This period, as winter gives way to spring, and the football season begins its final stretch, is always pivotal to Manchester United’s ambitions. It is the phase, so the cliché goes, that Sir Alex Ferguson’s side comes into its own; when the Old Trafford outfit streaks past the finishing post to ever more glory.
Yet, with matches against Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal in the FA Cup, and the Champions League knock-out matches against Marseille, before re-matches with the two London sides, this period is – and has been – all the more difficult this season. Not least that key fixtures take place away from Old Trafford where results have held Ferguson’s side together.
However, United’s defeats to Wolverhampton Wanders, Chelsea and now Liverpool away from Old Trafford in the past four weeks threaten to end the club’s hopes. Key matches against Arsenal and Marseille could end the club’s cup ambitions too. It is not as though red flags haven’t flown given United’s away form poor all season. Indeed, with 20 points on the road, United is placed fourth in the away form league table, just two points ahead of newly promoted Newcastle United and three beyond Blackpool.
This most difficult period has become all the more challenging with injuries to key players, not that casualties are uncommon as the season draws to a close. Rio Ferdinand’s injury is a huge blow to the club’s ambitions; Nemanja Vidic’s suspension against Liverpool on Sunday just as calamitous. Meanwhile, Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and Ryan Giggs’ injuries have reduced Ferguson’s midfield options of late.
The “deep gash” to Nani’s left-leg could keep the Portuguese wide man on the sidelines for the next month, robbing the side of its most creative player by some distance.
It is of course churlish to blame the club’s recent failures on injuries though. After all, Ferguson has a 25-man squad at his disposal, with some of the best young players in the country. At least that is the message repeated ad infinitum by the club’s management this season.
In truth supporters might argue that the quality of Ferguson’s reserves is somewhat lower than in previous iterations of the Scot’s team. It is hard to see where, for example, Gabriel Obertan, Darron Gibson and Bébé would fit into almost any of Ferguson’s previous title-winning squads.
In the meantime stories of a £100 million rebuilding programme resurfaced in the media this week. The rash of spin, backed by little more than conjecture at this stage, places about half a dozen players on Ferguson’s supposed hit-list. Those of an optimistic bent might conclude that the Scot has finally found the elusive ‘value in the market’ that only Harry Redknapp apparently knew existed.
That some of the club’s more average performers this season – Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Anderson – have recently signed new long-term deals places the speculation into some context. Supporters might be wise not to hold their collective breath.
Transfer speculation is for the medium-term though. United must next face Arsenal in an FA Cup tie next weekend that has increasing significance, if not in Ferguson’s priorities, then for the team’s confidence. Defeat will not only reduce United’s chances of silverware this season but provide a huge blow to the side’s morale. Indeed, victory is arguably now imperative and while United’s 69-year-old manager must be tempted to rest key players ahead of a Champions League tie with Marseille the following Wednesday, it could prove a season-defining decision.
More importantly the fashion in which United surrendered to both Liverpool and Chelsea in the past week points to deeper problems in the side. These were not defeats that will make the club stronger; setbacks on which Ferguson’s firebrand will drive his side to ever greater heights. If United was meek in the second period against Chelsea on Tuesday night then Ferguson’s outfit hit a season low at Anfield.
In truth the Scot’s players have let him down in recent weeks. Ferguson can place Ryan Giggs’ rustiness at the feet of recent injury but if recent performances serve as an indicator Paul Scholes’ autumn has turned towards a chilly winter. Meanwhile, Carrick, who should be full of confidence after scoring a lucrative new three-year deal this week, singularly failed to provide any verve in the heart of United’s midfield. The Geordie’s defensive naïveté, at 29-years of age, was shocking at Anfield as it was at Stamford Bridge.
Yet Ferguson’s concern with that triumvirate is a mere ripple in the ocean of calamity that now threatens to engulf Wayne Rooney. The striker’s heavy touch belied a deeply ingrained lack of confidence that has not been altered by recent goals. Summer simply cannot come soon enough for the 25-year-old. Ferguson must hope that an extended break, with no international football save for England’s Euro 2014 qualifier against Switzerland in early June, refreshes his star player. As it is, Rooney’s weekly pay packet offers absolutely no value, to refresh that hackneyed phrase.
Before then Ferguson’s side is still in contention on three fronts. Recent evidence hardly makes the case for success on any.
43 thoughts on “Wheels come off United’s season”
Am i the only utd fan that thinks we play with 10 men every week berbatov plays especially away from home? At old trafford he is ok but away from home nothing! To be fair wayne is the same but he runs more, wayne and berba are not suited in any way to play together, but fergie persists. Berba is a luxury that cannot be afforded in the prem league away, but he cant be subbed on either because thats pointless to. problems problems,
I thought Berba was one of the better players, although that’s not saying much.
