Monday, November 08, 2010

United must improve or face derby consequences..

Manchester United were in action against Wolves on Saturday, it was arguably the most disjointed performance of the season so far. United eventually ran out 2-1 winners but had to rely on a 93rd minute winner from the unlikely source of Ji-Sung Park; The South Korean also grabbed the Reds opening goal on the stroke of half-time. Former United starlet Ebanks-Blake was on target for the visitors, and on another day Wolves could easily have taken all three points.

United have now gone 18 games unbeaten this season, it's a remarkable statistic given the manner of some of the defending and mistakes made in the early part of the season. Next up, United face neighbours Manchester City at Eastlands on Wednesday; Roberto Mancini's team came off the back of a losing run of three consecutive games to win convincingly away at West Brom on Sunday and so the Citizens will be full confidence going into the derby, especially with Carlos Tevez back in harness.

City's captain always gives 100% - he is the consummate professional and he will be keen as ever to prove to Ferguson and United that they made a big mistake when screwing up and allowing him to slip away to the club's bitterest rivals.

United's unbeaten run will be given the severest test to date on Wednesday, of that we can be certain; if United play anywhere near as poorly as they did against Wolves on Saturday, then City will be level on points at the end of 90 minutes because they will have closed the gap, in so doing they will have ended that unbeaten run.

Against Wolves, for long periods United were quite simply dreadful; there was no cohesiveness and too many players gave away possession cheaply and too often. Owen Hargreaves made a surprise return to action following a lengthy spell on the sidelines, but he only lasted five minutes - but his replacement, Bebe, was awful. Bebe's crossing was terrible, as was his touch; the Portuguese winger suffered the ignominy of being replaced late on in the game by Macheda. Scholes restored a degree of control to United's attacking play after replacing John O'Shea in the 74th minute.

Ahead of the derby, Ferguson will be wrestling with the problem of who should start against City and with no Wayne Rooney, the United manager is likely to start the derby with just one striker, Berbatov, could well get the nod, but it's by no means a knocking bet, given his recent poor body language and head-shaking.

Fergie will probably start the derby with five across midfield; if Ryan Giggs does not recover from his recent injury problems, Park will be asked to play on the left with Nani on the opposite flank. Scholes will more than likely play in front of Carrick and Fletcher. City are very strong down both flanks and so whoever plays in the wide positions it is vital that they track back and help their respective fullback.

United must match City for effort from front to back and from start to finish. As ever, midfield will be a key area and it's here where City completely dominated both Liverpool and Chelsea at Eastlands earlier this season - United must not allow that to happen because if they do, the outcome will be disastrous.

United can win on Wednesday, but only if the collective and individual performance reaches levels not yet seen this season - a win looks like a big ask and a draw could prove to be a good bet.

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