Date: 7th March 2011 at 12:32pm
Written by:

Perspective has never been an easy thing for some to keep in football. Just a day before Manchester United’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Liverpool.

Arsene Wenger declared himself “disgusted” at his side’s inability to score against Sunderland and the decisions that went against him.

His barely concealed rage would have been better directed at his own side as they dropped crucial points in the title race and handed the trophy to Sir Alex Ferguson’s football betting favourites if some observers were to be believed.

If football was a computer game, Lemmings may be the most appropriate title.

24 hours later and the crowd have started running the other way. United are a spent force they say. It is a squad that isn’t good enough.

“This is a side producing a growing body of evidence, of which this defeat was the latest example, that it is reaching the end of the line in its current form.” The BBC’s Chief Sports writer Phil McNulty believes.

In a game where knee-jerk reactions are the norm and every action is over-analysed to try and find some insight that simply isn’t there, this is up there with the finest examples of running with the herd.

McNulty’s analysis is flawed as he overlooks the most basic aspect of the game – a good team is the sum of its parts.

United haven’t been about big name signings for some time as Ferguson holds out for the value in the transfer window he covets so badly. While he may frustrate some with his lack of activity as fans look enviously over the garden fence at the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, the policy adopted means an added emphasis is placed on team spirit and other such intangible qualities.

It is easy to pick on the likes of Michael Carrick and question why he has managed to secure a contract extension with the club, but he is part of something bigger. When was the last time a United team was full of big names? Not since the days of Scholes, Giggs, Beckham, Neville and Keane were there big names from 1 to 11.

The likes of Darren Fletcher (whose omission from the Liverpool game was admittedly baffling) and John O’Shea are prime examples of what it means to work hard for a cause and eke every drop out of their talent. Rooney, Nani or Berbatov can provide the flair, but when the cards are down a player willing to put his heart into a cause is infinitely more preferable to a team of show ponies. They are part of new type of Manchester United team, one based on efficiency and work-rate, and so far it has proved to be an effective formula.

There were flaws in the Liverpool game, of course there was. The defence, devoid of both Vidic and Ferdinand, looked flat against the effervescent Luis Suarez, and Rooney’s tumultuous season shows little sign of ending with a bang. There is work for Ferguson to do to secure the title once more, but only a fool would write off a side managed by the Scot – any prediction of his demise has always proved premature as he rebuilt great squads from equally great squads.

Keep a close eye on the reaction to the next three games as United play Arsenal in the FA Cup, before their second leg tie against Marseille, with Bolton the next Premier League opponents. What are the odds that they will be destined to win the title, Champions League and the FA Cup if they win these games in the opinion of the wise old hacks?

The truth of the matter is Man United sit atop the Premier League, three points clear of Arsenal who have a game in hand. No amount of analysis and conjecture off the pitch will change this.

The title has never been in the bag for United at any point despite being favourites with those who place football bets on a regular basis, nor has it slipped out of their grasp because they have a terrible squad. They will continue to fight to win it as they have done all season with the same men who have done so well so far. Save the analysis when all is said and done.

Courtesy of Pete South


11 responses to “Manchester United – victims of our own success”

  1. JB says:

    Look the performance against Liverpool wasn’t good enough and we were unlucky not to get something out of the Chelsea game also. The poor refereeing decisions have been the main talking point and so they should but the truth is that they’ve been going on all season and have not just affected us. Yes it’s frustrating and they shouldn’t happen, but they do and we can moan and swear as much as we want but it’s not going to change the past and it’s unlikely to change in the future. However we shouldn’t let this cover up the fact that we haven’t played that well all season,yes there’s been games where we have played some nice stuff but on the whole it’s been disappointing. On the other hand Arsenal have been constantly praised for there free flowing attacking football but where has it got them over the last five or so years?. Lets face it if we win the league this year then it’s because we’ve been the most consistent of a bad bunch, Had Chelsea not completely capitulated midway through the season then in all truth they looked by far the best team in the league and probably would have near enough wrapped the title up by now. The trouble is our team dynamic has changed and where at one point we were sweeping all those aside who came before us, we are now finding it difficult against even the lesser sides and that is a cause for concern.

