Monday, September 27, 2010

On current league form, City will finish above United: Is it time to play Rooney in midfield?

There comes a point in time when the manager cannot keep on saying the same things and when that happens, it's either the manager who goes or the players go: I am of course referring to United's indifferent away form. We haven't yet reached that point, but Ferguson must be sick and tired of repeating himself about the need to concentrate when defending.

United had to fight back twice after going behind to Bolton on Sunday, it wasn't a good performance and on current form Manchester City will, without any shadow of doubt, finish above the Red Devils in the Premier League. Anyone who saw City brush aside Liverpool with ease and then arguably even more impressively snuff out Chelsea on Saturday cannot help but have been impressed: In both games, City's defending an organisation was exemplary. In sharp contrast, on too many occasions this season United have been dire in midfield and at the back where the art of defending is concerned.

It isn't stretching things too far to suggest that it has now got to the stage where you think United have to score three to have a chance of winning a game. Last season City took six points off Chelsea and United took none. At the weekend, City beat Chelsea again, but once again United let themselves down and failed to capitalise; And let's be brutally honest United were lucky to come away from the Reebok with a point.

United take on Valencia this week in the Champions League - it's a good job the Spanish club have sold many of their former big name stars, because the way the Reds are playing Van der Sar could have a bad back on Thursday morning due to picking the ball out of the back of his net following the trip to the Mestalla.

Even without the likes of David Silva, United could be on the wrong end of a proper hammering given the way the Reds are defending currently. Worryingly, after five games Valencia are above Real Madrid and Barcelona, they are top of La Liga.

United are not defending from front to back as a unit, that is part of the problem.
Apart from individual mistakes, we then look at midfield and United are simply not good enough in this department.

At the age of 35 Scholes is still the most important player, but on Sunday against Bolton it was Fletcher who was substituted - there was a ridiculous suggestion that perhaps this was in a bid to 'rest' the player. The decision to replace Fletcher had nothing to do with resting Fletcher, the fact is, he was ineffective in the second half.

Ferguson is also wrestling with what to do about Wayne Rooney and Berbatov; The former Spurs striker had until Sunday, been the star man this season, but the Bulgarian isn't best suited to playing the lone striker role and so 4-3-3 isn't really a viable option.

Ferguson should seriously consider dropping Fletcher and playing Rooney alongside Scholes in the heart of the engine room. Rooney can match the running of Fletcher and he's a far better footballer. Fletcher consistently gives away possession - Rooney does not. By dropping deeper Rooney would be more involved in the game and this would hopefully bring out the best him, because at present he's not in the game nearly as much as we'd like. The manager could then select either Macheda, Owen or Hernandez to play alongside Berbatov.

There was very few positives to come out of Sunday's game with Bolton, but Nani was superb and thank heavens for Michael Owen, who scored with an unlikely header. Nani's goal was reminiscent of Ronaldo at his best and I can pay him no higher compliment.

Aside from the trip to Valencia, on paper at least any way, United have a run of winnable looking games. Then next really big game is City away on November 10th, it is to be hoped the manager and his backroom team have sorted out the problems which have so far dogged the current campaign. Personally, I cannot see United winning the title, or the Champions League because of the problems in midfield.


  1. I agree, I think that Rooney will be more effective in the mid-field where he can control the game. His vision, awareness and passing ability will be better utilised facing the goal, than playing up-front as a striker, often with his back towards goal. In the mid-field he can fulfil two roles, one as a defending midfielder as well as the creative flair that can pick the lock of stubborn defences.

  2. Jay,

    Then we are agreed. Playing Rooney in midfield could solve several problems. IF only Fergie had the gumption and balls to do it.

  3. Given a thoroughly thinking, i believe it could have work. But Rooney is not traveling to Valencia with the team. Against Bolton, i'm so glad Nani and Owen bid us out. Our midfield is a area for concern but if Hargreaves, Anderson and Carrick comes back, things will change.

  4. While I loved it when Rooney was scoring week in week out for us last season, I doagree that it's only a matter of time before he switches to centre mid.

    That said, I simply can't see him playing alongside Scholesy as they'd be similar in style- brilliant passers who can also shoot from distance. We'd still need a Fletch (dare I say Hargo?) to do the dirty work, so I really hope Fletch steps up his game. And fast.

  5. Dela,

    Fergie hasn't quite got the formation right (or the personnel), because to a degree and despite his brilliance, Scholes is something of a luxury in the modern game - that is he is, unless you give him license to just do a job going forward and you do not expect him to be an integral part of a defensive shield in front of the back four as is the case now....

    If you saw City's midfield completely snuff out Chelsea and Liverpool recently you should know what I mean...

    ...let me make a comparison for you with three other similar players: Ozil (especially him), Modric and Rosicky. Would the managers of those respected players expect them to be both defensive and a creative?

    Ozil does little when it comes to defending, but up front he is expected to be a magician, which he surely is....

    ...In sharp contrast, Fergie is asking an awful lot of Scholes and quite obviously, at 35 years of age it isn't going to work and this is why at times United are going to be wide open to counter attacks.

    If you are going to play 4-4-2 you need two real workhorses in midfield, like Ince and Keane. Your wide players have to be disciplined too.

    But United do not have an Ince or Keane. We have Fletcher who is a poor-man's Keane. Fletcher is nowhere near as good as Ince was either. But no matter, Rooney would do a better job than Fletcher, but still it isn't going to work for the reasons already outlined.

    So the alternative is to find another system - you have to get the best from the players at your disposal; But here again, there are limitations and drawbacks.

    The limitation is this: United do not have a Gareth Barry type who will happily mop up trouble before it develops - Carrick was supposed to be that player - but he's simply not good enough.

    The drawback is this: even if we had a Barry type of player, we'd have to sacrifice width and of course we need two strikers because Berbatov isn't much use on his own up front.

    All in all Fergie has got himself into a right mess because he should have signed either Sneijder or Ozil, but he has completely failed on both counts. Instead, we have Bebe...

    United do not have the right players and we have a system which will always fail against Europe's elite and dare I say City could easily beat United this season.


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