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United squeak past Brum

“I think everyone could see that it was a penalty. It was so clear. The other one you can excuse by saying that it was ball to hand, that could be. But the other one was so clear that it was unbelievable. We had a meeting the other day where we were told that we could not talk about the referee as a person and his decisions but I think everyone could see today. The fourth official is a young referee and maybe he needs to calm down a little bit. I don’t know why Sammy was sent off. The fourth official was too young. I don’t know how old he is, but I think he is too young.”

That’s the opening day, and Rafa Benitez for you. I couldn’t resist.

Moving on…

United began their post-Ronaldo era with a whimper. A win before we get the wrong ideas, nonetheless. But it was a much more laboured effort than the stats will reveal. If you’re interested, we had about 17 shots on goal with 11 saved by the Brum ‘keeper. However, despite wave after wave of attacks. It looked like little was going to happen. There were individual performances to feel encouraged about and that is hard to ignore. But the collective should bother Ferguson a bit.

  • I won’t understand why Scholes was picked over Carrick. Fergie may have ‘wanted to try a different combo’ but I thought that was the whole point of a pre-season. He wasn’t in the squad altogether, which is puzzling. Scholes wasn’t bad, but Carrick is certainly a better option than the ageing Ninja.
  • Fletcher was poor. He has this tendency of turning up when the stakes are extremely high, but slipping into a comfort zone against inferior opposition. Last season I got the feeling he’d ridden himself of that annoying habit but on yesterday’s evidence it was threatening to creep back.
  • Patrice Evra and Ben Foster had pretty good games, in complete contrast of their mediocre Community shield outings. Foster was decisive when he came out to get the ball, and Evra was effective going forward. However, my contention is we need a solid full back on the other flank if we are to have Evra on the left. Fabio has good ability moving forward but he’s far too raw to have any positional sense to stay back. Against better sides we’d have been caught on the break far too easily. At the moment, Richie de Laet, who gave a good account of himself against Chelsea, would have been a better option than Fabio.
  • Our wingers, Nani in particular, were impressive even though Valencia seemed to flit in and out of the game. I still like his directness, his willingness to go into tackles, win the 50-50s and run at defenders. Nani’s trickery on the other flank complements Valencia well, and this has to be our first choice wing pairing for this season — injuries notwithstanding. Nani faded a bit because he was feeling his shoulder but I have all reason to feel encouraged by our wingers even though they don’t have the x-factor that Ronaldo provided.
  • And finally, on to our strikers. Berbatov showed more willingness going forward, and he was denied a clear-cut penalty. However, he needs to show a bit more dynamism if he is to link up well with Rooney. They did well in the first half, but we need to see more from the Bulgarian if we are to replicate our past successes.
  • The lasting image in this game for me will be Michael Owen’s miss. Nine out of ten, he would bury it. He didn’t, and I hope it doesn’t rankle in his head. However, his movement, and ability to beat the offside trap should keep him in good stead, provided our central midfield — which is currently chock full of passengers — provides him enough service.

We’ve not gained notoriety for being chronic slow starters for nothing. And I never judge the side till I’ve seen a good few games to identify trends. So I will, true to type, hold off on my judgements for a good few weeks. Next up is Burnley. Their giant killing Cup run last year should make us wary of the challenges they could pose. But till then, here’s words from the manager during his post match:

116 Comments

116 Comments

  1. Craig Mc

    18 August 2009 at 00:57

    Burnley Manager has just been on sky sports, and talking about the game on Wednesday, is saying “they will be doing what they do best, MOVING the ball around.” Think everybody remembers the Barca game in Rome, and feels they can beat us that way 😆 . One thing is for sure, we better not do our usual consecessionary GIVING THE BALL AWAY cheaply routine.

  2. Redrich

    18 August 2009 at 01:13

    @Craig Mc: The question about SAF’s tactics being at fault here is a difficult one. You would have to admit that most players thrive under him just fine, but a few (Berbatov, Veron, Staam eg.) do not – and the team, as a whole, has been hugely successful with him at the helm. So what the heck is it about Berbatov that makes him such a difficult fit for us??
    I think that his style is in contrast to our “swashbuckling” attacking ways, and SAF will not change our entire approach to suit him – and Berbatov, for his part, does not have an inherent ability to change readily.
    Time will tell, but he seems to be another expensive albatross that refuses to fly for the boss!!

  3. Craig Mc

    18 August 2009 at 01:21

    @Redrich: Trouble is though Red Rich, the last two seasons, our swashbuckling stuff has been a bit wanting in quite a few games. SAF didn’t use to employ players out of position anywhere near as much, to accomodate ONE player, though that player was exceptional. Rooney lost quite a bit of his game being stuck in different positions instead of his natural one. So did other players. But as you say, it is hard to criticise SAF at all really, because he has brought the silver pots home. I didn’t enjoy a lot of the snooze football last season though mate 🙂 .

  4. Redrich

    18 August 2009 at 01:31

    @Craig Mc: It’s been wanting ever since he tried to fit Berbatov in the team. Even Tevez played better before Berbatov, because the cut and thrust of his style was negated by the Berbs insistence to hold up play.
    In the end, things will change when Berbatov sits on the bench, or when SAF has the balls to admit this was a mistake and moves on!! 🙂

  5. Redrich

    18 August 2009 at 01:51

    @Craig Mc: Rooney lost the ability to score readily, but he never lost his game mate! Rooney adapted to the teams needs, unselfishly and without question and that’s something that we should hail him for!!

