‘Facht’ Number 12 – Benitez Called It Right

Mikel & BenitezI don’t quite know where to begin if I’m honest. Do I start with the second half performance? Valencia’s inability to take on an opponent? I guess I’ll just start from the beginning because that’s where the only joy came out of being at Old Trafford yesterday. I promise I’ll leave out my journey home where my satnav decided to take me on a scenic route, that’ll just aggravate me more.

It started well, two goals in the opening ten minutes. Michael Carrick playing what I believe to be the ‘assist of the season’ if there ever was one, allowing Javier Hernandez to loop the ball over Cech’s head and in to the corner. Then came a moment many a United fan would’ve wanted to see: A Wayne Rooney goal.

After all the media flack in midweek concentrating on unsettling our scouse forward it was a relief to see his free kick nestle in the net. Was I ever worried that he would be leaving at the end of the season? No, I never was. The papers and internet stories furthered my irritation during the week after defeat to Madrid.

It was a nothing story to begin with. Our tactics on Tuesday were spot on and Wayne would have known beforehand that he’d not be starting. Anyone who thinks Sir Alex Ferguson told him on the day are nothing more than deluded.

Let’s shove that aside now. We’re here to talk about our failure to hold on to a lead against a top side and where everything went wrong. 2-0 up at half-time when we should have been 3 or 4 goals ahead, and all major sportsbooks including Unibet giving ridiculously high live betting odds for a Chelsea comeback. United had the game in the bag.

Where did it go wrong? It’s pretty simple really and it’s a reason that downright infuriates me. We are leading by two goals to nil after ten minutes and what do the players decide to do? They take their foot off the gas and begin to coast, it was almost a ‘job done’ attitude. Take away Rooney’s missed opportunity from ten yards and I struggle to find another chance we had throughout the remainder of the FA Cup tie.

Chelsea who, let’s be honest, were rocking and possibly thinking to themselves that a thumping was on the cards must have been chuffed to be allowed back in to the game on the half hour mark. With Nani feeling no need to break out of a jog and Kagawa becoming more central our width left us and so did the threat.

Our visitors were allowed to settle which should never have happened and they finished the first half the better team. Benitez must’ve been surprised at half time albeit two goals down and I sit here now thinking he was probably licking his lips.

The second half began. Valencia had come on just before the interval and with Nani previously deciding that sprinting was not needed the home faithful must’ve been pleased to see Antonio step on to the field, regardless of his recent form. We were let down by the Ecuadorian again though. Although he did sprint, something Nani could not achieve. Well, something he did not want to sample, let’s just say that.

I have a growing problem with Valencia now. He runs in a straight line, he reaches an opposition player and will stand there. He doesn’t have the confidence now to even try and skin a full back and that’s sad to see. It’s not that which bugs me though after yesterday, it’s his lack of brain cells when at a stage in the game keeping the ball and calming down is vital.

Our number seven did none of these. He instead continuously passed the ball in to empty spaces or, my favourite, pass the ball directly to John Obi Mikel. Young Tom Cleverley joined in with this and soon it had spread like a disease.

Hazard & Luiz Old Trafford FA Cup March 2013It was a comedy show and it was no surprise that Chelsea went on to score twice and force a replay. It should’ve been worse; I should’ve walked out of Old Trafford at full time having been defeated. If David De Gea had not stopped Juan Mata in the dying minutes I would have had that feeling.

But for all our misplaced passes and failure to keep a cool head I must praise Chelsea and Rafa Benitez (It pains me to say that, I promise you). The travelling fans hounded their interim manager at 2-0 but did the Spaniard take notice? Nope. He brought on Hazard and Mikel and they were the game changers.

Mikel sat in front of Robin van Persie and cut out the supply. Everything United tried was more or less to get the ball to our Dutch forward and when that became impossible (thanks to Mikel) the cracks showed at the back with a different approach trying to be created with Rafael and Evra moving more central to bring the Nigerian out of position. Mikel did his job perfectly.

