Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Lowly West Ham embarrass United following Blackburn Lord Mayors Show...

Manchester United were in action last night in the quarter final of the Carling Cup against depleted West Ham United; the Hammers have been struggling all season, their manager Avram Grant is said to be on the verge of being sacked. Ahead of the game - and ignoring the fact that United rarely have an easy time of it when visiting the Boleyn Ground, United will have fancied their chances of progressing into the semi-finals, especially given that so many West Ham first-team regulars were missing.

As things turned out, the holders were given a sound beating - the 4-0 scoreline didn't flatter the Hammers in the slightest. As is so often the case in the much maligned competition, Ferguson elected to completely change the starting eleven, from the one which thrashed Blackburn 7-1 on Saturday.

United started the match brightly and only a finger-tip save by Robert Green and a scrambled goal-line clearance denied a certain opening goal from Hernandez; but from then on, it was all about West Ham United who went on to capitalise on the sort of schoolboy defending that was so much in evidence in the early weeks of the season.

In something of an ironic twist of fate, former United full-back Johnathan Spector enjoyed his finest game since he arrived in England. Since Spector left United, he has become something of a cast-off, a nomad of sorts and he's seemingly surplus to requirements at West Ham, because according to reports he's off to the Bundesliga. Last night, the North American was thrust into a makeshift midfield, but as things turned out, the combination of Fletcher, Giggs and Anderson were no match for West Ham's hastily thrown together engine room.

United were abject in midfield; the service to Hernandez was in point of fact none existent. Quite where, Obertan was supposed to be playing is a fair question to ask, but it doesn't actually matter, because like Fletcher, Giggs and Anderson, the Frenchman produced all too few moments to remember.

Worst of all was Bebe: Ferguson cannot and surely will not, carry on this charade, the Portuguese winger who was brought to United at relatively great expense, will never be good enough for United and the manager will soon have to admit that he's made a gross error of judgement and cut his loses. Thankfully, Bebe's embarrassment was cut short at half-time to save further blushes all round, when he was replaced by Macheda - who it has to be said, did no better.

While stating Bebe will never be good enough, it's fair to add that neither will Kuszczak, at the other end: United's Polish stopper got nowhere near any of the four goals conceded; he should have done better. Earlier this week Ferguson confirmed Edwin van der Sar's long-term replacement will be new signing, Anders Lindegaard, 26, and he isn't exactly thrilling qualified commentators such as the Great Dane, aka, Peter Schmeichel who has gone on record stating that his fellow countryman simply isn't good enough.

Goalkeeping issues aside, the single biggest area of concern within the current United squad is central midfield. Darren Fletcher didn't feature against Blackburn last weekend, and to be fair, it's easy to see why given his abject performance against West Ham. Fletcher was guilty of committing several schoolboy errors - his distribution is usually the thing that consistently lets him down - but against the Hammers, it was his positional sense and marking, plus his lack of leadership. Fletcher was caught ball-watching and found himself on the wrong side of Spector for the opening goal.

Prior to that, West Ham had what looked initially like a very good goal disallowed, for off-side, but it was the correct decision as things turned out; in the build-up, Johnathan Spector the goal scorer, had waltzed through United's midfield unmarked - on that occasion it was Anderson who guilty of doing nothing. Thankfully, referee Clattenburg and his linesman came to United's rescue.

On 37 minutes, Spector doubled the Hammers advantage following a slip in the penalty area by the unfortunate, Fabio, but in the build-up, the North American ran with the ball from deep within the United half unchallenged with Bebe trailing in his wake. Spector scored to cap-off, what was for him, a thoroughly memorable first-half performance, one which turned out to be match winning.

Quite what Ferguson said in his half-time team talk would be interesting to know: you can be sure one of the questions was "who is supposed to be picking up Spector?". And when United fans reflect upon that question today, they will no doubt be thinking about the lack of quality in central midfield: A makeshift/rookie midfield player ran riot against United's supposedly stronger players.

It's also worth asking, why £80,000 a week John O'Shea had to be shipped off to left back early in the first-half: like Fletcher, Giggs and Anderson (given his hefty price tag) O'Shea was one of the senior players on duty last night, but against West Ham, just like the other experienced players he was guilty of failing to step to the mark.

