Sunday, September 25, 2011

United look ordinary at Stoke as Walton denies champs definite penalty...

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Manchester United were made to work extremely hard for their point at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday, it finished up 1-1 apiece, Nani was the champions goal hero. It could have been so different if Peter Walton had done what he should have done in the opening minutes of what turned out to be a hard fought contest and that was to award the visitors a cast-iron penalty after Jonathan Woodgate had blatantly barged into the back of Hernandez.

As a direct result of Woodgate's poor challenge, United lost the services of Hernandez. Michael Owen came on as a replacement, but he struggled to make any real impact alongside Dimitar Berbatov who had been restored to the starting line-up.

Sir Alex Ferguson was asked about Walton's failure to award United that penalty in his post-match interview, and he said it was "too early in the game" - a comment that many fans will find hard to accept. How can it be too early in the game? It shouldn't matter when an offence is committed - it doesn't matter if it's the first or the 90th minute; Woodgate and Stoke should have been punished, but they weren't. As a direct result of Woodgate's poor challenge, United lost the services of Hernandez, thanks to what looked like a head injury.

United eventually took the lead through Nani who scored a very good individual goal in the 27th minute. Nani's goal was one of the few highlights on what was an otherwise very disappointing day as United completely failed to stamp their class and authority onto what was technically a very poor game.

Peter Crouch equalised with a second-half header, and truth be told, United's defenders didn't handle the former Spurs and Liverpool striker very well. Crouch might have added to his tally, if not for his poor finishing.

After the game, Fergie said that Stoke had deserved a point, but he should have said that if Peter Walton had done his job properly United would have been two up in the first-half and that in all probability the champions would have gone on to win comfortably, but the inaction of the referee ensured that did not happen.

Wayne Rooney wasn't included in the United squad, nor was Michael Carrick or Chris Smalling. According to Fergie, Rooney and Carrick picked up injuries in training, however; one cannot help but wonder if the United manager had taken a calculated risk by resting the aforementioned trio? That would in part, explain the manager's somewhat measured response to dropping two valuable points. Ferguson isn't normally one who accepts poor refereeing decisions lightly, but on Saturday, he seemed somewhat sheepish in is post-match interview and perhaps that's because he felt he had contributed to the result by his own actions when resting three key players?

IF we are to believe Ferguson, then Rooney could be out for up to two weeks; here again, you have to wonder if the player is really injured, or is the boss playing games?

With Manchester City flying high and pressing United at the top of the Premier League table, it's worth asking if the manager can afford to continue to take such risks? Going into this game, Ferguson had several selection dilemmas: Michael Owen scored two goals at Leeds in the Carling Cup, Darren Fletcher needs games, Valencia looked good at right-back in midweek and of course he cannot continue to leave Berbatov out. We can all appreciate those selection dilemmas and Fergie is the best at managing his players and to be fair, the manager usually gets away with it when making the right calls, but that wasn't the case at Stoke.

It's a well known fact that Ferguson doesn't always tell the truth when it comes to explaining his reasoning behind his team selections. As someone once famously said "the Lord works in mysterious ways" and that is certainly the case where Fergie is concerned, because he quite evidently prefers to fabricate injuries rather than tell the truth when someone has been completely axed, but more often than not, it is usually the case that the player concerned has simply been rested in the name of squad rotation.

Whatever the truth behind the decision to shuffle the pack at Stoke, United were pretty awful. There was zero punch up front. Owen and Berbatov didn't have a great deal of joy, but the service was lousy. Young wasn't in the game enough - he seems to play his best football when Rooney is in the team. Nani and Jones were United's star men, but truth be told it was a very poor showing. Darren Fletcher is really struggling to make any real impact following his long battle with that mystery virus.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Giggs and Welbeck came on for Young and  Berbatov respetively. The Welshman missed United's only other really decent goal scoring chance late on when pulling his shot horribly wide of the target.  Welbeck huffed and puffed like the rest of the United team, but struggled to make any real impact on the game and that was the story of the afternoon.

United were a shadow of team we've seen so far this season, there was no creative spark, no zip and in many ways it was a 'backs against the wall performance' against a team of journeymen who play a dreadful brand of robotic football, but United didn't the where-with-all to rise above it. In then end and largely because of poor refereeing, Stoke did deserve their point, but that said as much about United's collective failings as it did about the hard-working home team.

Next up United face, Basle in the Champions League and it will be interesting to see if Rooney, Carrick and Smalling make Lazarus like returns to action..


  1. If the Woodgate challenge should have been a penalty and a sending off offence then it only partly makes up for the failure of Gary Neville to be sent off in the same fixture last year - and even Gary has admitted that he should have walked. And the failure for Rooney to get a red card for elbowing Faye in the neck in the same fixture two years ago. What goes around, comes around - isn't life wonderful at times?

  2. John,

    You are so right, but two wrongs don't make a right, do they?! Sh*t refereeing is the problem.

  3. FAO of the bonehead who thought it was an injury to his thigh: Take a look at the attached video pea-brain.

  4. I agree with your assessment on the taking of risks by resting players. Surely it's too early in the season and too close to be trying things like that.

    "it will be interesting to see if Rooney, Carrick and Smalling make Lazarus like returns to action.."

    No doubt they will all be back soon, if not for the next match then definitely the one after that.

  5. they should have gotten the penalty because he was in the box when he was fouled.
    -sarah applegate


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