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Air Superiority

HeaderThere are very few flaws that one can find in a masterpiece. When you do, indeed, you tend to wonder if those rare gaps were accidental after all- or if they were part of the contrivance of the great mind behind the rest of the glory. Fergie’s third ‘reich’, to me is posing just such a quandary. I really don’t know whether what I’m saying here was overlooked by him, or if he’s got a twinkle in his eye and a smirk on the inside of that wrinkled gum-chewing countenance. Either way, it is pretty loud a gap as I see it.

This season’s team has got it all. It’s got the depth to take quite a few bad hits and still come out fighting. It’s got the kind of pace required to dazzle the lower rungs of the league and irk the top flight clubs no end. The skill of some players in the squad is unquestionable. Only a fool would take this side lightly or write it off, even on paper. Moreover there is, behind his line of glittering gems, the man who knocked the scousers “right off their f*cking perch”. And he’s in no mood for a dry run.

The trouble is, that despite the undeniable skill and strength of the squad, our prime problems from last season are still lurking around the corner. We don’t have to look too far back to figure out that both our full backs traditionally run up the pitch to deliver crosses into the box, leaving the wings pretty much exposed. They have no cover. Giggs is not getting any younger and his replacements are all players that I doubt can put in a decent tackle to anyone’s benefit without prompting the ref to jump the gun.

Up front, our deep striker role is still a big problem. Rooney, bless his grit, is still only so tall and so good with his head in the literal sense. Rossi is not exactly towering. Saha and Smith are our only hope for getting anything to the back of the net via the aerial route. Agreed, our dependence on the 442 winged crosses has decreased manifold since goldenballs left, but that is no excuse for having very short players upfront with little or no aerial prowess when compared to the mid-table sides or even some relegation-battlers. Midfield you say? Carrick and Hargreaves. Scholes is not my idea of powerful in the air. Carrick falls short too. Hargreaves I haven’t really noted. Fletcher, I’m sure, is rather a dunce in this department, relatively. That leaves our only aerial power in the backline where, I might add with some pride, it is nearly overpoweringly good.

Imagine, given this, a match in the CL against a tough midfield opposition like, say, Inter. Or Arsenal. Or Pool with that Sissoko chap bouncing all over. Or Sevilla with Kanoute taking all those lofty balls from both keepers and keeping the possession. Where, pray, will all our skillful play be minus good midfield possession and dominance?

I wonder if this is not our greatest bugbear. Especially since our set piece marking will take the greatest hit apart from possession because there will be only four good markers in a corner situation while the others hope the ball reaches ground before it reaches the head of Henry or Eto’o or Anelka or Klose. I’m just worried sick. No team is perfect. Nothing ever is. I guess this is just our little Achilles’ Heel. And I hope Fergie knows well nigh enough about it.

I just hope.

[Photo Source: Cartoon Stock]



  1. Red Rupert

    29 July 2007 at 10:37

    I don’t recall us needing Peter Crouch in May ’99 when we had two late corners in the last two minutes.

    that aside, you have a point but I wouldn’t see it as a major problem – no more than it is at the back, anyway. We do have Vidic and Ronny who is no slouch in the air. Rio occasionally surprises us. Our main route to goal isn’t gonna be bombing down the wing to the goal line and then crossing it. With the players we have it’ll be passing and movement.

  2. dan

    29 July 2007 at 10:46

    ronaldo is good in the air.

  3. Nelson Otieno

    29 July 2007 at 10:47

    Well. Aerial threat is a concern but there’s nothing much we can do. I mean, We cant make Wayne Rooney taller than he is. don’t forget, Christiano Ronaldo has proven to be a handful when it comes to the air, not just his quick fit. Louis Saha is good too but the guy gets injured a lot so we can rely on him much. I believe that fergie has noted this weakness thus employing ‘ground game’ The 4-2-3-1 formation is good in covering this weakness such that the forwards will be able to rotate making it hard to defend against us that opening those little holes and score. You will never be blessed with all

  4. Nelson Otieno

    29 July 2007 at 10:57

    Seen Barcelona play! thats how its going to be next season

  5. Ishaq (South Africa)

    29 July 2007 at 10:59

    Hey man dont worry.We all know that
    Fergie is the best man to ind a way
    around that problem.