Eden Hazard on the other hand provided new problems, he danced around challenges like someone skating around on an ice rink and none of our defenders could get near him. His goal was sublime and whenever he got the ball I tensed up. He inspired the Chelsea players. It felt like something would happen every time he received the ball. Benitez’ double substitution was masterful.

What’s the moral of the story? If you have a two goal lead, try and make it three instead of backing off because ‘the job is done’? Surely it’s something like that for a case like this. I just hope we can go to Stamford Bridge, just like we did in 1999 and come away with a replay victory. Anyone remember that Dwight Yorke goal?

Red Rant well and truly over . I thank you!



  1. So true why do they do this always to us, the fans … coasting is more like not trying. Are Our players reading the???

  2. Tottenham also surrendered a two goal lead on the day after failing to score a third. 2 goals are never enough.

    Yes our problem is that we become too complacent once we take the lead.

    We play much better when we’re chasing games.

    As soon as we go in front its mental break time. On Sunday United only started play good football again after Chelsea equalised.

    Our psychological strength has gone. We are mentally weak. We don’t know how to kill teams off anymore.

    Whether we’re 2-0 up with 80minutes to go or 10minutes to go we need to press on and score more goals. That imperative should never diminish during a game, regardless of how many goals we score.

  3. Last three big games (2xRM, 1Chel)
    RVP – 0 goal and 0 assist
    Rooney – 1 goal and 1 assist.

    Rooney gets all the brickbats/blames whatever. yeah right.

    • @jos: RVP is tired.

      I really think he’s spent. We put way too much on his shoulders. I think he needs a break.

      Let Chicha have a few more games.

      I would like to see Ferguson play two squads. One for the premier league and one for the cup games (champion league, FA and Capital One).

      Rooney should be played as the regular no.10 for one of those squads and Shinji for the other.

      Same goes for the strikers. RVP and Rooney can lead the premier league squad for example, and then Chicha and Kagawa can play the Cup games together.

      This way it allows for some consistency.

      Ofcourse Ferguson can make changes every now and then but more often than not one set of players should be guaranteed their place in the squad without being disrupted by constant rotation.

      Other players will feature in both squads as well (people like Carrick) and the boss can rotate based on fatigue etc. But the bottom line is that players need to settle a little bit in order to build chemistry.

      I don’t know how practical an idea that is but it makes sense to me.

    • @jos: RVP goals at Etihad, Stamford Bridge, Anfield and against Arsenal and Liverpool at home don’t count then?

      • @Moscow: Very well spotted.

        Robin van Persie is a very good striker. He has just run out of steam at the minute. He is still a bargain at 24million.

        Just give him a second to catch his breath and soon normal service will resume.

      • @Moscow: point is, we have short memories when we start criticizing players.

        rooney has had some incredible seasons with us. last season he scored more than 30. this season he has been injured, not playing lead striker (that is rvp) still is on 15 goals and 12 assists from 30 games (which is nothing short of great statistically at least) yet people here are slagging him off like anything.

        that would be same mentality as starting to slag rvp off for only scoring 1 goal in his last 9 games. thats why i brought rvp and last 3 important games here.

        • Jos, It is somewhat silly to be tit for tat with Rooney and RVP. Both are fantastic players and offer different things. Rooney polarises many supporters, many have had a vendetta against him since he signed for us, others have used his poor efforts of contract negotiation as a stick to beat him with. That aside he has had a decent season, RvP has been not only gutsy showing great desire in signing for us, but he has also produced. We also have to understand with any player during the season that their form will drop, also we have to look at players have poor seasons. Carrick a couple of seasons ago was poor, but over the past couple of years he has been the most consistent player in the league.

  4. Very good article Jamie Tarrant.

    Would you sell Valencia?

    And what can we do about Nani the prima donna who only plays when he wants to.

    What are you r thoughts on Wilfred Zaha?

    And do we need a left footed left winger?

    I want to hear your opinion.

    • @The_Philosopher:
      I’d start thinking about selling Antonio if his form doesn’t improve. He’s declined ever so much since the last half of the previous season and I can’t put my finger on why. I think some of it may be down to the fans’ lack of support towards him, his confidence is obviously low, it’s plain to see that when he’s playing. If an offer comes in during the summer then I think it’d be accepted. But that’s only considering his current form. If it picks up then he’ll be given another chance I’m sure.

