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Bad Luck and Poor Tactics Hinder United Against Villa

Another Premier League game, another 1-0 win. For the 7th consecutive Premier League game, United scored only one goal against their opposition. But following our horrendous defensive performances at the start of the season, who would have thought that the single goal would be enough to win 4 of those games? Never mind City scoring 6 goals on us, but until the Liverpool game in October we had conceded most shots of all the teams in the Premier League. From being a goalscoring machine without mercy at the start of the season, we have returned to become the defensive force we have been renown for since 2008. As people say, digging out 1-0 wins are what makes a Championship winning team, but the transition this team has gone through since our win against Chelsea is very surprising. We have not scored 3 goals in a game since then, and that was back in September.

Why is that? Is it bad luck, poor tactics, or lack of attacking determination? Against Villa, we got some well needed answers…

Going into the game, it was pretty obvious to see what United were looking to do. Going wide, getting crosses in, taking advantage of Aston Villa’s biggest weakness – Their full-backs. Young and Nani both have incredible pace, and it should not really be a challenge for them to get past Warnock and Hutton. Against Newcastle we saw how Fabio became vital to Manchester United’s attacking play, as his overlapping caused havoc down their left side. However, with Smalling playing on the right side of defence Nani was given an awful lot of responsibility. Thankfully, Villa played poorly. They did not have an answer to our game, and whenever they got the ball they seemed clueless. It is incredible to note that Villa have conceded the most goals from crosses in the League, having two of the strongest aerial centre-backs around. Obviously McLeish had not learned from his earlier mistakes, and United took great advantage of that.

It must be said though, that Chicharito’s injury was a big blow to United. With Rooney now playing so deep he looks more like a midfielder than a striker, having the Mexican up front would have been vital. The energy and positioning Little Pea gives us is as vital and effective as having two strikers in there. It must be said though, it is amazing how many injuries United are getting this season. Especially when you consider how they have arrived! Cleverley’s latest injury came without anybody touching him, exactly like Chicharito on Saturday. Countless United players have been injured without anybody near them, Rooney, Welbeck, Young and Anderson all included. It is ridiculous, just like Chicharito’s on Saturday. And this one really was a big blow for United.

With Chicharito injured, Nani was deployed as our front man with Valencia taking over the right wing. Nani, for all his pace, is not really a stretch-striker like Chicharito. He prefers to meet the ball, instead of getting into space and picking it up. Very much like Berbatov, unfortunately. It would have made more sense to use Young as the lone front man. Nani roamed too much, and was very rarely seen in the box. We all saw Young perform admirably as the lone front man against Benfica, stretching defenders and creating space for his team-mates. Although being caught offside time and time again, he would have been a perfect replacement for Chicharito. Young Ashley did not do much on the left wing during the game, so moving him centrally could have made us much more dangerous. Instead, we used Nani as our striker, although never actually seeing him there. He drifted out to the left time and time again, and although it made us weaker centrally it kind of paid off with his brilliant cross creating our only goal of the game.

The goal came as a shock really. With Nani on the left and Rooney in midfield, there were no United players in the box besides Jones. Thankfully his cross was inch perfect! Crosses were going to be our way to goal in this game, but that we would leave their box so empty when we got wide surprised me. Rooney started of the whole move deep in midfield, picking up Evra with a magnificent pass. He then picked out Nani, who only needed one touch before serving it on a plate for Jones to sidefoot in his first career goal. It was a typical Manchester United goal, but how on earth none of Villa’s three defenders managed to pick him up is a big mystery. He was left alone in the box with Dunne and Collins, who were marking no-one. Really poor defending from Villa, and it cost them a goal.

