Dean and Fergie’s tombola can’t stop United

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1Manchester United scored twice in the last 20 minutes do beat Newcastle 4-3 in a controversial Boxing Day thriller at Old Trafford, to move seven points clear at the top of the table after Manchester City suffered a 1-0 defeat at Sunderland.

This year more than ever, United should come with a health warning, for the burden they impose onto their fans is borderline with being unbearable. If today’s game is anything to go by, United might lack the guile and craft of yesteryears but definitely possess enough grit and determination to force their way back into a game.

Admirable as those two qualities might be, United rode their luck enormously today, with a largely sloppy performance that confirmed an alarming shortage of options in midfield, enhanced by the decline of two of the greatest figures in the history of British football.

United had thrown away precious points over the festive period 12 months ago, when Ferguson had dangerously tinkered with his side, but the lesson was seemingly not learnt by Sir Alex who chose a midfield including Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs – an improvement from the Rafael-Park combination that had been exposed by Blackburn a year ago, but hardly United’s first choice combination.

Rather than papering over the cracks, Fergie’s rotation policy enhances United’s lack of depth in the engine room and despite his comments over Giggs and Scholes’ future, the Scot must know that this was (must be?) their last ever Boxing Day as footballers.

Antonio Valencia completed the midfield, with Van Persie and Hernandez up-front and Smalling and Ferdinand replacing Jones and Vidic at the back, while Young, Rooney and Welbeck sat out due to injuries and illness and a United bench short of options.

Having not won at Old Trafford for 42 years, Newcastle made the best possible start to the game when, inside four minutes, James Perch tapped home from close range after David De Gea decided to deliver a late Christmas present to the Toon midfielder, as he failed to deal properly with a decent effort from Demba Ba, parrying it straight into Perch’s path.

United, without ideas and rhythm in midfield, hit back with 25 minutes gone as Jonny Evans converted from close range after Javier Hernandez had forced a brilliant save from Tim Krul, following a Robin Van Persie’s free-kick. The joy was short-lived though, for Evans from hero quickly became villain as he deflected Simpson’s shot in his own net three minutes later.2

The goal was initially ruled out for offside, as the linesman had correctly judged Papiss Cisse to be behind the last defender, but Mike Dean reversed the decision after consulting his assistant. The decision calmed an incensed Alan Pardew, but Sir Alex was apoplectic with the linesman.

The incident would have had pundits across the country ecstatic at the thought of the number of pages they would fill with a debate but, while Evans definitely got the last touch, Cisse was clearly offside, therefore clearly interfering with play.

The goal, however contentious, could not excuse United’s paltry performance in the first half, which was coated in sloppiness and casualness. Antonio Valencia clearly needs a rest as he’s been a shadow of the player he was last year, while Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs simply can’t produce the goods at this level anymore. Surely not when they’re asked to start the game.

Newcastle were unfortunate not to extend their lead before half-time as Marveaux’s free-kick struck the bar with David De Gea all but beaten.

Fergie, clearly not one to get swayed by the Christmas mood, unleashed the hairdryer treatment on mike Mike Dean and his assistant, before the start of the second half. Conspiracy theories are a very delicate – and mostly pathetic – topic, but Dean had a nightmare today. The fact that he was once relieved of his duty in a cup game because of his Merseyside background and that he allowed Didier Drogba’s offside goal to stand two years ago didn’t do him any favours either.

United were back in business 15 minutes after the restart when Patrice Evra pounced on a poor clearance by James Perch to fire home the equaliser past Tim Krul. United’s first real chance in the second half had led to a goal but there was much more drama to be had before the final whistle.

Ten minutes later, former United’s misfit Gabriel Obertan raced past Chris Smalling, his cross founding Papiss Cisse who smashed a brilliant left-foot finish to put the Toon in front for the third time. United bounced back immediately as Robin Van Persie drilled home the third equaliser of the game after Tim Krul had repelled his first effort.

With little more than 10 minute left, the Dutchman was inches away from converting a brilliant pass from Michael Carrick, before Javier Hernandez squandered a glorious chance a minute later and Sammy Ameobi hit the post at the other hand.

