Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Basel roller-coaster: Gary Neville hits nail on head, as Manchester United struggle in average Champions League group...

Manchester United were involved in an error ridden Champions League goal fest at Old Trafford last night. It was a roller-coaster of a game, it finished up 3-3. Basel were two-nil down at half-time, but fought back strongly in the second-half and deservedly led 3-2 thanks to goals by Alexander and Fabien Frei. Ashley Young rescued what could turn out to be an important point, with a late but very important Champions League debut goal.

In taking what was a well earned point, the Swiss champions became the first visiting team to Old Trafford to exploit the gaps in the United defence. Despite hammering Arsenal 8-2, and Chelsea 3-1 recently, United have been somewhat uncharacteristically wide open at the back at Old Trafford this season. A better team than Arsenal might have scored five against United. And let us not forget that Chelsea were also guilty of failing to take advantage of some very good chances to score; including what has been described as "the miss of the season" when £50m striker Fernando Torres missed that open goal.

Basel could and should have, scored more than three goals last night - three was bad enough, but it could have been much more. On the flip side, United also missed several gilt edged chances, especially in the first-half. Danny Welbeck scored two goals within a minute, after good work by Ryan Giggs who provided both. Those goals should have signalled the end for Basel, but to their credit, the visitors kept on attacking United and their enterprise was eventually rewarded in the second-half with two well taken goals and a controversial penalty.

Ferguson will be alarmed when he reviews TV replays of the game, but it should come as no great shock because gaping holes in United's defence have been appearing too often this season.

So where is it going wrong at the back for United? Last night's Sky Sports co-commentator, Gary Neville put his finger on one of the big issues during the game when he said "too many changes in defence". United have been at their best when Vidic and Ferdinand have been at the heart of the back-four. That partnership has been the bedrock of United's recent success. Vidic has been a defensive rock and Rio has been one of the finest interceptors in world football - but alas that is no longer the case.

Rio Ferdinand didn't cover himself in glory at the Britannia stadium last weekend when United could only manage a draw. Ferdinand should have done better against Stoke's goalscorer Peter Crouch. United conceded three goals against Basel, the last one came from a very debatable penalty after Jones failed to clear his lines.  In the wake of that dramatic 3-3 draw many supporters will be blaming Ferdinand. However, if you review the match footage, both fullbacks were at fault when it came to failing to track-back; Fabio was caught out of position on several first-half occasions and when Basel equalised it was Evra who was guilty of failing to pick up a runner.

Gary Neville knows all about Manchester United of course and having hung up his boots, he has in short order, taken to the task of becoming an informative match-day summariser on Sky Sports.

Without being pressed enough by those who share the comfy Sky Sports sofa, Neville has been alluding to Ferguson's unhappiness with his team's collective failure to defend as a unit pretty much all season. Neville made reference to the problems at the back during last night's game, as he did against Chelsea.

Against Basel, it wasn't just the defence that was at fault, it was midfield too. Anderson gets caught out of position often, but this isn't entirely his fault, because if an attacking move breaks down due to a forward losing possession cheaply, then the supporting players will be out of position and that has been a recurring aspect of United's play at times this season.

Danny Welbeck might have scored two goals against Basel, but it should have been at least three, maybe even four. The young United striker failed to take advantage of a great cross late on and he narrowly missed the target with a glancing header. Second-half sub Berbatov should have wrapped up the points late on,  the Bulgarian took the wrong option, when his shot hit the side netting, instead the ball should have been driven across the face of the goal into the opposite corner.

In summary, while fingers will rightly be pointed at Fabio and Jones for their part in that very poor defensive showing, let us not forget that the same two players were involved in at least one of United's goals. When those injuries eventually clear up, United need to get back to some sort of defensive stability. As Neville said last night, you cannot keep on swapping and changing the back-four. While it might well be exciting, United need to improve and as Fergie said in his post-match conference, the performance and the result was a 'wake-up call', and so it was. United have much work to do on the domestic and European front, but Ferguson will get it right, of that we can be fairly certain.




2 comments:

  1. what about Mr.i give too many back passes than my own defenders?(carrick,seriously fletch is far much better than Mr.twice given a hiding by xavi,seemed more of a passenger going forward even in defence save me he's engerland bit cause it won't work

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  2. I don't like Carrick, don't rate him and never have done. If Fergie fancied him, then why didn't he take a punt on him while he was at West Ham? Could have signed him for £4m. Instead, we paid £18m (from memory).

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