  2. zizu says:

    Excellent article and a well corroborated perspective. My thoughts however, are that conclusions from the Liverpool game, though being knee-jerk in nature-have a strong foundation to them. The Chelsea defeat (in which the performance of the team was poor after going ahead)coupled with an incredibly lacklustre showing at Anfield is evidence enough that this United side do have serious deficiencies that need addressing.

    I cannot recall a United team failing to bounce back from a big game loss in such a limp fashion. It is clear that as Ronaldo and Rooney matured, the Utd style of play slowly shifted. The balance of a solid 3 man midfield with one man who breaks to join a fluid front 3 is arguably united’s most conistent system. However, the personnel we currently have will not allow us to flourish against the biggest teams, they make this system void.

    Carrick and scholes are deep lying players. Fletcher gets forward but his strength is in industry, not creation. And Anderson, despite his bundles of energy and enthusiasm, has yet to carve a niche for himself in this united side-too few asists and too few goals back up this point,

    Uniteds squad does not need a drastic overhaul, but can anyone truly argue that this united team can afford to continue in this vein (awarding contracts to players who have peformed below their best for nearly 18months like Carrick?)

    United do need fresh blood, players who can go straight into the first team and augement this system which, as we saw when we lifted the CL a few years back, can bring major trophies to OT, provided the players in the system are of sufficient calibre to do soo

  3. Jonathan says:

    I’d agree with the article and I don’t believe the author is advocating that the team shouldn’t buy any players whatsoever. I think his point is that this supposedly lacklusture team has still done reasonably well so it’s crazy to write the team off as a whole.
    Not that I’m thrilled with our back-to-back losses, but let’s not have short memories and pretend our team wasn’t losing to such teams a few years ago either. It happens.
    Instead of writting off our current team, perhaps one can simply look to the few areas of need. As Zizu said, along virtually every other fan, let’s look for a player who can provide that creativity and attacking ability from the centre of the pitch.
    My current take is that we could use two players. I’m firmly set on Pastore as the AMF because he’s easily the world’s best prospect for this position. As for the second player, I’m warming up to the thought of Ashley Young. His versatility is a major asset and could fill a couple different attacking roles when needed.

    • zizu says:

      I like the look of pastore too, good age and has ambitions to play for barcelona one day so could transpire to be a CR situation, get 5 years out of him and move on for a good profit.

      Must say, I’m not overly keen on Ashley Young. He is defiitely versatile and very talented, but i don’t think he has the bravery I would want from a united attacker, to demand the ball when the chips are down and try to make something happen. I remember fergie mentioning something about arjen robben in this vein – you have to be brave to play for united. That said, he is looking better for england and more confident in a central role which are promising signs.

      I guess my only concern would be, to sign him would probably cost upwards of £20m (not because he is worth that, but because he is an england international…)abnd he is not at a stage wherre we can mention potential, he is 25 and what you see is what you get. Surely for this same figure, we would be better equipped by signing a younger attacker like the excellent Eden Hazard of Lille? Or forking out an extra 10-15m (now i’m in gaga land i know) and going for Gareth Bale, younger and, whilst not a more accomplished attacker than Young, will surely surpass him in a years time and be on of the great wingers of the modern era.

      Three signings I would like (and the ones I actually expect in brackets)
      1-Bale (noone, giggs has a new contract)
      3-Henderson (noone, and promote tunnicliffe to first team squad)

      • jonathan says:

        Yeah, as far as Young goes, my heart’s not set on him, but at least the possibility of it garners more interest for me. Again what I like is his versatility, though I’d be open to see if there are other players on the market who can also move in various positions with effectiveness. I known one author on this blog pointed out his relative unchainged statistics – meaning that he may no longer be improving. To that I’d say it’s possible, but I’d say the glass ceiling of playing for Aston Villa must also be considered to be fair to him.

