‘Smalling Shines In Stalemate’ 5 Things I Noticed – Marseille v United (UCL L16 – 1st Leg)

3. Lack of Penetration

I knew it was likely to be a 0-0 as soon as Berbatov was being asked to play up front alone. Unless Nani scores or produces magic time after time, it is very easy to prevent United from creating regular goalscoring opportunities due to the fact that Rooney despite his improving fitness, doesn’t possess the agility to be a genuine menace on the left flank and Berbatov lacks the pace to get in behind defences and the aerial prowess to flick balls into the path of a Nani or Rooney when they make late runs off the flank. He’s basically a decoy forward, a guy just there to occupy space and its not the United way to not really look to be a goal threat and just focus on stifling opponents, we need to at least look dangerous on the counter if we are to progress against more potent sides away from home.

4. Lack Of An Away Goal… Dangerous?

  • 99/00: Lost v R. Madrid (QF) 3-2 at home after drawing first leg away 0-0.
  • 00/01: Lost v B. Munich (QF) 2-1 at home after losing first leg away 0-1.
  • 07/08: Won v Barcelona (SF) 1-0 at home after drawing first leg away 0-0.
  • 08/09: Won v I. Milan 2-0 at home after drawing first leg away 0-0.

So I’ve been having a look at our CL campaigns since 1999, to see if the lack of an away goal would have any significance in the second leg. Well as you can tell from the stats, its pretty inconclusive.. if anything it suggests that United are a more solid outfit in general these days, less likely to go overly gung-ho at home in order to compensate for the lack of an away goal and more measured in their approach. So hopefully this conclusion can wipe the smile of Deschamps face and prove that Fergie was right to be content with that result and the side he put out.

That said in the second leg, we musn’t forget that Valbuena and Gignac (the french Higuain – even though Gonzalo could’ve played for France himelf) will both be back barring further injury and provide a  genuine bite to Marseille’s counter-attack. Will be interesting to see how highly Fergie rates their capability to get a goal at Old Trafford and whether he’ll treat it as a one-off cup tie where he expects us to just score more goals than them or whether he’ll adopt a more clinical approach and rely on keeping tight and getting a goal through a moment of magic/set piece.. for the sake of entertainment I hope its the former.

5. Opposition MOTM: Andre Ayew

The son of 3 Time African Footballer Of The Year Abedi Pele, this lad clearly has quite a pedigree to live up to. Some of you might remember him for providing the assist for the game-winning goal scored by Asamoah Gyan in the World Cup for Ghana against the USA after sending a lob pass into the United States defence, which Gyan collected and then converted. For his performance in the match, Ayew was named Man of the Match by FIFA. Sadly for him and his nation, Ayew missed the team’s quarter-final defeat on penalties to Uruguay due to yellow card accumulation robbing them of a genuine match-winner.

After having signed a new contract this season, he has settled now and is seen as a key figure in the first-team set up and we saw why today.. barely 21, he has that raw direct dribbling style reminiscent of Charles N’Zogbia, not afraid to go into areas that most conservtative wingers, stay away from and unless you’re Ryan Giggs succeed in. He looked a menace and whilst his end product is lacking for now, if he can develop a right foot and learn how to make the most out of defenders backing off him, he could win himself a move to a bigger club.


One of those displays where despite our mediocrity in midfield, we should still have expected to brought home a lead. It’s hard to tell how this game will go but I’m hoping we’ll just be positive and relieve some pressure off our midfield and surround them with attacking talent capable of putting this decent but not frightening Marseille side to the sword.

Uefa Champions League L16 (1st Leg) – Match Facts
Score: 0-0 Venue: Stade Velodrome Date: Wednesday 23rd February Kick-off: 1945 GMT

Man Utd (4-5-1): Van Der Sar, O’Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Nani, Carrick, Fletcher, Gibson, Rooney, Berbatov. Subs: Scholes (72nd).

O. Marseilles: Mandanda, Fanni, Diawara, Cisse, Heinze, Gonzales, M’Bia, Kabore, Brandao, Remy, Ayew Subs: Cheyrou (70th min), Valbuena (79th min) Referee: Brych

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Raees www.twitter.com/redrae7

6 responses to “‘Smalling Shines In Stalemate’ 5 Things I Noticed – Marseille v United (UCL L16 – 1st Leg)”

  1. robroy says:

    honestly, the worst thing was the PITCH….it was awful, the ball was bobbling all over the place absolutely terrible !

  2. JB says:

    I disagree with your comparison of Gibson with Lampard, While Lampard is not a playmaker in the direct sense he does provide allot of assists and a good level of creativity for his team. To be fair to Gibson he was one of the better midfielders last night but still didn’t really do enough for you to think that he’s the current or future answer to our poor midfield problems. Berbatov like any striker needs decent service and that was severely lacking due to the poor midfield display, theres nothing wrong with his pace or his ability but he was just feeding off scraps last night. Rooney just done a job for the team due to lack of options out wide so I wasn’t really expecting him to be all that great. The trouble is that our midfield isn’t going to change much from now until the end of the season, we basically have to cope the best way we can.

    I would like to ask a question though, Scholes looks like he’s going to sign a new contract to play for another season. Do you think that this is good news or bad? Will the manager over rely on the likes of Giggs and Scholes for another season instead of bringing in new players?

    • Reece says:

      If you check on the home page there was a blog addressing this yesterday, I worry we may do just that

    • RedRae7 (Rae M) says:

      The Gibson/Lampard comparison is a valid one in my opinion, although the former is clearly not at the level of the latter.

      If you’re to ask my personally, I don’t rate either of them particularly highly as I don’t think they perform the role of an attacking midfielder which is in my opinion to be responsible for distributing the ball and to create chances on a regular basis, as well as go for goal.. whereas the aforementioned players are pretty one-dimensional.

      As for Scholes signing a new contract, I would be pleased.. who doesn’t want to see Scholes in a United shirt, it’ll be a sad day when he doesn’t feature for us but I also share your sentiment regarding the fact we need to seriously invest in new talent and if the older players are blocking that path, then its in this clubs traditions to go with Youth first and always look to the future rather than get sentimental.

      If Scholes is signing a contract with a view to being guaranteed alot of games and as a result we are less likely to bring in a player like Modric or a playmaker of that ilk, then the Ginger Prince is becoming more of a hindrance rather than an elder statesman who appreciates the fact his role is to take a step back and aid other players with regards to taking over from him in central midfield.

      I do think we need a fresh approach in midfield, I’m bored of watching us be so stale in the centre.. its harming the effectiveness of our forwards.

  3. jonathan says:

    Very encouraging display from Smalling, and it looks like we have the real deal. The timming is crucial given that he’s Rio’s natural successor who is likely never going to return to consistent fitness.

    The final verdict is still out on Gibson, but at least he’s shown some positive signs the last couple games – albeit only in the first half in both cases. He even looks like he can pass too, so I wouldn’t write him off as one-dimentional yet. We only hope he continues moving forward.

  4. Yosh says:

    I’m sure Cleverly will provide the perfect tonic to our midfield woes.