Yet another unsatisfactory display (I’m getting bored of repeating myself) and once again a match where we started with only one recognisable winger and were nearly made to pay. It is just not the same watching the Red Devils playing without a pair of wingers and whenever the manager tries to get too cute and tinker with the line-up, sending us out in an unfamiliar set up we look extraordinarily poor. It’s just been down to our customary grit and determination, and a fair bit of luck that we’ve gotten away with lacklustre performances time and time again this season.
Upfront we picked a very badly balanced trio of Hernandez, Owen and Obertan, who all understandably require match time, but as a trio up front it just didn’t make any sense and Southampton found them easy to deal with in the first half. Hernandez credit to him always looked like he could sneak a goal by making a sharp turn and get in behind at any moment but with Owen and Hernandez both wishing to operate centrally and Chico if anything looking at times to drift towards the left and cut in, the decision to have Obertan on the left made little sense and at right back O’Shea struggled in possession as he had no easy outlet on the right touchline. The lack of width was not the only problem however as the lack of a physical presence up front was also rather telling as there was no one capable of bullying the Saints back line and holding the ball up and waiting for support, Hernandez done gamely.. granted, but there’s only so many flick ons to himself he could turn into genuine opportunities and Owen’s best work was in midfield rather than in support of the Mexican.
Individually I don’t think they did that badly, not super sharp and precise in their work by any means but there was positive moments to take out the game for all of them. Hernandez demonstrated some quality touches whenever the ball was played in over his head, plucking the ball out the air on quite a few occasions and his ambidexterity/vision is quite noticeable, a feature of his game that tells us he has more to his game than your average Fox in the Box (He is leagues ahead of Darren Bent). As for Owen, he was pretty frustrating to watch in the first half, uncharacteristically sloppy in possession and devoid of purpose, but the introduction of Giggs and Scholes picking up his game meant we had three golden oldies stroking it around and demonstrating their class. Finally, Obertan was again very hit and miss, I don’t like him much on the left… don’t think he has the physical strength to handle that role (likewise Nani) but on the right he looked a menace and provided the ball for Owen’s equaliser. He has such a box of tricks and natural speed, that you can envisage if he ever did get it together he could be a serious talent, but the problem remains that his ball striking and end product doesn’t really catch the eye and if his dribbling and ability to commit defenders sometimes aren’t compensating for those lack of attributes, then there’s not much point to him.
2. Unholy Trinity II (Midfield)
Hands up if you saw the line-up of Scholes, Gibson, Anderson and shuddered. Well if you didn’t, I did. Its very rare that you see Scholes and Anderson in the same line-up and playing well together, if they are, I’d usually place a bet that its Carrick holding it together or Fletcher running hard to cover for their lack of yards. When you put Gibson in there, hardly renowned for his athletic vigour alongside the other two its just asking for trouble and that is what we were subjected to in the first half yesterday as were were overrun constantly.
Scholes’ presence seems to subdue Anderson, the latter seems to be afraid of taking charge of a game when the Ginger Prince is in the side and is also incapable of covering for the elder statesman from a defensive perspective. They’re too similar to work together, and the missing Carrick is their partner of choice, preferably in a two-man partnership. Another factor which hindered all three last night, was the aforementioned lack of width; no Nani or Giggs in the first half to lay the ball off to or put through into space, instead the play was all in central areas which meant more work for Anderson and Gibson than they were comfortable with. Cute midfielders who can keep ball in tight spaces they’re not especially in Gibson’s case and inevitably the ball was lost sloppily under pressure. Thankfully Nani and Giggs were introduced in time, to alleviate our failings and normal service was resumed.
3. Début Dane
So we finally got our first glimpse at our new signing Anders Lindegaard, first impressions? Well I was pretty happy with that display, I for one never ever felt Ben Foster would ever accumulate to anything at our club and PIG whilst demonstrating what a good shot-stopper he is, has never convinced the Old Trafford faithful due to his dodgy distribution. Lindegaard seemed willing to come off the line and collect crosses (always a good sign) and he also looked pretty accomplished on the ball in open play, even feinting an oncoming striker and releasing a forward pass under pressure.
Negatives included kicking the ball out of play from a set-piece, mishandling a whipped in cross across the 6 yard area and possibly not doing enough to stop Chapelow fire in an admittedly sledgehammer of an opener. I thought for a début though these mistakes were relatively excusable and I look forward to seeing him again and forming more of a precise opinion on him. Fingers crossed though, he might be a pretty decent reliable Number 2 for the future.
Click here for Part. 2