Feb 14

The Good, The Bad & The Omen

Tag: Manchester United,Opinion Piece @ 9:06 pm

Welbeck scores - Real Madrid v Manchester UnitedAlmost 24hrs on and I still can’t help feeling we missed a golden chance to put one foot in the next round of the Champions League before Ronaldo & Co even set foot on English soil.

The good news is….We Scored. Yes 1-1 is a good result but unlike many I’ve spoke to today I wouldn’t have taken 1-1 before kickoff, no way. I tipped up 2-2, I’d have taken that. The bad news is….Mr Mourihno’s bullish comment about how his team are capable of scoring more than one at Old Trafford was accurate, and if they do that we’re immediately in need of a win…..advantage Madrid.

Win 2 tickets to see the 2nd leg at Old Trafford.

We’re in form, our strength this season is scoring goals. What did we need to do last night? Score, the more the better. Did we really attempt to play to our strengths last night? I don’t think we did to be honest.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we should be beating Madrid at The Bernabéu 3 or 4 nil, but we do have the firepower to score that many and 3-3 is better than 1-1.

Yes we had chances last night and on another night we could’ve come away with the win. RvP won’t miss another chance like that all season, it was just one of those nights for him, but I believe the chances we had throughout the match were gifted to us rather than us masterfully creating ourselves. We were content with deflecting Madrids possession away from our goal and putting faith in young De Gea to protect his goal when our nervous defence was breached.

Nervous sums the night up for me.

We played a fairly unorthodox five-man midfield so, when we were in possession, why did we allow the centre halfs to split and see so much of the ball at their feet? It’s not the first time we’ve done this. We were lucky it didn’t cost us but time after time either Evans or Ferdinand found themselves with the ball but without an option. Under those circumstances both resorted to a lofted 50-50 ball towards the advanced fullback or forward, most resulting in a loss of possession and an energy sapping need to reshape.

Surely, with the five-man midfield, it’s their job to obtain the ball from the centre half, turn and play in triangles with everyone BUT the centre halfs who then become a deep option IF there’s nothing else on, an ‘out’ ball to start again. Many many times last night Madrid had United’s centre halfves pinned 3v2. Any interception or howler would definitely have spelt danger, fortunately for us we escaped each time…..somehow.

Carrick’s had a great season but he didn’t do enough to control the game last night, he almost hung Ferdinand and Evans out to dry.

Can I mention De Gea misjudging that cross? No!? Ok then, I’ll just thank him openly for a great display. Great to see him snaffle a well hit shot and drop to the floor with it firmly clutched rather than push it out or away. Good signs. I did wonder why he kicked that far post effort away though? It looked to me like he could’ve caught that. On another night that easily goes wrong and he’s getting punished again.

RefOne thing is for sure, we need a stronger ref for the return leg. Last night the official favoured Madrid no doubt. How Ramos gets away with his antics I have no idea. How Varane didn’t see red for that tackle on Evra I have no idea. Why he was so keen to show RvP a yellow so early in the game I have no idea. You can bet Madrid will be trying every dirty trick in the book to get past us and it could get ugly.

So what about the omen? Well, reading Marca.com this evening, it seems Madrid have never advanced from a tie after a stalemate at The Bernabéu.

On all four occasions when Real Madrid drew the first leg of a European tie 1-1, it went on to be knocked out.

The curse began in the semi-final match against Bayern Munich in the 75-76 season. The first leg finished 1-1 at the Bernabéu, with the Germans running out 2-1 winners in the return match.

The second and third occasions also came in the semi-finals. In 87-88, the second leg against PSV ended 0-0, meaning the Dutch giant went through to the final on away goals, while the following season, a stalemate in Madrid was followed by Milan handing ‘Los Blancos’ a famous 5-0 thrashing.

Finally, in the 98-99 campaign, Dynamo Kiev sent Real Madrid packing at the quarter-final stage after a 2-0 victory in the second leg.

