Date: 7th November 2010 at 1:00pm
Written by:

Frustrating? Laughable? Whatever your perspective, there is little doubt that Bébé was less than impressive against Wolves yesterday. Seven missed crosses were met with groans from the United faithful, and jeers from the two Wolves fans tucked neatly in the corner of my chosen hostelry, while the player himself suffered the ultimate ignominy: the substituted substitute. But what, apart from the fact that his game clearly needs work, can we learn from Bébé’s early steps?

Judging young players is always a delicate operation. A good friend who shall remain nameless once told me that there was no way ‘that skinny Ronaldo with stupid hair’ was ever going to make it, while more recently Nani and Darren Fletcher have been written off by some United fans as being well short of the class required. Patience is the rarest of attributes in modern football, and it is important to remember that Bébé should not, at this stage of his United career, be anywhere near the first team.

It took long-term, short-term and inevitable injuries to Valencia, Nani and Hargreaves — plus a minor ‘flu epidemic — for Bébé to end up on the field yesterday, and there’s a world of difference between playing from (almost) the start against fresh opposition, and the late-game lesser-fixture cameos that his season has comprised so far. Add to that the patchwork nature of the team, and his less-than stellar performance starts to acquire some context.

Not only is the lad only twenty; in footballing terms, he’s a very young twenty. To pluck a random comparison from the air, Chelsea’s new midfield hope Josh McEachran is, at 17, three years younger than Bébé. But McEachran has been attached to the Chelsea academy since the age of eight, meaning he’s had nine years at a top-flight academy to learn his game. Bébé, by contrast, was playing amateur football until he was eighteen, has had one season in the Portuguese second division, and has suddenly ended up at the greatest club in the world. It’s a wonder he can clear his head enough to put his boots on.

In some ways it was encouraging to see the crosses keep disappearing into the crowd. Nobody could have blamed the lad for choosing to play a simpler, safer option, rather than risk another public failure. The fact that Bébé was willing to keep betting on his erratic crossing ability shows that, while he may not always get it right, he is willing to try. For myself, I would rather United were represented by footballers that take risks, that try things, even if they don’t come off.

Sometimes, a safe footballer is a cowardly footballer, and crossing can be taught. Yesterday’s performance showed us just how far Bébé has to come if he is to become a Manchester United player, and it’s a long way. Encouragingly, it also showed that he might just have the character to make it.


20 responses to “Bébé will need to walk before he can run”

  1. Sheyi says:

    He needs 2 keep his head up and focus.I believe in d boy,he has a bright future,he just need time dats all

  2. Baldrick says:

    My granny can cross the ball better than Bebe and she’s been dead for 15 years!

    Seriously though, if that is where SAF wants to play him, he needs to be out on the practice pitch, day in, day out working on that side of his game before he comes back into the starting (almost) lineup.

  3. wingard says:

    He won’t make it. He looks like a Saturday player. I’m embarrassed that he played for our club. Bellion was better technically than him. Major waste of money…

  4. wingard says:

    What is obvious is that the players know it too. He’s like a headless chicken. I saw the looks one or two of the players gave him, it said it all. Wouldn’t be surprised if this was the one that tipped Rooney over the edge. Tosic was small but at least he could play. One thing is for sure we wont see him in the first team squad again for months.

  5. Pauline Gill says:

    Some pretty negative comments here, I think Bebe will come good. Once his English improves he could go out on loan for a spell which could help him, or Olly could sort him out. As the main article says, he’s playing mainly because of sickness and injury. Anyway, if SAF thinks he’s good enough, thats ok with me!

  6. Matt says:

    He was bought to enable us to pay Mendes for a release clause being inserted into Mourinho’s Real Madrid contract, IMO.

    He needs to do so much work on his crossing before he’ll be a United quality winger but he kept his head up, kept working back, kept trying and his positional sense was good I thought.

  7. James says:

    Problem with most football fans, and that include ManUtd fans, they are so flicker minded, and have deep-seated insecurity and confidence issues. Patience is a virtue that is nearly always absent among ordinary fans.

    When Bebe scored two goals in two games, he was hailed immediately as the “Next Big Thing”. Now he had a bad game, he was deemed a flop and the fans wanted to grill him alive. Just read the Bebe threads in popular ManUtd forums such as RedCafe and Manutd talk, and even in this article. The reality is he is neither, and it is too soon to say. I can see Bebe has great potential, but those skills need to be polished first before they can shine. As of now, he should only come on as a sub, until he gain the necessary skills and confidence.

    This article offers a refreshingly balance view so rare in football world. Thanks for putting things into their proper perspective.

  8. Javier Hasbun says:

    estaba muy nervioso al igual q chicharo y obertan son jovenes no sean malos

  9. jonathan says:

    You put it perfectly. I won’t rush and say he’s the next best thing, because I just don’t know – but I’ll also keep the same reasoning and not assume he’s a dud.
    Everyone knows he’s raw, but he possesses more natural ability than 90% of any other players. He will need to work on his crosses, but anyone whose watched him this year will know that yesterday was far worse than any other appearance, so it can likely be attributed to nerves more so than ability or experience. It was his first league game at OT, and I’m sure he’s never played in front of 70k people.

    Thanks for highlighting his boldness. We’ve already seen the postive results when he takes defenders straight on (and usually wins). Any player who hopes to be great has to be bold and believe in their quality. Both Nani and Ronaldo sounded crazy and selfish for continually affirming their self-belief when they had little to show for their efforts. But they proved the majority wrong who doubted them, and let’s hope Bebe will do the same.

  10. Stephen says:

    Some people have short memories.

    It wasn’t that long ago a certain Lee Sharpe was playing on the left wing with his accurate crossing.

    Then a young Ryan Giggs broke onto the scene. CLEARLY a much more talented player. However people seem to forget how Giggs couldn’t cross a ball for s**t to start with, but worked on it and worked on it.

    Admittedly he was in the 1st team at 17 but it goes to show if you work on your weaknesses you have a chance to improve them.