Monday, October 03, 2011

United must heed Canaries warning signs and improve or else....

Manchester United were in action on Saturday when newly promoted Norwich City were the visitors to Old Trafford, both teams have enjoyed good starts to the new season, but after only managing a draw with Stoke City the weekend before and after surrendering a two-nil lead against Basel in the Champions League in midweek, the champions went into the clash with the Canaries with more than a degree of apprehension.

United fans, Ferguson and no doubting his players too, expected a tough game, but they will have also anticipated nothing less than three points. As things turned out that is exactly what happened but the 2-0 final score didn't tell the whole story.

The champions dominated possession - as so often happens at Old Trafford - but Paul Lambert had done his homework and United found it difficult to break down the defensive wall in front of the Norwich defence.

Norwich were always a threat on the counter-attack and if Anthony Pilkington had taken his chances then the visitors could have taken at least a point, but thankfully, from a United perspective it wasn't his day in front of goal.

In a bid to change the pattern of the game, Ferguson sent on Giggs for Nani and Welbeck for Hernandez in the 64th and 65 minutes respectively.

It was a game that cried out for a goal and when it finally arrived in the 68th minute, it came from the unlikey source of Anderson's head following an assist by Wayne Rooney.

The goal led to more chances for both teams and Pilkington had further opportunities to test Anders Lindegaard, who had been selected in the United goal in preference to David De Gea, however, it was the champions who doubled their advantage thanks Danny Welbeck on 87 minutes, after Ji-Sung Park unlocked the door with an assist.

While the result was a good one, the performance left a lot to be desired from a red perspective because once again a visiting team found it too easy to create goal scoring opportunities. The other major issue was the lack of creativity in and around the visitors penalty area. With Liverpool and Manchester City on the horizon, United really needed a thumping confidence boosting win against Norwich, who to their credit didn't really deserve to lose on Saturday.

To a large degree Ferguson's hands have been tied due to a catalogue of early season injury problems and this has led to too many changes in key central defensive positions.

Rio Ferdinand was only a substitute on Saturday, which led to sections of the media speculating that the player might have paid the price for some indifferent defensive performances.

Truth be told, Ferdinand has been no worse, or come to it, no better, than any of those around him of late, but maybe the manager expects more from his senior central defender and that could be why he didn't start against the Canaries.

Ferdinand was belatedly given a run out against Norwich when he replaced Anderson in the 76th minute and he was also named in the England squad who take on Montenegro on Friday, along with Ashley Young, Phil Jones, Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney.

The international break, has for once, come at the right time for United who need to regroup ahead of two very important league games against two bitter rivals.

It is to be hoped United will continue to fend off the challenge of Manchester City, but for that to happen, we will need to see a big improvement, especially in midfield and in defence where the champions have become uncharacteristically careless over the last few games.

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