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The need for a right-back and a forward | Title race blown open

It was a very bizarre weekend, the one that just passed; it gave Man Utd fans a lot to think about. The defeat at Portsmouth was one thing: a rather infuriating encounter which will have given their fans cause for pessimism. But the blows which Arsenal and Chelsea suffered were of another nature, a sort of a remedy after such a poor display for the Old Trafford faithful.

Our Right Back

After the Portsmouth game it became clear that Fergie would have to address two key issues with the squad in the summer. The first, and less obvious, was the right back position. Wes Brown has been in the line-up for most of the season, with Gary Neville out injured, and yet again he showed us why he is not fit for that position.

Defensively he is very good. Perhaps not as fast as he should –- in that position -– but not many wingers would say: “sweeeet! I’m up against Brown!” However going forward is the weakest part of his game: he can hardly cross, he cannot run at defenders and he cannot shoot. At this rate, he might as well stay back and admire the scenery while his team-mates press forward with all their might.

But something is not quite right when your right-back cannot help the team in attack and, while the team can get away with that in fairly even matched games where the full backs stay back more, in some games, like the one against Portsmouth, it will hurt us. Nani desperately needed someone to offer him cover when he was running at defenders, but giving the ball to Brown would not have inspired him. Neville can hardly be considered the right man for the position these days either (with his age and lack of match fitness), so Fergie is going to have to do something he has not done in a very long time: buy a right-back.

The Striker Shortage

The more obvious of the two issues is the one of a centre forward. Rooney has received much criticism after the match at Portsmouth –- actually many people criticised his overall recent form despite the fact that he has won Man Utd player of the month in February (as voted by the fans) -– but most of it was undeserved. Sure Rooney has not been scoring many goals, but then again, did he ever score a lot?

The problem is not that Rooney has been playing poorly; for most part he has not. The problem is that all of his hard work goes to waste because there is nobody there to convert it into goals. Tevez is not the man and it would be downright ridiculous to ask that of Ronaldo. Everything would be much simpler if Saha could stay fit, but since he cannot, the Glazers will have to splash cash on a new striker. Here are some options, Fergie!

Speaking of Saha, he has to go. He is a really good player and can really add another dimension to our game when he is played, but relying on someone who can only deliver on occasion is very bad for the team. Sorry Louis!

The Title Race

The remedy for this very bad match by Manchester United more than compensated for the pain that the cup exit inflicted on most fans. Following the Man Utd game, Chelsea bounced from the FA Cup and, on Sunday, Arsenal dropped another two points.

I cannot say that I am happy that Chelsea have lost in the cup, as long as Man Utd is not in it, it is okay if anybody other than Liverpool or Arsenal win it, but the fact that Barnsley won made Fergie’s men look so much better. We lost to Premier League opposition, you know?

Arsenal’s draw, however, made my week. These two points dropped could prove to be their downfall come the end of the season. Wenger’s boys have now won only one game of the last five. Perhaps it is a bit ironic that they managed to beat Milan in such spectacular fashion and then draw at Wigan, but amazing tactics from Bruce and a pitch that looked as if it’s from Canada put everything back into Man Utd’s hands again.

The more amazing thing about that game, and the one against Aston Villa, was that Arsenal was not its usual attacking self that only failed to win because the opposition’s goalkeeper was extremely strong or because Adebayor could not hit a ball if it was as big as a hot air balloon on the day. In their past two Premier League games, Aresnal has really given the impression of a mid-table team.

The other title challengers (besides us, Chelsea) will be starting to smell blood and since Manchester United could, after their game in hand, retake first place (after they had been five points behind just a few ago) there should be a great amount of optimism among us that the title can stay at Old Trafford. It will not be easy: the games are hard, the schedule is a mess and injuries and fatigue are going to start kicking in soon. But then again, Arsenal are in horrible form and Chelsea are quite a bit behind – but still very much in it – so Manchester United know that it is all in their hands.

Remaining Premier League fixtures (for the three contenders):

Arsenal: Middlesbrough, Chelsea, Bolton, Liverpool, Man Utd, Reading, Derby, Everton, Sunderland

Chelsea: Derby, Sunderland, Tottenham, Arsenal, Middlesbrough, Man City, Wigan, Everton, Man Utd, Newcastle, Bolton

Man Utd: Derby, Bolton, Liverpool, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Arsenal, Blackburn, Chelsea, West Ham, Wigan