      Nani frustrates me, always has. When he wants to make his presence felt he’s unplayable. He came on against Reading and tore them apart, against Madrid he caused them problems all game and it was unfortunate he got sent off, he must’ve felt he’d gone back to square one again. He’s always worth keeping and he just needs to be motivated in the right way and quite often too I’d imagine.He needs to start constantly which he hasn’t, that’s probably the main factor at the moment.

      I’ll refrain from Zaha comments until he plays for us but he’s exciting to watch and he’s not afraid to take on players a la Valencia. It’ll be fresh viewing when we see him in a United shirt running down the wings.

      A left footed winger would be great. Apart from Evra we have nothing close. Ashley Young is ineffective on the left, Kagawa should be played central, I much prefer seeing Nani rampage down the right side and Giggs doesn’t have the legs to outpace a fullback. Gareth Bale would be the obvious choice but I’d say that’s very unlikely right now. It’s hard to think of a player right now but I’m sure this’ll be addressed in the summer and we’ll see someone come in.

      Thanks for reading, Philosopher. Thanks for the comments regarding the Tottenham game too, pretty much spot on. Never lower the tempo against a side struggling to keep up, it only spells danger if you do.

      • @JamieTarrant: Agreed. Nani would be a better player if he played regularly.

        I think he should be allowed to play on the right and to play there as often as is possible.

  5. Before we condemn Tony V, lets give him the benefit of the doubt like some have done with Nani. Lets not forget he was our player of the year last season and was also superb the year before, yes he has had a poor season, but lets give him more time to show his form currently is only a blip.
    RvP does look tired, but again he has been incredible with season, almost single handily putting us where we are currently, I wouldn’t bet against a hat trick on Saturday from him!

  6. Good summary Jamie. It’s a familiar pattern.

    I do think part of the problem is mental and part of is personnel (or lack thereof). We don’t have an inspirational on field leader to rally the troops, and Fergie can be slow to respond tactically off it. Moreover, he doesn’t have many options on the bench when stemming the tide (or going for the jugular) is necessary, as has been the case in the last 2 games. With a lightweight midfield lacking a forceful, dynamic presence (both mentally and ability-wise), we have to resort to using strikers in spoiling roles, largely because of their work rate (Welbeck, Rooney, Young), not because it gets the best out them. Why we don’t get a specialist in this role and let our strikers focus on what they should be best at is where the big question lies. Added to this issue is the fact that our wide players currently provide very little in the way of reliable ‘out-ball’ to relieve pressure and allow us to switch from defence to attack. Thus with our lone striker double marked we quickly concede possession again. The combination of these factors when playing against pressing teams with good technical players is that we get exposed to constant attacks, and then it’s just a matter of time.

    If it’s frustrating enough already not having that aforementioned midfield presence, I dread to think what happens if/when Carrick is unavailable. Aside from square pegs in round holes, our options are very limited. It may not be a killer in the Premier League, but it has and will continue to cost us against the better teams. Moreover, our policy of buying youngsters who are 2-3 years away from prime time, is all very well if there’s someone currently excelling in the job they’ve been bought to take over and can learn from. The problem is, especially in midfield, these are few and far between.

    • @ForeverRed: Your analysis is crisp.

      We need a specialist like Lars Bender.

      Our strikers need to be utilised as strikers.

      When we win the ball back there is no one making a break down the wing who we can canon the ball to for a sharp counter.

      We need an outlet on the wings and Valencia isn’t it. I’m so looking forward to seeing Zaha in the squad.

      We need someone on the pitch who provides a pace threat on the wings.

      The combination of Lenin and Bale at Tottenham is excellent.

      We need a wing partnership like that where there is a threat down both flanks. (Although Bale seems like he’s transitioning now to the central/roaming role)

      Imagine what signing a left footed player like Bale would do to our squad?

      It just goes to show you how much we’re lacking a balanced midfield.

