Thursday, April 08, 2010

Brave United undone by mistakes as Bayern heap more misery on Fergie...

United atoned for recent poor performances in a pulsating first half-last night when Bayern Munich were the visitors to Old Trafford. It was an action-packed Champions League second leg quarter final tie. One that didn't disappoint and the home crowd were very much up for it. The champions were dominant from the off and they deservedly raced into a two-nil lead inside the first six minutes as they turned the tie around.

Ferguson gambled on the fitness of Wayne Rooney, who started against the odds; in the pre-match press conference, the United manager was adamant that Rooney would not start, but he said his talisman might play some part from the bench. As things turned out, Rooney was in from the start and you wonder if the player had selected himself.

There was no doubts about the decision to play Darron Gibson; the manager used Park Ji-Sung in a similar role at the weekend against Chelsea. It didn't work as Chelsea went on to win. But against Bayern it was the Ulsterman who was tasked with supporting Rooney from an attacking central midfield position; the ploy worked quite magnificently in the opening minute. Rafael started the move that led to the opening goal when he robbed Ribery just over the half-way line, before advancing quickly and then playing a good ball to the feet of Rooney, who in turn played it to Gibson who blasted home to give United the perfect start.

Just a few minutes later and Nani put United two-nil up; as on so many other occasions this season, a move that started on the right flank ended with a goal; this time it was United's in-form Portuguese winger who was on target, scoring with a clever flick off the heel of his right boot, after good work by Valencia who supplied the cross.

A shell-shocked Bayern team were not in the game at this point, so much so they were in danger of being blown away by a rampant United. United had Bayern on the rack, and more goals looked likely.

Thirty three minutes into the contest, Rafael, was guilty of taking the wrong option following a brilliant counter-attacking raid which he'd started; the move should have ended with another goal, but the young Brazilian went for glory, instead of pulling the ball back to Rooney who surely would have added to United's growing tally.

Despite taking the wrong option, the young Brazilian was having a fine game; he had Ribery in check; in the first-leg, the Frenchman had the beating of Gary Neville at will, but it wasn't a bit like that last night as the tables were very much turned. However, Rafael showed his inexperience again when getting booked on 17 minutes for hitting out at Van Bommel - it was a booking that would later lead to United's Champions League exit.

Five minutes before the break, United scored from another counter-attack and once again the move started on the right, and once again it was Nani who smashed home another brilliant goal. Rafael started the move with a quick throw-in to Valencia and his cross was lashed home from the edge to Bayern penalty area. It should have been United's fourth goal of the night, but at that point, three looked like enough. But, just two minutes later, Michael Carrick was guilty of giving Bayern an undeserved life-line when he failed to make a challenge on Olic who went on to score, from a headed knockdown inside the United penalty area.

Earlier, Rooney had been injured when a Bayern defender made a clumsy challenge; from that point onwards the United striker was pretty a much a passenger, but the player insisted he was okay to carry on, when clearly he wasn't.

United went into the break 3-1 up. It was somewhat surprising that Rooney wasn't withdrawn at the interval. Rooney's lack of mobility was a major factor in Bayern's revival - that and Ferguson not having faith in his subs on the bench.

Rooney was eventually replaced fifty five minutes into the game; but John O'Shea was the wrong choice, because it left United with no striker up front, and as a direct consequence the ball just kept on coming back, in so doing putting more pressure on the defence.

As the second-half went on, it was Bayern who took control. The turning point in the game hinged on Rafael picking up his second yellow card of the night, just five minutes after the break; on this occasion for an ill-advised challenge on Ribery. The sight of half the Bayern team surrounding the referee was sickening, but it was another needless caution and United went on to pay a very high price.

United were down to ten men, and as a result played out the remainder of the half on the back foot. It felt as though it was only a matter of time before Bayern got that vital second away goal and on 73 minutes it arrived from a Ribery corner.

Despite United being down to 10 men, they should have been able to pick up the Bayern players inside the United penalty area. However, when the ball was crossed, there was two unmarked Bayern players inside the box; one of them was Robben, once again Carrick tried and failed to make a telling challenge. Robben scored a brilliant goal, one that ended United's hopes of making it into the semi-finals.

Robben has been to Bayern, what Rooney has been to United this season - the fact he was left unmarked on the edge of the box was an act of criminal negligence. Being down to 10 men is no excuse for such shoddy organisation.

In summary; it was a brave effort by United, but once again mistakes played a big part in the Red Devils downfall. Having gone three nil up, United should have been good enough to progress; the fact that United didn't progress should be cause for concern. In all probability, Barca will go on to retain the trophy. Barca, would probably have wiped the floor with the current United team, as Fergie hasn't addressed any of the issues that were so obvious in last year's final.

The spine of the team needs to be significantly strengthened with the addition of at least three new players. The question is, does Fergie still have the where-with-all to find the players, and importantly, the funds to bring them to Old Trafford?

