, the manager could then have deployed 433/451. For whatever reason, Fergie kept his powder dry and instead he signed Michael Owen on a free transfer, he will probably never admit it, but his failure to sign the former Arsenal striker must surely go down as a major missed opportunity.

Torres scored the vital opening goal midway through the second period. The value of a powerful pacey lone striker was underlined by Liverpool's Spanish star, who was a constant threat to Vidic and Ferdinand.

It was evident that United's two central defenders were wary of the Spaniard's pace throughout and so it was vital the visitors didn't concede too much ground in front of the back four, but sadly that is how the opening goal came about as Liverpool mounted a swift counter-attack. Ferdinand couldn't live with the pace of Torres and Edwin Van der Sarr went down to early at his near post instead of standing big.

The gap between the back four and a light on numbers midfield was apparent on several occasions, throughout this encounter. It came as no surprise when the champions paid the price late on when substitute Ngog hammered the final nail in United's coffin in added time.

On a day of poor performances, United's two star-men were Michael Carrick and Atonio Valencia who could have scored late on, only to his shot hit the crossbar. Carrick's passing was excellent throughout, but he couldn't do it all on his own.

On the evidence of Sunday’s poor performance, United will fall short where the big prizes are concerned this season.

6 comments:

  1. I was so annoyed to see all the themes we discussed in the preview to come to light in the game.

    The central midfield didn't dominate, and, the central defense looked frail, and the referee gave all of the 50-50 calls to the home side.

    Anyway, a long season ahead, Liverpool have already dropped many points without United needing to beat them, so Hargreaves and Fletcher should be back soon, and maybe then United will be top-class again.

    Also, Hamsik seems to be on the market this January (Chelsea will try to buy him if their ban gets lifted). A really highly-rated player, and I've seen him in the Serie A a couple of times, and he is a brilliant attacking midfielder, United should definitely swoop for him.

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  2. This is spot on vis-a-vis the Carragher challenge on Owen:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/oct/26/alex-ferguson-referees-manchester-united

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  3. Uday,

    It was all very predictable (sadly). I think to a degree we've been getting away with it in the PL this season. We deserved to be beat City, not so Arsenal and we got what we deserved on Sunday.

    Given the limitations of the squad, we cannot complain too much about individuals, but I honestly cannot see United winning any of the big prizes.

    I don't know much about Hamsik, will look out for him.

    But yes United have missed Hargreaves and Fletcher.

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  4. I am praying Hargreaves can make a large impact, but he has been out for over a year and it's not like it was a minor injury. We're putting expectations too high on someone who will probably need a full year to be back to normal. Until we have a midfield that doesn't rely on people born in the 1970's, we are going to be outclassed by the better teams there.

    Am I alone in thinking that Carrick is just a status quo midfielder? Yes, he distributes well, but they are rarely postive passes. He rarely makes cutting passes for through balls or long crosses like Scholes, but usually passes to sideways or backwards. He usually looks pretty good because he is not disposessed but almost no one gets dispossessed when passing those directions. Maybe it's just me. Perhaps if he made more of an offensive push to take pressure off of Berba or Rooney, but it seems almost like a waste of an important position.

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  5. Evgenni,

    You're about our midfield, the 70s comment is bang on.

    As for Carrick, it's fair to say I'm not his biggest fan, but when he plays ok like he did against the great unwashed on Sunday he should be given credit.

    Regarding those back-passes; it was a noticeable that both Carrick and Scholes hit more than their normal qouta of BPs. I think that was down to the Scousers putting pressure on our boys.

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