Monday, September 21, 2009

Fergie happy to swat 'noisy neighbour'

Fergie was understandably in fine spirits post-derby on Sunday after Michael Owen's stoppage time strike sunk City 4-3 at Old Trafford and increased Manchester Uniteds football betting odds.
In what the United gaffer described as 'the best derby of all-time' it was United who came out on top and silenced their 'nosiy neighbour'.
That was how Sir Alex described United's cross-City rivals after all the pre-season hype and the Carlos Tevez poster campaign which had clearly irked the United supremo.
Ferguson had slammed City as arrogant referring to the inappropriate poster of Tevez in Manchester City centre which read 'welcome to Manchester' and he made reference to the offensive poster again ahead of derby day.
But with seconds remaining it looked as though Fergie would have to settle for a share of the spoils and bit his lip, despite taking the lead three times, until Owen popped up with his second goal for the Premier League champions.
"Sometimes you have a noisy neighbour. You cannot do anything about that. They will always be noisy," said Ferguson.
"You just have to get on with your life, put your television on and turn it up a bit louder.
"Today the players showed their form. That is the best answer of all.
"We could have had six or seven today."
Mistakes from Ben Foster and Rio Ferdinand twice let the visitors back into the game and Ferguson added: "The fact we made those mistakes probably made it the best derby game of all time.
"What would you rather have, a 6-0 win or the greatest derby of all time? I would prefer to win 6-0."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Giggs shines in magnificent derby madness: Taxi for Ferdinand and Foster?

Message to Rio Ferdinand and Ben Foster: You are playing for your futures as Manchester United players because today you were both a total disgrace. As far as Foster is concerned, even before today's derby howler, I think Fergie might well have decided that he will not be United's long-term replacement for Edwin van der Sarr.

There is no excuse for Foster's first-half mistake; it was the sort of error you might expect a 10-year-old to make. Foster should have done better with City's third equaliser too, but he was beaten too easily. If I was marking Foster on his performance today, I'd have to give him one out of ten, he was that bad. Foster does not inspire any confidence, his kicking is woeful and I'm surely not the only one whose heart skipped a beat every time the ball was played back to him. Foster is fast turning into a liability.

IF Foster's dropped bollock wasn't alarming enough, Rio Ferdinand was just as bad when he gifted Bellamy the ball in the 89th minute - what I ask was the United centre-back trying to do, what was he thinking of?

Worryingly for United, Ferdinand is starting to make stupid mistakes and his back injury looks to be giving him serious problems, because when Bellamy received that gift of a pass he simply raced away and Ferdinand couldn't get near him. It isn't the first really bad mistake Ferdinand has made of late - he was dire for England in a recent friendly when giving the ball away which led to a goal and he was also guilty of giving a hospital ball to John Terry in the same game. Ferdinand was rank bad in the Champions League final too and you do wonder if Ferguson should do what Wegner would do in this situation - that is off-load him as soon as possible and for good money.

It won't happen, but Foster and Ferdinand should give this week's wages to a local charity, because today they let the club down badly and frankly they do not deserve to pick up a pay packet. The pair of them should also apologise to the supporters for potentially wrecking the fans week.

Apart from the performance of Park and John O'Shea, the rest of the team played really well today. Park's lack of ability was in evidence throughout this game, the South Korean barely did anything right, his distribution was awful. It was obvious early on in the derby that Park would be the first one to be replaced - truth be told it was Fergie's only mistake in his starting eleven because Valencia is a far better player and he would have at least given Wayne Bridge something to think about which actually came about once the Ecuadorian was finally introduced midway through the second-period.

O'Shea is slow and really isn't well suited to play fullback, the fact is United have been getting away with it for too long. O'Shea was guilty of allowing Bellamy too much room as United once again paid the price when the Welshman equalised for the second time with a spectacular thunderbolt.

It wasn't all bad though, far from it, the mistakes turned the game on its head and as deeply annoying as they were, those errors helped make it one of the most exciting and open derby games for a very long time.

