Sunday, January 30, 2011

FA Cup: Another dodgy display, another win as United just about see off 'third division' Southampton.

United travelled to St Marys' to taken on Southampton on Saturday in the FA Cup. The Saints are currently just outside the automatic promotion places in League One; in case anyone needs reminding, that is the third division of top flight English football - but anyone who didn't know which one of these two clubs was the current Premier League leaders would have struggled to tell you. Southampton played well in the first-half, but it was an altogether different story where United were concerned.

United's first-half performance was little short of shocking where quality is concerned. Ferguson had once again elected to start with a 4-3-3 formation, as he did in midweek against Blackpool.

The Saints deservedly took the lead just before the break, thanks to a combination of good fortune and poor defending. United were so bad in that opening period that the Southampton goalkeeper didn't have a shot worthy of the name to save.

So what went wrong in that awful first-half? The simple answer is that too many United players couldn't pass the ball accurately; Anderson and Gibson were the worst offenders, but they were by no means on their own.

At half-time and for the second game in succession, Ferguson had the task of putting right his initial starting selection; a better team than Southampton would surely have put United to bed in that opening spell, but thankfully, the Saints only registered once. However, instead of using the opportunity to reshuffle, what we ended up with was a simple and ineffective change with a straightforward Brown for Fabio swap.

Ferguson didn't actually make the necessary changes until the 58th minute when he replaced the once again totally out of sorts Gibson and the uninterested looking Anderson for Giggs and Nani; Gibson and Anderson had, to put it mildly, stinking games.

As was the case against Blackpool, it was Giggs who inspired United's football - there is no substitute for genuine quality. Giggs went on to lay on the winner for Hernandez with a peach of a pass and once again the Mexican did not disappoint in the opposition penalty area. The cries for the young South American striker to replace Rooney in the United starting eleven are getting louder and more credible by the week.

Prior to what turned out to be the winning goal, Obertan - who could have considered himself fortunate not to have been hauled off - supplied a wicked dipping low cross from the right wing for Michael Owen to head United level.

United go into the next round on the back of yet another dodgy away performance, both the team and the manager will have to do better if we are to win any of the big prizes this season.

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