A decisive week is looming for Real Madrid. The ‘Copa del Rey’ second leg against Barcelona is coming up on 26th February, followed by a league ‘Clásico’ at the Camp Nou on 2nd March and the all-important Champions League return leg at Old Trafford on 5th March. Unfortunately for ‘Los Blancos’ fans, the omens are less than promising.

Do you believe in Omens? I don’t necessarily, but there’s been something brewing this season and it’s getting stronger and stronger by the week. Everyone on here keeps telling us how we’ll get utterly embarrassed if we ever met one of the big boys because our midfield just wouldn’t be up to it. Well…..we’ve took on one of the big boys now and we’re still in there fighting….where’s all the boo boys now? Are you waiting until we’re out to shout ‘I told you so’?

I don’t think there’s anyone confident of predicting what will happen on March 5th. All I know is it’s going to be one hell of a night and a real trip back in time with an atmosphere like few before it. I remember Barcelona 84 and Madrid in 03, March 5th has the potential to rival those atmospheres and thankfully I’ll be there to witness it. You could be there too by entering our ticket competition.

All outcomes are possible……what’s your opinion?


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Tags: Manchester United · Opinion Piece

33 Responses to “The Good, The Bad & The Omen”

  • I think the fact that despite fielding a 5 man midfield, we mustered less than 40% possession is testament to how inferior our midfield is. Carrick pulled the strings on the rare occasion that we could find him, and Jones did a good job defensively (he is hopeless going forward though).

    De Gea really saved our skins in my opinion with that early world class save, it would have been a very different night had Real scored first.

    • @Moscow: It’s hardly surprising considering that out of the 5 only 2 are real MF’s and that would include Kagawa who seems lost most of the time. Jones is a defender, Rooney and Welbeck are strikers and leaves Carrick to improvise and tie it all together.
      I would have preferred to see Cleverly and Anderson in that mix.

      • @Redrich: Kagawa may get lost from time to time but he is a world class talent. He isn’t being used properly.

        He would fit in swimmingly at Barcelona or Arsenal.

        I would like to see him play in the middle with Cleverly and Anderson. You might see a different performance out of him then.

    • @Moscow: Thats well said son.

      We can’t even command the ball with a 5 man midfield.

      There have been games this season where we take the lead and then half way through the second half we’re defending for our lives. And its at times like that when our lack of passing ability is shown up.

      Instead of playing a bit of keep ball to deny the opposition possession, we hack the ball up field as soon as we’ve got it back so that the opposition can have another crack at our defense!

      We don’t know how to pass the ball around in the middle of the park. Our modus operandi is to jsut play these long balls up field.

    • @Moscow: And lets not forget people have criticized other managers in the past for fielding 3 CBs (playing a CB in midfield) ;)

  • Ferguson hinted today that the lineup for the home leg would be better, saying, “At Old Trafford we have to be more positive in terms of selection of team”. OK, what does that mean? Does he mean that he went to the Bernabeu with the idea to stuff the opposition with negative tactics, or that he, for some reason, couldn’t field his best side.
    It’s probably the latter because of only 2 days rest after the Everton game – and that he’ll rest a few against Norwich (home game too) prior to the Madrid game.

    So with that in mind we should see a better performance from the lads, with more control of the MF and a better understanding with our pass selection. Lets hope!

    • @Redrich: I think he means that the mission at the Bernabeu was to not get too messy.

      1-1 is a good result. He went to the Bernabeu not to lose more than to win.

      But at Old Trafford he will be playing for the win.

  • Looking at RVP over the last few games he seems a little off. Could it be that he’s getting a little burnt out from the pressure of carrying a team on a treble run?
    Danny boy looked pretty good against Madrid, why don’t we give him (RVP) a few games off to catch his breath and re-focus on what lies ahead.

    • @Redrich: RVP should definitely be rested for Reading at least. I’m noticing signs of wear as well, though I remember at the Bernabeu he still produced those moments of magic, owned Arbeloa and some other Real defender at the same time with just two touches of the ball.

    • @Redrich: RVP does need to rest. He is over used me thinks.

      The thing is we have another reliable goal scorer in Chicharito so I don’t understand why Sir Alex doesn’t play CHicha more often.