Rooney continued his excellent scoring run with a superbly taken early goal after great work by Evra on the left. Once United had taken the lead it looked like they would go on to steamroll City, but that was until Foster intervened with his one man comedy routine as he gifted the visitors a totally undeserved equaliser as Gareth Barry had the simple task of sliding the ball into an empty goal beyond the despairing lunge of Vidic. City played well for the remainder of the opening period. United made the mistake of allowing the visitors too much time on the ball at the back, United weren't pressing City enough and this allowed the Citizens time and space.

United got out of jail when Tevez clipped the post when he should have done better, but until Foster's intervention it was difficult to see any way back into the derby, which just made the keeper's error even harder to bare.

United started the second-half like they'd started the first-half, pushing City back in their own half and once again the combination of Giggs and Evra produced dividends for the champions as they combined which led to the Welshman supplying a fine cross that was headed home by Darren Fletcher, with a little help from Barry.

However, just a few minutes later City were back on level terms, apart from O'Shea and Park ball-watching, United couldn't complain too much about Bellamy's rocket of a shot that gave Foster no chance, but once again the equaliser was totally against the run of play because unlike the last thirty minutes of the first-half United were the dominant side.

How Berbatov didn't get his name on the score-sheet is something of minor mystery, but Shay Given was living a charmed-life in the City goal. Berbatov had four good chances to score, but it was just one of those games. It came as no surprise that Fergie finally replaced the Bulgarian in the 77th minute when sending on Michael Owen and just three minutes later Darren Fletcher gave the champions the lead, and once again it was Ryan Giggs who was the provider.

City had an excellent chance to equalise when Richards narrowly failed to connect with a wicked ball from a corner late on in this absorbing game, but then Rio Ferdinand made United's second schoolboy error of the day. Instead of lumping the ball to safety, Ferdinand gave the ball to Petrov who found Bellamy and he raced away and beat Foster with ease to make it three-a-piece.

Ferdinand had a stinker of a game - it wasn't just his mistake that led to City's third equaliser. On the three separate first-half occasions the England centre-back was guilty of booting the ball up field to no one in particular, and today United really needed to retain possession - such a shame then that Ferdinand didn't engage his brain late on and do what he'd been doing throughout the first-half and launch the ball up the park or else to safety in the 89th minute...

City got what they finally deserved deep into injury time when Ryan Giggs played the ball of the game to the feet of Michael Owen who controlled the ball with his first touch and then scored with his second and just how sweet was that? Fergie has rightly described Owen's finish as world-class and it was.

Many United fans will not have been aware of the poster that was created by the City fans when Owen signed for the club, but who's laughing now? Ferguson was questioned about that controversial signing but Owen has repaid the manager's faith in spades, his winning goal will be savoured for many years to come.

United fans can go to work next week and have a good laugh at the City fans, it is going to be a wonderful micky-taking week. Ferguson got it pretty much bang on today and it is hoped he will continue to use 442 because at times today and last weekend against Spurs it was like watching the old United with those crosses being fired into the visitors penalty area.

My man of the man match was Ryan Giggs, at times today he was simply magnificent, he nutmegged Wright-Phillips on at least one occasion and he had the beating of Richards too. Giggs best position is wide-left, as he proved today he still has much to offer, but his versatility was highlighted when he popped up in an advanced central position to supply the winner. Ryan Giggs we love you, we really do.

As for Mark Hughes carping about the added minutes, City deserved NOTHING today. It should be noted that the City players were still celebrating their third equaliser into the 91st minute and no doubting that accounted for the additional added time, that plus a United substitution.

Finally, the FA and quite possibly the police will surely be taking action against Craig Bellamy for punching a supporter after the final whistle, at the time the supporter was actually being held by a steward. The FA should also take a look at TV replays for a clear attempted stamp on the leg of Anderson by Bellamy, this was when the Brazilian was lay on the ground after the Welshman had fouled him. Bellamy is a snide and a coward.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Message to Fergie: Liverpool is NOT the derby and NEVER has been.

I don't know what Fergie has been drinking or smoking, but whatever it is it appears to have affected his memory because his comment that Liverpool has always been the derby is totally way off beam. Fergie doesn't like Liverpool, that much is clear - and neither do the Red Army. However, while we despise most things from the wrong end of the East Lancs Road (Rooney and the Beatles excluded), the animosity between United and City fans runs deep. Ahead of Sunday's derby with City and whatever Fergie said about Liverpool being the derby, the fact is he knows how much winning means to United fans. United play City this weekend in the 152nd derby, the outcome of every one of those encounters has been important to the fans, but Sunday's clash is, and I make no apologies for this, truly MASSIVE.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fergie must start derby with two strikers or else....

