Sunday, January 03, 2010

United fail to rise to FA Cup challenge of third division Leeds and deservedly pay price....

Earlier this season Manchester United were humbled by Burnley at Turf Moor, the champions had few complaints about that 1-0 reverse on that occasion. It was a defeat that hurt, not least because Burnley have spent so much time out of the top flight - the Lancashire club are essentially a lower division outfit. Today United were pitched against our old rivals, the 'once famous' but now League One club Leeds United, in the third round of the FA Cup.

On paper it should have been a miss-match, given there is 42 league places between the two teams, however, as so often has been the case down the years the FA Cup produces upsets. That is precisely what happened at Old Trafford today as Leeds United deservedly knocked out the champions thanks to Jermaine Beckford's strike on 19 minutes.

For many die-hard fans' the Burnley defeat earlier on in the season hurt like hell, but it almost pales into insignificance with what happened today at Old Trafford, given the history between the two clubs.

No matter that Leeds are a Premier League club playing in the wrong division, what hurt today was the fact for far too long United didn't have the know-how and technique to unlock a well organised Leeds defence. Perhaps even worse, players like Berbatov had no stomach for a fight. At one point during the second-half, the Old Trafford crowd gave a huge ironic cheer when the Bulgarian actually won a ball, as far as he was concerned on too many occasions the former Spurs striker was second best in every half-hearted challenge. It is getting to the stage when Ferguson must surely now be considering how much longer he can persevere with a player who clearly lacks any appetite for the fight - despite the odd pass, Berbatov simply doesn't do enough to warrant a starting place.

But that's a big part of the problem facing the United manager. Ferguson has limited options in Michael Owen, plus two young strikers in Welbeck and Macheda and none of them are the perfect foil for the only genuine world-class forward at the club in Wayne Rooney.

Today against what is a third division club, Manchester United were well beaten at home at Old Trafford, it really doesn't get much worse than that, but if you analyse the manner of the defeat, then Ferguson's team were pretty much second best in every department for far too long in what turned out to be a well contested cup tie.

At the back, we had the potential nightmare vision of the future with no Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and first choice 'keeper. There's long-term fears about Ferdinand's ability to carry on playing at the highest level. Vidic is the subject of intense transfer speculation, with a mooted move to Real Madrid beckoning this summer and the word is Ferguson is resigned to losing his toughest and most reliable central defender. If that moves comes to fruition, it will be nothing short of a disaster for United, because as we saw today those tasked with stepping into the Serbian's boots are simply not good enough. Wes Brown was selected after being drafted into the team when Vidic pulled out prior to kick-off.

In point of fact Ferguson completely re-shuffled the back four that won so handsomely against Wigan last time out. Gary Neville came in and replaced Rafael at rightback, but Neville along with Brown was guilty of poor positional play when they were both caught square as United's defence was beaten far too easily by a simple ball over the top and down the middle, Beckford took his chance well, but there are huge question marks against the whole of the United's back four today.

Admittedly, what was essentially a new defence was always going to be tested by an in-form Leeds, but collectively they were disappointing. Jonny Evans played alongside Brown and although the Northern Ireland international has been out injured, he didn't have a good game, the worry is this could well be Fergie's first choice central defensive pairing of the future.

Fabio came in for Evra at leftback, the young Brazilian did ok at times, but most of the Leeds attacks were initiated from their right flank and it has to be said, both United's fullbacks were given little protection by Welbeck and Obertan who were selected to start on the left and right wings.

If United were poor at the back, it was the same in midfield and up front. Gibson was selected in midfield and bluntly, he is too slow and for this reason it is doubtful he has a long-term future at United.

Anderson was the pick of United's midfield, at least he showed a degree of fight and spirit - he didn't deserve to be substituted for Michael Owen in the second-half. Quite how Berbatov remained on the pitch for the whole game beggars belief.

Rooney huffed and puffed up front, in what was largely a one man effort. Wellbeck had a decent second-half chance, but he was denied by a somewhat lucky save by the Leeds 'keeper, who it has to be said didn't have much to do all game.

Rooney was poor in front of goal - he was guilty of failing to hit the target on numerous occasions. Owen and Berbatov had chances too, but it was one of those games and with 70 minutes gone United fans could see the writing on the wall.

Giggs and Valencia came on and replaced the ineffective Welbeck and Obertan, the latter started brightly but faded, Welbeck showed a couple of decent touches but ultimately, like the French youngster he didn't do enough.

Valencia looked the most likely to create a chance and so he did when he brilliantly pulled a ball back for Michael Owen, who sadly once again displayed his propensity to completely miss the ball with the goal at his mercy from just six yards out.

Ferguson must shoulder some of the blame for today's shambolic performance and defeat. He was guilty of making the wrong calls both in the starting eleven and with his substitutions.

Prior to today's game with Leeds we'd been told that the youngsters' will face Man City in the Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday, but then the manager sprang one or two 'surprises' when he sent out a mixture of youth and experience to face Leeds - it has backfired spectacularly and now the fans' are left to wonder exactly what the wizard will do for his next trick in midweek? There's no doubting United are blowing hot and cold and there's no doubting players like Tevez will be itching to rub Fergusons' big red nose in it at Eastlands.

Standby for more fireworks; the next few fixtures could be very interesting and with the danger of being labelled as a negative scaremonger, and as I posted prior to today, January could well be a pivotal month on the domestic front. Will United start to implode, or will they come good 'as they always do in the second-half of the season'? Don't bet on the latter is my advice....


  1. You were beaten by better tactics and strategy, just like you were at Burnley.

    Burnley basically a championship outfit? You're talking rubbish mate. Typical United fan! :)

  2. Ryan,

    You've missed the point. Burnley are a lower division CLUB (Whether they like to admit that or not, but I think an honest Burnley fan would agree with that), like I said we deserved to get beaten on BOTH occasions. United were well beaten today, I thought that was made plain in the headline..