13 comments:

  1. Ok, we resolved the striker issue (maybe) by signing Javier Hernandez from Mexico. Living in Texas I see a lot of this kid on Mexican tv. He is really good and he's not old like Villa. Everyone seems to forget that Villa only has one or two years left in his legs. No way Fergie spends 50 Mil on old legs.

    Now the question is the midfield. Hargo has five months to get into shape and stay healthy. One more guy and we could be better there. No all we need is one more defender and we could be set.

    Rafa clearly needs more playing time as Neville isn't going to cut it.

    I actually feel better after seeing this signing. Between Macheda and Hernandez, we could have a strong front line for the next 10 years. Kind of makes you wodner what will happen with Diouf and Bernatov.

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  2. Evenii,

    Aren't you being slightly premature with that assertion? I'm actually slightly concerned because there's no guarantees when you sign unproven youngsters from overseas - particularly when they are latinos - because as we found with Ronaldo, they all want to play in the hotter climates. Personally, I would only sign Northern Europeans - but of course I'm not Fergie! ;0)


    We can only judge Javier once he's played 10 games for the United first team. I do hope you're right though...

    As for Hargreaves, sadly, I don't see him coming back. I think his career is over.

    United have also signed Smalling from Fulham, but I don't know much about him either.

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  3. I forgot to add that Fergie should be sticking with Rafael, he had Ribery in his back pocket last night.

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  4. Just a question James R. Was Ribery in Rafael's back pocket when he recieved his marching order? More like he was grabbing for Ribery's back pocket... lol. You where nowhere near Bayern over the two legs, check the stats, watch the games over again, Bayern had United covered in every department. Total dominans. Love it! Zie Germans

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  5. Supahoopz,

    Bayern did ok in the stat department, but Rafael had the beating of Ribery every time, but his lack of experience cost United.

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  6. Correct, Rafael was outstandig in both containing Ribery and going forward. So yes, in the end inexperience cost him. Nani also played very well. But over the two legs imo Van Der Sar were Uniteds stand out performer, doesn't like he's 40 does it?
    But i feel the tie was decided by possesion, these are two teams depending on having large chunks of possesion to win games. United can cope better than Bayern without the ball. Therefor i can not understand why United surrended possesion so easily in Munich, at OT the red card of course helped Bayern dominate possesion. But credit due where it belongs, the dynamic duo of Schweinsteiger/Van Bommel can spread the ball almost Xavi'esc and that's where the battle was won. Hope you win the PL though, cant stand the thought of Chelsea winning, good luck for the rest of the season. *Norwegian Bavarian*

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  7. On the Rafael topic - playing against Ribery, you always expect him to go past you a couple of times per game. But to his credit, the kid did admirably well against one of the premier wingers in the world and dispossessed him several times in the first half. Ribery was clearly frustrated on a number of occasions. Rafael also contributed offensively a lot by crossing well and almost scoring once on a counter he started himself in his own half. To sum it up, he is the future of the right back position although he needs to mature.

    @ Evgenii - it is too early to tell if the Mexican striker will be any good in the league but I like the policy of not spending limited resources on the department that is not the weakest.

    I'd much rather see money splashed on a midfielder (Silva, van der Vaart, J. Cole even) who can keep the ball which none of our current midfield do well and is at least a bit creative.

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  8. Supahoopz,

    I wouldn't disagree with you about possession. If you follow this blog you'd know I slated United after the first leg precisely because we gave the ball away too cheaply and too often.

    With that said, United could easily have gone into the semi if Rafael had chosen to pass to Rooney instead of shooting in the first half on Wednesday.

    United handed it to Bayern, and when you're three up at home there's no excuse for such sloppy defending at a set-piece.

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  9. Emo,

    Pretty much agree with those comments. Regarding midfield. I cannot help feel Fergie really missed the boat when not even attempting to sign Sneijder. Having watched Sneijder recently I have to say he'd be the perfect replacement for Scholes. Not sure about Van der Vaart to be honest.

    IMO, Fergie needs at least three top quality signings this summer. I wouldn't sign Ribery personally.

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  10. I just read your comment about Hargreaves' career being over and I hate to say it, but I agree with you.

    The point that gets me the most is that SAF said Hargeaves would be playing soon and likely on the bench. He did not make the bench for either the Bolton or Chelsea game. He has not traveled to Blackburn.

    That finally has convinced me, the optimist, that it is over. I thought he was supposed to be ready. I guess we all should have known that it was over when he said that he still plays with pain after his reserves run out.

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  11. Man United is now a one man show. If Rooney doesn't get the goals, the game is lost.

    Berbatov cannot make it, he is too languid to chase the ball or hassle opponents.

    If only some of that money was spent on recruiting Franck Ribery.

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  12. Soccer Pundit,

    I agree United do need some new blood, but personally I wouldn't sign Ribery, he's ok, but he's nowhere near worth the figures quoted in the press. I don't like him either after his antics this week.

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  13. 619,

    Fergie said something interesting recently about Hagreaves. It was along the lines of "he has to start soon". Until now, United have been very patient, but I have a feeling they are ready to go down the road of insurance. Not sure how that works, ie, who receives any pay out: is the club, the player or both?

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