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Manchester United 07/08 Season Review: The Defence

This is the concluding part in our three part series on Manchester United’s 07/08 season. [Read: Part I | Part II]
Today we review the defence and to clear the confusion, by defence we mean the back four as well as the ‘keepers. So here goes…

Tomasz Kuszczak:
Was always expected to be number two to EVDS. Did a decent job when called upon. He looks a good shot stopper, but does not command the defence as well as EVDS. Also seems suspect dealing with crosses. To his credit he was a decent deputy. After two seasons at the club, the jury is still out on him. Rating: 6.5/10

Edwin van der Sar:
He has been our best ‘keeper since Schmeichel, but age seems to catch up with him. He still commands the area well, is still a good shot stopper, but his kicking has dropped alarmingly. Whilst he’s made some good saves he doesn’t give the same confidence as he used to in the past. But again, as with the other veterans in the team, age seems to have caught up with him too. Someone out of Foster or Kuszczak will have to step up while he’s phased out. Rating: 7.5/10

Wes Brown:
Had a slow start to the season and had to weather criticism about his credentials at right back and his ability to fill in for Gary Neville. He’s improved by miles now, and whilst not being the rampaging threat in attack that Evra was, he lent defensive solidity at that position and was one of the key elements of our water tight defence. [As an aside, his versatility also earned him points especially against Barca in central defence, at the Nou Camp] For a make-shift player (who went on to cement his place there) I must say he’s been outstanding. Rating: 8/10

Nemanja Vidic:
Along with Rio, forged the most formidable defensive partnership of Europe. Ferguson has seen many defensive partnerships, right from the Bruce-Pallister era but arguably none as good as this. Vidic’s no-nonsense approach, his bravery to launch into tackles, or to attack the ball with his head have even gotten him bloodied. But he’s not one to shirk from a fight. Rating: 8.5/10

Rio Ferdinand:
I’ve praised him on countless occasions here, so I’ll save you from the teary-eyed tribute. He’s been the second best player for United, and has grown into a real leader. Even if Neville starts from next season I think Rio deserves the captaincy. He has grown in my estimation, but more importantly, I think he commands the players’ respect too. He is just pure class. I can’t say anymore because I have exhausted adjectives so I’ll get to the point. Rating: 9/10

Patrice Evra:
He has just continued from where he left off last season. I think a major difference between United and Chelsea has been the improvement shown by our players since coming here. Most Chelsea players — the likes of SWP, Kalou, Sheva, Pizzarro — have regressed or have not been backed after a few nightmare performances. Evra has just gotten better. This season, apart from his attack abilities, he has improved immeasurably in his tackling. He has shown tremendous energy and seems to be able to run down the wing throughout the game as well as track back in defence. [A case in point being the one in the final where an excellent pass inside the box, following a trademark burst, found Giggs whose shot was saved by Terry]. I love the lad, someone please, please offer him a new fucking deal. Rating: 8.75/10

Gerard Pique:
A pity our defence has been so good that the youngster couldn’t break into it. When he came on he did OK. But he seems to be suspect at dealing with crosses; the Bolton game last year comes to mind. He seems certain to move to Barcelona and I think the Spanish league will suit him. We wish him all the best. Rating: 6.5/10 [Although I think it’s unfair to rate him considering he didn’t get a Premiership medal]

John O’Shea:
The perennial squad player. He will continue to be so. I will continue to love him no matter what. And his rating will remain par. Rating: 7/10

Mikael Silvestre:
Hardly played enough to be rated. Rating: n/a

Gary Neville:
Same as above. But the return of our skipper was met with great applause against Roma. He’ll certainly have a challenge trying to break into the right back position next season. Rating: n/a

Danny Simpson:
Had a couple of good games [Wigan comes to mind]. But i can’t really rate him. Rating: n/a

Ben Foster:
Did a good job against Derby and kept them out with two stunning saves. Again he’ll only get an honourable mention. Rating: n/a

Conclusion:
At the end we would have to rate our team overall, and it is interesting to note that according to our ratings, it’s the defence that has stood out individually and a couple of players in attack, whilst no single midfielder stood out in our estimation. Of course all this is subjective and the opinion of yours truly, but despite the deluge of goals that United have scored, everything was built upon a rock solid defence that allowed the freedom to the attackers. The team have also defended from the front. Every one from Tevez to EVDS have defended, and defended stoutly.

There is still room to improve, and it is good to see the boss recognize that. We obviously need a plan B when our attack does not go the free flowing route. Some one with a strong physical presence who can head the ball in would be greatly helpful. I think we could still do a better job at keeping the ball than we’ve done on European nights. For some reason we’ve always struggled to hold on to the ball when up against top technically gifted opposition. Our midfield does seem lightweight despite its success. [To illustrate my point, when we were run over by Ballack and Lampard in the second half of the Champions’ League final, our ability to break Chelsea’s rhythm came back once Fergie switch Hargreaves to the centre to break up play. We need more of that next season.]

But in general, it was the end of an outstanding season for United. We, as fans are truly spoiled with success. May this long continue!

And that ends our 07/08 review. Hope you enjoyed our coverage of the 07/08 season. I’m sure many of you may have gripes about the way I run things here, but I think I have done things right for most part.

Do join us as we look to negotiate the long summer filled with pitfalls (read: rubbish transfer speculation). Tomorrow we’ll be back with the usual transfer gossip.

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