    • @The_Philosopher: @ForeverRed:

      You are looking for the reason? It’s because Carrick is treated as the most precious diamond in the world by Fergie.
      I will keep repeating myself. Buy a fuckin tenacious midfielder, buy a great Essien-like player. … even a Mikel-like player , will do it for me.

  7. So here it is, we no longer will win a treble and will have 2 tough teams to beat to win the second leg of a dodgy double. We have aging players in every element of our make-up and we have younger players that are having little or no impact on the future of the team.

    Well it sounds much worse than it seems because we are 12 points ahead and you can’t be that bad if you’re running away with the league. Not only that but the future is always a safe bet = a good signing here and a decent one there, we will always stay in contention.

    I don’t know about you, but staying in contention sounds a lot like not trying to win and since Ronaldo put 80m in the coffers we have done just that.

    I’m not sure if it’s a planned strategy or if it’s the case of our management style becoming stale and antiquated. I do love the constant challenge though, of having us compete against the odds, but it’s a little redundant when each season winds down with disappointment, and as some might say, predictability.

    In a way this is a predictable way for an era to end. There is no shame in it, nor should we hasten it’s end, it’s just that we should expect that a more modern way will take its place in the future.

    • @Redrich: Wow. You’re tired of winning trophies?!?

      Its just a double this year how boring and predictable. Chelsea and City are spending the GDP of a small african country to compete and we still beat them on the regular and thats just soooo boring.

      Oh we’re just chasing a 20th title and we’ll probably get it. Ho hum #yawn. Thats so prosaic. Its soooooo redundant. Boring! I’m off to watch lawn bowls. . . 😆

      Our squad will be a lot better next season. I hope to see one or two more new signings as well.

      But the lot that we have coming through right now is promising. Johny Evans, Scott Wootten, Will Keane, Davide Petrucci, Ryan Tunnicliffe, Nick Powell, Angelo Henriquez etc.

      Phil Jones is coming on in maturity. Chicharito has started more games this season (and he just keeps scoring as well). Nani will hopefully settle and find some consistency. Wilfred Zaha is coming in.

      Cleverley will have another season under his belt and will be continuing his incremental rise. Anderson hopefully will find some consistency as well and get some regular game time.

      Rafael will continue just getting better and better. Zaha and Rafael are the future right flank partnership of this club.

      Right now Nani and Rafael should be it. I’m ready to sell Valencia. Or try him as a defensive mid fielder. I think he needs to step down from the no.7 position.

      Fletcher comes back next season. De Gea gets older and wiser and hopefully tougher.

      Smalling starts delivering on his promise. Ferdinand and Vidic keep chugging away albeit intermittently.

      We have a lot to look forward to still. While Ferguson is here we still have a very bright future.

      Ok I will give you some credit that a more modern way will supercede our current management. But if Fergie had another 20 years in him I would take another 20years of his old school methods over anything else thats out there right now.

  8. Forget about Rooney leaving!!!

    Next 3-year plan

    ——————— De Gea —————–

    Rafael— Smalling — PJ or Ev!!! — Evra

    ——- Clev —— Carrick* —– Ando

    —–Rooney — van Persie — Kagawa

    *Carrick should be played when no speed is needed, for example easy EPL and CHL games, and he should be rotated with Cleverley . Cleverley can’t play the No.6 position and we desperately need a new one an Essien-like player, a huge defending midfielder. By the way, fuck you Mikel!!! You sold your soul to the Chelski, and you won us. You are the missing part of our team.

    1. Sell Valencia and Vidic. Valencia is no needed any more. He can’t compete. Vidic should play for an italian club, for his own good. These players are destroyed by the injuries. Sad to say, cause they are (were) class.

    2. Up front we can use Nani, Welbeck, Young and Chicha. POWERFUL LINE! Useful players for 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1.

    3. Scholes and Giggs? At last! Fergie!!! Wake up! They put on some great performances now and then but they are not needed any more, only in the dressing rooms. Make them coaches! Fletcher and Powell … hm. We desperately need new CMs, especially defending midfielders.

    Our squad lacks of tenacious midfielders. Upfront we are WORLD CLASS. Back line is full of talent! We just need a better cover for Evra… and for Rafael.

