Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rooney left tearing new hair out in frustration as old guard struggle against Benfica...

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In the end, Manchester United were happy to come away from Lisbon with a valuable and deserved point, but last night's performance against Benfica will have been a shock to the system for many of the club's followers as it was in marked contrast to the champions early season performances in the Premier League.

It finished up 1-1, veteran Ryan Giggs was United's goal hero, the Welshman equalised on 42 minutes with a thunderbolt from 20 yards out. United had gone behind in the 22nd minute after Oscar Cardozo had opened the scoring with a spectacular goal - one that left Jonny Evans floundering on the edge of the United penalty area.

Ferguson and his backroom team will not be happy when they sit down to review the match video, because poor defending contributed to Benfica taking the lead. The move that led to the opening goal started on Benfica's left flank when Darren Fletcher stood off and failed to make any sort of a challenge on Nicolas Gaitan who was allowed to cross to Cardozo who in turn brought the ball down with one touch and then beat Evans before curling his driven effort beyond the despairing reach of Anders Lindegaard.

In truth, Benfica had been the better side up to that point in the contest, but Ferguson will not be happy with Fletcher or Evra - the latter should have provided cover for Evans, but instead, bizarrely, the Frenchman made no real attempt to help his team-mate.

United have been in fine early season form - apart from the opening day win at that the Hawthorns - the champions have been flying, but what was served up last night in Lisbon was very poor by comparison.

Fergie elected to start with just Wayne Rooney up top, but that ploy didn't really work and the service to the loan front man was diabolical for most of the first-half. All too often United's midfield resorted to lumping hopeful high balls down the middle to Rooney. It was a hopeless cause and so dispiriting to witness.

Everyone has been talking positively about Rooney this season and with good justification following a string of superb performances, but last night we saw the first signs of frustration with his team-mates which manifested itself with Rooney throwing his arms out wide as if to say "what the f*ck is going on?". That reaction was totally understandable, United were playing very poorly against an average Champions League opponent.

With the exception of Anders Lindegaard, United were, for the most part, collectively abject in the opening period, not a single player stood out.

Carrick very nearly cost United a goal early on in the contest when he lost the ball cheaply deep in the United half, which led directly to Lindegaard being called into action. Giggs lost the ball on a couple of occasions in what was a very-disjointed first-half performance.

Park was running around getting nowhwere fast, as so often happens with the South Korean. Fletcher was restored alongside Carrick following his long lay-off due to a 'mystery virus', but he looks a shadow of the player he can be at his very best, but against Benfica his impact was minimal. It came as no great surprise that Fletcher was one of the first to be replaced in the second-half in the 69th minute when Fergie replaced him with Hernandez - the only real surprise was that it took so long for the change to materialise.

Valencia started on the right flank and did okay to a point, but his final ball wasn't quite what we have come to expect; on one first-half occasion, he elected to shoot when the pass looked like the better option, so his decision making was slightly off on the night. Nani replaced Valencia and ten minutes later Phil Jones replaced Fabio who hadn't had the best of games.

In summary, Ferguson had made eight changes to the team that thrashed Bolton on Saturday, two of those changes were enforced due to injury, but with Chelsea set to visit Old Trafford on Sunday, it's a fair bet that the manager was planning to rest a few players.

While everyone will be happy with the end result, few will be happy with the manner of what was for long periods a slip-shod performance. In the absence of Tom Cleverley, and Anderson, United's midfield looked short of ideas, running, technique, guile and know-how.

What we saw last night was a throwback to what some are now referring to as the 'old United', the vibrancy that has so excited the fans' up and down the land was so sadly missing - there was no creative spark.

To a point, we can expect Fletcher to struggle given his problems with illness, but how long will it take the Scot to get back to close to his best? Is there any excuse for Michael Carrick who made errors in dangerous areas? Carrick and those alongside him provided Rooney will little or no decent service.

It is difficult to criticise the veteran goal hero Ryan Giggs given his age. Giggs broke his own scoring record in the Champions League, when becoming the oldest player to score in the competition again, he is also the only player to score a goal in 16 Champions League seasons.

Ferguson is not beyond criticism, because clearly, Rooney would have been better served with a striker partner which would have at least allowed him to drop deep when required - in practise, Rooney did actually end up dropping deep at times in pure frustration and that left United with NO striker up front...

It was a very poor and disjointed performance, United just about got away with it, but it served to highlight the lack of genuine in-depth star quality in central midfield. United need Tom Cleverley back ASAP and we are left wondering if Fergie will live to regret his failure to sign Wesley Sneijder this summer.

Star man: Anders Lindegaard, one of the few United players to come out of the game with any real credit.

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  1. That is the absolute truth.Benfica is no big team by any means and Chelsea also played mid week so there is no excuse he was resting players,This was one of the worst United performances I have ever seen.We may deny it but if Anderson goes down injured our midfield has absolutely no drive at all.We did need sneidjer but I know the Glazers did not have anymore money and asked fergie to pretend we never had any interest.

  2. Thanks, glad you agree. The thought of that team trying to carry us to CL victory doesn't instill much confidence in me.

  3. United were struggling to string passes together and back-heeling the ball to nobody. Luisao had a good game only because there weren't enough players attacking their box. It's obvious 4-5-1 rarely works for us. We only had four shots would you believe.

    I agree, Lindegaard was the hero for United, not Giggs. He was a bit nervy early on, but showed great reflexes pulling off those saves, especially that second half shot destined for the bottom corner.

  4. I thought United were bloody awful in that first half, Rooney was going mad. I'm suprised the TV commentary failed to notice.

  5. We seem to be forgetting here that we were playing an entire midfield - Tony, Giggs, Fletcher, Carrick, Park -- who have had virtually no play time this season. You cannot expect them to hit the ground running. That was the whole point of them playing yesterday.

    Despite all the changes, despite a team with no match practice, despite a young defence we still managed 1-1 against the next strongest team in our group away from home. And we rested a bunch of players for Sunday.

    SAF knows what he is doing. Less moaning and more supporting required. We have no devine right to win every game.

  6. Where does it say United have a divine right to wIn ANYTHING never mind EVERY Game?! No one is forgetting about Chelsea and that too is made clear in the post. We also know that these players haven't been given much of a chance, but given the quality of the options at SAFs disposal - will he live to regret not signing Sneijder!?

  7. The only one regretting something here his Sneidjer himself, beeing to greedy. No he can play in that crappy Inter team. This was good, not the play, but the result. Resting a lot of people, and giving the others game time. 1-1 vs the best team in the group away. It looked the same last year against Valencia away..Even though I think we won that one..


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