Sunday, 4 April 2010

Is Fergie's magic wand on the blink? United 1 Chelsea 2

(this blog entry will not mention Didier Drogba's crude offside and the incompetence of a deluded linesman. The incident is just not worth the words or your reading time as 'Football' will never cure its problems and let technology heal these complete farces)

So I'm back from my weekend long jaunt in Manchester...knackered, disappointed, emotional.........and gutted.

The title is in the bin now, and it is very much our own fault.

For me the seeds of fear were sown pre Bayern Munich. I felt the team had started to run out of ideas. Fans were eulogising about how Dimitar Berbatov was "going to win us the league, mark my words, etc..." But i couldn't see that a couple of goals and deft touches would replace large periods of mediocrity. And there was always the fear that Rooney would get injured..and then wouldn't you know what!?

There are issues at Manchester United. I use the word 'issues' rather than 'problems'. We are not a team in decline, but more a team that has lost it's Mojo and energy. The fuel tank is looking like it is emptying fast. When would you have seen United score an early goal in Germany to then only go and try and be 'all Italian like' and sit deep and defend? Yes defend the last 20 minutes, but NOT for 89! The loss at Bayern was crushing for confidence, and that fact shined through against Chelsea.

The first hour of football was the most soulless i have seen from a United team for three years. It happened when we played Arsenal a few years back, when a showboating Ronaldo lost the ball in the last minute and Adebayor nailed us, jamming the coffin lid shut. That day we looked hollow. Against Chelsea it was the same. There was the traditional United cavalry charge at the end as expected, but overall we were a long way off the standard that Chelsea set on the day. They were more hungry than us. They looked like they wanted to be champions whereas we looked like we would be happy for a draw and a cup of tea.

When i heard the teams i feared the worst. The selection of Park, who had a stinker against Munich, over Nani worried me. I know the manager will point to the energy he brings to the team, but the point is he now looks tired, so his unique selling point has been neutralized. I wanted to see an attacking approach, but the selection stank of "yeah..we will take a draw NOW, thank you very much" As we know, history has proved that Manchester United just don't play that game very well.

However i was equally fascinated and fearful of the impact that the Bulgarian sloth would have. Could he really produce the magic?? Unfortunately, he could hardly produce a run, let alone some mercurial influence. The man is finished at United. I say that with assurance for the reason that at his age he is NEVER GOING TO CHANGE. So if he doesn't change then United need to rebuild the whole squad around him...oh wait! We have Rooney don't we? So, off you go Dimitar. The Old Trafford crowd is as fickle as every other on the planet. We would sing his name if he produced. But there is real venom towards him now and i cant help but feel he deserves every ounce of poisonous spittle. He should do the honourable thing, and try and get himself a move. At 29, he would do very well at a decent German club..or maybe in Spain or Italy? But not at a club like us, who needs our strikers to be both skillful (as he is) and ready to apply themselves to their physical maximum (as he isn't). Ronaldo would do the old gesturing that Berba does..very similar in fact! But he would then go and run at a hundred miles an hour and win you a game, after being kicked to shreds by his marker. Berba always looks ready for the team bath before he has even touched the ball.

The title has gone now, and in many ways i sort of feel relief on this Sunday afternoon. I feel now that if anything comes out of this season it will be a bonus (as them at Leeds Utd used to say) We cant expect to play as we have and win silverwear. We have now lost more games this season than both Man City and Aston Villa and that is simply unacceptable. Tactically we have been caught short many times this season and i wonder how much impact Mike Phelan has on that. Of course Fergie holds the buck, but he has always given his assistants massive parts to play in the team tactics. Brian Kidd was the tipping point of winning us that first title in the 90s. Many of those behind the scenes say it was Steve McClaren's innovative coaching that took United to the treble in 1999. And Carlos Quiroz..though proving hes a bit of a dud manager, proved countless times that he was a great coach with all the pots he won with the club, with his team development much so that when he left Madrid Fergie re-snapped him back up in a heartbeat. What does Phelan bring? Yes, interviews for the BBC and i don't know what else. It feels like he is more of a PA come secretary, than a fully fledged first team coach.