      Like I would love to see Chicha play against Reading with Kagawa behind him and Anderson and Cleverley in the middle. Nani on one of the wings.

      Carrick needs a break as well.

  • Dont know about you guys but I do not fear crap Madrid at all!!! They have been substandard this season and are totally beatable. We’ll stuff them at OT for sure.
    2-0 to united in the return leg and the special one to go back with his tail between his legs. howzzat

    • @jos: In a word – Unrealistic. :wink:

    • @jos: I will admit that after the game on Wednesday I was left wondering a little what all the fuss was about.

      Real are not that awesome. I wouldn’t call them crap. But in my books they are no more fearsome than City or Bayern or Dortmund. And we can beat all those teams.

      I don’t get what all the noise is about.

  • On DDG. He has always been a great shot stopper and that’s why SAF paid the the big money for him. He is establishing himself in 2 categories.

    1/. Awesome, reactive shot stopper that has reflexes beyond belief.

    2/. Poor in the air and poor at commanding his area.

    I believe both to be true and while I’m thrilled by his saves, I’m also horrified by his lack of ability in the air. I’m in a love/hate mode with him, and at the moment it’s all love.
    I do think that a successful keeper in the PL should be able to stand up to an aerial attack, and so my overall rating of him is less than most.

    Ferguson is defending him now and I’d like to think that he sees potential for improvement in that wanting area. I’m prepared to give him the benefit of doubt providing his shot stopping skills remain exemplary.

    • @Redrich: Ferguson is a man with an eye for the future.

      De Gea is awesome. We just need to give him time.

      With time he will grow and mature. And begin to command his area.

      The praise he is receiving now will fill him up with confidence. That confidence will eventually lead to better performances and eventually to the sprouting of authority.

  • I also thought we should have won the game against Real. What are the chances of van Persie fluffing a sitter right in front of goal?!?!

    And you said it: We didn’t play to our strengths. We are a very attacking side but we spent way too much time playing deep and just soaking up pressure.

    Nani needs to play in every game between now and the return leg.

    He is a better option than Valencia attack-wise and I don’t understand why we have a talent like Nani in our squad and we don’t use him.

    We have to go guns blazing against Real.

    Ok I hear the argument that Nani is a defensive liability. Can’t Ferguson just sit down and talk to him nicely and say “Nani you’re a briliant player. But I just need you to defend as well”

    Nani never seems interested when he’s trying to defend. He doesn’t have the bite that the likes of Scholes, Jones and Rooney have. I don’t think I have ever seen Nani snap at anybody’s heals.

    Maybe he just doesn’t like the physical contact.

    As far as Omens go Idon’t know. For me I’m not too worried about what Real are gonna do at Old Trafford. I’m more interested in what United are going to do.

    And I hope we’re going to score many goals!

    • @The_Philosopher: With regards to Nani and defending, I think you need to read one of the articles by Jaywire. He sort of proved with some stats that Nani was the best “non defender” defender! He had a very high tackling success rate. That was of course last season. Jaywire used to write some great articles. Pity we dont see them anymore :?:

      This season he’s been woefully out of form/confidence and blighted with injuries. It also doesnt help hes having a contract standoff with the club. Most likely he will move on this season (maybe Zaha is his replacement). Its a pity we have 3 pretty good wingers and all have been ineffectual this season. Giggs has been better than all three of them!!! :!: :!: :!:

      • @jos: And for reference, here is that fantastic article from Jaywire:
        http://redrants.com/the-scope-january-2012/

      • @jos: Jos you legend!

      • @jos: I just read Jay’s piece. It really is sad how we are wasting such a phenominal talent.

        Why the cold war between him and Ferguson?

        Nani is such a great talent. I don’t understand why we haven’t played him Rooney, RVP and Chicharito together.

        He is a goal threat. Nani can even play as a striker in my books.

        I will be very sad to see him leave. (if he leaves)

        Valencia is a loyal soldier. But Nani has something special about him.

        Speaking of things we haven’t seen in a while. When was the last time we saw one of RangeRooney’s tactics boards?