  6. just1nman

    29 July 2007 at 11:51

    I dont think it will be such a problem. Fair enough, Rooney, Tevez, Rossi are short and i dont see them been an aerial threat. However with the way Sir Alex is gonna be lining up next season and foresee quick passes, lots of movement and swapping of positions that will be running rings around any opposition. Im sure we will play this way and if all else fails bring on Saha with his crutches and he can maybe get us a header. I remember years ago Man Utd used to score from corners. Especially old Steve Bruce. We dont seem to have that anymore and im not sure if that is due to the quality of the crosses or Rio not wanting to put his head where it hurts.

  7. Anish

    29 July 2007 at 12:37

    Well, I don’t think a Peter Crouch will even have a permanent place in a club like ours. It’s just that none of our good headers happen to be strikers. We all know that Cristiano and Vidic are really Premiership-level when it comes to heading in corners. And who needs to rely or rather over-rely on headers? It is exactly the mid-table and below clubs, isn’t it?? When you have plenty of quality going or rather penetrating forwards then I really don’t see us missing a Peter Crouch or even a Thierry Henry for his aerial skills. And don’t forget that we are also getting Nani, Anderson and Tevez as well to boost up our resources.

  8. Taehr

    29 July 2007 at 12:42

    With rooney and tevez(hopefully)we will probably have the shortest strike force in the league.anywayz we do have ronaldo and vida who are threats from corners and free kicks.ferdinand should get more goals considering his height.but regarding defending we are fine brown(if nevilles out),ferdinand,vida are all good in the air which leaves out patrice.just to point out this lad pique is really good.he is very tall and as a terrific physique.he was brilliant in the under 20 world cup.

  9. Keith Moses Kaira II

    29 July 2007 at 13:10

    We scored from so many corners and freekicks last season to make his fears next to pointless. WE have enough aerial prowess. With the likes of Vidic, Rio and Ronaldo in the team.

  10. indianpunk

    29 July 2007 at 13:27

    well when the tevez/torres.huntelar debate was going on this was the main topic of concern some1 with rooney for aerial prowess.
    I thought we needed tall player some1 to fill van nistelroys boots but the way we play is quick and so i feel our main area will be ground and through passes up fron with the flair we already have and the surprising thunderbolts from the midfield might be the key
    What fergie is planning on is two strikers playing together in a role where one disturbs the opposition while the other makes the killing

    Next year i think lots of formations will be tried on and mostly CL nights are gonna bring surprise for sure

    By the way there’s a torrent uped by a ktn titled how we won the premiership a must download for man utd fans

    if its allowed here are the links if its not plz del them

  11. Hassan

    29 July 2007 at 13:48

    Paul Scholes does not get the credit he deserves when it comes to
    scoring with his head he is has got quite a few down the years, not
    the tallest but he gets in great postions. Also Vidic and Ronaldo
    are very capable in the air.

  12. Bloodbath

    29 July 2007 at 15:23

    You know yoda didn’t complain about his height.

  13. Nino

    29 July 2007 at 18:47

    “Red Bull gives you wings” ;D

  14. Ollie Y

    29 July 2007 at 19:00

    i agree with hassan paul scholes is a great threat in the air and has gotton many goals over the past few years with his head, ronaldo is a top class header, rooney, though he isnt the tallest, is pretty decent in the air, OH is quite tall, and lol tho nani cant head he attempted a over head kick on the aisa tour tho it didnt cum off with a bit of training we wont need heading ability, hell lets go 4 the spectacular! Vida is brill in the air but rio doesnt get us enough goals 4 us.

  15. King Of Zamunda

    30 July 2007 at 02:08

    Erm, Paul Scholes and Cris Ron are big threats in the air. Nemanja Vidic too- be it pulling a save from the keeper or actually putting into the back of the net, he gives the opposition defenders hell all day long form set pieces and corners.
    Think Rio and Wesley need to get in on the act too. Carrick and Hargreaves aren’t blessed in the air i agree.