  6. Johnsom33

    18 August 2009 at 01:57

    @Grognard: Your stealing my thunder 😛 🙂 I made the prediction yesterday that a fit Owen will eventually replace berba

  7. aron84

    18 August 2009 at 02:10

    @owen: mexes is half the player carvalho is and I seem to remember him having difficulties in champions league games against us and arsenal so if that is true then I would love to see carvalho leave chelski but maybe its just wishful thinking. @Craig Mc: I agree SAF needs to mke up his mind concerning RB position. I believe Wes Brown is our strongest RB when fit 07/08 proved that imo. However the problem is we are always chopping and changing. This has been a problem position for us for the past few seasons now. In the past we had paul parker and gary neville filling the RB postion giving us consistency. Nowadays we have played O’shea, Fletcher, da silva twins, neville(liability} more recently de laet at RB I mean WTF. Wheres the stability there??? I think the problem with berba is that he has come from being the main man at spurs where they adapted their whole game around him (similar to what we did 4 ronnie to a certain extent) to a club that is more hungry and driven for success playing under a manager that always expect 110% and won’t settle for no bulls**t. Theres no denying his silky smooth skills and hair for that matter but the fact is he needs to start getting into goal scoring opportunities and banging them in like he did for spurs. Otherwise it will look like we payed 32 million for an incredibly skillful player that could probably control a football if it was dropped from the top of the 35th floor, but not find the back of the net in 90mins for a team with our pedigree. Personally I think we should have bought in huntalar and david Silva.

  8. Redrich

    18 August 2009 at 02:21

    Anybody else think Lescott laid down like a sick dog in the Everton crushing??
    If I was Sparky, I’d withdraw my offer for him!!

  9. tevez

    18 August 2009 at 02:36

    @Grognard: I don’t think your formation suits rooney or nani. Nani particularly is well out of position playing in a three-man midfield, and would be better in one of the forward positions, although still not great.
    Valencia i feel would also be better suited to playing in the midfield three in that formation. Look at malouda in basically an identical role for chelsea. He seems to have claimed his place on the left side of their diamond, being a wide midfield player with similar abilities – industrious, quick and tidy if not the most skillful or flashy. Valencia would fit this role where he is able to play both wide and more central.
    Rooney i just want to see playing through the middle. Although you would not be asking him to play as a winger, his position is still restrictive.
    I also think owen benefits more from having a central strike partner, whether that’s rooney playing just off him or berbatov alongside him. If we were going to play three up front(properly up front not one up front with two players who claim to be up front but track back till they’re on top of the full back) i would rather see berbatov and owen play up top with rooney in behind them. Rooney can play in the space, berbatov can play with his back to goal and owen can play on the shoulder. I reckon that gets them all doing what they do best. So that would give me our own diamond formation. Only problem is i don’t have a role for nani. He becomes redundant.

  10. Grognard

    18 August 2009 at 04:34

    @Craig Mc: Valencia was not running much and lets face it, we are getting nothing in terms of pace from the center of midfield. Other than Rooney and Owen when he showed up, the only guy who was running full speed was Evra. Nani was good but it wasn’t so much because he was out pacing everyone. The team as a whole was a trot.

  11. Grognard

    18 August 2009 at 04:37

    @Redrich: Come on mate, I’m not going to clear him and call him cured of being a skinned sausage quite yet. He was decent against Chelsea and he was good against Birmingham. That’s Birmingham. Lets wait to see how he handles Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea when it counts and all the teams in the Champions League before we declare him cured of skinned sauageitis. 😀

  12. Grognard

    18 August 2009 at 04:39

    @Redrich: I am totally in agreement with you there. Time will tell who or what the real culprit is.

  13. Grognard

    18 August 2009 at 04:42

    @Johnsom33: I still think Berba has something to say about it but again, I think as hard as he tries, he will always find it hard to fit into the round hole because the club just doesn’t suit his style. He should have replaced Toni at Fiorentina as their style would suit him perfectly.

  14. Natzca

    18 August 2009 at 04:54

    vidic rumours are just that,
    rubbish from his agent, he clears it up here:
    http://fcbtransfers.blogspot.com/2009/06/vidic-dismisses-barcelona-rumours.html

  15. Redrich

    18 August 2009 at 05:01

    @Grognard: Waiting and seeing is a very good philosophy (as the Zen master says! 😆 😆 ) But I’m only trying to illustrate an improvement here, and not to offer an inoculation to some of his inherent faults.
    Of course, we could, under a microscope, tear apart anybody with notations of individual gaffs and mis plays. Lets talk about Wes Brown being completely turned around and put on his rear end when Brum pulled out that great save from Foster.
    Most of us know better than to slay WB, because of our history with him. I think Evra deserves a big second chance with us too!!

  16. spizzy

    18 August 2009 at 09:54

    I will go on to tomorrows game without preconceived notions of who is good and who is shit. Personally I don’t think berba slows us down that much I think its the silky way he does it that makes it seem slow. I remember playing basketball and i used to net those three pointers all day but team mates used to say my ball seems to hang in the air for too long, when actually tested the time between release and net was normal. But i could be wrong about berba 😀 😀 .
    But i have a major problem with SAF and how he keeps fucking up with our midfield players, he comes out and says it the year for the youngster’s,he should have put out our lead two midfielders since nobody is injured and let them play together, let them build a partnership and know each others strength and weaknesses,especially against shitty teams so if they blunder it wont cost us that much.but then again maybe he did but none of us realized this, maybe scholes and fletcher are our two leading midfielders. 🙁 🙁

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