I don’t want to go over the actual happenings on the first Anfield defeat in God-knows-how-many-years but there are a few words (or shall we say phrases?) that can sum up our defeat quite well: (relative) lack of hunger, schoolboy defending and an injured midfielder.
I will seek to address some of my observations from the defeat more than making this a match report per se.
Or should we say the lack of it? In the first 20 minutes, we looked the real deal. I started making mental notes on how scary we could be with the addition of Berbatov, and with Ronaldo yet to return. But what followed made the first 20 minutes appear a mere case of an adrenaline rush. Everyone’s been quick to condemn our lack of hassling in the midfield, but I would attribute this in part to Carrick’s injury. Because, before this we seemed in control and looked like the home side.
Liverpool, on the other hand, showed more desire to win the game. But even this wouldn’t strike me as new, because ‘pool have, in the past, controlled their home games against us only to end up in the losing side — which brings us to the next point…
Often the saving grace for us last season, if you put Ronaldo’s contribution aside, Saturday’s defending would have made Titus Bramble squirm. EVDS, who still remains one of the better ‘keepers in the Premier League, has started making more errors for our liking. And the first goal was his fault. I wouldn’t fault Brown. He also fumbled earlier only for Kuyt to hit a United player instead of the target. Vidic’s red, later in the game, can’t possibly help matters ahead of our trip to Stamford Bridge next week.
Giggs ought to have put the ball out, but he didn’t, and we paid the price for the second goal. Both goals were avoidable. The first one even so because, going into half time, 1-0 up would have been psychologically crushing for the dippers (as against 1-1) because it’s been a mental block for them all this while playing United.
I was happy with Fergie’s intent to play all three strikers upfront, but was disappointed to see Rooney played out wide. Tevez has been in top form and when you are in form, you can do as well out wide as you can in the middle — and I say this because I believe playing Tevez out wide would have still helped him run amock. However, I fear for Rooney the most. I love the kid, I really do. Fergie admitted to misusing Rooney a lot last seaosn. Yet he decides to play Rooney out wide, away from the action. Why?
If he continues to do this, I will really start to worry about Rooney’s development. Whilst Theo Walcott continues to hog the headlines (and I do think rightly so) Rooney had a good game for England because of Emile Heskey. Rooney got to play behind a proper target man and it showed in his performance. Tevez’s trickery would have been better served on the wing than that of Rooney. Berbatov is million times a better player than Heskey, and hence I was looking forward to Rooney linking up with the Bulgarian. I’d rather have Rooney benched than see him shunted out wide in yet another game. It makes me sick to see the sting taken out of his game like this.
And why was Giggs brought in the place of Carrick? If Hargreaves was thought to be fit enough only for 20+ minutes then wouldn’t Nani have better added width to our attack (with Anderson pushed into midfield)?
Thorny Questions for Fergie:
I don’t want this to be a doom and gloom post. If we manage to win our home games against the big four and win the other games against the others with a few draws along the way I think we can still retain the title. But I have questions to ask Fergie.
How does he plan to integrate our strike force when Ronaldo returns?
I suggest, if he plans to play our attacking fab four at once (Rooney, Ronaldo, Tevez, Berbatov), then Rooney and Berbatov will have to play in the middle, with Ronaldo and Tevez out wide. Otherwise it has to be either Rooney or Tevez on the pitch, behind Berbatov — not both.
What is his long term strategy for the ‘keepers’ slot?
I really don’t want Foster to break his head in frustration. I love EVDS, but I fear the increased frequency of his gaffes.
Other questions include the status of Hargreaves and Anderson (and possibly Possebon) in our first team mix. But then it would be too much negativity for my own liking.
We lost to a better Liverpool team, although we wouldn’t have really lost had we stuck with the basics of defending. Ferguson was right to have slammed the team, and I hope it works out as a spur for them to bounce back against a good looking Chelsea side.
Right now though, we entertain Joe Red’s Villarreal on Wednesday. Hopefully it helps Berbatov settle better into the club for now.
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