United face neighbours City in the Manchester derby on Sunday, if it wasn't for the fact that Adebayor is suspended the Blues could well have been favourites to win the game given their impressive start to the new season. Adebayor will of course miss the derby which means that United should be favourites, but much will depend on how Ferguson approaches this clash.

In two out of the champions last three fixtures the manager has started with just Wayne Rooney up front, which handed the initiative to Arsenal and then Besiktas in midweek. In both of those fixtures United didn't create a genuine goal-scoring opportunity until the second striker was introduced late on.

The big problem for Ferguson and United is that Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are both essentially second-strikers - they are not target men like Adebayor and Drogba, nor do they have the pace of Fernando Torres.

Rival manager Mark Hughes has spent heavily this summer and his new players have quickly gelled into a formidable outfit. As Arsenal discovered last weekend, with Adebayor the Citizens' are arguably the most potent counter-attacking team in the Premier League. It is therefore vital that United retain possession on Sunday and to do that Ferguson simply must start with Berbatov and Rooney up front - if he doesn't there is a very strong possibility that the manager will be handing City the initiative and worse still as we have seen in two out of the last three games United won't create many goal scoring opportunities.

Whenever Ferguson floods midfield it is negative and it sends out a message to our opponents, one that says he is scared of them, by default this over-cautious approach speaks volumes about the manager's lack of confidence in his midfield. However, last weekend at Spurs and against Wigan before that the team played well when the manager was bold when starting with 442. It was a slightly different scenario when United still had Ronaldo; with his pace the manager had a potent weapon, one that put the fear of god into our opponents.

If Ferguson starts with 433/451 it could well end in tears. In the remote case that he should need reminding United are playing at Old Trafford and so he needs to bold when selecting his team. United got out of jail against Arsenal thanks to Almunia and Diaby. On Tuesday Besiktas were worse than awful - they were totally clueless. Fergie has been pushing his luck when starting with 433, his luck will run out sooner or later if he doesn't see the light and quickly.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

United win again inspite of Fergie's tactics: 433 isn't working

Sooner or later Ferguson is going to realise that 433 simply isn't working. It didn't work against Arsenal and it didn't work last night in Istanbul where United just about managed to see off the dispirited challenge of Besiktas thanks to a late, but very welcome Paul Scholes header.

One wonders if the United manager had paid any attention at all to his spying reports on the Turks because four words could sum up Besiktas "there for the taking". Whatever the contents of the dossier on last night's Champions League opponents, Ferguson approached the game with caution and started with 433; the very same formation that saw United create only one genuine goal-scoring opportunity against Arsenal recently and that was only after Berbatov had been introduced in the 85th minute, from that point on the champions belatedly had two strikers on the pitch and seven minutes later the Bulgarian fluffed United's only genuine chance to score from open play.

It was more or less the same story last night in Istanbul; United huffed and puffed throughout the game with Rooney being deployed as the lone striker. Valencia had a decent game on the right, he had the beating of his man but his final ball all too often left a lot to be desired.

Former United star and now occasional studio pundit Gordon Strachan made the point that the champions will look more and more to the right flank, just as they did when Beckham donned the famous red shirt. However, Valencia has much work to do on his crossing, which was very poor against Besiktas and comparisons with Beckham are totally ridiculous at this point in his very short United career.

Michael Carrick was restored to midfield and apart from a speculative long-range first-half effort he had another game to forget. At one point he tried to dummy the opposition but he only succeeded in fooling himself as he lost the ball inside his own half, which happened more than once.

Carrick looks shot to pieces confidence wise, so much so that on the evidence of what we have seen this season Paul Scholes is once again United's most influential user of the ball. Scholes was the man of the match, it wasn't just the fact that he scored, because throughout the game he used the ball well. It doesn't alter the fact that United are over-reliant on veterans like Scholes, Giggs and to a lesser extent Gary Neville, it is a problem that doesn't look like it will be solved any time soon.