        • @The_Philosopher: The cold war between him and Ferguson. You can ask the same for Becks, RVN, Stam. Nani doesnt come close to any of those three. He is dead man walking really. He cannot win this.

          This club is built upon some basic principles, and discipline is one of them. Thats how SAF built his empire. He booted the likes of Paul Mcgrath & Norman Whiteside!!! But then, hes been massively successful so who are we to doubt him. Ironically teams assembled with lots of money (cue crap Madrid/man city) boasting world class players all around havent really swept everything in front of them.

        • RangeRooney is ill, been a long term illness but he keeps trying to get back to his write-ups. I’ll mail him again now, see how he is. I’ll wish him well from you (all).

      • I keep badgering him but for some reason he can’t commit.it might be different if a few regulars start hounding him to start again.

        • @Ian: Wish RangeRooney the best!!

          I would love to write for RedRants, but my time is too limited to allow myself to anything regular. Maybe next season… my schedule may improve depending on which job offer I accept come April :)

        • With your passion and positivity mate I’ll take you up on that. Let me know when you’re ready ;)

    • @The_Philosopher: Real Madrid are better than ANYONE in the world in counter attacking. Their entire team is build on the premise. If we open up, they will out-carve us.

      Fergie’s tactics were spot on last game. Madrid honestly did not have a clear-cut chance compared to RvP and Giggs fluffed shots.

  • Kudos to sir alex for not subbing rafael after his horrid first half display. That should boost his confidence in the return leg. As effective as Jones has been, i would like to see Cleverly in the midfield as he offers a little more offensive push and doesn’t sit too deep. We need that more in the return leg. bring Ando on in the second half to freshen things up too

  • Credit where credit is due is always my philosophy. I have to say I was pretty nervous about the tactical battle with Madrid and I was almost sure we would put up the worst performance particularly in defence. I was not pleasantly surprised. I was humbly shocked. The tactics were spot on and if Ferguson and staff take blame for poor tactics, then it’s reasonable for them to take the credit for excellent tactics. First, he played what I consider our best centre back pair in Evans and Ferdinand. I’m not a fan of Vidic in much the same way I was not a fan of Keane. They’re foul magnets and in Vidic’s case, he panics in possession and is terrible on the ball. Evans on the other hand is physical but smart. Defends well on the ground as well as in the air and is comfortable in bringing the ball out of defence and retaining possession. Rio is still Rio in my opinion. Probably not a popular declaration but I’d still rather see more of these two against highly technical teams especially in Europe. They did their job excellently and made life pretty difficult for Madrid’s deadly attack.

    David De Gea was to be honest, the difference. His performance really exposed just how ridiculous standards in the EPL are. On the continent when you climb on the keeper it’s considered a foul. You can’t budge the keeper midair and get away with it. In England, it’s called being physical. For those who follow La Liga, it was common knowledge that De Gea was one of the top keepers in the league in his full season in Madrid. No errors or anything. In England, minus the media circus, he has had to deal with the likes of Crouch and Andy Caroll literally sitting on his torso during corner kicks. What this tells me is, it’s natural for such a young player to need time to adjust to the thuggery of English football. It’s not a skill thing. He needs time to learn judo and rugby, and he’ll be the best keeper in the league.

    Danny Welbeck, another favorite punching bag of mostly unreasonable critics, did more than enough to disprove the nonsense. Lie number 1. He has the 1st touch of a rapist. That’s a terrible statement on many levels but also totally the opposite. I once said last season, that Welbeck was behind Berbatov of all our forwards in terms of ball control and technique and got a mouthful for it. On Wednesday, out of all our players, he displayed the better control, touch, technique and efficiency with the ball. Including Van Persie. Now I challenge all his critics to begin monitoring him from now on. Watch his control, dribbling, link up play,pressing and general effectiveness on and off the ball. You can’t criticise a player being sacrificed for the team for not scoring, which I believe is the only accurate critique against him.

