Sunday, October 17, 2010

West Brom punish United schoolboy errors ...

A couple of weeks ago this blog posted that United need to score three goals to have any hope of winning these days; it seems not much has changed in the intervening period because United conspired to throw away two more vital points against the Baggies at Old Trafford yesterday, this after being two-nil up at half-time thanks to a debut goal for Hernandez and another from Nani.

Successive United teams down the years have played with a degree of unpredictability and while there's no doubting the success along the way, we have become used to the "not know what is coming next" brand of football - in part, it adds to the undoubted excitement of watching the team. However, one of the hallmarks of Fergie's great sides has been the collective ability to defend and it's here where the current United team has been failing this season.

While it's easy to point the finger at mistakes at the back, it doesn't tell the whole story. Yesterday against West Brom, United were too open at times. It's true to say that it was a very entertaining game, especially in the first-half until Giggs went off five minutes before the break.

Giggs was in majestic form on the left flank yesterday. The Welshman rolled back the years with another vintage performance - such a pity that he had to be replaced because from that point onwards United lost their way.

Fergie eventually sent on Darron Gibson and Anderson was pushed out onto the left, but to no great effect. While he huffed and puffed throughout the opening thirty minutes, the Brazilian's passing let him down on too many occasions. It is surely only a mattter of time before Ferguson's patience runs out with Anderson, because he's been given ample opportunity to prove what he's capable of and frankly, he has failed. The same can be said of the "one trick pony" that is Gibson. Part of the problem at Old Trafford right now, is the squad is littered with 'nearly men' midfield players. There's no way Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson or Gibson would get into Chelsea's midfield on a regular basis and it's why United have been struggling especially in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Against West Brom on too many occasions, United's midfield were guilty of wasting possession especially in the second period.

United were two-nil up at the break and it was great to see Hernandez score his first Premier League goal for the club in the opening exchanges. The Mexican striker looked very sharp in the opening 30 minutes and quite how the score remained one-nil for so long is something of a mystery; in truth the Baggies lived on the edge for much of the opening period, but they had their own chances and the score-line could quite easily have been 5-2 at the break.

Nani had scored United's second with a well taken goal and he did okay for the most part, that is he did, apart from one outrageous second-half dive which he luckily got away with.

West Brom came out for the second period with every intention of fighting their way back into the game and pretty much from the first kick they were creating problems for Vidic & co.

ON 50 minutes, Mr Jones handed the Baggies a lifeline when he generously gave the visitors a free-kick, after penalising Anderson for shirt-pulling just outside the United penalty area. It turned out to be a massive turning point in the game.

There's no way the referee should have awarded that free-kick, because the player who'd been pulled back had beaten off the challenge of Anderson and got cross into the United penalty area - it was a ridiculous decision: The advantage rule had been played and then Mr Jones decided to give the visitors another bite of the cherry by wrongly giving the Baggies that free-kick.

Evra scored with an own goal from Brunt's free-kick: If Ferguson isn't livid with his defence AND his goalkeeper then something IS very wrong, because Van der Sar was beaten at his near post. United had SIX players in between the near-post and where the free-kick was taken - that is parallel with the United goal-line. That was United's first-schoolboy error.

We only had to wait five minutes for the second and much, much, worse schoolboy error: Unchallenged, Van der Sar somehow contrived to virtually throw the ball into his own net from a harmless cross from Tchoyi. It was the sort of mistake you wouldn't expect from a nine-year-old - it really was that bad.

United hit the woodwork, but apart from that, there was nothing of note to get excited about, the fluency that was in evidence for much of the very entertaining opening forty minutes simply wasn't there and United looked ordinary and could quite easily have lost this game. Scholes and Rooney came on but to no great effect. United can forget about winning any of the big prizes this season. We simply are not good enough.

Man of the match: Giggs.

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