Written by The United Religion.
The performance by Manchester United is going to be masked because they were spared by a couple a young, willing players, but there are still major concerns within the team.
Playing away from home in the UEFA Champions League is never an easy task, and winning is always impressive, but giving the ball away needlessly on numerous occasions should not sit well with Sir Alex Ferguson.
Thankfully the awareness of Federico Macheda to pick out Javier Hernandez’s smart run, and the young Mexican starlet’s two brilliant touches saved United from another disappointing goalless draw.
So far, the defensive problems and lack of concentration have seemed to ease up in European’s elite competition, but the build up in attack has suffered.
Sir Alex stacked his midfield with five very capable players to outplay any side in Group C – with Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick playing through the middle while being flanked by Nani and Ji-Sung – but without being under any real pressure, these players could barely string three consecutive passes together.
Without needing to be said, away teams in Europe do what they can to get a positive result – a draw or a win – but the few opportunities that were created from the midfield trio was very uncharacteristic of a United team.
Ferguson said in the build up wants to remain as one Europe’s most feared teams, but the sloppy passing created very few opportunities. Yes, the pitch seemed to be very heavy with the ball was not moving fluently across the surface, but there were no adjustments made by any of them and the usual United passing game was completely non-existent.
The three players in the center of midfield did their job by protecting the what some say is a very leaky back-four, but, at times, they also put them under severe, unnecessary pressure as well. Two examples of this came in the first-half when United seemed to be about to gain the upper hand. Carrick was the first one to give away the ball in a dangerous area – as Pablo dispossessed him, and fired a long warning shot that fizzed just a few feet over Edwin van der Sar’s crossbar.
The next example was just before half-time when United broke out into a counter-attack as Nani dribbled the ball of the box following a poor corner from the hosts. The chance seemed to have come to a halt when he was surrounded by Valencia players, but the ball somehow squirmed to Dimitar Berbatov and he played the ball out to Park, and the South Korean’s his indecisiveness and heavy touch allowed Los Che to break on their own counter.
Thankfully, though, Juan Mata was hesitant and did not shoot or see his unmarked teammate, after Rafael was caught up field, and he eventually somehow foul Carrick. Even with Valencia very shy to come out of their own shell, United were being gifted all the possession that they would like, but they were unable to take full advantage as they continuously gave the ball away cheaply time and time again.
This is exactly why there is so much criticism about the defending – but thankfully the partnership of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic was restored and able to deal with everything Valencia threw at them. No offense to either Jonny Evans or Chris Smalling, but when Rio and Vida are at the back together there is uncanny understanding between them, which enables them to seamlessly mesh together.
Rio showed exactly how classy of a defender – and leader – he is, because he was not afraid to mix it up with the Valencia forwards to show them who was boss. He may not be the club’s long-term captain, because of his inability to stay healthy, but his immense presence is proof enough his services have been missed this season.
Young Rafael, who has found it hard to break into the first-team so far this season, put in an complimentary performance to the center-back pairing. The young Brazilian has fallen somewhat to the waste-side as Sir Alex has favored John O’Shea, Wes Brown and even Gary Neville to him – more than likely because of his Champions League cock-up against Bayern Munich last season.
So far this season, he has been limited to one start – at left-back – against Scunthorpe United in last week’s 5-2 win in the Carling Cup. Rafael was forced off towards the end after clearly struggling with cramping by O’Shea, but his performance should encourage Sir Alex to have a look at him to shake things up.
Another player who has been a bit off this season is the ever-reliable van der Sar. The soon-to-be 40-year old goalkeeper was quite poor with his deliveries from both his kicking and throwing in the match, which led to way too many 50/50 balls. What makes this that much more surprising is that the big Dutchman is always very neat with his distribution, but in the last two games that has not been the case.
Manchester United did just enough to scrap to a 1-0 win, but they need to correct these individual mistakes or games like these will have a different outcome.
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