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Aston Villa 0-0 Man Utd: United Escape With Draw

United put on another disjointed away display as Aston Villa did their claim to the number four slot no harm with a credible draw at Villa Park. There is a lot to say in the post mortem analysis, so let’s get on with it.

It was always going to be hard following an international break which was as important as a comb for Wayne Rooney. The team hardly got together as a team prior to the game, in the words of Fergie. And in fact, part of his lineup was dictated by that disjointedness. So whilst the back four (O’Shea, Rio, Vidic, Evra) was a reasonable enough choice, the midfield had Ronaldo, Giggs, Carrick and Park. Nani, Anderson and Ronaldo had all returned from Brazil and it seemed unlikely that the boss was going to play all three in a midfield four, against a hardworking and well rested (relatively) Villa midfield trio of Petrov, Reo-Coker and Sidwell. Ronaldo, as I said in the preview, was always going to start, and so he did. Rooney and Tevez made up the front two.

I did however find the substitutions strange, and served as another illustration of why Ferguson is missing someone with a better tactical brain. But we’ll touch on that after this.

United were as dire as I’ve ever seen them all season. Passes went astray, moves broke down courtesy some lazy work or poor positioning of players, or some good work by the Villa players. Ronaldo did all he could do. But he needed help which he wasn’t getting. He ran as much as his travel weary legs could afford him, but after riding one double-teamed challenge after another something had to give. His sulking and frustrations for every challenge, while being cringeworthy to me, was understandable considering nothing is currently going his way. Of course, him gesturing to away fans and reminding them of his number one status was a little too desperate. Cristiano, you are much better than that mate. Surely, for a person who had the mental fortitude to rise above the bile following the 2006 WC fallout, this seems a little too brittle? In short, he was well snuffed out by the Villa defence, so credit where it was due.

Rooney and Tevez were clearly not working on yesterday’s evidence. Tevez seems a pale shadow of last season, and nothing remotely approaching his pre-season hunger and form. He was reduced to trying to win the ball in vain in his own half. Can’t seem to be able to buy a goal for himself even if his life depended on it. Park tried but didn’t help. Rooney — well, let’s just say that he seems either a little low on confidence or hasn’t returned to full fitness, yet.

The defence, however, was the saving grace, with EVDS and Vidic being exceptional. The crunching tackle by Vidic, contrary to what the commentators might make you believe, was not a penalty.

On to the tactics, and it was strange to see what Fergie was thinking when he sent Nani on for Tevez; throwing in a striker, who might spend more time in the business end, for someone who spent more time playing defensive midfield clearly made sense. Ronaldo could have been the Nani replacement, as he was limping whilst Anderson could have come on for Giggs, who was easily overrun. It’s the sort of strange substitutions that have been perplexing.

All said, it was a tough away game against a team, for all our excellent head-to-head record, that needs to be taken seriously. It was made doubly difficult following the international game and injuries. However, whilst I can accept a draw when the team gives their all, it leaves me asking questions about our ability to dig in under adversity and eke out a result. It was the sort of game where the side might have got all three points despite injuries.

It’s November, and it’s too early to call the season over. But December doesn’t get any easier with the distraction of the World Club Cup, and on a day when Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea drew, it has to be put down as a case of an opportunity gone amiss.



  1. john freakin' o'shea

    December 2, 2008 at 6:33 am

    @RedDevilEddy: *pinch*

  2. Fred The Red

    December 2, 2008 at 7:18 am

    Theres a news outlet in Belguim thats saying that we are about to bid a ridiculous amount of money for the young migfielder Axel Witsel, if I knew how to post a link to it I would, but its doing the rounds over at the Red Cafe who have been known to start rumours, check it out for youself.

  3. dan(u-ol)

    December 2, 2008 at 8:57 am

    the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best player in the world wins yet another trophy. the only trophy left is the fifa world player of the year. i think thats the last won before he has won, everything possible to him.

    ronaldo is a couple of steps away from being a legend, one of the greats.

  4. RDJ

    December 2, 2008 at 9:09 am

    @Grognard: I definitely agree with point 13 in your manual :mrgreen:

  5. jos

    December 2, 2008 at 10:10 am

    @dan(u-ol): well he is yet to win Euro or World cup so he wont have won everything there is to win!!!

    But yea, he probably has every individual prize in football – and he is just 23!!!

  6. Red Ranter

    December 2, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Surprise, surprise! New post up. 🙂

    Oh, and I am back.

  7. Madschester United

    December 2, 2008 at 11:06 am

    RR and Grognard: I must say I was more than surprised to see your responses to my comment.
    First, I did not really mean for my comment to be interpreted as an insult – calling someone a baby or whiner is not an insult in my book but it must have been in yours. I am sorry for causing such revolt; but, after having been reading soooo many negative comments this season, I felt like I needed to stand up for the old guard and remind everyone that all is not doomed.
    Second, there is a big difference in the way I responded to your comments and the way you responded to mine. That fact that you assume you have any idea of whom I am is rather weak argument and says more about you than it does of me.
    Third,R R, a little bit of constructive criticism should never have caused you to ask me (or other readers) to leave this blog – sure you have a real life and cannot post everyday (which is a shame because this is arguably the best United blog on the net with the most active readers/ranters). And Grognard, just because I do not post every 2 hours does not mean anything about whether or not my thoughts are “valid”. Be careful not to think you own this blog and that your rants > everyone else’s because of how many posts you submit (even though I enjoy reading your post and those of the other regulars). Your latest long post insulted more than a few, I would say.

    On a lighter note, I am surprised to see that Terry and Lampard did not sweep the Ballon d’Or – I was under the impression that Chelsea gets everything…

    Ronaldo deserved this one and I hope he gets another one while we have him.

  8. Stephen

    December 2, 2008 at 11:27 am

    “calling someone a baby or whiner is not an insult in my book but it must have been in yours” Yeah you couls call that a complement!? 🙄

  9. Madschester United

    December 2, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I obviously did not mean that… but with some of the thrash talking going on here, this is pretty far down the list 😕

  10. Traverse

    December 2, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    @Red Ranter: Which one are you again? :mrgreen:

  11. Grognard

    December 2, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    @Madschester United: Listen mate, I am not one to carry a grudge and so I hold no animosity to you even if you disagree with me. I am not trying to run this blog nor control the content. Feel free to express yourself but just know that when certain comments are made online, they occasionally look and sound different than they do if those comments were made in person. I’m sure you and I would be having a very friendly argument talking about football if we were having a few pints at a pub. The Internet is cold and can come across as very unfriendly, even when that isn’t the intention. So lets move on and forget it if we upset each other in the past.

    I would like to no out of curiosity what you meant about me insulting more than a few with my last long blog? Other than players who wear pink boots and calling them puffers (very un pc but necessary for the sake of good taste 😆 ), what else did you find insulting? Also, I respect and love the old guard on the club but there comes a time when they need to step down for the good of the club. They are holding better players back.

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