Hopefully you are the only one, because it’s just incorrect.
A luxury player who’s already scored 20 goals this year.
If you’re looking for anonymous performances yesterday try Rooney and Carrick.
Decaying team in decline. Contracts to Giggs, Carrick and Fletcher as well as one on offer to Scholes really show how financially stricken we are. ‘No value’ mantra again this summer no doubt. Relying on Carrick and Fletcher to pull the strings over the next few years worries me deeply for they are below average quality and that is being kind! Top 4 finish next season may be doubtful next season.
2 hard games out of the way
5 days to lick wounds
fuck the arse when they come sniffing next saturday
with any luck, barca will have torn them another arsehole on tuesday
that said, the way people talk about our away form, u’d think we hadn’t won away all season and yet 20 points out of 45 possible is not as shite as these so called pundits make out
we need park, rio and valencia back asap
vidic has had his rest and smalling played decently considering his lack of experience
can’t see how that midfield debacle is going to sort itself out
scouse fucks really twisted the knife but all is not lost yet
saf needs to create that famous seige mentality again and kick some backsides this week
Got to agree totally with you. Han – 25pts dropped away from home is not Premiership championship form …. if we win the league it will be our challengers inability to take advantage of our totally DIRE away form….
It could be worse we could be relying on the G-Bomb next season….. Oh Yikes… he says he’s not leaving we may have to….. Can we challenge SAF after what hes achieved – i feel like i’m going mad and he must have a master plan somewhere i’m just not seeing because i just don’t get Gibson, Fletcher, O’Shea, Obertan, Bebe, Anderson, Parks and Carrick’s benefit – they are simply not good enough
Extremely disappointed today. Trying to be positive but difficult. United are still top of the league but look jaded which is not usually the case at this time of the year. It’s obvious where our problems lie….the defence and attack are excellent with good back up but the midfield is poor. Carrick and Fletcher are not playing well, Anderson has not been much better, Gibson has not cut it and Hargreaves……..
I hardly ever question Sir Alex but I thought today he missed a trick. United were over run in midfield and maybe the younger legs of Gibson would have helped.
2 of the goals were gifted.
Anyway, the positives: Hernandez may just have won the league for United with that goal…if it comes down to goal difference (glass half full, I know!), Smalling was excellent in a difficult situation, Scholes played decent enough with no help.
I hope next year Sir Alex gives Cleverley/Pogpa/Morrison/Tunnicliffe/Petrucci plenty of playing time.
To conclude, United for the title with a goal difference of +1 and then can say 19th was won at Anfield!
Nani’s injury is a massive blow, he has been our most consistent attacking threat.
Hopefully Valencia can come back into the first team but if not were screwed.
I wonder if Fergie really can kick arses the way he used to. He’s older now and, well, our away performances have been poor all season. We can’t say that this is something he has nipped in the bud.
There are only so many times you can give the players a rollocking before they stop having an effect.
Weak team, weak players. The fact that we are still top of the league is owed to SAF’s experience and some individual sparks from some of the players. That’s it….
“In the meantime stories of a £100 million rebuilding programme resurfaced in the media this week. The rash of spin, backed by little more than conjecture at this stage, places about half a dozen players on Ferguson’s supposed hit-list.”
Didn’t a similar rumour hum around the net last year?
Fergie had a huge war chest and the Glazers full support in spending it, blah blah… only for the no value horseshit to surface again once the summer was over.
I’m not expecting anything more than a token signing or two… something to spin to the casual fan, but nowhere near enough to placate the more cynical… that most die hard fans are becoming.
“Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”
its all bollocks, we’ll have macheda and welbeck back. but owen will get a contract extension and he’ll get games whenever he’s fit because “he has experience” and giggs and scholes will be expecteed to somehow carry the team. rooney will finally have a heart attack on the pitch and berbatov will break the record of least distance run in a football match.
at least we have gibson.
Rooney will be sold and the money used to buy a couple more Bebes and Obertans. I think Rooney will move on to Real Madrid unless SAF really spends some money on world class players. What is really sad though is that if United do win the premier division, SAF will not buy any new players. All the present squad will have new contracts and wage increases. The new players will come from the academy team or the reserve team.
We’re done. Maybe we nick a cup (not Europe), but nothing else.
Well Fergie went 4-4-2 in two big games, like people keep demanding that he do, and here’s the result. TBF we played very well in the first half against the Chavs, and I think 4-4-2 was basically forced on Fergie by our injuries.
I think you’re right. We all wanted 442 and look what we got. Things could have been different if Fletch had started – but he seems to be incapable of playing two games in a week.
Fergie is paying for Obertan, Bebe and Gibson not being good enough. The team was jaded and tired yday. If he could trust in some of these players they would have played a part in the last 3 games and the likes of Fletch, Scholes, Nani would have been fresher. But he can’t trust them so we have to run Fletch into the ground.
