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Thursday, December 08, 2005

What the United faithful will not face

Manchester United crashed out of Europe for the first time in a decade last night. They were soundly beaten 2-1 by Benfica, a team looking to recover its own glory. Almost 40 years ago the two teams met in a classic that saw underdog United prevail, but last night the roles were reversed.

United couldn’t hold the ball, nor could they make a decisive pass. Apart from an early Paul Scholes score, there were few real chances. Benfica were the better team.

What went wrong?

Well, there are two answers to that question. What went wrong last night and what’s going wrong in general.

Last night Manchester United cracked. They looked like a team lost on the European stage rather than commanders of their group. When you looked at the group before any matches were played, it seemed a cakewalk. It wasn’t, in fact, Manchester United only managed 3 goals in 6 matches.

Alex Ferguson claimed the opposition used negative tactics. In part, he is right. Thru faking injuries, Benfica were an embarrassment last night, especially their goalkeeper Quim who sprawled on the floor a few times late in the game like a sack of potatoes.

Alex Ferguson is right: the opposition didn’t force the issue against Manchester United, would you? Under-manned Lille? Inexperienced Villareal? Forgotten power Benfica? Teams like that couldn’t beat United toe to toe, so they did what they had to do. In Benfica’s defense, they were the most attacking of all the teams United played, defending better through quality, not quantity. Benfica’s Armando Petit (man of the match for me) was in constant touch with his central defense, can you say that about Alan Smith? No.

Another side of Manchester United that showed last night is one of petulance; Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney especially. Ronaldo showing his middle finger to the crowd after being substituted, Rooney argued with the official too much and kept losing the ball. His attitude stinks, his sound bites to the media show he’s one of those kids that is shady and thinks that nobody notices.

So what is wrong in general? People who have read this blog before know how opposed to the Glazer takeover I am. I’ve written on a number of occasions that the team has suffered because of this. At this level it only takes a tiny drop in motivation to lose you matches. Over a season, or in the case of the Champions League a round robin, it shows. Manchester United may be second in the Premiership but can you honestly say this is a squad that looks like winning it? I can't.

Face it, there are financial effects the Glazer takeover and there are intangibles. The Glazers are faking their best brave face at the loss of 14m pounds or so of revenue, but what can’t be overcome is the damage that their basic presence is doing. I’m convinced that if those 2 Irish horse jockeys didn’t sell their share United would be thru to the knockout stages.

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7 Comments:

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a lifelong fan your comments annoy me, but I gotta agree we would have been seen thru if the environment were better.

12/08/2005 6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

piss off you twat

no owner will ruin our club

12/08/2005 6:10 PM  
Blogger footie girl said...

United basically beat themselves last night. Their heads just weren't in the game. Some of the blame for that falls on the players themselves, obviously, but when the entire team is so crap, I think most of the problem lies with the management -- whether it's Sir Alex or the Glazers.

12/08/2005 7:34 PM  
Anonymous squealy said...

"Rooney argued with the official too much"

Are you real? He hardly said a word to the ref, and displayed a damn sight more composure and fair play than he would have a few months ago.

I'm also at a loss to understand how "losing the ball too much" is a display of "petulance".

You can't write and you know nowt about football. You must be American.

12/08/2005 7:47 PM  
Blogger tbh said...

Man United have failed for two reasons: transfers and tactics.

It's strange why Man United went back to the same tactics that got them out of the Champions League last season (4-4-2 with two wingers) when they've been settling well in the Premiership with a slight twist (one dedicated winger). Darren Fletcher is tactically crucial in the sense that he gives space for United's flair players to do their thing. (I think he's had more playing time than both Park Ji-sung and Ryan Giggs.) For one thing they were cramped all over the field that night, and not just because of Benfica's 4-3-3 formation. You can't win anything in Europe with an overly attacking formation.

The other thing, of course, is transfers. It's true that they've been unlucky, but they haven't really made a real effort to find talent in traditional areas of concern, and it's not like these problems haven't plagued them for the first time. They've seen it, over and over, for the past few seasons, and won't do anything about it. They deserve this outcome.

12/09/2005 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tbh - and no leader on the pitch. No one to organize the team like Keane did. After Benfica scored the second, as Neville said, United were running all over the place. About tactics, I agree with Koeman they resorted to the long ball far too early - an impatience bourne out of immaturity and lack of true belief in their abilities.

12/10/2005 5:27 AM  
Blogger ......Scott said...

United weren't good enough all season in Benfica. Yes, it was the game against Benfica that knocked us out... but we should have qualified before the last game of the group anyway. Last season we had done, and could afford to play a 2nd XI in the last game of the groups.

Gutted at the time, but onwards and upwards. Still 2nd in the league, in the semi finals of the Carling Cup, and have the FA Cup to come. Already got our first signing for 2006, and I'm sure they'll be more to come before the end of January.

1/06/2006 2:52 AM  

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