Manchester United’s Premier League title challenge ended at Ewood Park in frustration after a stubborn Blackburn Rovers held out for a scoreless draw. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side handed Chelsea the title with little effort and seemingly less desire on a day which confirmed the desperate need for new investment in the squad.
Chelsea, a point clear with a game in hand, must now drop points in two fixtures for United to retain any hope of winning the Premier League. It’s unlikely to happen.
The frustration etched on Dimitar Berbatov’s face said much. The Bulgarian, leading the line in Wayne Rooney’s absence, sought both form and redemption from his many critics. Often criticised for his perceived lack of effort, Berbatov tried and ultimately failed to spark United into life.
Playing alongside Italian teenager Federico Macheda – the youngster’s first start of the season – Berbatov created little and wasted his best opportunity of the afternoon.
After the vigour of United’s first half midweek performance against Bayern Munich, Ferguson’s side returned to the lethargic effort that characterized defeats in Germany and against Chelsea in the past fortnight. With veterans Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville recalled to the side in an unfamiliar formation, it was perhaps unsurprising.
United’s best chance fell to Antonio Valencia, probably United’s greatest attacking threat, with the former Wigan man unable to beat Paul Robinson after being put through one on one with the Blackburn ‘keeper.
Valencia also drew a good save from Robinson when set up by Macheda before Nani, ineffective on the day, failed to test the ‘keeper with another effort in an opening half United dominated while creating few clear-cut opportunities.
Ferguson replaced Macheda with Ji-Sung Park and introduced Darron Gibson for Giggs after the break but neither was able to bring about a goal for the visitors, with the Irishman screwing his only effort tamely wide of target.
Then came Berbatov’s moment as the ball reached the Bulgarian record goalscorer 12 yards out with minutes to go. The weak shot, straight at Robinson, summed up United’s day.
“I think it has slipped away from us today,” admitted Ferguson.
“It is going to be very difficult to win this league. We only have a lifeline if Chelsea blow it. To my eyes they have an easy game against Bolton on Tuesday. We would expect them to win that. It will put them four points clear. That is a big, big gap.”
The Scot, who is rarely able to bring himself to deploy two strikers these days, may never do so again after Sunday’s performance. Berbatov frustrated in a deeper role and Macheda proved highly ineffective leading the line.
“We did not get the result we expected with the amount of possession of the ball we had,” he added.
“The last third was not good enough, I am afraid. We had the chances in the game and the possession but that is not enough. You need to create those chances and take them.
“We had enough opportunities to do that in the last third of the field. It is always a difficult place to come but nonetheless we should have done better.”
Much of the blame also falls at the feet of Nani, who returned to the frustrating pre-Christmas version of the Portuguese winger, rarely beating his opponent and often wasting good positions.
Then there is Berbatov who spent most of the afternoon gesticulating wildly at the referee and his colleagues. It was a day that could have ended his career at Old Trafford.
“That’s a fantastic result for Chelsea,” the Scot added.
United’s 8,000 travelling supporters deserved better.
9 thoughts on “United blow title with a whimper”
‘The Scot, who is rarely able to bring himself to deploy two strikers these days, may never do so again after Sunday’s performance.’
It was different once, we had 4 (world-class) strikers and never any doubts about playing any 2.
Blackburn has always been stubborn, but I think Solskjaer and Sheringham would have done the damage.
Why has our tactics so drastically changed since 99?
In my opinion it is the absence of Fletcher that cost us the title, not so much the number of strikers.
i agree. Why have we changed it? It seems to me that we have become more concerned with not losing than goin all out for the victory like we did in the glory days of 99. Theres no doubt in my mind that the team of 99 would have been to much for the rest of the league, and thats because of the style and the swagger which we played with.
Very poor display.
berbatov is completely ineffective. The sooner the better he leaves.
Once again, we need him to perform, once again he disappoints.
The team as a whole was not great yesterday, however, you knew that had Rooey been playing we’d have won handsomely.
The fact is we have not been good enough this season and it starting to show.
Fair play to Fergie for getting so much from what must be the weakest squad we have had in many years.
Berbatov and Carrick out. Benzima in, Hargreaves back fit and next season will be better.
As much as we miss Fletcher when he’s out, and a reliable second striker, we really lack a midfield goal machine. Scholes used to be that player, and we’ve never really replaced his goals from midfield. Chelsea have two at the moment in Malouda and Lampard, and we’re seriously lacking in that department.
Our three players of the season Evra, Fletcher, Rooney all missing for the game. We had no energy, no grit, no determination. Out with a whimper as you so succinctly put it. Time to put some heart and courage back into the team this summer. Milner, Rodwell, Lisandro Lopez In. Berbatov out.
Playing Scholes and Giggs in the center is a no no! No pace in the center with Macheda stuck up front alone.
I know Macheda didn’t do much (but the service was poor) but it was a ridiculous decision to take off one of your two front men when you’re chasing a must win game. I wouldn’t be too harsh on Berbatov, I thought he was one of our best players. He worked really hard, but had to keep dropping deep as he just wasn’t getting the service.
We’ll probably never know the truth about the Tevez affair, but at the end of the day, we could have badly done with the goals he’s been scoring in the 2nd half of the season. We should have done more to keep him. Also replacing him with Owen was a huge gamble, that obviously hasn’t paid off.
Let’s see now if Fergie is right about the Ronaldo sale cash being available. If major signings are not made during the summer, I can only see us regressing further.
What a disgusting result. I can’t remember the last time a United side has ended the season so poorly (and with so little cohesion and hunger on the field). I think Fergie will need to assess attitudes as much as abilities this summer.
Let’s hope chelski cock up and implode. Dunno if we can still do it this year, hopefully it will be us and arsenal in top two spots, two great footballing teams built on fan power, not oil money. Citeh and chelski fans worst in world. Don’t deserve to win owt.
But for us, its not our god given right to win it every year.. we will be back next year and stronger. Keep the faith. United forever.