    I say stuff like this because sometimes people just lazily comment based on imaginary observations grounded in hazy perceptions. Berbatov does not sprint hence is lazy, slows down the attack and is a defensive liability. Then those who scientifically analyse these things prove that he covers the most ground of all the forwards(08-09), tackles more and better than both Tevez and Rooney. Nani is a defensive liability and is inconsistent. Then the same scientists discover that behind Evans, Rio and Evra,Nani is our 4th most reliable defender. Also creates chances for his teammates on a par with David Silva and over the last 3 years has been consistently on the same level of performance or better than his counterparts, namely Di Maria, Nasri,Robben and Ribery. Someone also discovers that Carrick makes less than 30% backward passes. David De Gea is just as efficient at making saves as the likes of Hart and Cech though he faces the most shots of the top 12 teams in the league but is discredited because he’s still learning to deal with the physical nature of English football. Anderson is useless and can’t score. Regardless of roles given him, he still finds himself on just about the same level as Luka Modric,Arteta and even an attacking player like Silva, in front of goal. These are the same lazy remarks people make about how Chicharito is only best as a “super-sub”. It’s selective bias and lazy, ignorant analysis. I’m sure come end of season some experts will be telling us how mediocre Kagawa is and mercy on RvP if he goes 3 matches without a goal.

    • @Jay wire: I think you make light of the fact that the PL is a physically hard league for the likes of, shall we say, DDG and Kagawa.
      You are as good as your performance on the pitch and if the PL makes you look less than what you are, then sooner or later, you are judged by how you are performing and not what you may be capable of in another environment.
      Right or wrong, the PL is a “big-boys” league, and if you can’t live with that you will not survive.
      It might be a surprise to you, but I also think DDG is a very good goalie – the caveat is, will he ever be able to command his area when big CF’s charge down on him (let’s not totally ignore the fact that Football is a contact sport). His shot blocking is phenomenal as outlined by your stat on how many are fired at him but the question that remains is “can he become strong in the air”. Unless you see a drastic move away from long ball being floated into the PA, this will remain a vital concern.
      Similarly with Kagawa, his influence on the team is negated by his inferior strength against big defenders. He is skillful, no doubt, and he has very good creative vision, but when he’s pressed he cannot keep possession and, thus, cannot use those given skills.

      Players like these and Nani and Berbatov are all wonderful players in their own right. It’s proven too, by Opta and such, but when put into critical roles within a championship seeking team, their individuality does seem far less important than their productivity to the team overall.

  • If anyone is struggling with the comparison between the ’99 treble winners, I whole heartily sympathise with you. It’s not that we seem better or worse than back then, or that we play with that much more authority, or even that our players (on an individual basis) are any more or less talented, what it is is that we simply don’t know how this season pans out.
    I mean, if we go on to win the League and lose out on either one of the other 2 competitions, we then might see this side as less successful and therefore not as good. Simple analysis, I do admit, but history has a way of writing itself and individual opinion will be swept into dark corners or under a convenient rug, only to resurface when and if the occasion permits.
    United are running away with the League at this point, and our progress in the other 2 legs of the treble seems on-track. There is a long way to go and we have no critical injuries to report and there is an exuberant aura glowing within the squad. Ferguson seems completely focused on the next 3 months and we do seem to be playing better up and down the pitch.

    So what remains to be done?

    1/. A clinical consolidation of the league. Take no game lightly – each one is a cup final!

    2/. DO NOT REST KEY PLAYERS FOR FA CUP TIES. SAF has said his bit on this, but lets hope he fields a strong side against Reading.

    3/. Make tactical advantages in our remaining CL games. While we looked at sea for most of the last game, the 1-1 at the Bernabeu was a decent result and it was because we mostly put a spanner in the works of their engine room.
    Last season we were horribly naive in our Euro campaigns and it got us nowhere. Going head to head is not our best move (Inter and Chelsea both side stepped Barca’s strengths). If it’s not realistic to beat a side on their terms please take a pragmatic approach with an end in sight.

    To me, it’s not whether this team compares with ’99, it’s whether they can win like we did in ’99. The players of that year clearly knew how to close out a season on a winning note – the United team of ’12 clearly did not. Let’s hope that a different spirit exists this year and our history books will write this team into its lore.

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