So after a shocking display at Anfield, a defeat every bit as painful as that 4-1 hammering we were subjected to at the hands of Torres and co in 2009, I was so incensed at the manner of the defeat and its aftermath, that in a private yet ultimately pointless protest I was unwilling to do my usual ’5 Things’ piece knowing fully well I might have written something I shouldn’t have.
A number of things regarding the match in question which irked me included certain United’s fans unsympathetic jeering reactions to Nani going down and the growing grievance with them was exacerbated by the general tone of the media and its response to Carragher’s challenge. If you’d missed the game and had for instance relied solely on MOTD2?s coverage of the game, you wouldn’t be blamed for assuming that Rooney’s Elbow a week prior was still the most villainous act of thuggery on a football pitch ever seen and that Phil Dowd had excelled in his handling of the game so far as to be a cert to be the next Englishman to referee a World Cup Final.
These gripes aside, it was clear that despite the fervent level of antagonism from all corners, United ultimately had themselves to blame for the defeat and didn’t perform anywhere near good enough to earn anything from the game. There were decent spells of passing and the Red Devils started the game off well enough but it soon became apparent (after 20th Min) that whereas Liverpool looked menacing when in possession – full of ideas and penetration, United were going through the motions, no real conviction on the ball or off it. It is why many of us (the non-idiotic majority) felt emotional at Nani getting hurt or Rafael rising above the venomous atmosphere at Anfield and demonstrating his courage, likewise with Hernandez’ excellent consolation goal.
These three young players ooze United quality, they have the skills but more importantly the heart, put simply when they play these lads have purpose and drive. They want to be the best in the world in their respective positions and they demand the ball under any circumstance (hallmark of players destined for great things). Yes they might make mistakes, but these are players worth of persisting with, they’ll come good and when they do, the world better watch out.
99 Problems And The Midfield Is One!
So courage, conviction, flair, dynamism – throughout most of this United side we either have players in or coming through that possess these attributes. In defence we have Vidic, Evra, Rio not to mention the aforementioned Rafael as well as Chris Smalling, on the wings we have Giggs, Nani and Valencia, complemented nicely by the brave underrated Park and up front we have Hernandez challenging the established heavyweight duo of Rooney and Berbatov.
Yet in the most crucial area of all when it comes dominating elite encounters – the midfield – we are second rate, devoid of all those attributes associated with United. It has been an area disguised by the strength of our rearguard and our forward line. When the others falter it rarely steps up to the plate nor has it ever been lauded as a component to be feared. From Beckham, Keane, Scholes, Giggs in their pomp to this. No doubt this current midfield is a step above 03-05, but barely.
Every other major side in Europe seems obsessed with creating a strong midfield, variants of 4-3-3/4-5-1/4-2-3-1 seem to be all the rage and whilst Fergie has adapted to the fashions of the time, he has failed to sign the appropriate personnel to suit and make a success of these formations. The likes of Arsenal, Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter, Liverpool, Bayern Munich keep the ball well and there is never a debate amongst their fans of the folly of playing 4-3-3, it is the accepted formation and none of these sides have major gripes with their midfield area. Not to mention that none of these sides make the 4-3-3 look rigid, unnatural and overly functional. United on the other hand always make it look like an effort, keeping the ball seems like a chore, we rarely create any chances of note despite the artistic licence it affords to the most advanced midfielder of the trio whomever it may be and as for goals from midfield, forget about it. The only purpose this United midfield generally serves is to congest midfield and give the back four some protection, unless of course Anderson and Scholes have the requisite energy on any given day to put in performances worthy of the United shirt.