Friday, July 31, 2009

Fergie must go back to drawing board in search of goals...

United were in action last night in the final of the Audi Cup, which they eventually went on to lose on penalties after the match ended goalless. However, the champions were lucky not be three down at half-time, the fact that they weren't was down to a combination of good fortune and poor finishing as Bayern Munich squandered several good chances.

Bayern dominated the opening period not least because United were sloppy in possession with Scholes, Evra and Owen all losing the ball cheaply. Both teams hit the woodwork, and it was Berbatov who came closest in the first-half to scoring for United. As acrobatic efforts go the former Spurs striker's overhead-kick was well executed, but truth be told the Bulgarian's effort on goal was totally against the run of play.

United improved in the second period with the introduction of Wayne Rooney and new signing Atonio Valencia. Rooney missed a good chance to score after being put clean through by Giggs and Michael Owen saw an earlier effort on goal blocked by Rensing. Atonio Valencia looked lively on the right flank after replacing the totally ineffective Darron Gibson; Fergie will be hoping the Ecuadorian’s pace will be a potent weapon in the coming weeks.

As pre-season friendlies go it was a decent work-out for United, but it was one that raised several questions about the manager's plans for the season ahead. Scholes played at the heart the midfield and it's difficult to quantify his contribution, because on one hand he had more touches of the ball than any other United player, but he was also guilty of losing the ball in dangerous areas in the first-half - which was a feature of his game last season.

Michael Carrick was rested and Darren Fletcher played in the right-back slot, so supporters will not be reading too much into the fact that Scholes played the whole game at the heart of the midfield.

United's other midfield veteran Ryan Giggs was anchored alongside Scholes and truth be told apart from one slide-rule pass to the feet of Wayne Rooney, he didn't do enough and at times it was all too easy for Bayern to by-pass the champions engine room which led to the Reds defence being breached all too easily.

Ageing legs aside, most concerning of all was the complexion of United's forward line, Fergie has announced that in a bid to address the goal-scoring problem Dimitar Berbatov will play in a more attacking role, he will be used as a centre-forward be that in a 4:4:2 or a 4:3:3 formation.

If last night's performance in the Allianz Arena was anything to go off then it won't be long before Fergie is revisiting the drawing board. It wasn't just that the front three starting combination of Nani, Berbatov and Owen failed to gel; there were fundamental errors of judgment on the manager's part. Owen is not and never will be a right winger, yet that is where he'd been asked to play, at least it looked that way. Owen isn't great with his back to goal and so it came as no surprise to see him losing the ball cheaply on the halfway-line, which led to Bayern taking the control in dangerous areas of the pitch.

Supporters and pundits alike have questioned Berbatov's commitment and desire, and in the first-half when United were coming under the cosh, Rio Ferdinand was seen visibly giving the Bulgarian an earful, no doubt in a bid to galvanise him into action - whatever was said, it didn't really work but Berbatov did help lay on a decent second-half chance for Owen to score.

Fergie will have been reasonably satisfied with the workout but his assertion that Berbatov will play a more prominent role where the hunt for goals is concerned is likely to come under scrutiny in the weeks ahead.

The United manager has gone on record saying that United will have to do something different this season following the loss of prolific goal-scorer Cristiano Ronaldo, but expecting Berbatov to fill that void is one of pure fantasy because Berbatov never has been or will be a prolific goal-scoring centre forward.

Berbatov has been given ample opportunities to show what he is capable of, but he has failed to convince many observers that he is a totally committed United player.
The Bulgarian's skill is not in question, but his willingness to roll up his sleeves and do a job for the team when the chips are down is definite weakness in his game.

On the wider point of what United fans expect this season, we could see Rooney and Owen on opposite flanks with Berbatov down the middle, that combination is certainly different, but it won't win many prizes and it is doomed to failure if used in a 4:3:3 - the word ridiculous would be a better way of describing that line-up.


  1. Travelled back from Asia, played a game the day before. Looked impressive against Boca. Two players who have never scored for us did.

    It was one game, I wouldn't take anything from that.

  2. You really have to be the most pessimistic Utd fan I've ever heard the opinion of.
    To be fair though, you are the one who said Barca wouldn't be any threat in last years Champions League, so I'll take your predictions to mean that we'll win everything going!

  3. Noteverything,

    Arf, you're dead right there about my predictions I've been hopelessly wrong on many occasions. However, rather than poking fun at my predictions, what do you think about Rooney and Owen starting games on the flanks and Berbatov being used as a centre forward which is what Fergie has said today ref the Bulgarian?

    One of my other summer predictions is that Macheda will play more games than Owen this season. IMO the young Italian is the most suited player on the books for the lone striker role in a 4:3:3 formation.

    IF Fergie goes with 4:4:2 he could then fit Berbatov in, but truth be told Rooney, Owen and Berbatov could do better when playing off the main striker.

  4. I can't see anything other than a 4-4-2, which Fergie seemed to be using in the pre-seasons.
    I'd be very surprised if Rooney is pushed out wide again, especially with the purchase of Valencia and Owen, both much more classical 1 position specialists.

  5. This is simply astounding. The player who could have moved to the wings, Tevez, has been allowed to leave, and if Owen is played there, with Giggs still being central to the setup, I have no idea what to expect. United might have to win out of sheer bloody-mindedness to tactical ineptitude.

  6. Uday,

    You are bang on the money as usual.

    I'd also add that Fergie saying he's expecting Berbatov to play in this slightly different role will turn out to be a flight of fancy. To my mind you can only really accommodate Berbatov in a 4:4:2 and then he'd be the second striker, the trouble being Rooney, and Owen are also essentially second strikers, which just leaves Macheda for the other main striker role.

    One thing I didn't mention in the post is that so far this summer Rooney and Owen haven't apparently played together which would appear to indicate that Fergie will play one or the other and not both at the same time - at least that is how one hack has viewed the situation - I'm not convinced about that line of thinking and I can see Fergie using 4:3:3 with Owen and Rooney on the flanks in a big at least one big game in the not too distant future.

  7. After all the traveling and hectic schedule i would not look too much into this one game. If anything bayern were the disappointing side considering they were at home. I know its early to be making conclusions but since your doing it with this ONE match, Valencia in the two little cameos he has had for utd has looked very impressive and not fazed at all. I thought id add that considering you don't rate the guy at all.

  8. Tony,

    I totally agree with your point about Bayern being average. I'm not in the least concerned about the defeat in the final, after all it was only a pre-season game. However, I am concerned about Fergie's plans for the season ahead and in particular how he expects the team to score 100 goals. (see today's post on this subject).


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