    • @Warzych: I think Fabio should cover for Rafael.

      I think Fabio should be developed as a right back or be allowed to move to another club.

      Keeping him on the bench is so unfair.

      He is not a left back.

      Playing him at left back is a classic case of square pegs in round holes.

      Evra needs better cover thanButtner at the moment. And he certainly won’t be hot fo rthe next three years.

      I would love to see Fergie have another try for Leighton Baines

  9. You have given up on Valencia? Because he has had one poor season? Play a winger as a holding midfielder? Really, I don’t think so mate, square pegs, round holes, lets give Valencia another season. How many bad seasons has Anderson had and you still hold a torch for him? Lets not forget Nani has hardly had a good season.

    • @Stephen: I was never completely sold on Valencia.

      I always saw his purchase as a knee jerk reaction to losing Ronaldo.

      When he eventually came into his stride I had to grudingly give him credit because he was playing well. But my beef with him was always just his lack of raw talent.

      He is a hard worker and a loyal soldier and a solid professional. So you have to respect him.

      But now that he has come off the boil I don’t see him reaching those heights again.

      Nani on the other hand still has potential. If you were to plot Nani’s future alongside Valencia’s future I think you would find Nani has a lot more potential to turn his slump around than Valencia does.

      Maybe Valencia will regain his magic. But considering his lack of natural talent, his age and the ever increasing injury woes I doubt it.

      Anderson is a difficult one. Anderson still has potential in my view. And I’m still rooting for him because of that. He needs regular games.

      Valencia gets a lot more games than Anderson. Valencia is also played in his prefered position. . .

      My desire to get rid of Valencia stems from the feeling that he his blocking the way for people like Nani and Zaha to have a proper go at being our next no.7. He stands in the way of a truely gifted player having a go.

      If Ferguson had gotten a left footed left winger when Ronaldo went to join Real then Nani could be wearing the no.7 jersey right now. The half talented Valencia inadvertently stood in the way of that.

      Ashley Young can cross better than Valencia. He even has a better shot than Valencia. But because Tony Valencia is there doing an almost decent job Young won’t get that chance to have a go at the right wing.

    • @Stephen: And with regards to square pegs in round holes.

      Valencia has played in midfield for Ecuador. He isn’t the nippiest of wingers either.

      He is rugged and versatile maybe. Soldier like. He lacks the lithe physique of a more naturally gifted winger like Nani.

      He has lost his pace and I don’t see him winning too many foot races. A winger without pace is an oxymoron.

      But he has lots of experience and he is loyal. He might be willing to sacrifice himself to play a defensive role.

      We can use his experience and professionalism in the squad.

      Having the no.7 jersey makes it difficult for him to be played in defence or in midfield.

      So the only way forward I see for him is to leave. . .

      Cut him now. Sacrifice a player who is average (and just good at best) and replace him with someone who is truely world class.

      • Matey it is irrelevant what shirt number a player wears with regards to a position. Vally has been poor this season, but Nani has hardly pulled up trees. Why sell him? Lets be realistic, Nani will be leaving in the Summer as he will not sign a contract, Zaha is going to be very raw. Valencia last season was our player of the year lets not forget, sometimes fans have very short term memories and on;y operate in the now. Football is a squad game and he has been a valuable member.

        • @Stephen: Valencia really is a valuable player. thats why I would want to keep him as a central midfielder.

          The jersey number is a psychological thing. It does not materially stop Valencia from playing in another role.

          But symbolically him wearing no.7 and playing as a defensive midfielder or a box to box midfielder would represent a fall from grace.

          It would look like Ferguson made a mistake by giving it to him.

          It will look like he failed. Like he just couldn’t cut it.

          It would be a mark of failure. A standing monument to his incompetence.

          He would forever carry that stigma of inadequacy.

        • @Stephen: totally agree.
          let nani sign the contract first else he is definitely gone in the summer. I wouldnt pick him up till he signs the contract. he is doing the club no favors really and has largely been rubbish this season. yes valencia has also been poor so its better not to play with any wingers at all.

