Manchester United turn the year leading the Premier League, comfortably qualified for the Champions League knock-out stages and unbeaten – at least in the competitions that matter. On the surface Sir Alex Ferguson’s side reaches the mid-point of the season in prime place to challenge on three fronts come the spring.
But United’s story is just a little more nuanced than that of course.
The Reds’ single defeat this season, in the Carling Cup quarter-final to West Ham United last month, was no disaster; seven draws in the Premier League could have been. Fortunately United’s domestic inconsistency, especially away from home, is matched elsewhere, with Chelsea blowing a five point lead six weeks ago, Arsenal brittle and Manchester City far too conservative.
Tougher tests will follow though, with United yet to visit Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur in the league and the fragile nature of United’s midfield still potentially exposed.
In Europe, United drew arguably the easiest of first round groups, with Rangers and Bursaspor two of the weakest teams in the competition and Valencia a shadow of the side that almost threatened Real Madrid and Barcelona’s domestic hegemony. Certainly Marseille, whom beat Chelsea in the group stages, will offer a stern although not insurmountable challenge in the first knockout round. The Spanish giants are palpably better than United though and a quarter-final date with either will surely spell United’s demise.
Aside from an annoying habit of shipping late goals, the side’s real problem – the one identified by almost every fan, pundit and media outlet at the season’s start – is the lack of creativity at the heart of central midfield. Call it Glazernomics, call it lack of value in the market, call it poor planning but the decision not to strengthen may well come back to bite come the season’s end. 7/10
Sir Alex Ferguson
Entering his 70th year, with more than 24 years at United’s helm, Ferguson still has the strength of will and desire to drive the club forward even in times of economic uncertainty. Arguably, the Scot has the weakest squad at his disposal in the past five years – off-the-field distractions and injuries to key players have hardly helped either. But Ferguson has consistently generated more than the sum of this squad’s parts and proven a tactical innovator. This is no vintage United side but it is hard to beat. 7/10
Edwin van der Sar
The great Dutchman just keeps on going despite passing 40 years of age. Retirement may well come in June, although there seems little physical impeding van der Sar from continuing should he choose to do so. Mistakes have crept into his game at times, although very rarely as catastrophic as the one which gifted West Bromwich Albion at goal at Old Trafford in October. 6/10
The Pole in Goal will surely move on, if not this January, then in the summer following Anders Lindegaard’s acquisition. Rarely a disaster but very obviously not of United quality either. Kuszczak’s five appearances this season have offered little more than van der Sar some rest. 5/10
Rafael da Silva
Inconsistency and injury dogged the Brazilian youngster’s first two seasons at the club, with the disastrous red card against Bayern Munich last season almost certainly costing United a place in the Champions League semi-final. But the 20-year-old’s game has rapidly progressed during the autumn months to the extent that Rafael is now Ferguson’s first choice at right-back. Now one for the present not just the future. 7/10
Nothing will take away Neville’s 600-plus games for United but there is little more depressing in sport than seeing a former great clearly beyond his best. Neville’s legs are shot and retirement is surely just months away. Cruel it may be but Neville’s four appearances this season are probably a quartet too many. 3/10
The England captain has seemingly overcome the persistent back and groin injuries that threatened the 32-year-old’s career at Old Trafford. United is much the better for Ferdinand’s involvement, whose performances have been consistent and calming. Ferdinand remains absolutely central to United’s success or failure this season. 7/10
With a new contract signed, fitness assured and the Serbian installed as team captain Vidic has produced the series of outstanding performances that place the 29-year-old among the very best central defenders in the world. Vidic’s form and especially his fitness will be essential to United’s progress at home and abroad. For now, Vidic has been outstanding. 9/10
The former Fulham defender has made a solid, if unspectacular start to his United career after the £10 million summer transfer. Appearances in both the Champions League and Carling Cup have shown the promise of a player who has plenty of pace, a strong touch and potentially outstanding passing skills. 5/10
What the Northern Irishman would do for a decent performance, perhaps even a partially incompetent one, such has been the defender’s form. Repeatedly out-muscled and often targeted, Evans has suffered the worst season in his short career with United. All is not lost but for now Evans might even benefit from a loan spell away from Old Trafford. 4/10
Such are the defender’s impeccably high standards that Evra fell some way short in the early weeks of the season. Put it down to a World Cup hangover, or fatigue after a 55 game season and a summer in South Africa, but Evra is finally rediscovering the form that placed the left-back among the very best in his position. 6/10
Many is the time that supporters have wondered what the point of John O’Shea is. Not in some notional sense but in a very real, tangible, waste-of-oxygen kind of way. The Irishman has done little to change that feeling in another average campaign. Yet, Ferguson trusts the 29-year-old implicitly, proffering O’Shea with 14 outings this season and a rumoured £80,000 per week contract offer. 5/10
