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.


  1. have to disagree with you there when you say "Sooner or later Ferguson is going to realise that 433 simply isn't working." He will never learn this fact! the more people in the media who say it's not working, the more determined he will be to persist with it. Belligerence is one of fergie's best qualities, it's also one of his worst. Also just on a side note, can you imagine how Berba must be feeling knowing that he'll be sat on the bench for every big game this season. i'd want a transfer if i were him!

  2. You could be right. In reference to Berbatov. It was noticeable that at the season start there appeared to be a marked change of attitude (Rooney actually made reference to this), but when he came on last night he looked like his old self again - ie in no particular rush, and dare I suggest a tad pissed off.

    I could be totally wrong, but I have a feeling Fergie could be at loggerheads with several players over his tactics.

    Further to which, his comments about the hotel being the wrong choice and that could have been a factor in our CL final defeat beggared belief.

    Clearly, Mike Phelan isn't up to the job of giving Fergie sound tatical advice and I think we are missing a top coach because the manager cannot see the obvious problems within the current squad.

  3. I couldn't find a feed, so didn't get to watch the match, but I was wondering how you thought Anderson fared?

    I have suggested to friends that a problem with SAF's team selection is due to his having parts of two different sides (4-4-2 and 4-5-1), but not all the pieces for either. Rooney is not the lone striker for the 4-5-1, and we don't seem to have the midfield that can link up with him when he is asked to play that role.

    When United play 4-4-2, the midfield is in danger of being overrun by many of the better sides we face, and I don't think the crosses from Evra/Nani and Valencia are quite up to the required standard. I would, however, stick with a 4-4-2 formation as both Nani and Valencia are young and capable of improving. Also, Fletcher is coming on leaps and bounds, and if Anderson is ready to step up, we'd still have a chance to win the league.

    I sincerely hope that United don't line up in a 4-5-1 formation for the derby because it would signal that United are afraid of City, and probably result in a match that was a lot less fun to watch.

  4. NWshoegazer,

    Anderson didn't do enough really to justify his selection, but he was marginally better than Carrick whose United career appears to be going downhill faster than Franz Klammer.

    I totally agree with your comments about not having a striker that is suited to playing the lone striker role and Fergie needs to understand that, but he keeps on trying to use the same system and it's flawed.

    I also agree with your comments about the derby too. Besiktas were so bad it was mind-boggling really and yet it was if we were facing Real Madrid.

    Sooner or later United will take a real pasting and perhaps only then will the manager realise that he cannot continue to play one up front because inevitably against a good side the ball will just keep on coming back at the defence/midfield.

  5. Great comments and great article. It seems that, unlike Real and Barca, United's side can't pick itself. With minor exceptions, I could guess 10 out of 11 starters for those squads. One would think Berbatov should be starting every match to build up momentum and confidence. Let's not get too hasty with the midfield until Hargreaves is back. He could fill that role nicely, especially for UCL matches.

  6. Evgenii,

    Judging by the body language of Berbatov when he came on in Istanbul I'm certain he wants to start every game. I'm getting the feeling that some of the squad are losing faith in Fergie, and Rooney might well be among them....

    I hope I'm wrong but I fear Hargreaves is all but washed up.

  7. James,

    I also hope you are wrong about Hargreaves but he has been injury prone for these two years and there's not much hope.

    I understand that SAF wants to rest Berba for Sunday, it is not unprecedented with him by any means, but Berba has shown more desire this year and could really break out when he and Rooney develop a Yorke/Cole type partnership. After re-watching my 98/99 season highlights, I am more convinced how weak we are on the wings. I had forgotten than Beckham had something like 25 assist on the right wing. Valencia is nowhere close to that and our left wing is vitually non-existent (unless you count Evra).

    The question is, did SAF purposely leave Rooney as a sole striker because he was worried about his central midfield, or was he trying to win a tough tie in a far destination while resting some of his regulars and wasn't concerned with attacking? If we are that scared about our central midfield (and I am! I'm talking about you, Michael Carrick), then we should wet our pants about Barcelona. Oh, that's right, our Carrick/Anderson combination was fantastic against Barcelona, right?! The silver lining is Fletcher. Fantastic so far this year.


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