        If you were to ask me a few months ago whether we needed another winger, I’d say “no, we’ve got Nani and Valencia”. However, this season has erased some of my naivety as the reality of injuries, squad rotation etc… means you often need a few players of high calibre for the same position. What works (in theory) with Young is that even if Nani and Valencia were healthy and performing well, he can be available as an AMF or even second striker.

        Whether or not it’s him we buy, we should at least consider that principle for whoever we bring in. Pastore’s a whole lot different given his expertise meets our exact need.

        My take on your ideal signings is:
        -Bale: undeniable talent, but do we need another outright winger? Possibly if Nani isn’t effective on the left and/or if Valencia cannot return to full form. At the very least, we should wait another season to decide given that Giggs is back another year
        -Pastore: well, that’s obvious
        -Henderson: maybe, but is he much different or any more promising the Cleverley?

        • zizu says:

          I would hope Valencia gets back to full form, he is an incredible physical specimen but he will need a run of games to build up steam naturally. Behind nania and valenica, we have giggs and park (I am not including obertan/bebe in this equation for obvious reasons). Park is our go-to guy for the tactical discipline required in big european games, and is one of the most key squad players. giggs-yes we’ll get another season out of him, but I do worry that we are still turning to him for inspiration in big games, should he not now be augmenting the side rather than leading it?

          Popint being, a nani/valencia injury weakens our attack considerably, as our system relies so heavily on the front 3, so each component of this attack must be top quality, neither park and, in the biggest games at least, giggs fit this description (i speak only of the present and based on seasonal form)

          I think Bale as an addition would do wonders for united in many ways, and would ensure nani stays on the right side where he has become one of the leagues best players. In this scenario, valencia would be understudy yes, but shouldnt united have quality replacements? Haven’t we always? until the last few years that is…

          R.e. Henderson, you’ve made a great point and admittedly I had forgotten about the excellent progress Cleverley has made this year. With henderson though, having watched him against chelsea and against us both this season and last, he looks a hell of a player for a 20 year old, genuine box to box, two feet, good touch and composed. Though he is not £15-20m better than Cleverley, which is the kind of exorbitant fee one would expect for a young english player.

          But if we sign pastore, would you be happy to have fletcher/anderson/carrick as his midfield partners?

          I guess this summer will prove to be an interesting one, we will welcome back cleverley, welbeck and macheda, and no doubt players like pogba and tunnicliffe will be knocking on the door of the first team squad.

  4. deaz says:

    carrick out!!!

  5. jonathan says:

    @ zizu
    Regarding whether Pastore can play alongside our current crop of central midfielders, I’d flip it around ask whether they can play with him. Our non-negotiable need is for creativity in the advanced portion of our midfield so it’s up to the existing players to figure out how to play alongside Pastore of whomever it may be.
    Between Carrick, Fletch and Ando (and hopefully Scholes next year), I’m sure they can find something that can work, but I’m not too sure who it would be.

    • Rohit says:

      Pastore’s defensive frailities mean that he can’t be a part of the midfield two in a 4-4-2 but he certainly has attributes fit to be a wide playmaker in the giggsy mould..He’s perfect for europe as a part of 3 man mid, supporting the loan striker..So if we were to buy him, i expect him to start on the left wing in a 4-4-2 and as an advanced attacking mid in the 4-5-1 and 4-3-3..

  6. bleedred says:

    “victims of our own success”- MY ass…u must be the most hard headed dipshit to look at this team in a positive way,U think that this bunch of talentless fags can be compared to beckham and co..SORRY MATE U HAV GOT TO GET UR HEAD OUT OF UR ASS AND SO DOES FERGIE AND THOSE MAGGOT YANKS…