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No Options? Man Utd’s Slender Squad Exposed

sir alex ferguson

Manchester United were forced to rely heavily on their defensive linchpins to extend their impressive streak against Tottenham, but it could have been very, very different this time around.

On top of reclaiming the top spot in the standings, the Reds also elongated their impressive unbeaten streak over Spurs to 20 Barclays Premier League games – 24 overall – but unbiased bystanders, including a somewhat troubled-looking Sir Alex Ferguson, would have thought it was Tottenham who were the holders of that streak.

Based on this performance, the Gaffer witnessed first-hand that he may have his worked cut out for him if United are to claim the title this season with the very depreciated squad options he currently boasts. Unfortunately, the highly-entertaining, end-to-end match has been given an unnecessary black eye because of Mike Dean’s deplorable decision send off Rafael, which compounds the limitations of Sir Alex’s squad.

Harry Redknapp, who has been hell bent on getting David Beckham’s signature on a short-term loan deal, showed that his side is filled some of the better players in the Premier League. Young Rafael’s dismissal will certainly leave Sir Alex short at right-back options for United’s match against Birmingham City next weekend, so it will be very interesting to see which player gets to fill in for the Brazilian.

Some may have picked up on the very conspicuous decision by Sir Alex for not selecting a full-back, or an utility defender for that matter, to United’s substitute bench for the match against Tottenham. The only defenders that Ferguson named to the bench were Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans, and neither of those young central defenders could have handle either of Tottenham’s wingers’ – Gareth Bale or Aaron Lennon – pace.

Wes Brown’s falling out with the manager on this summer’s tour of America coupled with John O’Shea’s injury and Gary Neville’s lack of pace has kept all of them out of the squad against Spurs, and the lack of depth could very well have well cost them a point. Fletcher did well to fill in at right-back, but, what some are failing to acknowledge is that if Dean’s pugnacious decision happened a minute later, the Scottish midfielder would have been withdrawn in favor of Paul Scholes, which would have left United in real pickle of a situation.

Somewhat amazingly though, was that Fletcher’s withdrawal from the center of United’s midfield actually helped the Reds see out the draw, which is why he was about to be substituted. This season, Fletcher has been well below his best, and has not shown the form that saw him be selected to Premier League Team of the Year in 2009/10.

His performances this season have been very shaky, and against Tottenham, Fletcher was constantly and needlessly gifting the ball right back to them after one of his teammates did well to win the ball back. To be fair, Fletcher’s midfield partner, Michael Carrick, was also careless with the ball, and his misplaced pass from the kick-off could have forced United to fight an uphill battle for 90 minutes.

However, Carrick’s performance against his former club vastly improved in the second half with some very timely interceptions and cleaning up at the back, but this new role for him has been something that some of United fans have failed to accept. When he arrived from Spurs in 2006, Carrick was seen as an attack-minded midfielder, and was to compliment Scholes in the midfield, but he has emerged as a well-disciplined, holding midfielder.

Like what has happened in the last couple of matches, United midfield has failed to take the game by the scruff of the neck, which is handcuffing Sir Alex’s options in what formation he is able to choose. Anderson was introduced with a half hour to play, but instead of replacing the ineffective Fletcher, Ferguson had to withdraw Nani with hope to get more possession of the ball to limit Spurs’ attacking pressure.

There was more evidence that Sir Alex had limited options for the match, because there were no wingers on the bench, either. Nani was well below what United fans have come to expect from him in the last year, which he desperately needs to bounce back quickly. Especially with Ji-Sung Park gone on international duty, Ryan Giggs not able to lumber through every game and Antonio Valencia not ready to return, Nani needs to shoulder the responsibility to assist the United attack.

With Gabriel Obertan not ready to secure a permanent first-team place, Sir Alex will be quite appreciative that United has six days to prepare for their next match, because it will give Giggs some time to recuperate from exertions in his 600th Premier League match. Although he was unable to get some minutes under his belt against Spurs, Scholes will certainly play in United’s next match to add some imagination to their passing in the attack.

If anything, the outstanding passing performance from Luka Modric should make Sir Alex think about making a serious bid to bring the creative Croatian playmaker to Old Trafford in the summer. At the moment, there is a bit of predictability of the United attack, which needs to be address, or United will be forced to become even more dependable on their defense and do well to even grind out more goalless draws.