Contract extensions seem to be an excuse for players to put their feet up.
I am not going to add to the Carrick debate, suffice to say the guy should not be playing for Manchester United.
Rooney & Berbatov everyone has had a say on their performance.
But I have not read anywhere, anyone mention Evra.
His form recentley has been shocking.Caught out of position regularly, think of the recent goals we have conceded, what side have they come from? David Luiz stood alone for Chelsea’s equalizer. Liverpools 3rd goal, who was Kuyt reacts, Evra stands still. Infact all 3 of Kuyts goals came from the left.
Very worrying trend
If we line up 4-4-2 in the big games again I will be fearing the worst!
Did anyone see that moment about the 70th minute where a good United passing move ended with the ball at Rooney’s feet with Liverpool’s defence stranded? Rooney had no-one but the keeper to beat but he hesitated under pressure and the chance was lost with Liverpool recovering their position and clearing the ball.
Paul Scholes let out a furious roar at Rooney for the missed opportunity; we cannot afford for any player to feel sorry for himself at such an important stage of the season but Wayne is behaving like a child; grow a pair of balls Wayne and act your age!
Spotted that. If Scholesy is screaming like that, you know you’ve done wrong.
I remember it clearly: The weeman had dragged his aching limbs to the edge of the box and all Rooney had to do was lay it in his path for him to shoot, but Rooney chose to cross or shoot or something that came to nothing!!
Mong, you are kidding about Berba surely?
I do not want to talk about Rooney because every one can see it that he seems to have peaked. He just can’t get any better. That overhead kick against City might be a mirage. It will be a traversty for us to win this league with the kind of away form we have shown.
Berbatov is effective in most situations but away from home against decent sides he just isn’t up to it. That is typical of several of our players – they are good premiership players, but to win trophies you have to be better than that.
One final criticism I will make of United after this match; in these away games United keep letting the home side dictate the pace and style of the game, particularly in the first half; Liverpool had a very simple strategy; close United down, win the ball and get it to the strikers as quickly as possible.
Instead of trying to answer this by playing our own smooth passing game, we got suckered into playing it their way in the first half. By the time we came out for the second half and started to play our game, our way, the damage was already done.
I cannot for the life of me understand why we have to go a goal or two down before we start to play our own style of football. I can only think that the team is wrongly set up going into these away matches.
Good point made by Triggs. Playing four away games back to back against quality opposition was always going to be a tall order. With Bebe, Obertan and Gibson not being good enough, put a lot of pressure on the other players. We need a summer clearout sale or we will struggle to make the top 4 next season. The combined age of Giggs and Scholes is 72 years old. Shocking!
The season was over as soon as we
(a) Failed to sign an extra midfielder in either the summer / January
(b) Lost at Wolves
The whole team was poor, and some were worse than others… Carrick has no excuse… but Berbatov offered the only moment of class… we were the better side for the first 20 minutes, and Berbatov curled a beauty with the outside of his foot that clipped off the post… that was when we were still in the game.
Once they scored… the game changed, our midfield was overrun and the front two saw little of the ball and what they did get was poor.
Some poor defending, and a useless midfield… that’s why we lost… the front two were not to blame.
We could find excuses for the Chelsea defeat but not yesterday’s! Fergie expected a massive reaction form his players given the injustice…none was forthcoming! He must have forgotten that Keane, Bruce or a=other leaders are no longer part of his squad. No one is willing to lead on the field. Playing 4-4-2 with Scholes-Carrick inmidfield was madness personified.
We are just too poor to win the league but our opponents seems poorer…no one seems to want to win this badly.
Contract extensions to Anderson and Carrick are just a waste of money. Obertan and Bebe are not gonna make it anytime soon…if ever.
I was watching Lille play Marseille last night and was amazed and impressed as to the way they tore Marseille apart time and time again in the first half with pace, movement and passing. We played Marseille too but was simply pathetic!! Hasard was running the show and looked a great prospect. But of course we have no scouts in France and we won’t be able to afford him anyway. What was hard to take is that we ued to play like that…
As mush as I respect Fergie and is ever grateful to him, his arrogance will cost us this season: he knows (better than anyone) that the midfield is shit and he wants to win the league with them so he can brag at the fact that he proved everybody wrong.
There’s no point in over-analysing…it was bound to happen; for how long could we get away with uninspired players playng pathetic football week in week out. Again we didn’t lose the league against Chelsea or Livershit…but against Everton, Wolves, WBA, Fulham…so many draws against lesser opposition…
Our only hope is that Fergie sees the need to rebuild and can afford to. But as the article correctly points out…the recent contract extensions are not a good sign!!
