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Reds Fall Off the Pace as Bolton Grab Win

Bolton Club Crest 1 Manchester United Crest

So that’s what happened: A loss to a club placed at the bottom rung of the table. No doubt, the warning signals were there; they have been unbeaten under Gary Megson and even managed a draw against Bayern Munich. This was a local northwest derby and passions would run high. An away game it was and it came immediately after the international break.

So was that enough excuse to lose? Well, not really.

Leaving aside the part where one would say losing is completely unacceptable to a club of United’s stature we must be aware that the club we were playing against had a pretty poor record against us. Last year, in a display of some breathtaking football, we overran the same team 4-0. And they were a decent team then.

Let’s get down to see what really went wrong.

The team selection would have undoubtedly been the first thing I would have attacked had it not been for this admission by Fergie that he had to rest Ronaldo, who had been out with injury. But we were also missing another key component in our side — a certain Nemanja Vidic.

I expected Sir Alex to shift Brown to central defence, alongside Rio, and have Pique play at right back. It was an away game against a very physical side. So that made sense to me. It was the Spaniard’s gaffe, in misjudging Campo’s free kick, that resulted in a goal. It was a real cheap goal conceded, to be honest.

But that aside, there was very little to fault the young defender for. Fergie’s bravery and faith in him must be applauded. Had we won this game we would all be applauding his courage to drop Pique in the deep end. So all credit where it is due.

However this wasn’t the first time this season that we were behind so early; Aston Villa were hammered, away from home, after Agbonlahor’s early opener. We’ve shown enough flair and ability to bounce back and all that came from a sense of urgency that characterized all our comebacks.

Sad to say, but our first half was listless and we created very little to even trouble the Trotters, who were happy to kick lumps out of our players.

I would have to say it at this juncture, I have been defending Carrick for a long while now but I can tell a bad performance when I see one, and today was one such day. SAF had said, not so long ago, that if it was a crucial game he would have played Anderson. Now I wouldn’t question why Carrick was preferred over Anderson. After all, Carrick was a big investment, had a great season last time round and was finally fit, with a good two-week break to boot. Anderson did his job perfectly well in the interim period when Carrick was out and I certainly expected SAF to field Carrick at some point of time instead of Anderson. So today was the day he decided to play Carrick.

What SAF would have expected was a performance to merit his continued selection and sadly he looked far too rusty to impress the manager. It’s not the mistakes that he makes. No, it’s far from that. He retains the ball and all that. But in a team shorn of Ronaldo and Rooney, there needs to be more impetus and urgency in the team from the middle. And that was sorely lacking.

It was little wonder that Anderson’s introduction, and hence Hargreaves’ switch to right back, saw our most dominant spell in the game. We dominated the last 20 minutes but created very little. It is to Bolton’s credit that they did manage to hang on for a win. A draw would have been a fair result, but not more to be honest.

Moving further forward to the attack, Saha was shocking. It seemed as though he didn’t want the ball. He seems a shadow of the player that we know of. He seems far too worried about nicking a bone than lunging into a tackle. Giggs was average. I wouldn’t say poor because most of the team was poor. But the player who was the most disappointing was Nani. He must learn to retain the ball first. The tricks are fine, but he would do better if he could learn a thing or two from Ronaldo, on how frustrating he was when he first came on to the scene.

Tevez ran his socks off, but — and pardon me for this — HOW THE FUCK DID HE MISS THAT GOAL?! Bloody ridiculous. It reminded me of that horrible day at Citeh when he missed a gilt edged chance. This was a gaping goal that he somehow contrived to glance wide.

Anyway, do we have something to feel good about? Not too many really. But yes, we do seem to have a free kick taker who can curl the ball over the wall and on target enough to stretch the ‘keeper a bit. To those who missed the game, I was talking about Hargreaves. I hoped, for his own sake, that he actually scored that goal. He had a good game otherwise. A quality player, I must say.

And Anderson has grown so much in stature in such a short period that now plenty of fans are already clamouring for him to be a permanent fixture in midfield alongside Hargreaves. Yes, the kid is some talent and the money we’ve paid for him might seem chicken feed in a year’s time. He brings so much into our game — pace, control, passing, vision and ability to tackle. Carrick is a fine player, but I have a feeling he lacks the fire and urgency that Anderson showed. I take longer before I actually pass judgement on players, and I am still willing to see Carrick long enough before I actually jump to conclusions. I am sure some of you may disagree, but I am that kind of a person.

So what do we do now? Well, we don’t have to actually do anything. We could get on with our lives and wait for the Champions’ League tie against Sporting Lisbon at home. At least they will come to play some decent football. So, while I understand Arsenal have surely gained ground over us and Chelski/Liverpool are biting at our heels, I still feel positive about such setbacks and believe that we will regroup.

Although it certainly is worrying to see that a team without Ronaldo and Rooney lacks the cutting edge that we’ve seen so far.

Oh well, onward and upward.