Wednesday, December 29, 2010

United cannot rely on one Berbatov moment of brilliance, on night when Fergie gets approach all wrong...

United were in action last night at St Andrews, from an attacking perspective, the performance left an awful lot to be desired. Few genuine goal-scoring chances were created by either side, it ended 1-1, as a result United are back at the top of the table ahead of Manchester City, but only on goal difference, though the leaders have two away games in hand.

In some ways, it was a very uncharacteristic performance as United were unable to breakdown a well organised Birmingham defence. Ferguson elected to start with Rooney and Berbatov up front with Giggs in support in a 4-3-3 formation. Rooney isn't yet back to his brilliant best and against Birmingham, it was another case of huffing and puffing his way through a game in which he didn't score or even come close to scoring. Unlike last season, Rooney isn't getting on the end of crosses of which there were precious few against Birmingham.

United didn't get many decent crosses into the box, and that was in no small part down to the fact that Nani was absent through injury. Matters were not helped by Rooney playing on the left with Giggs on the right flank.

Whenever Giggs received the ball, predictably, he tended to cut inside onto his left foot and apart from one first-half mis-directed right-foot cross which forced Ben Foster into a brilliant finger-tip save, there was nothing from the right flank. It was same story on the left wing: neither Rooney or Evra managed to create a telling cross all night long.

Rooney played quite well though; he almost always retains possession as he did against Birmingham and he worked back tirelessly and defended extremely well.

Part of the problem was the formation; for some reason, Ferguson is approaching what should have been another 'bread and butter' Premier League away game as if United were playing away at the San Siro - when in fact we were playing a team who were in the bottom three.

Why, you might well ask, didn't the United manager start with 4-4-2? There are several possible answers to that question; United didn't have two fully fledged wingers to choose from (if that was Fergie's rationale, then what about Obertan?), or was it the case that our manager thought playing the extra man in midfield would help secure victory as opposed to another draw (a flawed theory if true)? The truth of the matter is that Ferguson clearly doesn't trust any two of his midfield players to start away games in a 4-4-2 formation - and that is a glaring issue that has been apparent for quite some time.

Whatever Fergie's reasoning for choosing to start with 4-3-3, it was totally the wrong approach. In the first-half, even with the extra man in midfield United were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply, which happened time and time again. With the danger of stating the obvious, United were not stretching Birmingham on the flanks, so on many occasions the option of playing the ball wide left simply wasn't there for our midfield and defenders because Rooney tends to drift inside and out, added to which Berbatov and Rooney were not paired together.

But despite what was a very disjointed opening period, United eventually took the lead through Berbatov on 58 minutes and what a goal it was. The Bulgarian is in a rich vein of scoring form and the one he scored against Birmingham was as good as any this season.

Giggs started off the move from just over the half-way line with a well directed pass to Berbatov, who then out-foxed his marker, Roger Johnson, when taking him out of the game completely with a deft flick to the wing, Darron Gibson played the ball back inside to the on-running Bulgarian who ran into the Birmingham penalty area and then fired low and hard beyond Foster. It was a goal of the very highest quality.

The goal settled United down and a passage of good possession play followed, but the visitors were undone late on when Lee Boyer scored a controversial equaliser; the referee didn't spot the obvious foul on Ferdinand in the build-up, nor the hand ball and the linesman waved away the offside appeals.

In summary, despite being top of the league, United's away form could cost us dearly and worringly, neighbours City are banging in the goals especially away from home where they are strongest.

Manchester City have played most of the leading contenders at Eastlands, whereas the 'draw on the road specialists' United have to travel to Anfield, The Emirates, Stamford Bridge and White Hart Lane. United's away form could cost us the title unless it improves, but there's precious little sign of that happening at present.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Our Comment Policy. Do NOT post spammy unrelated comments for the purpose of link building - as they WILL be removed...Comments containing foul and vile abuse will be deleted.