Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 19 December 2009

What Manchester United Lack This Season

I was hoping/planning to write this before Manchester United lost another game this season and start fading out of the title race, but waiting until midweek proved to be too long. I don't mean to sound like I'm writing United off just yet but they are looking weak right now.

To say Manchester United relied on Cristiano Ronaldo last season would be unfair. Yes he was involved in just about every goal they scored last season. And yes it was impossible for Sir Alex Ferguson to replace him after he left for Madrid in the summer.

Instead Ferguson brought in Antonio Valencia to play on the right wing. Valencia had previously looked very good in an average Wigan side. But the Ecuadorian was never a goalscorer at Wigan. After taking his time to settle into the squad he's looking ok now, but far from a world beater and more importantly he hasn't proven to be a game changer. That's what Manchester United are missing this season.

When things were going for them last season, they looked unstoppable. When things weren't going for them, Ronaldo was able to step up and make things work. And in one game he had already scored twice in but not given Manchester United the lead, Federico Macheda came off the bench and scored the winner.

Wayne Rooney in the past has been a match winner for Manchester United, and continues to do that but the supporting case is lacking this year. Valencia as stated doesn't replace Ronaldo. Dimitar Berbatov doesn't replace the hardworking Carlos Tevez. And while Michael Owen is making the runs, no one is playing him the balls to slide him through on goal and tap in from close range.

Everyone was singing the praises of Michael Owen following his Champions League hattrick earlier this month. He hasn't done anything since. I'm not putting the fault on him, Michael Owen can still be a great striker, fitness permitting. He needs players to give him the chances because when you see him play, he still makes great runs off the ball and gets in space. His teammates aren't getting the ball to him enough when he is open though.

Recently their defensive injuries have hit them hard. Darren Fletcher has slotted in at right back this month and Michael Carrick at centre back for 5 games in succession now. While the aforementioned have slotted in well, there has been a big hole in their midfield. Carrick's creativity has been missing, and Fletcher's ability to break up opposition attack's would probably have prevented Danny Murphy scoring today (“probably” means I haven't watched it and am assuming).

I feel embarrassed to have tipped Manchester United on Thursday ahead of today's game. As soon as I saw Nemanja Vidic was missing today I had a feeling they wouldn't win today, but it was too late to change my mind and I apologise (please forgive me with my correct Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City tips today)!

United will recover from their defensive injuries and will sharpen up at the back in the process. In doing so, Fletcher and Carrick can come back into midfield and improve that. As for creating chances, they haven't proven they are capable of doing that. An example was in their 1-0 defeat to Chelsea in November, where they had lots of possession and didn't create much from it.

The January transfer window is coming up. While Sir Alex Ferguson doesn't usually spend much in this period, he should seriously be looking to add some attacking flair to his side. Franck Ribery has previously been linked to the club and would be a good acquisition in my book. As would his Bayern Munich teammate Arjen Robben who was once linked to Old Trafford, before moving to Chelsea. He is unlikely to move considering he only moved to Germany this summer.

Currently in the midfield, they have Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes whom are both capable of winning a game, but at they don't have the fitness anymore to play week in, week out at a high level. Scholes has been inconsistent for over a year now to add to that. Anderson isn't a creator of goals, neither Darren Fletcher. Michael Carrick hasn't been a regular starter this year but should be in the centre of the park every week in my opinion. Park Ji-Sung doesn't create enough chances and Nani isn't consistent enough to play at this level. Darron Gibson is still young but I feel Ferguson will put pressure on him to step up to become a Frank Lampard-like player in their midfield. It's too early to say whether he will be that or not but he looks to have a bright future ahead of him at least. He is not an immediate answer for the problem however. Manchester United are lacking in that area and I see it preventing them from winning the Premier League right now unless they can raise their levels immediately.

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At 19 December 2009 at 20:11 , Anonymous The Red Devil said...

There's definitely something not quite right with Manchester United this season. We have lost five games in the Premier League alone and as it is not even Christmas, that is not like like us at all.

Fortunately, our title rivals have slipped up more than usual too but it does look like Chelsea are about to open up a six point gap and whilst not insurmountable, it is starting to look like this could be their season.

I don't think it is possible to overstate the impact of having so many defenders injured is having on us.

As you point out, having no defenders means some of our best midfielders are covering for them which means our midfield is also weakened as a result.

Against a Wolves side that basically didn't turn up, we were able to get away with it but against quality sides like Villa and Fulham, we have been horribly exposed.

To win four league titles in a row is something that has never been done before and it is probably because as well as having to remain focused, hungry and competitive, you probably need a little bit of luck in that for four seasons you must avoid an injury crisis.

Our luck on that score has run out of late and we are suffering.

Basically, what we are missing is not Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben (please no!) or even Cristiano Ronaldo. It is our first choice goalkeeper and back four.

We get those back, the results will flow again. Us United supporters can only hope it isn't all over by then.

At 22 December 2009 at 21:26 , Anonymous Sam said...

This is about right. I read today we might be signing benzema from Madrid in January which would put us straight back up there.

At 24 December 2009 at 15:54 , Anonymous arun_mancuniano said...

you are right in a sense that we were not at our best so far this season.complete change in the style of united's play with the exits of ronaldo and tevez made some problems at the start of the season.And when things became under control by the settling of antonio valencia as a winger and regular starter and michael owen as a striker up front, things got worse again by the injury crisis hit the back of united which is reffered as the biggest ever in SAF' s long career .with all these problems united scored 8 more goals than last time at this point of last season.we are expecting the comebacks of our defenders soon and it will allow our midfielders to play their game with out worrying about defensive problems and hopefully we can work as a unit upfront to score a lot,berbatov-rooney is still one of the best striking partnership in europe and hopefully we can win all the titles in our way with these time.i cant see a big player coming to old trafford at this time of we need to attack as a unit instead of revolving around one person and mufc can do it again i hope:)


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