Sad to say this, really. Really sad. But there is no escaping the fact that we have been playing like that.
Don’t get me wrong though. Results wise, it’s been good for us. But it certainly is not good for the heart, over the long run. Our wins over the past three games have been one-nils — very Chelsea-like as far as digging deep and snatching wins, while not playing in top gear. But that is not to take away the performance in terms of dominating possession and making one pass too many in trying to craft an opening — something we’ve seen to be associated with Arsenal over the past couple of seasons.
However, things have changed for the so-called big four. Chelsea, while not being too different from their last season, haven’t managed to snatch those wins. (Are they missing Drogba?) Arsenal have been playing the same cute football of last season, but have learnt to finish better. And Liverpool are also able to finish, while demonstrating their trademark ability to drop points – thanks to Rafa Benitez’s firm faith in his rotation system.
United haven’t really lost their flair. If not, they have been more dominant this season. The Reading game was full of waves of attacks. So was the Man City game. So was the Sunderland game. True, we weren’t quite so convincing against Spurs despite our dominant possession. But overall, we have bossed the midfield much more than we’ve probably done last season, or recent seasons prior to that.
The difference this time has been more subtle. Our approach, this season, has got more to do with holding the ball and looking for openings to prise open the defence. In the past, however, we relied on quick bursts of wave after wave of attacks to get our goals. A positive way to look at our general play this time would be to term it as a ‘patient passing’ approach. Although, most of our disgruntled lot would dismiss it as a ‘clueless sideways passing’ approach. Either of that is a fair enough assessment depending on how you intend to view it.
Anyway, moving on to the Everton game, I could catch the entire second half while saw only bits of the first. So I will very quickly go over parts of the game that made sense and other parts that had me puzzled.
First and foremost, was the team selection. Why was Silvestre started at left back? I know he is one. But when you have Evra already starting, there is no sense playing both your left backs, what with the Sporting Lisbon game coming up in just three days time and a Chelsea game coming soon after. Now all that’s happened is Silvestre is out for the season and we are left with a thread-bare looking left back position. Of course, it might give Pique or Evans a run at that position. Evans could play at left back but he is a more natural central defender.
Again, Ryan Giggs as the other striker? Which leads me to ask, why Saha wasn’t started. He had two weeks to get back into shape after the Sunderland game. Surely he could start? Oh well, he is Saha after all. But Giggs as a striker doesn’t really make sense. While his performance this season hasn’t really been up to the mark, he does play better in his natural left wing position. Or at least play him in central midfield with Scholes and Carrick – with Tevez, Nani and Ronaldo the front three in a 4-3-3 formation. I know that wouldn’t make too much of a difference, but it still is better than wasting Giggsy by playing him up top.
I may be sounding a little too bitter. I know that. I really want to say bad stuff about Giggs, but that is still unthinkable because of what he means to me and the club. Roy Keane recently said about there being a thin line between loyalty and stupidity, and that he is trying to learn to stay on the right side of the line. Fergie must know better and, on this occasion, he’s treading ever so close to that line.
Giggs still has a bit to offer the club, but he can’t be expected to play the whole ninety minutes. Running down the wings for an hour should do for him before he’s taken off for Nani. He should be eased out, like how Figo was eased out at Inter and Portugal. At his age, he would be better at bursts before he’s taken out for fresher legs.
About the game, there were positives. Our defence has been excellent so far. While there were a few iffy moments, we had EVDS to thank on couple of occasions. Rio Ferdinand was immense and so was Vidic. Rio’s last ditch clearance to deny Lescott (or whoever it was that hit the return ball off McFadden’s shot) was great. Vidic has been great when it comes to attacking corners. He’s always looked like scoring in each of the games this season, and his aggression was well rewarded and deserved.
Ronaldo was anonymous, and was probably tired after being heavily involved in Portugal’s international fixture. However, it’s time he hands the free kick duties over to Tevez, who can surely lift the ball at least over the wall.
The biggest positive, of course, was the determination and willingness shown by the team to dig in and get a result. And as an off shoot was the tireless running of Tevez. The player will get his due sometime this season. He has a lot to offer and we need to be patient with him. His weighted through ball to Evra and a lob over an Everton defender to set-up Scholes were great efforts.
We are getting results, which is good. But they need to be more convincing than our win, thus far. Of course, we would take these points – crucial that they are. After all, it is the hall mark of Champions to win even while playing poorly.
Happy with United’s performance? I am. Satisfied? No, not at all.
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