I quite like it when Fergie gets the chance to play the kids in alleged competitive matches. But there's always a part of me that defaults to believing that we will lose said match...United can never do it when there is not a lot riding on a game
So the game against Besiktas reverted to my minds type. Despite the loss to the Turkish side i think Sir Alex learned a few things about the players on the fringe..some good some bad.
As far as im concerned i am not the biggest Kiko Macheda fan on the planet. Despite scoring the goal that i described as Old Trafford's most exciting last season, the boy is far from the finished article. I have a big issue with his movement. Either he lacks the mobility of a top striker or he is just plain lazy. In my eyes he does not seem to put in the same work that Welbeck does and this is worrying. I expect mistakes from the young players but i really want to see that burning desire..
Darron Gibson is a good example of this. Plenty of application, but his lack of first team experience is gonna effect his judgement. I do not mind this (as long as that decision making is not too bad!) Its all about learning
It was nice to see Ji Sung Parky Park back in a United shirt last night. He is another one of those cogs in the machine. Not the greatest player on the planet and never will be. However, he gives us plenty of options and that is what its all about.
Anderson is starting to worry me a little. I have no doubt he is an exceptional talent, but he is finding it hard to consistently produce. Last night was a great chance for him to boss a game being watched my millions around the globe. Like Carrick, he seems to be struggling for a run in form. A player of his quality should be making mincemeat out of that Besiktas midfield. But alas, he continues just to plod along..neither being poor or great. If Fergie does get his hands on a creative midfielder sometime soon it will serious effect his chances in the first team.
One player i do love is Rafael..in fact i love Fabio as well! To be so young and yet be so fearless is a great attribute to have in the English game. As i said, i expect young players to make mistakes. It was clear last night that the young full back should have closed down the shot that led to the only goal, but his overall play for me is excellent. They are both two amazing finds and will represent the club for years to come if they can continue this rate of progression. In fact, they will probably save the club £40m in future transfer fees when the day comes to replace a Neville or Evra.
Despite the loss there was one real star of the show last night. The first impressions that Gabby Obertan have left on us are very promising. I will admit to having very little expectations of a player unable to break into Bordeaux's first team last term. However, he has been a pleasant surprise and an antidote on the wing for the hapless Nani. His silky approach reminds of a young Zidane (though that is a BIG comparison!!) Effortless, yet very quick. Could he be United's version of Thierry Henry? I think good things are to come from him. There's a buzz everytime he gets the ball, and he and Evra already have a great understanding.
Last night showed me that we probably need to get our hands on an extra central striker come January, and should let Welbeck and Kiko out on loan to get game minutes under their belts. The two are nowhere near good enough for regular Premier League starts at the mo..it has not gone a miss to the Old Trafford Faithful that neither seem to even make the bench week in, week out.
So yes, we know we have some potential stars in the Reserve team. Whether any will make it in the first team is still to be decided.
The guilty look on Drogba's face sort of says it all....
Its difficult to not just 'go off on one' when you write immediate after a match. My writings are not 'match reports' as some other blogtastic peoples claim to write. They are a reaction to whats just happened on a green pitch. Its not my duty to tell you what has happened..you have Google news for that.
Today, we saw that United are far from being the spent force that everyone on Planet Football seems to think. In fact, the performance level was way above anything i would have expected today. But once again we come out of a Premier League match with huge question marks over refereeing decisions. It is getting boring...dull as dishwater.
Its easy to have 'a pop' at the ref when you lose...we've all been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. But when you are writing up a 'reaction' to a game, it is an emotional response...so here goes. Today we saw that incompetence is sometimes the only way to separate two teams, and I'm not talking about anything the players did. The decision to firstly give Ashley Cole a free-kick for some amateur dramatics (and yes he is an Englishman..who allegedly don't do that...tish!) and then not give a free-kick against Drogba for hauling down Wesley Brown...AND THEN not give an offside for a player who is 6 yards in front of the goal attempting to get his toe on the end of the ball....well.....its all just beyond me. I wont go into John Terry hauling down Valencia for a stonewall penalty in front of the Assistant Referee or the fact that Rooney was called offside early in the game when one on one with Cech, where replays show him clearly onside. Nope..not talkin''bout that. Crap.