  10. What?! Incompetence for a giving a player a shirt number? Didn’t Michael Owen have the shirt before him? I am not sure what you are going on about there mate..
    Who cares?!?!

    • @Stephen: Incompetence as a winger. He was given a wingers jersey to play as a winger and he couldn’t make it as a winger.

      Remember this is someone who wore the number 25 on his back.

      Why the change in numbers? Wasn’t it as a reward for playing the no.7 position so well?

      Its the same as Robin van Persie. He has 20 on his back and he may well keep that number for the rest of his United career.

      But I wouldn’t be surprised if next season he changed his number. And the only number I can imagine him changing to would be the no.9 jersey becasue thats where he plays.

      I will admit that I am no expert on positions and numbers. But from what I gather thats how things work.

      Berbatov had the no.9 Jersey last. We have a new lead striker now in van Persie.

      Christian Ronaldo has gone and glorified the no.7 jersey at Real Madrid. Just like he glorified it at United.

      He even has his own brand now. CR7.

      And thats what we look for in a number 7. Someone iconic.

      Valencia is barely making it into the team.

  11. Also the best box to box midfielder who ever lived wore our number 7 shirt, Bryan Robson……

    • @Stephen: Ok in both Bryan Robson and Michael Owen’s cases were they given that Jersey while they were playing that position. . . (wide right)

      But yes I agree this point is mostly . . . well … pointless. :mrgreen:

  12. Was David Beckham a winger? No he was a right midfield player as is Valencia. He got the number 7 shirt because he was player of the year last season, if you recall. I think the number 7 shirt was gloried by Raul before Ronaldo mate at Real Madrid. I am not sure where you are going with the number topic mate, it is irrelevant. Cantona, Robson, Best and Beckham wore the shirt before Ronaldo, United history didn’t just start 5 years ago mate.

    Nani has also had a poor season and you seem to ignore this fact an want to focus on Vally. You say he is barely making the team, was Owen a starter in every game then?

  13. Sorry mate, so you are saying if a player changes his position, he is less worthy of a shirt number? So does Ryan Giggs then not deserve the number 11 shirt then?

    • @Stephen: Giggs is old. He didn’t fail at being a left wing. We understand that age takes its toll.

      Giggs is still one of the greatest left wings this club has ever seen.

      Valencia is supposed to be in his prime. . . And he is sucking something awful!

      Giggs has even put in some solid left wing shifts on occasion this season.

  14. Wasn’t Valencia our player of the season last year? Come on mate, you are living in the now with a very short memory. How many poor seasons did Giggs have during the early 2000’s? He was a one point booed by a section of the supporters. Valencia is hardly a failure, he has given us two great seasons and this year he is out of form. Nani equally has had a poor season, I think you have an agenda against Vally as your argument mate doesn’t stack up.
    You stated in an post that Anderson needs to find consistancy, what over 6 years? Vally has had one poor season.

    • @Stephen: Ok fair enough.

      Lets agree to disagree.

      But I’m watching this pace. Lets see how Valencia fares next season and then we can pick this up again.

      Maybe Valencia will surprise me and find his form again. Good for him. And good for us.

      With regards to Nani and Anderson. I have tried to make my point that I give them a lot more licence to suck than I do for Valencia because I believe they have more potential (or they are more naturally gifted) than Valencia.

      I have also said that I was never sold on Valencia. I don’t have an agenda against him, I just don’t think he has as much talent as Nani. And thats my opinion.

      • @The_Philosopher: talent will only take you upto a point. After that all that matters is application and brains. both nani and anderson fall much short on that. it is said talent is only 1%. rest is application.

        Roy Keane has little footballing talent, but it was his hard work and determination that made him the player he was.

        Even when underperforming valencia still helps tremendously defensively (lets not kid ourselves, rafael needs that help massively). both anderson and nani suck big time when they play bad and offer nothing on the pitch. anderson is one of the worst players to have played in our colors (this I say even maintaining Fergie fucked him up but he hasnt helped himself has he). He is the stupidest player really. Nani has talent (loads of it) but sadly no brain to make use of it!

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