Although wanting to be a central defender, Phil Jones looks much more like a Manchester United midfielder. He has pace, he is strong, he is ferocious in the tackle, and he has a determination for the game which is rare to see these days. But it is not that which makes him a Manchester United midfielder. No, it is rather his ability to arrive late in the box. It is an underrated attribute for all great Manchester United midfielders, from Charlton and Robson to Scholesy and Fletcher, but it is also a very vital trait. Ask anyone what they remember about Paul Scholes, and they will probably say his passing and shooting, or Roy Keane for his tackling and leadership, or even Darren Fletcher for his energetic all-round displays. Despite all these being totally different players, they have a special ability to get in the box unnoticed, get on the end of a perfect cross, and score a goal. We had not seen this attribute in Phil Jones, but following his brilliant goal you cannot help but wonder if we will see more of him in there. It was surprising to see Darren Fletcher out, as his runs would be important against a Villa team so weak from crosses. But with Phil Jones proving that he can do it as well, you could see what Sir Alex was thinking.

Attacking wise, United disappointed. They created chances, but none of our forwards seemed to follow the instructions given by Fergie. Valencia and Young got to the byline time and time again, only for them to see their cross wasted into the Villa box because none of our forwards were in there. Wayne Rooney showed no interest in getting there, making it easy for Dunne and Collins. United did not take their chances, and Villa got more and more into the game. Bringing Heskey on meant more crosses, and although they never really threatened Rio and Vidic they forced a great save out of Lindegaard. Vidic, again, was incredible. United have only conceded one goal since his return from injury, and that was the soft penalty against Newcastle last weekend. His return has been vital, but another player who deserves credit is Michael Carrick. With him in the team United have only conceded 3 goals during the entire season. His positioning and passing is vital for our defence, and it shows. He does not lose the ball very often, unlike Fletch and Anderson who’s poor passing has led to many opposition chances, particularly against City and Chelsea. Carrick’s precise passing does not give oppositions a sniff though. Not only was his positioning and passing great, but he won many headers against Villa, 3 against Heskey alone. His return is vital for our defensive play, and it shows.

United created many chances against Villa, but the overall performance was less than satisfying. Sir Alex made a mistake not using Young as our front man instead of Nani, but thanks to his brilliant cross and yet another great defensive performance United held on to a comfortable 1-0 win. It could, and should, have been much better. With Young, Nani and Evra on the pitch at the same time, it looked like United were using three left wingers at the same time. And with no striker in the box, that really makes very little sense. Keeping possession is vital, but when facing such a poor Villa side going for more goals should have been the main target. Nani cannot be faulted too much, as he has very little experience of playing centrally. Playing Young there, or pushing Rooney forward as the main striker would have given us more options from crosses, but as it were we only got the one goal.

Defensively United are basically perfect, but offensively they need major improvements! Rooney seems to lack the courage to get into goalscoring areas, with his movement and positioning making him more dangerous from rebounds that come following short defensive clearances. And that is a waste when there is no real striker on the pitch. United needed Chicharito in this game, or at least a player who could move cleverly in the box and drag defenders. Although creating enough chances to win the game by 2 or 3 goals, poor choice of tactics stopped us from ripping a poor Aston Villa apart. Welbeck has not played for over a month, so bringing him on early would have been risky. If he starts against Basel on Wednesday we will get some real presence in the box, and having already scored two goals against them this season he may well fancy his chances to get us to the next round.




  1. RedDevilEddy

    5 December 2011 at 23:28

    I’d also like to have my say on the whole Nani-Rooney debate.

    It’s not that Rooney and the Lil Man have a problem with eachtoher. During the Villa game Rooney was really poor, his decision making was waaaay off. But it can’t be easy for him either. He’s had to change his game every fucking time this season, the only period when he was regularely paired with another striker he revelled! Playing as a holding striker with Welbeck at the start got him 5 goals in three games, and given his partnership with Chicharito had already made grounds last season he managed to score 4 in 2 against Bolton and Chelsea. But ever since that it’s gone downhill. He did well against Norwich, without scoring, then came the City game when… well, nothing went right really. Following that horror-show he played 4 games on the trot in midfield, before finally managing to get more forward against Newcastle. That game went well for us, in the way we played at least! Wazza was instrumental, but fell further and further backwards as the game progressed. Then came the Villa game, when he FINALLY was gonna be able to play up front with Chicharito. And what happend? He got injured. We seemed to have the tactics sorted out before the game had even started, with the Little Pea stretching their defence right from the off. Now, Nani doesn’t do that. He meets, and I’m surprised Villa’s defence didn’t pick that up. We had an awful lot of possession, but then we had no striker on the pitch and 4 players playing as wingers/attacking midfielders! Villa pressed poorly, which gave us even more space and time on the ball.