It is hard to feel anything but sympathy for the Ecuadorian winger who broke his ankle so traumatically early in the season. Valencia will return in the spring and could offer United vital creativity as the season draws to a close. n/a
The Portuguese winger has come out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow to produce a consistent, sometimes outstanding season. Frequently United’s primary creative outlet, Nani cannot emulate his compatriot for sheer destructive power but has become a vital cog in Ferguson’s machine. Getting better by the match, adding both more assists and more goals this season. 8/10
Outstanding in early season fixtures but found out when the opposition targets the 36-year-old for special treatment. Scholes still possesses all the skills of old but is a liability against more physical opposition. Still United’s most creative midfielder though and a vital part of the squad until injury struck in November. 6/10
Briefly, for about seven or eight games during the late autumn, Carrick emerged from an 18-month rut that marked the Geordie down for an Old Trafford exit. The former Spurs midfielder’s ability to recycle or retain possession is potentially central to United’s cause. Yet there is still the nagging feeling that Carrick is a long way short of his best. 5/10
The Brazilian is perhaps, just perhaps, coming into his own more than three years into his Old Trafford career. Recent performances have demonstrated what Anderson can be – powerful, aggressive, with a burst of pace that can change games. Yet, Anderson is still wasteful in possession – giving away a quarter of attempted passes – and offers far too little end product in terms of assists or goals. 6/10
After two years of outstanding displays Fletcher’s performances have been far more muted this season, to the extend that the Scot is not always an automatic first team pick. Yet, Fletcher will certainly be chosen for the biggest games and against Arsenal proved just why the 26-year-old has gone from Old Trafford pariah to Ferguson’s most important midfielder. 6/10
The Derry Dynamo is neither dynamic nor making any progress at Old Trafford. Now 23-years-old, Gibson possesses an outstanding long-range shot but little else that marks the Irishman out as a potential United star. Wasteful in possession, with a poor first touch and s l o w, why is Gibson still at the club? 4/10
More than 800 games into his United career and the Welshman is still a valuable part of United’s squad. Injury aside, Giggs will play perhaps one in three United games. It might well be enough to earn the 37-year-old a final season at Old Trafford in 2011/12. 5/10
Now 18 months into a spell at Old Trafford and fans know little more than the day Obertan joined the club. The Frenchman has decent feet but seemingly little understanding of the game. Rarely used and 22-years-old in February, now is the time for Obertan to break through or move on. 4/10
Such is the South Korean’s enigma that a string of poor passes and lost possession is invariably followed by a crucial goal. Objectively Park simply doesn’t have enough talent to make it at United. Nearly 200 games for the club and six goals this season might say otherwise. Certainly Park offers more from a central position than wide. The problem is that he’s invariably wide left – the coward’s winger. 6/10
The Portuguese forward is far from ready for regular first team action and a long way off justifying the £8.3 million it cost United to bring him to the club. But Bébé has shown glimpses of talent – pace, strength and finishing skills, although his best position is still to be determined. Remains the strangest transfer of the Ferguson era. 4/10
The former Evertonian described 2010 as a “nightmare” – if only that were true. Sadly, Rooney’s terrible form is very real; the worst year of his career to date. Moreover, the striker’s off-the-field behaviour – drinking, smoking, hookers and contract ‘negotiations’ – have left a very sour taste in many supporters mouths. Needs a big 2011 to go along with the massive contract. 3/10
How fickle is the nature of form. Berbatov would almost certainly have left in the summer had a suitable buyer been found. Today, United’s season rests on the Bulgarian striker’s goals, with 14 plundered to date. Yet, after a burst of seven goals in as many games at the season’s start, Berbatov went more than 10 without a goal. Eight have followed in the last four games. Consistency is now the key to the striker’s season. 8/10
The Mexican’s eight goals in all competitions do not tell the story. Hernández’ start to his United career and supporters’ reaction have both been positive. The question now is whether the 22-year-old can step up to the next level and cement a place in Ferguson’s starting XI. 6/10
The Italian teenager certainly has talent and a penchant for a brilliant finish – supporters have just seen too little of him. There’s little doubt Macheda has the raw ingredients to make a fine number nine. Now a spell away from Old Trafford could make or break his United career. 4/10
Still living off that goal against Manchester City last season. In truth Owen has offered very little to United save for the odd Carling Cup goal and a rash of medical bills. Almost certain to depart when his contract runs out in June. 4/10
48 thoughts on “Mid-season report 2010/11”
ridiculously harsh in some instances… i mean the fact you have given o’shea a 5 proves it
a 2 would have been sufficient
Bebe was a strange transfer, but he needs to play more games in the reserves in different positions. With his speed and pace, he could be tried as a striker in a 4-5-1 formation or 4-4-2 or as an attacking midfielder. But do all this experimenting with him in the reserve team and once his best position is sorted out, you can try him again in the Premier team. No sense wasting 8 million.