I could go on about this subject day and night, but i wont. Just one more point. His decisions for some of the bookings were also crass...what exactly was Drogba booked for? Oh yes..getting a foot in the chest from Jonny Evans. A foul by the Chelsea man but not a card. It is all just borderline shambolic rubbish and soaked in ridicule. But lets not use it as a smokescreen for a defeat as it is not worthy or needed.
It is the best United have played this season, though Fergie proclaimed after that it was not as "it was a defeat" The midfield has not run so efficiently since last season. Darren Fletcher was described by Jamie Redknapp (on Sky Sports) as "the most improved player in Europe" I totally agree. His energy is vital to us. The boy has truly earned a place in the heart of the United fanbase purely from his application and his big pair of youknowwhats in his shorts. He is now our dog of war. Anderson also grew in confidence through the match and fought hard. Carrick...well...im not 100% on him at the mo. He has had three tremendous years at the club, but if Hargreaves gets back fit and well, he is the one that loses out at the minute...that's life.
Rooney looked isolated at times on his own but he worked hard. His link play was good but not wholly effective. Id have liked to have seen him start wide left and let Owen have a go through the middle. As some of you know im not from the school which think Roo must start right up top every match. Its very easy in hindsight but Giggs did not do enough for me today and Roos muscle wide would have added to Chelsea's woe.
Overall i am equally as delirious about the performance as i am gutted about the defeat. Chelsea have been excellent recently but i think we have shown that if you get in and about their midfield that you can hurt them. I'm sure they will drop points over the Christmas period and give us an inch back at them. If we can get up that level of intensity every week then we will be very close to a fourth straight league title. I am very buoyed by what i have seen today.
Fergie said afterwards that the players were "sat in the dressing room wondering is it is all worth it with refereeing like that" I think that that injustice may just serve us well in weeks to come. We always play well when we think the world is against us. Its the Manchester United siege mentality.
Its never over in November. Our best is yet to come. Glory glory.
There was a ton of 'football tourists' in the stadium. The name given by the Faithful to worldwide fans that manage to get a ticket on these sort of nights. The guys behind us screamed for 'G Nev!'repeatedly (as they seem to think Gary Neville is nicknamed) but didn't know the words to 'Take me home United Road', so it sort of just turned into a random screaming affair rather than a good ol' Manchester singalong. Bizarre really.
That aside, the oddness in the stands was reflected on the pitch. I was interested to see if all the hype about Akinfeev was justified. The Ben Foster nightmares of the last few months have heightened the call for a new keeper when the hardwired battery in Van Der Sars retro body finally fails. Well, the Russian boy didn't disappoint. He was simply stunning.
A number of top class saves in the second half must have left Fergie salivating. At ten million quid for a 22 year old the temptation to land him before the World Cup must be great. But the manager has great faith in Foster. I get the funny feeling that he is still leaning towards the England man as Edwin's future successor...something that will not leave me sleeping well at night!
The game itself was mental. United dominated in virtually every part of the pitch. CSKA looked dangerous from the counter attack in almost the first few minutes but nothing that special. Their first and third goals were a result of some soft defending, and like it or not, Van der Sar should have done better with both, failing to anticipate two shots close to his body and somehow not getting a touch on either. Big fail. The second Russian goal was a sweet move and the impressive Milos Krasic rounded the Dutch keeper and finished with aplomb. Expect to see him plying his trade in the Prem next year.
United's first goal was taken well by Michael Owen. The expectation on him from the fans is greater than on any other player on the pitch when he plays...yes even more than on Rooney. We all have this ideal that every chance that falls to him he should finish...because..because he is Michael Fricking Owen! Its not really a great reason is it? But Ive got great confidence in him. I'm dying for Fergie to start him more. Our second was well taken by Scholsey, who had an indifferent performance in the centre again, but nailed his header into the top corner. And Valencia's goal? Well...a bit of Stretford End luck id say.
The other flash point was the Darren Fletcher 'Im Not Fcuking Ronaldo' moment, when the ref booked him for a dive. It was a blatant penalty, and the manager has called it "the worst decision he has ever seen". Yes, it was that bad. The trip was right in front of us. We didn't even think there was a decision to be made!