I think Bayern will get a result on Wednesday. They have just gone to Schalke and beaten them away to regain control of their Bundesliga title hopes. They are now on a massive high. Personally I would rather be hid behind the sofa on Wednesday night, than in the Theatre Of Dreams (flipping Nightmares this week!)..but i will be there feeling sick to guts with crippling fear. I hope that United at least lose their inhibitions, and play like the team we know...knew...and love. We are on the brink of a disaster of a season. The league is now out of our hands with five to go. But a huge effort and a bit of luck may mean that the Champions League is our salvation.

If Fergie really does have a magic wand as so many think he has, I hope he digs it out for training at Carrington on Monday morning. Abracadabra.



  1. I agree Rob and hope that magic wand does make a swift appearance, but also have the fear and dread that this could indeed be our season over.

    I think even if Berba plays well against Bayern he still won't be liked. United fans don't like lazy players, and no matter how much he tried (I did see him track back and have a go at getting the ball back yesterday) he couldn't do it. I fear for the younger strikers who might start to "copy" Berba's playing style and this too could mean bye bye to more players!

    I still could cry... and I hate thinking about a match that is a few days away. Wednesday night will be torture

    Wonder if the magic wand could cure Roo for Wednesday, that would be perfect!

  2. Believe... We are UNITED

  3. Wonder if the magic wand could bring back the 32 mill forked out for berbatov. while at it, get back the money for hargreaves, anderson as well ;-)

  4. Christer N. Jonassen4 April 2010 at 22:18

    Hi Rob. Great piece this. I'm actually pro Berbatov, but most of your points do make a lot of sense. I feel that the problem with him, is not him as a player, but the fact that his playing style is not compatible with "the United way". This becomes especially obvious in games where he functions as a lone striker. He does put in the meters on the pitch, the stats show that. But he's never looked comfortable when operating on his own, and missing a strike partner. You could argue though, that even players like David Villa, Alexandre Pato and Samuel Eto'o (not forgetting even better strikers..) would also have a hard time if they played for United against Chelsea this weekend, and that's mainly down to the starting lineup, formation, pressure-line etc. It's been a long time since I've seen a striker that isolated. How SAF accepted that Chelsea could take their passing game into OUR half without a player applying some sort of pressure is beyond me. Neville, Scholes and Giggs were all way under their usual standard, and all the experience in the world won't help you if you keep giving the ball away. Neville is usually able to perform acceptable in defence, and has one of the best crosses in the entire squad. Against Chelsea those qualities were gone, and the whole team suffered. His decision making was absolutely shocking at times, electing to fall back out on Zhirkov instead of closing the channel for Malouda's run into the box. Which scenario is the most dangerous? A Zhirkov cross against an established defence, with Rio and Vidic tending a sole Anelka? Or a Malouda busting into the box, primed to square the ball along the floor? And his foul on Anelka.., what was he thinking? Not as clear as the penalty, that's for sure! And what about his handball against Bayern? Instinctive? Maybe. It's a shame that such lapses in concentration ruin an otherwise decent game from the old man. Still, both he and his fellow senior professionals kept giving the ball away. And that has to be our top priority in games like this; keeping possession and running the game. I don't blame Berbatov (or the ref actually) for our loss against Chelsea, as I think he performed up to what could be expected with such lack of support. It was an eyeopener though, as we do need another proven striker who is capable of operating on his own. A strong, skilled marksman WITH workrate. Not in abundance these types. Edin Dzeko seems to tick the boxes, but he doesn't seem interested.

  5. Rob,

    Are all the goals we conceded this year also berbatov's fault? Is the lack of creativity in the middle of the park also berbatov's fault? Come off it, old guard should retire and united need a new central midfield play maker as much as liverpool need a new manager!