Shut the FUCK up about Bebe. Just bum him and get it done with.
Whats also a concern to is Arsenal have beaten all the lower teams except Wigan away from home and they have more home games to play this half then they do away games. United have a hell a lot of away games to play, including the two make up games. United will have to work hard to pull this off. Man City are about to make two big signings this month, so its going to be a hot title race.
Very good summary; I am pretty much in agreement with your player assessments, but there is one I’d rather not let go: “The Portuguese winger has come out of Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow to produce a consistent, sometimes outstanding season.”
I would change that to read: The Portuguese winger is emerging from Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow and, so far this season, has played with more consistency – delivering the odd, outstanding performance. 7/10
Never mind Ronaldo, I would still prefer David Beckham at the same age to Nani. I think you (and others) are tempted to overrate Nani’s performances based on his importance to the current side, which is not the same thing as his objective value as a player.
Oh, and Neville and O’Shea share the 5/10 (as in 2.5/10 each).
I disagree with your assessment of hernandez… To come on and score some vital goals as he has, and with such a high goals to minutes ratio, is deeply impressive
There is a complete misjudgement on Rio – the moment he is not in any team, Vida and VDS drop down two notches in terms of overall performance.
Park is underated and O’Shea and Anderson are both grossly overrated.
That’s why we signed him
Not good enough to start every match, not got an all round game
According to someone on the Caf, if we beat Stoke on Tuesday we will be 1 point better off than last season
Chelsea are 11 points worse off
Sid – that’s true, although after 20 games we had 14 wins – should United win on Tuesday it’ll be 12. Guess we were losing last year, and drawing this.
If we can put a good 5 goals past Stoke, those rival managers would be sick! I read their comments, they think United is a struggling team, especially Mancini and Wenger. But if we give Stoke a good beating, that would quickly shot them up.
7 for Rio? Bit low, I think. And I think 6 is a bit harsh on chicharito too.
A bit of a miserable analysis! If some of these players are 4/10 where does it leave the players at the the premier league bottom feeders? 1/10!?
You would have thought that we were in line for relegation! SAF should be higher considering he has got this squad to the top of the table. I agree its our worst squad on paper for 5 years though.
Hernandez definitely marked too low. 8 goals in mainly sub appearances in his first season is a fine return. Several of them – Stoke, WBA, Valencia, Wolves game winners too.
nice precis of the season
sevens for scholes vidic nani and rafa
fives for the rest
ten for lkhf and affiliates
that’s too low for hernandez, how could anyone have possibly expected more from him than he did?
Ok Monsieur Hormone, do you have any constructive comments to make with some logical arguments to back it up. Or just the usual hormonal ranting 🙂
we have been/are shit, in a shit league….this is the poorest utd side in nearly 20 years……ed is being to generous in most instances
bill, you are too optimistic, reality is we are in a false dawn
With other teams faltering we will have a great shout for the league. I was sceptical at the start of the season too, but Chelsea have blown themselves up and the others just don’t have the mentality to handle the run in.
who says we do, we bottled it from a leading position last year
Fergie has an ordinary team.But he has sure used it in an extraordinary manner !!
Winning the league 4 times in a row is unheard of and we only lost out by 1 point when Chelsea had played better than us throughout the season.
so we bottled it against blackburn and chelsea because we thought four in a row would be too much
Chicarito has had a great first season so far. Its a pity that he doesnt get more minutes.
Also thought you’ve been a bit stingy with Carrick who has become an automatic starter again and unlike Anderson can play a full 90 minutes.
Nope Chelsea were the better side for most of the season and probably deserved to win the league.
They just kept on getting better results than us, nothing to do with bottling it. Sometimes quality just wins out.
This season is a bit different with no stand out side. In those type of scenarios those with the experience tend to succeed.
Not superior – just better!