  3. A very honest article and impressive when you think hat it has come from a Man U fan. I'll put that mishap perhaps down to family influence.

    You are right when you said you were well beaten. I thought Leeds always looked more dangerous and they coould of had a few more to boot an dbeen out of site. The also seemed to play with far greater pace than you lot and if you look at their movement, then you'll realise why they are where they are in the league.

    Grayson has really taiught these guys the value of creating space to receive a pass and Manure just lokked asa if you thought that they weren't worthy of the respect of man marking.

    As a spurs fan I am used to thsee types of result so I am happy to see you out of the cup. This also appeases some of my anger for tapping up players the way AF does(I'll never call him Sir)

    Carrick was our engine, Berba sucks anyways, so you screwed yourselves there, one or two mor elosses in the league and I can see Arsenal winning the title.

    From a spurs fan it'll sound strange that that would be the way I'd rather have it.

    Conrats to Leeds and every player that made a difference.

    We'll see you at the lane in a couple of weeks. Let's hope that our midfield specials can keep firing.

    Kranjcar? 2.5 million? He must be of more value of every man U player on the pitch y/day excpet maybe wayne.

    Let's see you try and tapp him up.


    In all honesty, very good article. Pleased tp hear something objectice from the other side of the fence

  4. I must say, how you can blame the defeat on SAF blows my mind. He put out what I thought was an exceptionally strong team for the match. The team simply failed to play well. Nothing more can be said.

    I would not blame this on SAF. I would let the blame fall squarely on the players. And with this being said, I think that this gets to what I have been saying earlier about purchasing players, we should'nt do it so we truly learn what we need.

    For example, much to my dismay, I think Gibson's lack of pace truly told. Furthermore, his inability to consistently hit the target with his powerful shot showed to when he failed to put his volley from the top of the area on target. He has ability, but maybe what you say is true: not enough in the end.

    Another point that I hate to say, maybe the game showed that Neville has seen better days. Rafael is young. Giving the young Brazilian the opportunity to play down the right would have helped. I think no one can dispute, Neville cannot get down the flank the way Rafael can. Thus, when we play lower opposition we should be able to get at, let Rafael have a go--even if it means two to three games in one week. If he can't do it at this age, when will he? And isn't the ability to do it consistently and frequently the making of a true United player?

    On another note as it pertains to Welbeck, he is a striker. He has the ability to play out on that left or right wing, but he excels further up the pitch. Thus, I find it a bit unfair on the young man because when plays he rarely gets a run out in his preferred position.

    As it goes for Obertan, he failed to do what he should today. The one thing that frustrates me with him is this, I think no doubt exists as to his talent and pace. Thus, why he does not play more direct? He goes side-to-side to much for my liking. But I think that can be attributed to his youth. Hopefully that can be remedied because he has the ability to be truly dangerous.

    Ultimately, while my comments about indicate some criticism as to SAF's choices, let us not be fooled. The players are to blame.

  5. Bullers.

    Thanks. PS, I'll forgive the crass the ref to "Manure" on this occasion.

  6. 619,

    Fergie gambled when making a lot of changes - the gamble backfired - therefore he is partly to blame.

    To further expand on that point for you: Valencia was our best player on the day; but for a turn of ill-fortune he wasn't even included in the squad - but when Vidic dropped out then Valencia came in.

    The point being, our best player wouldn't have played any part if Fergie's plans for the day had been fully initiated...

    Plain and simple, when the manager gets it right, both he and the players take the credit. But on the flip side, when they he gets it wrong and when the players' don't rise to the occasion then they have to take the flak and like I say the manager was partly to blame.

    I think the events of this week could possibly turn out to be a tipping point for quite a few players at Old Trafford. That isn't a knee-jerk reaction, but my honest opinion...

    Patience with Berbatov must surely be wearing extremely thin now. Also, how many times do we have to see players like Gibson for the penny to drop that he is NEVER going to be good enough to become a United regular?

    As for Welbeck, I don't like writing off young players prematurely, but I'm honestly not sure about him.

    Fergie is in the shit with this squad if does make some quality signings soon. The centre of defence was a potential nightmare vision of the future - that and the lack of quality support for Rooney is concerned. The thing is this; under normal circumstances Welbeck and Macheda would be shipped off to another club for 'more experience' - whether they'd come back is a good question to ask.

    But Fergie cannot do that because he is so lacking in quality strength in depth.

    IF United take a pasting at City (as I fear they rightly will) then we could be effectively out of two cup competitions in the space of four days.

    Action will soon have to be taken on many levels, otherwise we could soon be in decline (we have been since Ronaldo left truth be told, but it is going to get worse - much worse - if action isn't taken).

    Neville is past it.

  7. While I think that my comments show that I tend to give deference to the players and desire that they will come good, I just remembered something quite damning that I do not think you commented on.

    The youngsters have been given a real chance this year in almost all competitions, except the league. They have really let us down in two competitions now: the Champions League and now the FA Cup.

    No comments have harken back to that match against Beskitas when a decent group of them was given another run out. So much to my dismay, I think this is further evidence that some may just now make it.

    Not that that comment contributes an exceptional amount to the conversation, but considering the performance against Beskitas in light of the Leeds result I think sheds some light on the value of the youngsters we have coming through.

  8. hahah great rant Spurs fan, though I have to agree Kranjcar is probably THE buy of the season would have been a great addition to this bored, confused, and often lazy central midfield.

    I read somewhere else that United's best performances have come when Fletcher and Anderson are playing together, I wonder if Ferguson's noticed that.

    Anyway, United are screwed for this season, what with Vidic wanting to get out of the same league as Torres, bring on the transition.


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