For their part Besiktas were awful and it came to something when they sent on Yusuf in a bid to win the game. Yusuf had the look (and no doubt lack of pace) of Frank Lampard (senior) - the Turks were frankly appalling. If the Turks were bad, United weren't much better and once again they didn't create a single-goal scoring opportunity while the formation was 433. Even after the introduction of Owen and Berbatov, the champions created just one genuine chance to score which was thankfully taken by Scholes.

Much is being made of Rooney having a strop following the manager's decision to take him off; just perhaps he was as frustrated as the fans who could see that 433 wasn't working. Even Andy Gray and Martin Tyler could see it for heaven's sake.

So was there any mitigating reason to be so cautious on the night? Well United were playing away from home and in a cauldron of noise, but the best way to silence the home crowd is to score an early goal. The impressive home crowd was indeed silenced once Scholes had finally scored - such a pity that it didn't happen sooner.

Strachan was later asked why United didn't perform in the Champions League final. On the very same day when Ferguson had been talking about the possibility that the team hotel was wrong (among many other things) but without actually offering any sort of tangible explanation for his team's catastrophic failure in the final, or come to that accepting any personal blame, the former Celtic manager hit the nail on the head. Strachan says that Barcelona are the best in the world where the 433 formation is concerned, he went on to say rather than trying to match-up against Barca with the same system, Fergie should have gone with 442 which would have given them something to think about. Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, but it should be blindingly obvious that 433 isn't working this season sans Ronaldo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fergie determined to right final wrongs

Sir Alex Ferguson’s long-suffering wife Cathy must have rolled her eyes when she saw her husband packing a DVD of United’s Champions League final defeat by Barcelona on their summer holiday.

But you don’t become one of the greatest club managers of all time by not doing your homework and Fergie’s attention to detail cannot be underestimated.

United kick-off their Champions League campaign against Beskitas on Tuesday, but it’s obvious the 2-0 defeat by Barcelona in last May's final still wrangles with the United gaffer.

The Red Devils were a shadow of the side which crushed Arsenal in the semi-final and Fergie is determined not to repeat the mistakes of last season.

The boss has understandably refused to make clear the reasons which he believes hindered United’s efforts, but has hinted the club’s preparation for the Rome final with Barca was far from perfect.

"You can look at reasons and excuses and it's always better to look at the reasons," said Fergie.

"They are quite clear what they are. If there were no reasons at all then we would be worried but I think there were valid reasons so we will move on.

"I don't want to go into what those reasons were but I took the DVD on holiday and watched it and went through everything and it made me feel more honest about the whole build-up, everything."

"Did we have the right hotel? Things like this, the training, everything. So I am quite clear about where we are.

"I think those problems can be put right and they certainly will be put right."

United flew out on Monday, May 25 for the final, which was two days later, and trained in the evening before retiring to Rome’s five-star Exedra Hotel.

We await Fergie's plans for next year, assuming United reach it again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

United pass Spurs test as the "lucky general" continues to shuffle pack...

Manchester United came back to win impressively against Spurs on Saturday after the champions had conceded a goal in the opening minute of what turned out to be a pulsating game in north London. It was Jermaine Defoe who opened the scoring with an acrobatic over-head kick following a Peter Crouch header, the goal came about after United had lost possession in midfield as the visitors tried to play the ball out of trouble.

At that point the millions of on-looking United fans will have feared it was going to turn out to be a mauling, because truth be told the team Ferguson had sent out will have bemused many supporters.

New signing Atonio Valencia was axed and Ryan Giggs was preferred to Nani and Park. Surprisingly, the Welshman was selected to play wide-left, but if that decision raised eyebrows, Fergie's decision to play Fletcher on the opposite flank was equally as baffling. Few people apart from those within Fergie's inner-circle will know how the manager arrives at such decisions, because we've been told umpteen times recently that Giggs no longer plays on the wing. In recent games we have seen Anderson playing left-wing with Giggs being deployed in the centre of midfield, but yesterday the roles were reversed as the Brazilian was selected alongside Paul Scholes.

The make-up of United's midfield was puzzling; selecting two veterans against high-flying Spurs was surely asking for trouble, but there was some mitigating factors on a day when the manager's tinkering was fully vindicated with a thoroughly deserved victory.