Hernandez should get more playing time. Do you think Fergie should try and sign Beckham or Kaka or Ronanldinho on a a five month loan just to do a job? I see Rednapp is trying to get Beckham and Blackburn is offering Ronaldinho 130,000 pounds a week. Blackburn have those new rich Indian owners. United have so many away games this half of the season, seems Fergie should be trying to strengthen the squad, even if he goes for players on loan.
The midfield is a big worry at the moment, something needs to be done.
We could do with an upgrade in midfield, but Fergie will go with Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick and Scholes to do most of the work in the run in. Gibson an occasional contributor.
On the wings Valencia will be like a new signing in when he’s back around February time. If SAF thinks he can get through Jan with Giggs, Nani, Obertan and Bebe then Cleverley won’t be recalled as Valencia and Park will provide reinforcements once we get into Feb.
Well this team will have to dig deep if they are to win the title. A smart move then would be to bring in Ravel Morrison from the reserve team. Although he is young, he is of world class quality and at only 18 years old, he has the tools to compete in the Premier league. You can leave Cleverley at Wigan, but Morrison is a gem!
World Class? – the guy’s first team career consists of 5 minutes in the CC. It’s exactly this kind of ridiculous hype (from under 15s who believe football manager games are real life) that kills young players.
This is why I try to avoid reading Simms’ comments. They make the brain hurt.
Saw Cleverley at Wigan on Sunday. Martinez ia playing him out wide. Seems to me that he has not got the pace or strength to be a top class winger or an outlet player. He reminds me of a pale copy of the younger Beckham. So it seems very unlikely that he will be recalled to play centre midfield, the area we need quality. I wonder what would be the chances to get Kaka on loan for the rest of the season; no probs with Europe? Now that would be a great piece of business, but cannot see it happening.
Of the reserves Eikrem and Morrison are two who could push first team in coming years, but both need a loan spell. Eikrem is from Molde so the smart money would see OGS take his ex reserve captain to his hometown on loan in the near future. Morrison could go out to a Greater Manchester L1 or Championship side.
Kaka is available to go out on loan with an option to buy. Earlier news reports stated that Fergie and Mourinho were in talks to bring Kaka to United on loan but I have not heard or read anything else since. All that has surfaced now is that Chelsea, Arsenal and AC Milan are also intersted but United were the front runners. Would have to wait and see on this one, but knowing Fergie, he will stick with what he’s got. Still feel though that Morrison could be put on the subs bench and get some playing time coming on as a late sub. Can’t be any worse than whats happening now with the midfield.
FFS STOP TALKING ABOUT KAKA
Morrison is going to be a good player, he is our 7th choice winger I’d say so unlikely to get much play time this season.
The same goes for Eikrem. A good player but is behind 6/7 in the pecking order.
Hard to believe, but after beating Stoke we are now pretty close to standard champions level points-wise. We have 44 points after 20 games; in the past three seasons the eventual champions had 45 (us 07-08), 44 (us 08-09), and 45 (chelsea 09-10) points. So we are at the low end of champions-level performance by recent standards.
Valencia won’t be much use till next year… if at all.
His leg might be heeled… but then he’ll need a month or so to get match fit, and even more time to get back his nerve.
He wouldn’t be the first player to never come back to his pre-injury self, after such an injury.
Your right Herb. Its definitely our shallowest and bollockless midfield we’ve had for many a year. Which is accentuated to the max when our old timer Scholsey is in there. He makes the likes of Carrick and Fletcher and Anderson look like ale house plodders.
The problem lies at a stobborn Fergies door. He paid way over the odds for Anderson who was very young and inexperienced, he paid way over the odds for Carrick whom nobody else wanted, and he’s trawled Fletcher out at practically every opportunity to try and make amends for spending far too much on dross and hopefully hit on someone that just might be a diamond that cost nothing. Therefore he’s got himself in an almighty rut, cozz these are the players he brought in and won’t be seen to admit he’s got it wrong.
Fergie proper shat himself over the Keano saga, which is part of the reason why we have been rudderless ever since he left. His insistance that he will not be questioned in any matter regarding team selection and tactics has had nothing but an adverse effect on the club as a whole. Of course he knows what the problems are and where they are, he’ll see it everyday in training as we see it on match days, but point blankly refuses to do anything about it. Carrick, Park, Anderson, and Fletcher are clearly not good enough. The fans know it, the media knows it, but more worryingly, they keep getting games. No matter what this season turns up for us, the midfield needs off loading with immediate effect, and some cash invested in tried and tested proven quality.
God knows we’ve fuckin waited long enough for it.
