Sunday, October 04, 2009

Rooney looks knackered as United steal point: Fergie ref fitness carping ill-timed

Manchester United were made to fight hard for a point at Old Trafford on Saturday in the early evening kick-off, and once again the champions came back strongly late in the game, but on this occasion they had to settle for a point thanks to Aton Ferdinand who deflected Patrice Evra's injury-time effort into his own goal.

Sunderland had raced into an early well deserved first-half lead through Darren Bent; for their part United were very disjointed, and worryingly, Wayne Rooney was particularly disappointing throughout.

Recent encounters between the champions and Sunderland have rarely been memorable, but Saturday's second-half action was especially absorbing, just five minutes after the break Dimitar Berbatov brought United level with one of the most secular goals of the season. The Bulgarian striker scored with a bicycle-kick from an excellent John O'Shea cross.

From that point on it looked like it was only a matter of time before United scored a vital second goal, but against the run of play the visitors broke away and took the lead, this time thanks to a Kenwyne Jones header following an excellent cross from Andy Reid.

Going into the game Ferguson had elected to make several changes to the starting eleven that won in midweek against Wolfsburg; out went Rio Ferdinand along with the man-of-the-season so far, Ryan Giggs, and Ben Foster was restored in goal.

Of the changes, the decision to leave out Giggs was entirely in-keeping with Ferguson's policy of resting his ageing midfield generals. As for resting Ferdinand, the United manager gave two plausible reasons, "he's played three games on the trot and he is likely to play in England's two games this week".

It was a sensible decision to leave out Ferdinand given his well documented injury problems; with Owen out injured and Macheda seemingly out in the cold, it's such a pity that the manager doesn't have another first-class striker to call upon so that Rooney could be rested too.

Against Sunderland Rooney was jaded and off the pace, he gave away possession cheaply more or less ever time the ball went near him. However, much credit should be given to Steve Bruce's players who worked hard at closing down United all over the pitch.

Rooney could easily have found himself in disciplinary trouble for what looked like a clear attempted stamp on an opponent. In his post-match comments, Fergie attacked the fitness of referees' in general - which is fair comment - but on reflection and when the manager sees a replay of Rooney's spiteful kick, he might take the view that he should be thanking referee Alan Wiley, rather openly attacking him.

While Fergie's carping about the general standard of referee fitness is valid, his timing was bonkers. United recently won against City deep into injury time, they nicked a point yesterday in injury time - notwithstanding the fact that on both occasions the officials were totally vindicated regarding the amount of added time, there must be a serious danger that sooner or later one of the men in the middle will take revenge on United and the manager by calling time early when the champions are chasing the game.

Part of the problem is manager's talking to the media immediately following the white-hot heat of battle, Fergie's views on the standard of referees' fitness would be viewed more constructive if they were made in general terms and not in the wake of action.

Fergie's comments aside, the main talking points from this game are likely to once again focus on the performance of Ben Foster; some pundits are claiming the England 'keeper could have done better with both of Sunderland's goals.

However, my opinion is credit should on this occasion be given to the opposition strikers, as both goals were well taken and well worked. Nonetheless, Foster looked shaky yesterday and as early as the opening minutes there appeared to be a lack of communication between the 'keeper and Vidic. Every time the ball goes back to Foster, you can feel a sense of nervous apprehension, because Foster isn't instilling any confidence when coming off his line, his kicking is suspect, especially with his right foot. The jury is very much out on Foster and you do wonder how much longer Ferguson will keep faith.

The performance of Nani gave yet more ammunition to his many detractors. At one point in the game his stats read 6 attempted cross 0 delivered. Like Foster, you wonder how much longer Nani will be a United player.

Danny Welbeck was given a rare starting place, but did little to suggest he deserved to.

It wasn't all bad, but choosing the man-of-the-match would have been a tough decision from a United perspective, Patrice Evra would have received my vote.

United didn't play well against Sunderland, but in the end they could have snatched a victory which says a lot about the champions because even when they're playing below their best they can still take something from a game in which the opposition played well.

United have recently come through their sternest of tests to date with wins against, Arsenal, Spurs and City, but the next two Premier League away games at Liverpool and Chelsea, will provide the ultimate domestic challenge - let us hope Rooney is back to his very best.


  1. Ahh, United are beginning to stagnate, really disappointing to see. I was hoping Sunderland might even win so Ferguson would be a bit shaken up and reset in a way.

    Everyone would love Rooney to play every game, but you were right, he was completely anonymous, Nani wasn't but I wish he was. Welbeck wasn't poor at all, but the central midfield wasn't dominating.

    But hats off to Evra, he makes United look extremely good, even when the rest of the team looks rather disinterested. He more than Giggs, for me is the player of the season so far. Giggs assists are telling, but most United pressure if you notice is focused up the left flank, which coincidentally Giggs also has been employed on, and has made good link-up play with the Frenchman. But we never see any gaps when teams try to attack, the best left-back in the League if not the world (say what you want about Ashley Cole, but he needs someone to take his position whenever he attacks)

    I think United expected Sunderland to roll over, at least thats what it looked like. I was extremely disappointed.

  2. Nani was terrible the first half, if not most of the game. At one point he had the ball in the left corner and I paused the recording and said to myself:

    A) He will be dispossesed of the ball;


    B) He will fall over at the end of the play.

    I pressed play and realized that I was too stupid to come up with an option C): Both A and B.


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