On 56 minutes, the Hammers made it three nil, on this occasion Fabio was guilty of allowing the ball to be crossed into the box too easily and Cole punished flat-footed Jonny Evans. The final humiliation came not long after; Rafael replaced his brother, only for his twin to immediately perpetrate the same offence and the end result was the same, Cole scored and once again it was a case of yet more rank bad defending.

When Fergie reviews the TV replays, he will be horrified at the number of schoolboy errors: three of the four goals conceded were very similar; Fletcher and Evans were guilty of allowing the man that they were supposed to be marking to get to the ball first - you cannot do that inside your own penalty area, because chances are the ball will end up in your own net which is exactly what happened on three occasions.

In the wake of what was a sound beating, the headlines have predictably focused on what was an unexpected thumping win for the Hammers. From United's perpspective, the introspection will have begun, and while the defending is a concern, arguably, of much of more concern was the total lack of know-how, spirit and leadership especially given that so many so called senior players were on duty. While the defending was rank bad, United's central midfield was pretty much none existent.

For those seeking the smallest of crumb of comfort, the unbeaten run was always going to come to an end and so if you're going to lose, it's probably better to lose in the Carling Cup - no matter that United are the holders - the competition is little more than a distraction, albeit one in which the manager can blood untried players. But try telling that to United's 5,000 travelling fans who'd made their way to a snowy East London on what was a freezing night... those fans deserve much better.


  1. What a night. The chants of northern softies could be heard throughout West and East Ham/Barking and Leyton.

    I do agree with you the fans that travelled in such artic conditions deserved better, much better. Yet I didn't see (albeit limited on the television) any player clap the supporters. All walked off with heads bowed.

    I have disagreed with your assessments on the younger players but you were proved right last night. Bebe and Maceda may be helped by being loaned out.

    Perhaps Ferguson could arrange with Brucie a swop for our lad who has proved he can do a job for Maceda, just to see if the Italian can really produce the goods. I am sure Fergie's son would love to have Bebe at Preston!!

    Fletcher returned to his worst. Unwilling to tackle and his passing was poor.

    But Evans was a disgrace and O'Shea proved that he just cannot pass the ball with accuracy. I reckon they should be given their P45's I have never been impressed by Kuszczak and last night he was awful.

    But, Mr Rydell, in the final analysis Fergie picked the team. He can tell us that they will learn a lot from that waving of the white flag, but surely the supporters deserved better than that both in team selection and commitment.

    I just hope that Fergie will learn from this. The trouble is he may be believing the hype written about him!

    Awful display that it was we must agree that West Ham were head and shoulders above us in every department.

  2. Cash Strapped,

    I think United have by and large been getting away with it this season, especially in some of the drawn games when our centreback pairing didn't consist of Vidic and Rio; but as I posted, the midfield was every bit as culpable last night for allowing Spector to run at our back four unchecked.

    I have never been a fan of Fletcher he is a poor water carrier - though I hate that turn of phrase but it does seem appropriate in this instance.

    Bebe will NEVER make it at any Premier League club; he is so far out of his depth it is untrue. The fact he is at United is a damning indictment of Fergie's judgement. IT is nothing short of a disgrace. I seriously doubt he'd make it at Stockport County or even Macc Town, but the latter is more suited to his limited abilities.

    Macheda, as slow as he is, has a chance, but no more than that; a stint on loan might be just what he needs - that is a serious kick up the backside and a reality check.

    I fear Fergie is too old to learn anything new, but he needs to stop believing his own bull about the long term futures of the likes Bebe.

  3. Mr Rydell,

    Perhaps we should collaborate and issue a rehash of the the old Buddy Holly song renamed "Maybe Bebe"?

    Perhaps they should loan him to Leyton Orient!

    But I do agree with you about Fergie. I reckon this is his last season anyway.

    I just hope those in charge learn the history of the club and what happened when Sir Matt went 'upstairs' it took many managers and many years did it not!

    When the time comes there must be a clean break. But that will not happen and he will be like chains around the legs of whoever comes in!

  4. Strap,

    You're showing your age, I'm not old enough to remember Buddy Holly!
    But I'd drive Bebe to Orient if there was any chance of a deal.

    I don't see Fergie retiring this coming summer, more likely the season after, but who would replace him? Jose perhaps?

    I do agree with you about the clean break scenario though.


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