We really do need to start digging our heels in now. We’ve had a really easy first half to the season. And i for one feel that we will regret those draws that should have been wins, (Everton, Fulham, Birmingham). We are playing miserably and look to have little direction or guidance during most games, particularly when sides start getting amongst us. I reckon we will lose 4 or 5 games in the remainder of the season, especially as we have yet to go to Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, ,West Ham, Tottenham and Man City at home.
The way we’ve been playing i can only see us getting possibly 6 points max from the away fixtures. We’d have to see a vast improvement in form to get any more than that.
We’ve been asking for a good shoeing all season and i think we’re going to get one any time soon. Its how we handle it that will define the rest of the season.
For fuck sake Knobby… you sound like we’ve never been in a title scrap before… and no, we can’t win them all… so we lost last year… we’ve won other years, and we’ve a good chance to win this year.
I’m in total agreement that this isn’t a “great United” squad… but that doesn’t change the fact, that we’re top of the league and fighting for title number 19… fuckin hell man, it’s not “all” grim and miserable.
He’s right though Cap… we might not have a team to wank over right now… but we’ve a hell of a chance to win number 19… that’s well fuckin good, if you ask me… and then we can hope for improvements come summer, or complain that we didn’t get them. But at the moment it’s all relatively good… this team maybe poor compared to better United teams from the past, but it’s leading the league, scoring more goals than the rest and is once again the envy of England…
If we’re a top team , then we’re an attractive destination to world talent… if we get rid of the Glazers, then we might actually chase some of them, if we get some of the worlds top players, then we might again have a dream team… plus there’s the obvious improvements in the likes of Rafa, Fabio, Cleverly, Welbeck, Smalling, and perhaps Chico and Anderson will become the players we hope for.
Our defense has the potential to be sound for a few years… with Nani, Rooney, Welbeck, Chico, Cleverly, Anderson, there is some nailed on talent and some real promising potential… we really only need a couple of top players… probably in the midfield, and a keeper, to be an excellent team again…
That’s not a “false dawn”.
And in the meantime… I’ll be happy as fuck with a 19th title.
and if ur uncle had a fanny he’d be a tranny……..
It’s actually very frustrating to think that with just one extra top-class player, we’d have won the league last year and be walking away with it this year. Say someone like Sneijder, could easily have gotten us an extra 2 points last season, and could have turned a few of our away draws this season into wins, putting us out of sight.
Let’s say 85 is enough to win the league this year. To reach that, the Bitters need 44 points from a possible 51 (17 matches), which is a lot to ask for. That would be one point better than us in 08-09, when we only lost 2 and drew 1 and won 14 from out last 17, which was amazing. The Chavs need 50 from a possible 54 to reach 85, which just isn’t happening, fork ’em they’re done. Arsenal needs 46 from 54, which I could see them doing if Nasri and Cesc are fit and in form.
City are sure to buy some useful talent, probably Dzeko, but they are also effectively in third place and still have to visit Arsenal, us, Chavs, Birmingham, Villa, Liverpool, Everton etc. Several draws are likely there, hopefully against Arsenal next week! On the other hand, no CL distractions for them.
Arsenal have a very cushy fixture list for the second half of the season.
Our fixture list is definitely worse, visiting nearly all the top teams.
I think we’ll just pip Arsenal to the title, but I don’t feel very confident about it. City to come third. Chavs battling Spurs for fourth place, which isn’t good for us because we now have to face the chavs twice at the end of the season.
I keep a chart of this stuff, we’re basically doing the same as the last time we won, 08-09, right now, 41 points after 19 games. We got 90 in the end that season. The Chavs are 10 points behind their points this time last season. We are the only team that has anything close to a champions points total compared to the past four seasons. After 19 games in the past four seasons, the champions had 47 (utd), 45 (utd), 41 (utd), 42 (Chavs), so at 41 points right now we are at the bottom end of a champions-level performance right now.
Statistically speaking, our opponents don’t look very likely to win, since after matches they had 34 (chavs), 35 (bitters) and 36 (arsenal) points, which is a good bit below the low-end of champions-worthy performance. But since they are all about 2 wins of the top, anything is possible, especially given generally crap level of performance on the pitch this season.
========================================================================================And gives no mark Carrick a 5, embarrassing mistake Owen 4, yet Sir Wayne of Rooneyshire only got a 3. Our only world class player that works his bollocks off, gets shuffled from position to position by our tactically inept manager and never complains, carried the whole club single handedly all of last season, and he only gets a 3?
It must be April the 1st already.