I woke up this morning eager as a beaver and highly anticipating the event as the day had finally come. No I am not talking about our big match with FC Basel. Nope, I’m talking about the release date in North America for my favorite addiction, FIFA 12. My life, my love and the reason I won’t be leaving my house for at least a month.
Here I am ready to get into the game as I unwrap it and place it in my XBOX 360 when I realize that the Champions League encounter vs Basel will be starting in five minutes. Do I sacrifice game time with my beloved FIFA video game or do I watch my beloved United bore me in a routine European match against a minnow? Loyalty won over and so I sat through the Basel game but all through it I was pulling my hair over what has become a growing concern over our defensive ineptitude.
Up to now we have been getting away with poor defending and inconsistent keeping simply because our high-octane attack has masked our defensive woes due to all the goals we are scoring. First off, my apologies to FC Basel for referring to them as a minnow. They are a small team compared to such juggernauts as United, Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Madrid Milan, Inter etc. But the fact is they are a good team with good players who are adept at finding flaws or weaknesses in our defence as well as our tactics and then exploit them. Problem for them is their two highly experienced strikers Frei and Streller were incredibly and uncharacteristically wasteful.
Basel opened up the game like gangbusters and within the first thirty minutes could have and should have easily scored three or four goals. As Gary Neville, said, they should have scored because not only were they clear cut chances but they fell to the right players also. Frankly their German manager had them playing and thinking they were Bayern Munich because they attacked in numbers, moved the ball around efficiently and attacked with purpose. At times our defence was in tatters and often I saw incredible gaps in the middle of the 18 yard box which begged me to ask the question where our two center backs were? Then upon my replaying the game I noticed the problem. It wasn’t that Rio and Jones were lazy or being caught up front. No, instead they were wide trying to cover the sides which had been lost to the ineptitude of both Fabio and Evra. Those two were constantly allowing Basel to win the width war and this was spreading our back four out too much.
Why is it only me that can see what a colossal albatross Patrice Evra has been. Even on attack he overlaps is in a perfect position to deliver a cutting cross or cutback pass and he always but always makes a meal of the chance. I am totally and completely fed up with him. But who cares right? Welbeck scores two quick goals and we are 2-0 and there is nothing to worry about. WRONG!!! You see, Basel never panicked and they never quit. They just kept on coming.
The second half begins and I’m thinking Fergie will have used the hairdryer treatment on the lads and they will come out and take it to Basel and all will be right with the world right? WRONG!!! Instead things get worse. Basel miss three great chances and then all of a sudden in a matter of a few minutes it is 2-2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Never have I cried for the return of Nemanja Vidic as I did at that cold moment when Evra gave the ball up in his typical sloppy manner which led to a quality cross to an unmarked Sebastian Frei and all of a sudden I’m worrying if we even get out of this Group.
Eventually our defensive trouble permeated throughout the squad and we stopped creating chances as well. For me it was a surreal moment in which I was wondering what in God’s name I was watching? What I was watching was a club that had been outed. A club that had been faking it and getting away with murder but who were finally busted, as the police shows love to say. Yes we are decimated with more than our fair share of injuries yet that is surely just an excuse and that a club like ours still should be handling the Swiss champs a sound butt kicking. Instead they served up a major butt kicking to Manchester United at Old Trafford of all places. It was unbelievable, unheard of and above all, unacceptable.
Football is a very funny game and nothing is a given I know, but still, give me a frakken break already. Fergie has a lot of work to do to solidify the back four and De Gea again has to be questioned especially by the manner he handed them that first goal. Was a punch out necessary at that moment? Why not just catch the ball as it was right in his chest. Even our bright light Danny Welbeck disappeared in the second half as did Valencia and Anderson so rather than bringing in Berbatov along with Nani earlier, Fergie delayed until it was almost too late. Eventually Fergie brings on Nani but then he brings on the king of uselessness Park as well. And what is our reward for this? A penalty is awarded to Basel and they go up 3-2 thanks to sloppy control from a tired Valencia. Now it is much more than a surreal experience. It has now become worse than an embarrassment. Instead it has become a living nightmare and a night of total unadulterated shame.
In the end what I watched was as shambolic an effort as the one Arsenal gave against us a few weeks back. We could easily have lost this match 8-4 or 7-5 and this is not an exaggeration. A Swiss wave or Tsunami that ravaged us and left us floating in our own muddied pools of pride and arrogance. Like I said earlier, tonight we were exposed, outed and busted. We were found to be wanting and woefully inept on defence, which forces me to ask the question, are we as good as we thought we were and really, how bad are we? How far can we hope to go in Europe with a defence that has more holes than Swiss cheese and surrender opportunities they way Italians surrender in military battles?
And then it happened while I was hanging my head in shame. Nani and Ashley saved our bacon from a total embarrassment for the ages. Where was Nani in the beginning? He is our best player right now and he should never be sitting in Europe because for me Europe is the most important prize. Basel taught us tonight not to take anything for granted and therefore, we should never feel sit our best player who are uninjured during a European tie. Sit Nani against Stoke, I could care less but I want our best players available for Europe.
3-3 was not a just result. We deserved to lose. Kudos to our attackers for keeping our home run and our
undefeated record intact. As for Fergie, well he has a lot of work to do. What did he think of the contest his club survived by the skin of his chiny chin chin? At this point I’d normally want to offer some quotes from the Boss but this only enflames me because he always laughs off this kind of performance so in turn, tonight I will laugh off anything Fergie has to say because tonight he got it all wrong along with our injuries playing a major role in a near defeat and sure embarrassment.
At the end of the day we escaped defeat and salvaged very valuable point which I hope teaches the players and especially Fergie a couple of major lessons;
1. Never underestimate your opponent
2. Never assume you will automatically win when playing at Old Trafford
3. Start your best team possible in all European matches unless you have clinched the group
4. Never play for a draw like we did at Benfica as every point could prove to be very valuable
5. Playing Michael Carrick is like not playing Michael Carrick
6. Patrice Evra must be sold
7. Dimitar Berbatov brings nothing as a sub and thus, must be sold
8. We must find playing time for Danny Welbeck
9. Thank God we have Nani and Ashley Young
10. It’s a long season and we aren\t going to WOW the world every night out. Was this rare hiccup?
I can get over this match quickly but Fergie has serious issues to deal with and will have some interesting decisions facing him in the coming weeks. So as bad as this result was, it was not the worst case scenario
And so we now must move on, learn from this and train harder to make sure this never happens again. Lets just call it a wake up call or a major reality lesson learned.
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