Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Are United too reliant on Ronaldo and has Fergie met his match in Scolari?

To say that United have started the season sluggishly would be something of an understatement with just four points in the bag from three games. Our performances thus far have been way short of the benchmark set by the Champions. In sharp contrast rivals Chelsea have started like a train, winning all but one of their four games which sees them sitting top of the table.

There is a few mitigating circumstances which have not helped United, we have only just completed the signing of long-term target Dimitar Berbatov and of course the main man Ronaldo has been out injured after under-going surgery on an ankle over the summer.

Fans could also ask the question, has Ferguson become a little too complacent following on from the success of last season? When Mourinho was still at Chelsea, Fergie went on record stating that it was imperative that United hit the ground running at each season start. There has been no such declaration of intent this summer from the United manager. Maybe with Scolari being new to top-flight English club football, the Reds manager secretly thought / hoped that there would be a bedding-in period. No such luck if Fergie was indeed privately hoping for Chelsea to struggle to find their way early doors under new management.

What cannot be in doubt is that Fergie soon realised that in Mourinho he had met his match. The former Chelsea manager has been hugely successful, but his football philosophy is more about pragmatism rather than style - in this respect the two managers are in complete contrast.

I have my own theories about the abilities of Ferguson the coach; I hold the view that Fergie has always been something of a lucky manager. The United boss is also probably the most hard-working manager since Sir Matt Busby, who produced so many fabulous United teams.

A large part of Fergie's buying policy has centred buying on instinct - the signing of Eric Cantona being the perfect example. There is no grand master plan with Fergie.

Fergie buys players who he believes can play the United way. Part of the fascination about following and watching the Reds has been that you just never know that they are going to do - it is the same for opposing defences - they never know which player will crop up where at any given time, this chaos factor has been especially self evident since Rooney was paired with Tevez. United's inter-changing and movement off the ball has made it hard for teams to stop the Reds.

The arrival of Berbatov has rightly added another dimension to United's attacking options. However, fans are wondering how is Fergie going to work the Bulgarian into the attacking mix?

Against Liverpool apart from some brilliant early touches, the former Spurs star wanted too much time on the ball; you do not get time on the ball at Anfield if you're a Manchester United player. Apart from that opening 25 minute spell on Saturday, the Reds simply did not function going forward, all too often we lost possession - in this respect we had become predictable...which is very unlike United. Fergie may eventually opt to leave Berbatov up front as the lone striker, but if he takes that option the Bulgarian will need to double his work-rate.

Ronaldo is set to play some part against Villarreal on Wednesday when the Reds start their defence of the Champions League. Given the Reds relatively poor start to the new campaign, it poses the question will Fergie start with Ronaldo or will he leave him on the bench?

IF the Reds talisman is brought off the bench, there is a very real danger that the minority of booing morons will make themselves heard following all the speculation about Ronaldo this summer...that shouldn't and will not be a factor in the manager's team plans. United need to win this match and convincingly too if possible with Chelsea next up - we need to get the confidence going.

Following the Reds slow start, some in the media, are claiming that that the Reds Devils have become too reliant on Ronaldo. It is a claim that is hard to deny, given what he has done for the club - the sad fact is he is unlikely to win over his detractors no matter how well he plays. Some United fans need to get a grip over Ronaldo - he is the best player in the world, enjoy him while he's still here, it will only help if we are going to win yet more silverware this season.

So what to do about this forward line? Ferguson only added to confusion about where to play Wayne Rooney recently, when stating that from now on he will stay up front. With the impending arrival of Berbatov and the returning Ronaldo, it is completely fair to ask, what on earth was Fergie thinking about?

It was blindingly obvious to anyone who has followed United for any length of time that Rooney will still be cropping up all over the place. Fergie sometimes says things which he doesn't think through, he's been asked about the Rooney statement on several occasions recently - you can expect the questions to continue, as it's likely that Rooney will be played up front and possibly in midfield too.

The only thing that really concerns Fergie is that he finds the right attacking formula and with so much competition for places at Old Trafford these days, do not be surprised if United go to win the next two games.

Whatever happens on Sunday and no matter what the press and media make of the result, there are no prizes handed out at the end of September. Only at the end of next May will we know if Fergie has truly met his match in Scolari.

No matter what Fergie says at press conferences, I hope the Reds and the manager continue to baffle us and our opponents by playing brilliant football, like only United can.

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