Special praise needs to go to Gary Neville..ahem...G Nev! who rolled back the years and seems to be on a diet of some magic renaissance juice, or something at the moment. It was a brilliant right back display, and Glen Johnson should fear greatly for his England first team spot. If Nev can play like this week in week out, he will be on the plane to South Africa, mark my words. I am surprised as anyone to see his performances this season. He is a man of steel and thunder. Bloody hell, can you imagine Becks and Nev playing together again at a World Cup! No one would have bet a penny on that. Obertan also looked useful with his cameo, and Valencia worked hard all night on the wing. On the downside, Nani was once again an absent mess. If he was a cat he surely is on life number nine now.
So the knock outs are but a formality now. I pray for Real Madrid. Bring them to the Theatre please.
Manchester United have been nothing but mediocre of recent. Therefore, we will be beaten at Stamford Bridge next Sunday..mark my words.
Now some United fans may find those words hard to stomach, especially as they come from a person that gets to twenty five games a season. But i like to call things honestly. Its not being a pessimist, in this case (which i am at times) Its just a reality check.
United have been average at best this season. I think some of our creative play has been as attractive as ever, but our final ball this term has been shocking. Delivery from the wide areas is almost non-existent. Valencia has shown glimpses and I'm willing to reserve judgement on him this year. Nani, as we know, is a bag of fcuked up crap. I cant wait to see the back of him. I was so excited when he joined..i could see the talent he had. But the boy has mental problems. His brain and his feet simply do not have any relationship at all. He is the football version of our banking system.
Rooney and Berba must be incredibly disillusioned by the service this year. For me, the Bulgarian has come on alot since August. His workrate has improved. He is even celebrating goals (sort of!)Rooney has not excelled yet, but you always have faith in the Scouse boy. I also think there is great things to come from Michael Owen. He looks sharp. His movement is impressive. But the supply line from the midfield has been woeful. In fact, the protection of the defence from midfield has been crass too! I think we can see where the problems lie at the moment
Michael Carrick and Anderson seem to have one good game, where things click and they boss opponents, and then one game where they cannot find a decent pass between the two of them. Both end up looking knackered after about the hour mark, and this leaves the defence vulnerable to counters and the attack isolated. The only player in the central position that seems worth his Red Devils status is Darren Fletcher (God! I never thought id be saying that just a few short years ago!)
Now we all know we cant wait til Owen Hargreaves gets his boots back on, but i feel that we should not be relying on him. We know he is a colossal player, but the boy has been out for so long that it would be unfair to pin all of our hopes on his dodgy knees.
So what to do? Well, its clear to me that the manager MUST spend in January. Maybe not excessively as the popular press would love him to do, but on players that give us an extra option or two. Luis Alberto Suarez has been mentioned recently. The captain of Ajax is only 22 and has scored 95 times in 167 games for club and country. However, he would cost around the £30m mark. But he is equal parts lethal hitman and intelligent provider. This video shows all that:
Whatever happens in January, i feel that transfer ban or not, Chelsea are streets ahead of us this season. I feared that Drogba was up for a big one this year and i was right. The striking monster has looked unstoppable at times. When he plays well, Chelsea win. I also think that despite their 'aging' midfield, they are imperious at the moment in these positions. Lampard, Ballack, Essien, Deco, Joe Cole...its pretty scary just saying that all out loud! Their defence, like ours, is the same old same old. However their defence seems solid at the moment despite their two recent defeats, whereas ours seems to have paper thin confidence issues, as Vidic continues to have the recurring Torres nightmares, and Rio wants to win an Oscar for Best Director or something. Worrying.
So yes, i think we will fluff our lines at Stamford Bridge. In all honesty we are not in a position to beat them this coming Sunday.....but funnier things have happened
Manchester United fan since the age of 9 when he saw Norman Whiteside curl the ball into a Wembley goal in the dying minutes.
He is an Old Trafford season ticket holder in the North Stand Tier 3...and cried tears of joy, on his knees with the many in Moscow.
Rob is a contributing author/editor at Man Utd blogzine 'The Faithful'