Thursday, November 26, 2009

Obertan outshines Macheda and Welbeck, but what has happened to Rafael as Besiktas end Euro run..

Ferguson wasn't too upset about Besiktas ending United's 23 game unbeaten Champions League run at Old Trafford. The United manager doesn't get that many opportunities to play his youngsters' but having already qualified for the knockout stage the champions only needed a point to cement their place at the top of Group B. However, all good things come to an end eventually, and on this occasion Besiktas won courtesy of Tello's first-half long-range speculative strike that took a deflection off Rafael.

Following last night's defeat and with only one game left Ferguson must now face up to the possibility of finishing second in the group because Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow are level on seven points apiece, with United leading the group on 10 points.

Finishing top of the group is by no means any guarantee of an easy tie in the next round; last season United finished top but still ended up facing Inter Milan. However, on this occasion and in a worst case scenario, United could face Barcelona or Real Madrid, both look likely to win their respective groups. On the flip side, if United win or draw in Germany on December 8th they could be drawn against either of the Milan clubs. Whatever the outcome of United's next Champions League fixture, you do wonder if Fergie will regret not fielding a stronger starting XI against Besiktas. Let us hope that won't turn out to be the case.

As for the performance against Besiktas, it was a very mixed night with the youngsters' getting another opportunity to shine. As expected United had the lion’s share of possession but they came up against a well organised Besiktas team who performed at the top of their game. Tello scored the vital goal midway through the opening period and frankly United should have been two-nil down not long after following the best move of the game that ended with Fink hitting the outside of Ben Foster's post, when he should have scored.

At the other end, without any shadow of doubt United's best performer was Obertan. The jury has been very much out on the Frenchman since his summer signing, but he showed glimpses of real promise when taking on two and three opponents at a time and often beating them.

One of the most annoying aspects of the media is the constant and all too often inappropriate comparisons with star names, both past and present. Obertan isn't the next Ronaldo, Ryan Giggs or the next Thierry Henry (who would want to be compared with him right now?). Obertan is very different to anyone we've seen playing for United, he isn't at all like Park or Valencia, without doubt he is more skilful than the South Korean and the Ecuadorian. While Park and Valencia offer industry and old fashioned wing play, Obertan brings trickery and a more thoughtful brand of attacking play. Obertan has excellent balance and could turn out to be a good buy, but it is very early days and no one at Old Trafford will be getting too excited at this stage.

While Obertan impressed it was a very mixed night for the likes of Danny Welbeck who continues to look good on occasion, but then spoils it when electing to shoot when team-mates are better placed for a pass; this has been a common occurrence in every game he has featured for the first-team. If Welbeck is going to make it, then someone needs to get a grip of him and tell him in no uncertain terms where he is going wrong.

While Welbeck often makes the wrong decision, in sharp contrast, his striker partner Macheda more often than not played the right ball, and to feet without any fuss. Against Besiktas it was the Italian who looked the more accomplished striker and the most likely to go on at the highest level.

On a night of few genuine goal scoring opportunities as far as the champions were concerned it was a difficult night in front of goal, but credit to Besiktas for that. United's pressure eventually carved open the visitors late on in the game and only two good saves from veteran stopper Rustu denied the home team a share of the points.

To little effect, the senior trio of Michael Owen, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra came on when replacing the totally ineffective Park, Gibson - who had a quiet game - and Rafael.

Perhaps most perplexing of all is the form of Rafael, granted last night he was playing in the unfamiliar role of left-back, but it is as if the young Brazilian is a different player to the one that burst onto the scene last season.

Rafael made a big impression with his attacking wing-play, and while questions were asked about his defensive ability, it seems United's coaches may well have over-coached the Brazilian because frankly now he looks like a shadow of the player he was when he first arrived, he looks ordinary now, so much so that some will be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Whatever United's backroom team have been telling Rafael, something needs to be done to reinstill his attacking instincts, because without it he is going backwards on the evidence of his recent outings, which admittedly have been limited.

Next up, United travel to bottom of the table Portsmouth, anything less than three points should be viewed as nothing short of a total disaster.


  1. Erm, Rafael's just back from injury? Give the guy a chance before dismissing him as a shadow of the player of last season for crying out loud!

    Complete overreaction regarding Welbeck as well, he's a young lad who'll learn as he continues to get more experience, no-one needs to 'get a grip' of him.

  2. hi long time!

    im not one to brag, but i remember in the summer when we signed this fella everyone had doubts about him because we got him so easily and on the cheap. on top of that Blanc made some bizzare comments about him. but the boys class has always been evident, he needed the right club and manager to guide in the right path and the is none better than fergie. im gonna predict he will get better and better as the season goes. to think we only paid 3mil for him is incredible and could be potentially on the steals ever if he ever does fulfil his potential.

  3. It's ludicrous to suggest that SAF will regret fielding a weakened team if we come second and draw a big club - as you pointed out in the sentence before it will be completely down to the luck of the draw. If we come first and draw a big club anyway will we regret fielding too strong a team in the games we won!?