  16. k9

    30 July 2007 at 02:59

    Ok. I have read what most people have to say here. I think a lot of you completely missed the boat altogether, no offense. My concern is not whether we can get goals by being good in the air. It is whether we can dominate posession by plucking those lon lobs right out of the air and playing it into someone’s feet. This is where aerial prowess comes in most handy. And for Utd to be able to do that, our entire midfield, not just ronaldo should be able to literally fly atop opposition heads and get to that kick from the keeper, from both ends.
    If you have doubts as to whether this actually happens much in footy, try watching what Kanoute did for sevilla throughout the season. He’d drop back to the midfield, bring down his keepers mighty kick and into the feet of his co-striker or wingers and from there upward the team would literally dribble their way into kingdom come. Now I really can’t see who’d do that at OT.

  17. Red Ranter

    30 July 2007 at 03:20

    Hargreaves will do it. Hustling the life out of the other midfielders. You don’t just have to be tall. Mascherano isn’t too tall, and he did a good job for Liverpool keeping Sissoko out of the side for long.I don’t think it’s too much to worry. As long as we win our tackles and retain possession (making them count). Most of the football is played with the ball at your feet. And that’s where we have to make it count.

  18. Keith Moses Kaira II

    30 July 2007 at 06:21

    Red Ranter is right. Keane wasn’t tall. Neither is Gattusso. But see who they can dominate the center of the Park.

    As for the issue of fullbacks leaving gaps behind them when they advance: That is for the two central midfielder to cover, not the wingers. It’s a real waste of a wingers talent asking him to track back and cove an advancing fullback or an opposing winger. When mere playing high up against the opposing fullback will keep that fullback in his own half.

  19. Ollie Y

    30 July 2007 at 07:08

    rooney and tevez are both very strong and will be able to out muscle others to get into the positions to take the ball down and OH and carrick will be able to spread it well to our wingers who in turn give it to our strikers who the place the ball into the back of the net! and what you are saying k9 is that when teams be it mid-table or there abouts, there tactic will be to hit us on the counter… we are the fastest team in the world now and are the best at counter-attacking from corners and stuff, and surely if we do get hit on the counter many times, SAF aint blind he will do sumthing about it. and i disagree ronaldo does track back and, hello a certain striker called wayne rooney he runs up and down the pitch endlessly and is a great tackler and i believe WHEN we get tevez he will do the same. so there is no need to worry

  20. indianpunk

    30 July 2007 at 09:56

    Joke of the day

    Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher says Chelsea present the biggest obstacle to the Premier League title coming to Anfield this season.

  21. Keith Moses Kaira II

    30 July 2007 at 10:19

    Scousers are deluded LOL

  22. Mick

    30 July 2007 at 10:35


    Hate to say it but I think it’s YOU that’s missing the point.

    Our players will only need to “fly atop opposition heads and get to that kick from the keeper” if VdS
    insists on kicking long. If he, or any of our back line, distributes the ball with any sort of intelligence
    then there should be no need to compete for the ball in the air.

    If the opposing team kicks long, Via and Rio will win their headers all day long.

    If you have to rely on your central midfielders to win headers in order to retain possession then
    you’re playing so badly you’re doomed anyway.

    The only downside to having a (relatively) short strike-force will be if we ever go “route one”
    when we’re chasing a game. But that should only be an absolute last resort, because that’s not
    playing football the United way. But if we do go route one, then Saha and Ronaldo are as good as
    anyone in the air.

  23. Hiram Gakembu

    1 August 2007 at 07:10

    What matters is not whether we score with our heads or our feet. What matters is whether we score or not. Our weaknesses in the air will be compensated with our strength on the ground.

  24. Chelsea Fan

    2 August 2007 at 00:43

    As far as air superiority, it will be a slight problem on set-pieces, especially against chelsea or liverpool (not Arsenal, they cant head the ball for their lives) Vidic and Ferdinand are good in the air, as is C. Roanldo. TBH, it wont really matter, after a point.

  25. footballguy

    9 August 2007 at 22:44

    as was said b4, our style of football does not require players to b execeptional in the air. the beckham, yorke and cole era, was prominent cos, beckam was/is the best deiverer of the ball and cole n york(in particlar) wer great at headin. the new great team do not hav crossers of beckhams, instead we have a team who play with fluidity and interchang. and we have enough ariel proess 2 deal with set pieces

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