    You could see how Wazza was frustrated at Nani for doing “his thing”. Of our strikers, Rooney is supposed to be the one to come deep and collect, but against Villa it seemed like Nani focused more on that than getting in behind their defence. Of course there is supposed to be a clash then! I don’t blame Rooney, as it’s his job, but then again I can’t blame Nani either. It’s not his game to stretch, he relies on his skill and pace and therefore cannot wait to get the ball. Had we used Young as our striker, and Nani out wide, I doubt we would even have had this discussion!! Two players, wanting to do the same thing, in the same place, are of course going to clash one time or another!

    • Stephen

      6 December 2011 at 08:47

      To try and book end this debate, there is no Nani, Rooney debate with me.
      All I was trying to do was stand up for Rooney, calling for him to benched for Berba, Macheda or even Duiof in my opinion is stupid. Both players are vital if United are to win things this season. Rooney has lost some form, but he has played with many other players and in midfield. We need to get him back playing as a striker and stop him thinking he is a create midfield player. Nani can be frustrating but is a match winner, again this is what we need.

      • RedDevilEddy

        6 December 2011 at 09:37

        Nani and Rooney are along with Vidic the backbones of this Manchester United team. Why anyone would want any of them benched is beyond me!

        • Stephen

          6 December 2011 at 09:52

          All three are vital for us.

    • fahime shuhaime

      7 December 2011 at 03:12

      I really hate it when Rooney did his stupid chip ball when he got one on one with goalkeeper.

  2. John Tring

    6 December 2011 at 02:50

    Bad luck? Which game were you watching, if any? Utd just have bad players. And now, a bad tactician ( I can see morons piping up )…At one point against Villa, did we have like 4 wingers? I am sorry but if Utd don’t do something special right now, soon Utd will be the new Liverpool of last 20 years and Man City the Utd over the same period. A lot duds are now masquerading as Utd players( Evans,Gibson,Park,Fletcher,Carrick,Evra,Ferdinand, The Da Silvas are some names). New players, a modern coach and some new coaching staff would be useful. Utd look stale and old fashioned, still playing with wingers and all with a joke of a midfield. Top teams don’t do that any more.

    • RedDevilEddy

      6 December 2011 at 07:03

      Yes we have bad players and are losing every game, concede plenty week after week and are bottom of the League.

      Let’s just realise our club is fucked anyway and everything sucks and let’s watch City or Blackburn instead. I mean, at least they scored 4 against Swansea right, and we didn’t do that so they must be an amazing team. Yay go The Rovers!

      • Stephen

        6 December 2011 at 08:43

        Spot on Eddy, the end is nigh!! 😀 😆

    • 68Devils

      6 December 2011 at 09:10

      Won the 19th title by 7 pts and runners up in CL with the same duds masquerading as players and a coaching team that is stale with a bad tactician as the leader.And the last time i check we are 2nd and about to beat basel and take our rightfull place in CL.We may not remain champions this season or go far in the CL (we will beat basel!)
      but everytime that happens we just become stronger..its our birthright

      • RedDevilEddy

        6 December 2011 at 09:33

        Second best ever start to a season in the Premier League era, best goaldifference we have ever had at this stage as well.

        And we’ve done it with our best midfielder injured for ages, our best striker playing in midfield, and our captain missing two months of action!

        Damn we suck so bad! We suck so bad even Yo Mama jokes don’t work because we just suck so bad Yo Mama sucks it better than us!

      • Craig Mc

        6 December 2011 at 15:30

        Hope your prophecy about beating Basel comes true mate – but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have any doubts at all – I am more than a little nervous about this one – just hope our defence is on their very top form! We can’t just play for a drawer either – because we were 2 up at OT and they came at us relentlessly. The important thing in this game is whether our strikers can put the fookin ball in the net on the counter attack – and have at least some composure to give to the proceedings!