United take on Besiktas in Istanbul on Tuesday and you do wonder if Fergie had decided to rest players like Valencia ahead of that game. The decision to play Anderson instead of Carrick will raise further question marks about the manager's confidence in the former Spurs midfield star. However, Scholes will surely be benched for the trip to Istanbul and so we can probably expect Carrick to come in from the cold. The Spurs game came on the back of an international break and that could be another reason why Fergie selected Scholes and Giggs, who have both retired from the international scene.

As for Anderson, he had a decent game against Spurs as he went on to score his first goal for the club which gave United the lead before the interval, that was after Ryan Giggs had equalised with a stunning free-kick that beat Carlo Cudicini all ends up.

Giggs isn't renowned for his free-kicks, which tend to be very hit and miss, but his effort against Spurs will live long in the memory because it was technically quite brilliant. The free-kick came about after Berbatov had been brought down just outside the penalty area, but it wasn't that far out that Giggs could blast the ball knowing it would dip once it cleared the Spurs wall of defenders. The Welshman curled the ball with just enough power to clear the wall and the flailing arms of Cudicini. The Giggs effort was right out of the Zinedine Zidane scrapbook, it really was that good; it had subtlety, deftness of touch and direction, it was the perfect free-kick.

Once the champions had equalised they bossed the game and had further opportunities to score. Patrice Evra robbed Arron Lennon midway through the first period and his low cross found the feet of Rooney, but his first time effort was saved by Cudicini who then made a double save to deny Berbatov, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Despite dominating the game, United didn't have it all their own way and Peter Crouch was proving to be a big thorn in the side. The former Liverpool striker had out-jumped Rio Ferdinand and could easily have scored on a couple of occasions, the closest he came was just after half-time when another header hit Ben Foster's cross-bar. Foster had to be on his toes to make a fine fingertip save from Jermaine Jenas not long the Spurs substitute had entered the action at the break.

Paul Scholes was controversially sent-off by Andre Marriner who was having a mixed game in the middle - the referee had somehow managed to single-handedly break up two United moves when getting in the way of the ball - far worse still was his decision to issue the second yellow card to Scholes for his challenge on Huddlestone - who it should be noted was a total disgrace when feigning a facial injury when in fact there was absolutely nothing wrong with him. United might well appeal, as most fair minded observers’ would agree the second yellow card was harsh - that is unless you happen to be MOTD pundit Alan Shearer who said the decision to send off Scholes was a fair one.

Even when United were reduced to ten men they looked the more likely to score and it was nice to see Evra once again dispossessing Arron Lennon which set Rooney free down the left, but on this occasion Cudicini rescued Spurs with a good safe at the near post. However, the Italian stopper's luck ran out a few minutes later when Rooney raced through to middle as he latched on to a fine ball from Darren Fletcher and then fired home to seal the points.

Saturday's win pushed the champions into second place in the Premier League and while the performance was undoubtedly polished the result probably said more about Spurs ambitions of becoming a 'top-four' club. Spurs lost Luka Modric through injury in their last game and his absence was a factor on a day of disappointments for Harry Redknapp's team.

For their part United will be rightly delighted about the performance and the result, but there are still many question marks about the current squad. Against Arsenal at Old Trafford two weeks ago Fergie started the game with just one striker when leaving Berbatov on the bench, the champions were extremely fortunate to win that game. It is to be hoped that Ferguson continues where the team left off against Spurs because the manager had started with Rooney and Berbatov up front - but the manager's pre-season promise that the former Spurs striker would be pushed further up front was abandoned because in point of fact it was Rooney who was the focal point of United's attack.

Ferguson's inference that Berbatov could become a target-man has been greeted with scepticism - at least it was on this blog - and so far this season there has been no evidence to support Ferguson's assertion.

Ferguson left Berbatov on the bench against Arsenal, many would say this was purely down to a lack of faith in his midfield. Those questions continues will continue to be asked about United's engine room. There will also be questions about the continued use of Rooney who will eventually suffer from player burn-out, it is only a matter of when as things stand.

