Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Comfortable night for Rangers as United run out of ideas without Scholes...

Going into last night's Champions League group game with Rangers, pundits and fans alike were expecting it to be a landslide victory for United - how very wrong we all were. Fergie elected to make 10 changes to the team that threw away two points at Goodison Park on Saturday. Crucially, out went Berbatov and Scholes, the two star players of the season so far; forget about the rest of the changes to the team, it was the omission of these two that cost United against Rangers in what turned out to be a dour encounter which ended goalless and one in which the home team barely had a shot on target.

Two years ago United lost lamely, without so much as a whimper, in the Champions League final against Barcelona. On that night the Catalans made mince-meat of the Red Devils midfield. United went out of the same competition last season when losing against Bayern Munich. But two years on from that embarrassing defeat to Barcelona, nothing has been done to address the very obvious shortcomings in the United engine room - if anything things have just got worse because Scholes is now 35 and still he is the most important creative force in the squad.

The fact that Ferguson has done nothing to address the very obvious issues in central midfield is, to put it mildly, worrying. Scholes cannot seriously be expected to carry on forever, and surely he will not be an ever present this season; what we saw against Rangers was a team devoid of creativity and ideas. This United squad doesn't have a prayer of coming close to winning the Champions League, not based on that performance against Rangers.

'Bad boy' Wayne Rooney came back into starting line-up along with Rio Ferdinand who was partnered by Chris Smalling who was making his United debut proper in what was his first meaningful game for the club.

Rooney was poor throughout and he looked preoccupied, his touch wasn't what we have come to expect. The former Everton striker linked up with Hernandez midway through the first-half, but Rooney's return ball was poor and as a result the Rangers defence mopped up yet another United attack.

Rangers came to Old Trafford with a game plan, one that centered on not getting hammered; down the years, this tactic has usually backfired spectacularly, but last night it paid off, it did so because, frankly, United were clueless in around the Rangers penalty area.

The only player who looked capable of unlocking the door was second-half substitute Ryan Giggs, but even the Welshman failed in this respect.

Of the new boys, Hernandez was starved of decent service, but he looked sharper than Roooney. Ferguson should consider dropping Rooney until he sorts out his private life and get his game back together. Hernandez deserves a chance to prove his worth alongside Berbatov. Playing Rooney isn't doing the team or the player any good.

Like Ferdinand, Smalling wasn't really tested, so it's difficult to make any serious assessment of his defensive abilities, such a pity that Rangers offered even less than United going forward.

It is to be hoped we don't see other teams attempting shut up shop for 90 minutes when coming to Old Trafford, but don't be surprised if it happens, because clearly, without Scholes and Berbatov this United team is seriously lacking creativity.

To make matters worse, Valencia suffered a serious ankle injury which means he will almost certainly miss the rest of the season.


  1. It's tough to score against a team that has no desire to attack. So in fairness, we didn't look too bad, it was a bit of an off day but Rangers didn't even try.

    I have two real thoughts to add. 1) Gibson, aside from his outside shooting ability, is really not going to cut it. I know giving more chances could work out, but how long until we throw in the towel. Point 1)a), Fletch's passing was dreadful. Again.

    2) When Rangers were blocking the middle, our best attacking options were on the outside. Fabio could have not even have tracked back and we would have not felt a negative consequence. As soon as Valencia went down, we were down one winger. Then we subbed off Fabio, who wasn't too bad, for Evan(?!) who offered no threat on the left wing. At that point, we committed ourselves to playing up the gut which had already not been getting us anywhere.

    Instead of taking out Fabio, I would have subbed on Rafa for Brown (a non-threat on the wing). It would have at least forced one or two to mark on the outside. And I don't know if bringing on Owen was smart either. Every Rangers defender is over six feet tall. Rooney and Hernandez can't even approach it. By bringing on Owen we had three attackers who could have played Ewoks. I thought the tactics from Fergie were very poor.

    One last point and I promise to be quiet. Fergie a few days ago said he didn't spend because he plans to spend on a central midfielder when Giggs and Scholes leave. But if we can't play Scholes every game, I think we are beyond that point. I hope this doesn't burn us in the long run.

  2. One of the most hapless United performances at Old Trafford in a while. Apart from Gibson's long-rangers, we never really came close. I can understand that Fergie needed to rest Scholes for the Liverpool game but why didn't he bring on Berba or Nani at halftime when it was clear that our tactics simply weren't working?

    Given Valencia's form of late, topping the group might be tougher than I'd imagined.

  3. I think your being a bit harsh on the team. I'm with sir alex's decision to play the team he did.we got a massive game on Sunday which we need our best players fit and scholes wouldn't be as Sharp if he had played against rangers and I think all Rooney needs is more games and playuing with berbs. Weve already drew 2 games and cant afford to drop more points! The thing iwill agree with what u said was I don't know why he didn't play berbs.we knew it was gonna be difficult against rangers with what ever team we put out.

  4. Evgenni,

    1) I agree with you about Gibson. He will be sold, it is a question of when and not if.

    1a) Yes, Fletcher's passing let's him down and it's one of the major reasons why we aren't as strong as we need to be in central midfield.

    2) I didn't think Fabio had such a great game. He didn't create anything of note in terms of making things happen, but yes at least he went forward. I don't know why Rafael is being ignored, it's baffling really.

    3) I agree with you on your Ewoks commment. Fergie isn't a great tactician by his own admission.

    Finally, regarding Fergie's nonesense buying policy. I have all but given up listening to his jibberish about no value for money. PSV were offered Bebe for free and they turned him down. Then United spent £7.4m on him and then miss out on Ozil who went for around £12m and the season before that Sneijder for similar money.

    Without Scholes our midfield is pants. I don't know if you saw Real Madrid last night, but they looked awesome. Ozil shone as brightly as anyone.

    If Real Madrid, Barcelona or just about any of the other leading clubs had played Rangers I think they'd have socred at least four against Rangers.

    BTW, Real have spent around 450m euros over the last two years and it's money well spent. In contrast, United are on the road to nowhere. You cannot expect to win trophies if the owners do not invest in the team.

  5. Charlie,

    We can all understand why Fergie made those changes, but that isn't really the point.

    The point is this. After being taken apart by Barcelona two years ago in the final, what has Fergie done about replacing Scholes with a long term successor? The answer is nothing as we saw against Rangers. And, there has been opportunities to do just that.

    There has been value in the market contrary to what Fergie says.

    City signed Adam Johnson for around £5m, a real bargain.

    I could add Joe Hart's name, too.

    Ozil and Sneijder obviously.

    My point is Fergie isn't working hard enough at doing these deals/spotting potential quickly enough and he's allowing our rivals to get their first. United could have negotiated first option on Sneijder when discussing the Ronaldo deal.

  6. Dela,

    Let's face it, this United team has NO chance of winning the damn thing. I think we will qualify, but only just, but I can see us being totally humiliated if we come up against Barca or Real Madrid.

  7. Charlie,

    I forgot to add, we should not be so reliant on a 35 year-old, but seemingly we are... it is totally and utterly ridiculous. I cannot imagine for a minute that Jose would ever box himself into a corner like this having so few quality options in midfield.


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