Category: Archive

After derby loss, doubt creeps in at Manchester United

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

With city leading 2-1, Shaun Goater pressured Neville on United’s back line. It was obvious the defender should have kicked the ball out, but Goater nicked the ball and slid a nice finish past United’s goalkeeper, Fabien Barthez.
Credit must be given to Manchester City’s all-around performance. Kevin Keegan’s attacking machine at Maine Road has been backed up at the heart of the defense with in-form Irish International Richard Dunne and ex-United keeper Peter Schmeichel. It’s good for the game that it Keegan’s passion for attack is what beat United in this Manchester derby. But King Kev is getting things right at the back as well. Indeed, his defenders were clearly better than United’s on the day.
Man. U’s boss, Alex Ferguson, must now realize that an EPL title may have to play second fiddle to his European dream. Ferguson will likely look at a top-three finish in the league for C.L. qualification. Focus will shift toward success in Europe. In the meantime, he must clean up mistakes at the back or players will simply have to be replaced. Ferguson’s defense is a known weakness, at least his depth is.
But United’s problems last weekend ran deeper. Ruud van Nistelrooy looked sluggish up top. Juan Veron seemed too casual. Mickael Silvestre is still not there with his switching and crossing of the ball. And poor old Gary Neville must have felt the weight of the world on his shoulders.
The spotlight is, understandably, on Neville. Many critics and fans cannot understand why Ferguson sticks with him. His shortcomings were there for all to see. He made a fundamental error, and we have seen them many times in the United team. These mistakes and lapses of concentration lessen when the suspended Roy Keane is out there, of course. And Irish defender John O’Shea is waiting in the wings at Old Trafford. But for now Sir Alex stays with his French connection in Barthez and Laurent Blanc, who are vulnerable in front of goal. Rio Ferdinand struggled against City’s Nicolas Anelka, his passing below par.
There is also doubt with the system Ferguson insists on playing, which looks like a 4-5-1. Ferguson used Ole Solskjaer out wide on the right wing while encouraging Paul Scholes to attack the opponent’s box from the middle. It didn’t work. Then Ferguson lifted Neville and Veron, but United’s substitutes were unable to contain City’s attack.
United’s players knew they were to face the wrath of Ferguson, who said later: “I should let the fans go in the dressing room so they can let the players know how they feel. The players have let us down. I am not happy and neither are my staff. Neither should they be.”
The players will have to deal with Ferguson hounding them down in training. Neville knows this. “The consequences of losing and it doesn’t bear thinking about,” he said.
The fear of Ferguson’s wrath will be very much the mood around Old Trafford. Ferguson also issued statements that Keane should keep quiet about his international career after Mick McCarthy’s exit from the Irish team. The United boss wants his player to concentrate on getting back for his club first. Basically, Ferguson wants Keane to stay on the field and out of the media.
Is Ferguson’s dream of ending with success on the line? Has Maine Road come back to haunt him? In 1989, after a 5-1 loss to City, the United boss was said to have questioned whether he would even make a success of the job at Old Trafford. This week, he may wonder whether he is good enough to gain C.L. qualification this season.
For Manchester City, it was all about not losing to United in their last derby game at Maine Road. The Blues looked like they had more to play for. They looked hungrier for the win., while it seemed United were looking for something to play for.
Chelsea and Everton, meanwhile, skipped past United putting the Devils back in fifth place. Chelsea went third in the table after giving Birmingham a lesson and bringing Steve Bruce’s City down to earth with a 3-nil defeat. The game was over at halftime after Eidur Gudjohnsen hit a brace with Gianfranco Zola hitting home a splendid effort assuring the win for Chelsea. Everton jumped on the bandwagon to sink United yet another spot with Tomasz Radzinski hitting the winner in the 31st minute. It’s Everton’s fourth in a row and they are putting some good stuff together. Liverpool are still top with Arsenal second.

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