United needed to sign a genuine target-man this summer, an all around striker, someone who could lead the line and score goals. Adebayor wanted to sign according to Ferguson - the United manager must surely now be regretting that public admission, because Manchester City are United's next opponents in the Premier League and the former Arsenal striker has been quite superb thus far and his performances have served to highlight the value of a genuine target-man which has given Mark Hughes the option of playing five in midfield.

On Saturday City scored four goals against Arsenal, the man of that match was Adebayor who was at times un-playable. City's win over Arsenal wasn't as clear-cut as the 4-2 score-line suggested, but make no mistake the Citizens will take more points off the leading title contenders.

Against Arsenal recently United were lucky to win, they were also lucky in that Modric was injured for Spurs. There must be a very strong possibility that Ferguson could be about to get lucky again because if there's any justice Adebayor will be banned for at least three games, if not more, for his clear stamp on the face of Robin Van Persie. If Adebayor does manage to get himself banned and misses the Manchester derby, it will add further weight to the theory that Ferguson is indeed a lucky general.

There was nothing lucky about United's win over Spurs and it is be hoped the team that played so well at the weekend can repeat that performance against Besiktas and especially Manchester City, it would be very nice to become the first team to take three points off them this season. Bring it on.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

United confident Pogba deal was legal

FIFA's transfer ban imposed on Chelsea has, as expected, opened up a can of worms regarding the tapping up of players.

Chelsea were banned last week from registering any new players until 2011 for improper conduct when they signed Gael Kakuta from French club Lens in 2007.

And already accusations have been lodged at United over the signing of Paul Pogba.

Le Harve have alleged that United acted illegally and intimidated them and are ready to go to FIFA, however the champions have reacted swiftly and chief executive David Gill has refuted the allegations.

"It's not intimidation but they can't insult us," Gill said.

"We are not intimidating Le Havre, we have no intention of intimidating Le Havre, they can take whatever action they fell appropriate.

"We have done everything by the book, we are confident in that, they can take whatever action, we won't be insulted by Le Havre.

"It's an insult by Le Havre to suggest that Manchester United and employees of Manchester United have paid the parents and bought the player's parents a house.

"We will not accept the good name of Manchester United being trawled around websites and the press saying we have done these things we are not allowed to do.

"If they want to take action, they can take action, we will defend our case in the football bodies, we are very comfortable about doing that."

There's no doubt that players have been poached illegally from clubs throughout Europe over the last few years, but United remain confident they are innocent.

It remains to be seen whether United will be forced to have a case to answer with Le Harve insistent they have evidence of United offering Pogba £3,500 a week from when he is 17 in March.

It will be interesting to see how, if more clubs have fines imposed on them for transfer deals, the Premier League betting odds shift.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Fergie pins hopes on Obertan

Sir Alex has revealed he expects big things from Gabriel Obertan when the youngster returns from injury in the near future.
The 20-year-old arrived at Old Trafford in the summer from Bordeaux for a fee of around £3million and despite many people believing ‘he was one for the future’ Fergie obviously thinks otherwise.
The France Under-21 winger is currently sidelined with a back problem but the United chief believes Obertan will be back in action within six weeks and ready to make an impact on their Premier League odds.
“Gabriel has had a spine problem, but I think he’ll be back in about a month to six weeks’ time,” Ferguson told Inside United magazine.
“We’re taking our time with him because we want him back and at 100 per cent. He’s very quick, he can play both sides or through the middle and he brings a real versatility to us.
“At 16 he was one of the outstanding young talents in Europe, and he’s said to us that over this last year and a half he’s been playing with this back injury and no-one thought about getting a scan. We expect big things from him. He’s a nice boy, speaks good English and should have no problem settling in.”
Obertan ended last season on loan to Lorient, where he scored one goal in 15 appearances and made only six starts.
However, he was named the most valuable player at the Toulon youth tournament earlier in the year and scored against Stuart Pearce’s England Under-21s football team.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

United have lost the X-factor; Is Fergie guilty of resting on his laurels?

Going off early season form isn't always a reliable indicator for what may lie ahead and Manchester United are usually, but not always, slow starters, however, following the loss of Ronaldo and Tevez this summer the champions have looked very ordinary. United were very lucky against Arsenal last weekend, they won convincingly against a poor Wigan team the weekend before that and of course they deservedly lost against Burnley and only just managed a win on the opening day of the new season against Birmingham.