    • Ian

      6 December 2011 at 15:36

      Mate, if that comment is still editable your end I suggest you nip back and correct your spelling mistakes, for some reason you spelt Ferdinand and Carrick as duds. Happy to help, will discuss it properly with you when rectified.

      • Craig Mc

        6 December 2011 at 15:48

        Errr who is your post about duds addressed to Rimmers? 😀

        • Ian

          6 December 2011 at 16:30

          A lot duds are now masquerading as Utd players( Evans,Gibson,Park,Fletcher,Carrick,Evra,Ferdinand, The Da Silvas are some names).

          Made by John Tring.

          There MUST be a glitch in his keyboard or something. I mean, Ferdinand a dud? Zero credibility can be gained from labelling a player of immense talent, experience, Rio’s possibly the greatest defender this clubs seen and he made it look effortless over the years. Due to age and some injuries he’s struggling recently but to call him a dud! Obviously can’t know the literal meaning of the word.

          Then there’s Carrick…..oh please!?

        • Craig Mc

          6 December 2011 at 17:28

          Oh right – well if you want my two pennies worth I wouldn’t call any of our players duds – a dud is something that is totally useless, and that means they can’t play football at all, which if any of these players mentioned were to move on they would certainly find a home at other clubs. I cannot see any of them except perhaps Darren Gibson leaving anytime soon – but then I thought Darren played well for us against Palace – one of the very few who did on the night. Maybe Mr Tring meant that our players fairly often have DUD performances on any given day/s which I could agree with to some degree, but I’m with you Rimmers, not just because Rio and Carrick are named, but because all of them mentioned are called DUDS. The guys post comment should be called DUD if anything!

        • Ian

          6 December 2011 at 17:49

          Agreed, massively. Said it before say it again….

          There are no shit players within our club, fact. There’s some shit players on the park on a sunday morning yes, but none on the books at United full stop. If you think differently you are a fool.

          Yes some don’t reach the potential hoped, yes some decline instead of improve, yes some hit rough patches and yes some don’t adapt to life in the first team like we all hope / wish they would…..

          But to call any player at United ‘shit’ or any other variant is lazy, misguided, ridiculous and ignorant – in my view.

        • [OPTI]Madschester United

          7 December 2011 at 00:37

          There’s shit and there’s relatively shit. Bebe and Djemba^2 would probably destroy opponents in my rec league… but at United, they were relatively shit.

        • Ian

          7 December 2011 at 01:54

          But they came and went …… Like cheap brass!

        • Stephen

          7 December 2011 at 09:24

          Bebe was £7.4m, are Rooney in disguise, only he thainks that sort of brass is cheap. 😯 😉

        • Stephen

          7 December 2011 at 09:23

          Totally agree, Bebe though is still on our books and I would say he is probably the worst player I have ever seen wear the shirt.

        • Stephen

          7 December 2011 at 09:59

          Crrick in the past few games has been superb, we also have only conced once when he has been on the pitch, the dodgey pen against Newcastle.
          To call Rio a dud is very poor, he and Vida since they have been back together have been immense.

    • [OPTI]Madschester United

      6 December 2011 at 15:55

      that’s what people said when Chelsea started winning… how long did that last?

      • RedDevilEddy

        6 December 2011 at 18:40

        Until they got a few players injured, and it’s bound to happen with City as well. Have they even had any other player besides De Jong injured this season? We’ve had a whole team on the treatment table, while their sorry ass criminal midfielder was out for a month. They’ll pick up knocks, let’s see how they do then!

        • [OPTI]Madschester United

          6 December 2011 at 19:14

          I still stand by my early season prediction that City will only win the league if they go undefeated. Any loss will result in fragmentation of their League of Zeros. Our main task should be to remain within 5-7 pts to pass them WHEN they fall…

          The future is red. Factum est!