I think we are jumping for the arsenic too quickly. The scousers played well. All three goals were flukes in one way or another; the second shocking defending from Carrick & VDS not too clever with the third. As I keep saying the real worry is Rooney. He looks to be a million miles from being a world class player & I see no signs of him regaining his spark. Brown looked what he is -rusty & only Smalling saved him from going under. Just when we really need Rio he is too bloody busy twittering. I thought Giggs had a shocker & if Scholes is around next season SAF will play him. Hernadez kept going until the bitter end. Finally, the challenge on Nani was horrific & the press stay silent …..
And the scouse cunts have the balls to have a laugh at him. I’ve seen most Man Ud gans congratulate Liverpool, so what’s the need for having a go at Nani?
Let’s laugh when Suarez gets injured.
Fergie is creating a siege mentality with his shunning of the media. It started with Rooneygate which was then the reason we got fuck all decisions against Chelsea.
We were hard done to, and we were hard done a little against the scouse cunts – Nani is scarred for life now FFS.
So it’s us versus them now. We’ll be fuelled by injustice. It’s what Mourinho does expertly – he fuels anger so it’s us versus the world, the press, the fans, the opposition etc.
Having said that, we still won’t win any of our away games, because a siege mentality won’t make shit players good
I think he probably didn’t want Carrick and Gibson to tell the mdeia that United will pick themselves up and talk of ‘winning’ because that’s more embarrassing.
I don’t see how this siege mentality is helping.
Berbatov is an anonymous player. For his money he should be winning matches — and lots of them. He doesn’t. He is the worst “world class” striker in the world.
The wheels came off when Park fucked off. That meant Gibson and Carrick were let out of the mong house and fletcher had to do the running of two – meaning he fucks up his game.
Is valencia coming back this season, when is park back – when does Mr Twatter, Rio come back.
What the fuck is clverely doing?
those fucking tweets/twats that rio is sending out really piss me off
get on the training ground u big fanny instead of jerking off on the laptop
What? At 4pm on a Sunday afternoon? You actually think Rio should be out training, whilst recovering from injury?
Looking at the stats, our defence is poor! We have conceeded 21 goals against away from home. SAF must be at home scratching his head when he knows he made a big mistake by expecting too much from average players. This is not a world class team, not like the old United teams from the past. If SAF comes out tomorrow and says hey, I need to spend some money and bring in some quality players, I will be behind him 100%. But if its going to be the same old routine, its time for SAF to pack it in, go home and relax and just think about what could have been. But other than these problems, because Arsenal and the others keep dropping points, we are very much in the title race.
Just wanted to make a point about Smalling. There is no doubt that he has a lot of potential. Defensively he has massively improved this season, but his distribution on Sunday was very poor. He actually ended up causing us a fair bit of pressure. If he can work on this then we will have a great defender on our hands. Away from that I would be happy if Wes had played his last game for the club. Shambolic is the kindest way to describe his performance. Why was O’Shea not put in alongside Smalling?
Innit. I felt sick when I thought to myself that O’Shea should’ve played over RdS. Ick.
I am not going to deny that we are playing quite awful in recent weeks.
But we also need to be thankful that our opponents are more shit and unable to capitalize whenever we fuck up.
Now I hope Arsenal don’t prove me wrong 🙂
somethings got to change, the midfield was over run at giro land,
suggest playing 4-3-1-2 with fletcher coming back into mifield,and playing Rooney just behind Berba and Hernandez, at least we might look like scoring !!!
From what I read, the missed call re: Rooney’s elbow now means that all subsequent decisions (no red to Luiz & Carragher) are justified as “everything evens out over the season”.
Anfield fans booing Nani as he’s stretchered off the field. No class. Unforgiveable. Remember Alan Smith??
Starting to hear the previously unmentionable – should SAF retire? IMHO, yes. For all he’s done for MU, the signing of Carrick and his repeated comment about the lack of value in the market sounds like he’s lost the fighting spirit to tackle management and get the funds required to really upgrade the squad. We need more than Bebe to solve our pathetic midfield.
And I would cut Fletcher a bit of slack. Yes, he hasn’t been great lately, but I remember his past performances. I have more time for him than the realllllllly pathetic Carrick.
Everyone marks the players after a game, rarely the managers. To be honest Fergie had a well below par day at the office. There are rumours that Fletcher was ill so that might explain the 4-4-2 (clearly he doesn’t trust Gibson). Either way he should have gone 4-5-1.
Also the selection of Rafael ahead of O’Shea is questionable considering that Vida and Rio were out. O’Shea is more defensive minded and better suited to an away day at Anfield.
Go to BBC website and read the David Gill’s article on the financial situation at Man Utd. He claims he is not concerned about the 370 million pound debt and its not affecting the transfer of players.