  4. Tony,

    You could be right. I've been known to rush to judgement, sometimes prematurely when I've written off players. I'm honestly not sure about any of the young lads who played last night. When Obertan missed that sitter recently I feared we'd bought another duffer, but he was good last night. Time will tell.

  5. Geeceeree.

    NO your scenario is ludicrous. You can only have regrets when you had the chance to field a strong side but then select a weakened team as he did last night.

    There's nothing Fergie can do whatever happens as regards the draw. But, my point is this. If United go out to Madrid or Barca then Fergie Will surely have regrets. The point being he COULD have avoided those two clubs.

    Whatever happens in the draw we aren't going to win it, even Fergie believes that because he's already made Barca favourites... even more of a reason to finish top!

  6. Nick,

    IF Rafael isn't fit enough to play then he shouldn't be playing. The point is, he is fully fit.

    If you cannot see the changes in his game then you're watching a different game.

  7. Nick,

    As regards Welbeck, here again if you haven't noticed this glaring weakness in his game then you too are watching a different game. As I've already stated I'm not sure about any of those youngsters.

    Fergie has made a habit of building up these young lads then offloading them for a tidy profit, I can see the likes of Welbeck following the same path especially if he doesn't improve and quickly.

    IMO Campbell was a better bet, but he is now history.

  8. James,

    He couldn't plan to avoid these clubs, as he couldn't have predicted prior to last night's game that either of them would top their group, and it's still not certain now!

    So given the uncertainty, much better to take the chance to blood the younger fringe players.

  9. G,

    IF and it's a big IF, United end up going out when losing to Barca or Real Madrid, Fergie will look like an utter pillock. I don't think that will happen as I fully expect them to get a result in Germany. If we lose to anyone else in the next round then there's nothing more than Fergie could have done (hopefully).

  10. I don't actually understand why everyone says that "United has already qualified for the knockout stage".

    In the worst case scenario, Wolfsburg beats United and CKSA beats Besiktas. The latter is likely, and the first possibility is not that unlikely. Then it will be down to goal difference and United can potentially finish 3rd.

  11. Fruitless,

    Read this:

  12. James - I see no changes to Rafael's game at all. He was excellent against Everton on Saturday and only replaced because a) he's on his way back from injury (and I don't care what you say, it's not as simple as players instantly becoming fully fit after injuries, be realistic), and b) they shifted Fellaini over to play against him, who's always going to be superior in the air. The only other games he's started have been in central midfield and at left-back, alien positions for him, so please tell me, how exactly have you come to the conclusion that he's a shadow of the player he was last season? That's a ridiculous statement to make.

  13. Fruitless, the reason it'd have already qualified is because it comes down to head to heads. They have beaten and drawn with cska which is why even if they lose to Wolfsburg they will still go thru in 2nd!

  14. I always thought goal difference comes first before head-to-head records, but I guess I was wrong.

  15. Nick,

    First, I think we have to get away from the notion that Rafael would be allowed to play if he wasn't fit, he quite obviously is fit, but I will agree there's a difference between being fit and being 100% match fit. And yes, only playing time help as far as the latter is concerned.

    To explain my point further. I have a slight concern that United's "coaching team" have over-coached the young Brazilian, in a bid to curb his attacking instincts, so much so that they may have taken too much away from him, that is what I'm very clearly saying....

    Rafael has come nowhere near the level of performance we saw from him in his early days. A case in point was that fabulous goal he scored against Arsenal - has he actually had a decent effort on target since then? I don't remember any.

    Whereas before he was attacking at will, he is now more likely to sit back. I'm fairly convinced he's under orders to stay back more. I'd also add that Evra is now United's most attacking fullback.

    My comments are fully justified.

  16. with rafael, lets all relax, the boy is 18,19? very young, at that age players are inconsistent, so i wouldnt worry too much. i will also add, welbeck will come good, just turned 19 yesterday. look at flecther, he is a clear example of why we should give these young players time. i remember when most united fans had enough of flecther and now you could argue along with evra, he has been our best player.

  17. Tony,

    Like I've already stated, I'm really not sure/convinced about any of these young players.

    But I'll be surprised if either Welbeck or Macheda are still United players in three years time.

    Being a good player isn't enough to keep you at Old Trafford as many a young player has discovered and possibly with the exception of Pique in recent times has Fergie been proven wrong. With that said Pique wanted out too I believe, so the getting it wrong bit is subjective to a point.

    Regarding Rafael, I'm totally convinced the backroom team and or some senior players have been bending his ear, because he isn't attacking as much as he was. Maybe it would help Rafael if we was given a regular starting place behind Valencia who is quite good at tracking back?

    As for Fletcher. He's come on, but he's nowhere near the level we have become accustomed to in central midfield - our standards have dropped in that respect.

    You're right about Evra, he has been the player of the year so far, but Giggs has done well too.


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