        • Stephen

          7 December 2011 at 09:28

          That is a great point, it will be interesting to see what happens of they loose a couple of games. Balolelli is an accident waiting to happen, if Silva gets unjured, a lot could go wrong. We have had plenty of injuries and are still 5 points ahead of where we were last season. City have been incredible, if they had a normal start we would be top, I am sure people would still moan, ah the spolit United fan…….. 🙄

  3. Eoin Cusack

    6 December 2011 at 15:45

    Phil Jones is Either a center forward or a center back…He Could never play in the middle! 😀

    • Craig Mc

      6 December 2011 at 17:34

      He has played in the middle, scored a goal and has had good games in that position mate. In defence however – I am not convinced!

      • RedDevilEddy

        6 December 2011 at 18:38

        He will one day, but he’s so inexperienced it’s dangerous for us to play him there. Use him as on the right back, or in midfield for a year or two, with the occasional game in central defence, and then see how you rate him. He’ll be good, just needs more games and better understanding.

  4. 68Devils

    7 December 2011 at 03:02

    Jones is better at rightback or in a five man midfield.Have doubts on his reading of the game and positioning sense as a centrehalf.In spite of his flaws he must be God send.

  5. Robbie

    7 December 2011 at 10:01

    We may not have ‘shit’ players…but we certainly have a lot of players that should never be allowed near carrington training ground.The standard of football has got a bit higher and I believe that these days more emphasis is put on player skill and technique than graft and we are coming short currently, Why should the likes of Basel and Benfica give us so many problems, because technically they have better players in vital positions. Even our best player Wayne Rooney comes short at times and is way too inconsistent to be classified as a tier one player, I realised this when I figured I wasn’t looking to him anymore to be a game changer because when is is off form he is just another hardworker in our team, and all this because of a one and a half week injury? I don’t buy into the blaming fergie thing, even though fergie himself does, Rooney needs to get back to his fearless self of 18 and start performing 70-80 percent of a season…and not the 40-50 we currently get from him. We need to up the technical ability of our side, players like park and fletch, valencia who regularly make our line need to give way to players more comfortable with the ball at their feet, look at madrid’s side currently,midfield and attack, Benzema, Ronaldo, Di Maria,Ozil, Alonso, all of these guys offering something in attack and all very comfortable, I don’t need to mention Barca’s players as they have a right back that gets more assists and goals than most of our midfielders combined. United on the other hand will put out a side with Rooney, Hernandez, Nani, Valencia, Carrick and Fletcher…Hernandez looks mostly like he just started playing footy(apart from when he’s in front of goal) Rooney also when off form can be very careless with a ball. Fletcher and Valencia also are not as comfortable. We need to get more Modrics and Silva type players and less of the valencia’s imo. I’m looking forward to the day morrison breaks through, he is very talented with a ball at his feet and ofcourse when tom cleverley returns and he’s a dream midfielder.

    • Stephen

      7 December 2011 at 10:19

      Like who should not be allowed at Carrington? The best players don’t always make the best teams. The Galacticos struggled and barca over the years have also come short. Over the past 20 years Fergie has competed in the league every season, not many sides across Europe can boast to that.

    • RedDevilEddy

      7 December 2011 at 12:55

      I’m surprised so few people know how football is played! 😕 You guys do know that what people do without the ball should be valued as well?

  6. Robbie

    7 December 2011 at 12:08

    Diouf for one, I’m not talking the best players just players with enough skill to grace Old Trafford, although we have players with heart and energy, too many just aren’t good enough technically,and its showing up in Europe now to the extent where we are in a position we haven’t been since 05, if you compare this team to the 08 team it doesn’t match up, we may be getting results but as everyone knows at United that isn’t good enough, I see a lack of flair as a big problem in this side.

    • Stephen

      7 December 2011 at 13:43

      Nani, Rooney, Young, Vally, Berba, Cleverley are sooooo boring……… 🙄 🙄 The 2008 squad had Manucho in there, are you saying the entire squad must be World Class? How long have you watched football for?! 🙄

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