Despite not playing that well the results thus far have been okay, aside from the farce at Turf Moor that is, but many United fans have concerns about the current squad and Ferguson's baffling starting selections.

Following the loss of Ronaldo everyone has been asking who will score the goals. Ferguson's answer to the goal-scoring question was simple "United will play differently". The United manager went on to say that Berbatov's role would change; he would become the focal point of the attack. It wasn't exactly a bold solution and it was one which left many fans deeply unimpressed, because the idea that United would plunder more goals as a result of what after all was a minor reshuffle was never going to work.

It actually came as no surprise that the Bulgarian striker was axed for the Arsenal game last weekend as the manager opted to flood the midfield with a negative 451 formation, it was a disappointing decision but one that was entirely predictable.

If United were going to continue where they left off last season and go on to secure an unprecedented fourth Premier League title in a row and make up for the loss of Ronaldo the manager needed to be bold in the transfer market. The champions needed an out and out striker, someone who could lead the line and guarantee 20 goals. By his own admission Ferguson declined the opportunity to sign Adebayor, a decision which is looking more bizarre by the week because the former Arsenal star has notched in every game thus far.

In the Champions League final, Barcelona took full advantage of some obvious weaknesses in United's engine room and so surgery is required in that department too. Supporters and pundits alike were expecting Ferguson to spend the £80m from the sale of Ronaldo, but the manager has bemused many when opting to sign injury-prone Michael Owen and unproven Atonio Valencia.

The net result of this summer's turmoil has left United looking short of ideas in midfield and light on consistent goal-scorers. Wayne Rooney is an exceptional player, but if the manager is going to rely on him too much there is a serious danger of player burn-out. Rooney has done well thus far in front goal, but it doesn't alter the fact that the team has definitely lost its X-factor.

Questions are being asked about the club's massive debts, heaped onto United by the Glazer family following their unwelcome takeover. David Conn in The Guardian has highlighted the huge interest payments of £263m since 2005 and yet the club have yet to pay hedge fund debts which are rolling up at a staggering rate of over 14% a year. There is a suspicion among the fans that Fergie's lack of movement in the transfer market this summer could be down to financial pressures.

While the Scot has been making modest signings this summer, Manchester City have been busily acquiring players from rival clubs. Ferguson has suggested the market is over-inflated and that is partly down to City. Despite this and without breaking any records, among many others the City manager signed Gareth Barry and Adebayor - both look like solid signings. In contrast to Ferguson, Hughes has bought well and early.

Given the various problems faced by Ferguson, it isn't unfair to ask if privately he has conceded that the club will have to settle for second-best this season, because even with the danger of making what could turn out to be foolish predictions United do not have the look of champions. If United go on to have a poor season you can expect more questions about the manager's own position and I for one fully expect that scenario to fold unfold in the weeks ahead.

If there is a hope it is that the current squad pulls together and that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic remain injury free because a solid defence will always provide a platform to build upon. Owen Hargreaves has been named in the United's Champions League squad, that news will have been greeted with a few raised eyebrows given his injury situation. There's no doubting Hargreaves has been missed but you do wonder if this latest comeback attempt will be his last, but it is welcome news nonetheless.

The transfer window has slammed shut and Ferguson has been left talking about unproven new signings like Gabriel Obertan, who will be back in action soon following problems with his back. The United manager has also been talking about Mame Biram Diouf. The Senegalese youngster is currently on-loan playing for Norwegian club Molde, but there are no guarantees about his future as there are work permit issues to address, though it's expected he will arrive in January along with Adem Ljajic who is also out on loan at Partizan Belgrade.

The next two league games against Spurs (a) and City (h) will tell us a lot about the current Manchester United, they failed to rise to the occasion against Arsenal, but truth be told the team that started wasn't helped by the manager with his negative tactics. United and Ferguson need to raise their game and quickly.

Finally, United have been named the world's "most valuable sports club" by Forbes Magazine. Their total value is put at £1.17billion. I don't know how Forbes arrived at such a conclusion, the club's massive debts cannot have been taken into account, which is somewhat bizarre.