Saturday, January 28, 2012

No excuses for De Gea and United as Liverpool deliver FA Cup KO....

Manchester United were knocked out of the FA Cup at Anfield on Saturday by a less than impressive Liverpool team. United enjoyed the lions share of possession for long periods of a game that they by and large controlled, but the champions were once again guilty of making costly defensive errors and at the other end they were toothless up front.

Ferguson elected to start with Carrick, Giggs and Scholes in the engine room - a decision that can only be described as a gamble. United's central midfield trio had a combined grand old age of 107. As if that wasn't enough of a concern, United were also without the services of Wayne Rooney, thanks to yet another injury.

The fact that United went on to control the game for long periods of this FA Cup tie, probably says more about Liverpool than the champions - though the Merseyside club may well counter that they'd had a tough game in midweek against Man City....

Despite his years and his lay-off, it was Paul Scholes who pulled the strings in midfield. Strangely, Liverpool seemed to be content to sit back and wait to hit United on the break - much to the annoyance of those on the Kop - who let their feelings known throughout...

Valencia was very unlucky not to open the scoring on 16 minutes, but his superb drive hit the base of Reina's far post. As things turned out, that was one of the few efforts on goal by the visitors, much to the collective disappointment of the 5,000 or so United fans who'd travelled to Anfield for what is always a grudge match, but on this occasion even more so than normal following the Evra and Suarez spat and subsequent lengthy suspension for the Uruguayan.

Liverpool went on to win the tie by the odd goal in three, but annoyingly for United fans, they were handed victory on a plate by David De Gea and Patrice Evra - both were guilty of making basic errors.

Liverpool were poor - but  they didn't have to be *that good* to beat United and that is the real sickener for Ferguson, the supporters and players. Liverpool didn't have to work for their victory - it was handed to them on a plate.

Following a spell on the sidelines, under-fire 'keeper David De Gea was somewhat surprisingly brought back into the white-hot atmosphere of Anfield. The young Spanish goalkeeper appears to have lost his spot as the number one goalkeeper at Old Trafford, but with United playing in the FA Cup this was an opportunity to give the former Athletico Madrid goalkeeper a chance to redeem himself.

Sadly, it all went badly wrong again for De Gea, as he was largely responsible for Liverpool taking the lead on 21 minutes. Gerrard's corner into a crowded penalty area was headed home by Agger.

In the build up to that Liveroopl goal, De Gea made what can only be described as a 'schoolboy error' when he managed to get caught in no-mans-land - he was nowhere near the ball; knowing he couldn't get to the ball he should have dropped back onto his line, in so doing, giving himself half a chance of making a save from that slightly withdrawn position. The ball ended up in the United net and Ferguson later appeared to blame his defenders for getting in De Gea's way. Frankly, Ferguson's defence is laughable and ridiculous. A commanding goalkeeper like Schmeichel would have knocked his own players and the ball out of harms way, but clearly, De Gea is no match for the Great Dane - or come to that even a Tim Howard.

Liverpool knew that De Gea has a weakness on crosses and the only real question was, why after taking the lead didn't they keep on pressurising De Gea? At least that one was one of the questions asked by ITV's pundits after the game - the answer to that was simple: Liverpool didn't have the ball...

Despite going behind against the run of play, United kept their passing game together, but without penetrating the Liverpool penalty area or testing Reina.

But then, in what seemed like a blink of the eye, United equalised thanks to a very well worked goal on 38 minutes. Rafael combined quite brilliantly with Valencia on the right flank as they carved open the Liverpool defence. The Brazilian's cross found Park lurking deep inside the box, the South Korean finished in impressive style with his first touch - but that was to be the high point of his game, because on too many other occasions he was guilty of giving the ball straight back to Liverpool.

Half-time came and went, many of those in the crowd at Anfield and the millions watching on TV must have wondered if Ferguson would pull De Gea out of the firing line, but he didn't.

The story of the second-half was much like the first; United dominated for long spells but couldn't find a way through. Danny Welbeck looked totally lost up front on his own - he cannot lead the line without help.

Scholes predictably began to fade and he made way for Hernandez on 76 minutes, but to no great affect. It was Dalglish who made the more telling substitutions when sending on Kuyt, Bellamy and Adam for Carragher, Gerrard and Maxi.

Despite chasing the game for long spells without the ball, it was Liverpool who made the vital breakthrough on 88 minutes and a more simple goal you will not see this season. It came from a regulation long punt down field by Reina. Carroll nodded the ball on to unmarked Kuyt who drilled the ball home from deep inside the United box. In the TV replays that followed, it was clear that Evra's positioning was all wrong. United's captain was caught on the wrong side of Kuyt and De Gea could have done much better too.

Roy Keane summed up today: United made too many mistakes at the back and they didn't trouble Reina enough. That summed up United at Anfield in this FA Cup tie. There was very few positives from a United perspective. Rafael and Valencia were two of United's better  performers. Scholes and Smalling had decent games, but  collectively it wasn't good enough.

In the wake of what has been a disappointing day, Ferguson has many problems to address:

United's midfield continues to creak like an old gate.

How much longer can United continue to expect to rely on Scholes and Giggs?

Would a great club like Barcelona ever find themselves in this ridiculous situation?

It looks as though Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison will be sold and soon - a worrying situation given the hype surrounding two promising young players.

Berbatov's future continues to be the subject of intense speculation; will he be sold before the transfer window closes next week?

It looks as though the money invested in De Gea has been wasted. Anders Lindegaard was signed to be a backup 'keeper and no more than that, but it looks as though the Dane will continue to be the no.1 until Ferguson finds a suitable long-term replacement for Edwin Van der Sar.


  1. United were the better team for most of the game, but lacked a cutting edge. There's no point in having all that possession in areas that don't hurt the opposition. Liverpool actually carried the greater attacking threat, in spite of being totally shattered after Wednesday night's efforts.

  2. Utd lost control of the game when tired Scholes was taken off. Proof that Utd indeed needs another midfield maestro as backup. As for De Gea, he is running out of time to impose himself as THE reliable no 1...

  3. The very fact that Fergie is pinning his hopes & relying on Scholes and Giggs is ridiculous.

    Cleverley has an awful injury record too, bad luck or not - can we really expect to rely on him?

    We need to spend, but clearly there's no money. It doesn't help when Fergie wastes money on players like Bebe and Diouf.

    We have let better 'keepers than De Gea leave the club. Fergie has flushed another £20m down the toilet. IMO, De Gea is one of the worst 'keepers I've seen at the club. Someone should be sacked.


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