Sir Alex Ferguson will have to see this result against Tottenham as a point gain in the closely-contested Barclays Premier League title race, but he will also have to do better to ensure that Manchester United has more balance options with his squad selection.

Submitted by The United Religion



  1. RedScot

    January 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    I detect an awful feeling of doom and gloom reading about United these last few weeks.This is not directed at your article in anyway shape or form.
    To me it just appears all the fun zest and excitement about writing about the biggest football club in the world has gone into limbo and frozen of humour and cheek.My following comments probably wont improve that lack of sparkle and verve.

    I agree Nemanja has been a Titan in the defensive wall that yet has to be breached resulting in this incredible unbeaten record, partnered with his right hand Glove. The calm and composed Twittering Rapper Rio.
    The two pilllars are jousting like Giants and holding all at bay.
    The Rafael saga was deplorable, the way in which it played out very vindictive in my opinion,Mike Dean because of his error with the first tackle not to dismiss our charsmatic and loveable Lion waited.
    I believe as I have conveyed elsewhere Dean reviewed the tackle in the comfort of his Officials quarters at half time and decided I have made a gaff their, I will need to recify this at the first opportunity.He duly did!.
    Small wonder our Brazilian international right back reacted in such an impetuous manner at the injustice Dean had meeted out to our rising star*.
    To compound the automatic loss of Rafael and as you highlight in your article the headache that follows for the Birmingham game.Step in the FA to no doubt compound this travesty of fair play to further punish United with a longer ban. All is fair though, no need to be downbeat.
    On seeing the Subs bench I had not considered the puzzle as you indicate “what if” but I am not as knowledable or sharp as yourself.Thats not patronising thats simple Facht! lol
    I could not agree more and re-emphasis the quality in the midfield on Sunday was very low as regards United.
    Figures /Stats are provided on the marvellous ROM to study regards this.I can only think as in the simple things in football. To cause damage to your competitor you must pass the ball forward with intent to hurt but you must be capable of finding a team mate with a pass.
    Spurs on this day completed more successfull passes than United , had the Lions share of the possession and therefore were the more likely force to break the duck, if t were not for our solid back five.

    Step up Luka Modric I cant help but feel for some people speaking about this player its a knee jerk reaction to our woes in midfield.I am sure in your case this is not the case, nor mine.He is exactly the correct peg to fit in the gaping attacking midfielder that is our black round hole! He would be a brilliant addition and give us a fighting chance in the Champions league next season, assuming we make the top four of the Premiership this time round. lol.
    We do miss a huge amount Antonio Valencia to deliver a decent cross into the areas where damage can be done and pin back the opposing left back and carry out his tireless defensive duties. Hope to see him back soon.On Sunday even in a plaster cast or on a crutch I am sure he would have provided more threat than my Love, Nani who was dreadfull.If he does not buck up his ideas soon I will be looking for a new boyfriend! lol

    Onto the Rant. I note no comment on Rooney in your article.He is a major liabilty right now, he continually gives the ball away and not only in the last 20% of the park were this is allowed to take a risk to create something to result in a chance on goal.Rooney is giving the ball away in dangerous areas that will cost United at the other end of the Park.
    His first touch is indescribable its heavy and generally he looses control of the football.
    People defend him because of his effort,but many crtiticize Three Lungs for that self same trait yet Ji Sung gets hung out to dry for One bad performance.
    Yet Rooney repeatedly gets away with murder on a football park and time and time again displays the ability of not being able to hit a Cows backside with a Banjo.(No Pun Intended)
    I wish I new what to suggest with Rooney.I think Sir Alex will be looking and aware of this and quietly plotting something that might take us all bye surprise.
    Maybe another week at “loose some Beef camp” might help the wayward Black Sheep.
    I hope this arrives on Football Talk, I tried to react and post on United Religion it failed and I wasted 15 minutes ohhhhh the Life of a United supporter with little to do and so much time to do it.
    On to our 19th, bring on the Brummies.

    Cmon you Reds.

    • linu

      January 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      I couldnt hv put it better than what you explained red scot.. something must be done by fergie.. we cant go on like this,
      This fairytale of our 19th must come to reality..
      Go reds..

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