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Rubbish Team Selections Squander United’s Advantage

I saw the match on delay — yes, downloaded it, god bless me — so let me cut out the preface. United were rubbish yesterday; ridiculously rubbish, grossly underestimated their opponents (a gentle reminder of being wary mentioned here yesterday) and were thoroughly deserving of the end result.

If you are of the kind that thought yesterday’s was a good performance, I’d like to inform you that what follows may not be to your taste.

The world will talk about history being made for Burnley and they are perfectly entitled and justified in doing so. But we have no business to dwell on Burnley [fantastic atmosphere from the supporters and tremendous pluck from the players] at the moment.

I really didn’t even have to watch the match; the team sheet made me nearly spill my coffee. I take a lot of pride in being in control of my bodily organs, and so I didn’t spill my coffee. Lesser (or better) men might have. The headline says it, the team sheet was rubbish, whichever way you look at it.

Ryan Giggs and Carrick started in central midfield. As it is, even with three in midfield we tend to put far too much pressure on our defence. Yesterday we had a defence which had players with fitness concerns and little experience playing together as a back four. If anything we needed a player to shield the back four to do the mopping up, yet show enough energy to move forward with the ball. We don’t have such a midfielder — and it has always been a concern I’d raised during the summer that we lack a real dynamic midfielder — but Fletcher comes closest to such a midfielder. Instead we have Giggs and Carrick. Now, dear reader, tell me who has the energy to sit and mop up at the back? I’m sorry, Carrick doesn’t do that for me. He can hold the ball, pick a pass etc., but he doesn’t have the same energy levels a proper box to box midfielder can offer. It had to be either Giggs or Carrick alongside Fletcher and not both.

And what of Anderson, you ask? Why would anyone play him in left midfield (wing)? Yes, he started out his career on the left, but he’s been playing in the central midfield position for eternity with us. If not Fletcher, he should have been played in the centre of midfield alongside either Carrick or Giggs. Not on the left wing!

And Park. Oh, should I even bother moaning? He’s a useful squad player and has his merits. The famous defensive midfield-wing-wizard and part time pitch-squatter. His defensive wing wizardry works on a European night to stifle far superior opposition. Against your Stokes and Burnleys, he’s a luxury, and a wasteful one at that. But I can understand his selection. Ferguson tries to be fair in rotating his side, and I won’t dispute his initial selection despite my misgivings. However, if you decide to keep him on the pitch for the full ninety, despite an obvious show of ineptness, then I have reason to believe your only true intent by that manouevre was to prove you had a good sense of humour. Park staying on the pitch for the full stretch was surreal. And just as you think it couldn’t be topped, Ferguson pulls a rabbit out of the hat: he brings on Neville for Brown. [if it’s injury then fair enough, but even then I’d rather O’Shea moving in centre with de Laet coming on at right back — he gives us more attacking impetus while maintaining defensive discipline]

It’s sad if the best attacking outlet in the wings was from Patrice Evra. And it’s bad luck when a pretty decent penalty was saved. But let the chances we created not fool you. I’ve seen United performances and plenty of slow starts. You just need to search back in the archives of this site [my commentary on our starts in 07/08 and 08/09 always took positives out of the performances, because I could take heart from the effort] to see that. There was something disturbingly impotent about yesterday’s display and I maintain, this was completely down to the choice of starting XI that robbed us of any initiative we may have had in the match.

So am I saying we’re a poor side? No. I am just saying we were poor yesterday. I sort of agree with Rob Smyth’s take on United this season: “The squad is strong enough but I don’t know whether the first XI (if we have such a thing anymore) is. The complete lack goals from midfield is a huge concern”. We have a squad strong enough to last the fatigue factor of a fixture pile-up. However this team will pick up a lot of 1-0 wins because it is one good dynamic central midfielder away from making our strike force work. There was a moment when a marauding Giggs played a lovely one-two with Rooney only for the ‘keeper Jensen to effect a fantastic save. We need a midfielder who can do that more often for our system to work. Carrick is far from prolific to be relied on to score. Giggs, while being the bright spot yesterday, can’t be expected to carry on like this either.

Anyway, that should be enough grief from me. I really don’t care if I get some stick for negativity here [if you’ve been a regular reader you’d know I don’t take pleasure in this]. On yesterday’s evidence we aren’t title worthy, which in itself doesn’t really bother me. I can live with a season without a title. But insipid performances and uninspired team selections, are a completely different matter.

You all have a good day.

Till tomorrow.