Hernandez and Van Persie went close again, their headers ending on Tim Krul and just wide of the post respectively, before the the Mexican converted Carrick’s cross past Krul, to send Old Trafford berserk and his team seven points clear of City. Much like those family reunions at Christmas, United could be painful and unbearable, but the ordeal is worth in the end.

Dan (@MUFC_dan87)

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16 Comments

  1. Well said, Dan! This game had me believing/doubting/screaming/jumping/dancing for 90 minutes… can’t’ get this kind of entertainment anywhere else.

    On the game, I agree with you but would add the following points:
    1) Newcastle were without Tiote, Cabaye, and Ben Arfa — surely we would have been slaughtered had they played against our midfield.

    2) I thought it was obvious that Scholes and Giggs would struggle in the 2nd half, but Fergie waited until 65th minute before replacing a tiring Scholes with Clevz, which made a HUGE difference. Clevz’ energy propelled us to victory. I hope we get to send off these two legends with some silverware this season…

    3) Giggs played pretty well today, to be honest. While he is never going to hit the heights of 1995-2005, today, he was as good as you can get at 39. His left-footed crosses were outstanding even as we hit 90 minutes.

    4) Smalling was really poor today. The Obertan-assisted goal was amateurish defending from Smalling and in offense, he seemed confused. I would put Rafael (1st choice) and Jones above him in RB pecking order any day. Surely, this was a injury-necessity.

    5) Carrick and Van Persie were immense today. Co-MoMs. This is was 18 and 24 million gets you. Sublime passing and ball control. Who is not a RvP fan by now? It is starting to smell like the Signing of Fergie’s career… *knock on wood*

    6) Chicharito. I can not get over this kid. Sure, he had opportunities for a hat-trick, but the goal he scored was incredible. He had a 1-on-1 and got out-angled. He had a point-blank header caught and another whizz right past post. He wasted a good chance to RvP with a poor handball-deflected shot. Then he slides in and pokes the ball into the net in 91st minute… this kid is genius. He can’t dribble or pass, but his finishing and first touch is out of this world. I am in love and serenading him like a teenage girl, but this is United and I cannot get enough…

    • @Opti: I agree with you on Giggs mate, he wasn’t as bad as in recent outings but Scholes was painful to watch. Whoever denies is deluded beyond belief. Unfortunately, when people say we don’t need a midfielder because we have Cleverley and Carrick – who was superb, btw, can’t believe he still doesn’t get the recognition he deserves – they overlook the fact that the two of them can’t start every game. Apart from Anderson – provided that returns in the same form he showed before the injury – the lack of suitable replacements on the bench is ridiculous.

      RVP, what can you say about him? The goals matter, but the ability to bring composure in the final third matters even more. As for Hernandez, the lad is a model professional – doesn’t do anything over the top when he’s left out, loves the club, works his socks off and scores crucial goals for fun. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer anyone?

  2. Great result yesterday, but we do really have to stop conceding goals.

    De Gea is still a real concern, he makes far too many errors, great talent but maybe this move has came too early.

    RvP is a genius, great player the best signing since Cantona.

    People keep moaning about about midfield, but Carrick has been the most consistent player in the league now for 18 months.

    The Rooney bashers will be pleased, as he is out for 3 weeks, lets see how we get on without him.

    Funny, the Mourinho lovers have been quiet of late.. 😆

  3. This was certainly a nail biting affair. And you could see the fightining spirit in Sir Alex who spent 30min on the sidelines marshalling his troops, something that is not often seen at Old Trafford.

    You could see the intensity in this game. Everyone connected with the club new that this match had to be won. After dropping points at Swansea on Sunday a second successive point dropping session was too much to stomach, regardless of City dropping points as well.

    The bottom line is after losing the title last year from a commanding position there is no way we can allow ourselves to squander yet another lead.

    And you saw the fight in the players and manager. The desparation to win. The deep passionate burning desire to turn the game around.

    Ferguson at his tender age tearing into officials. Van Persie so desparate he handled the ball near the Newcastle area (He got away with it). Our gladiators were at war yesterday.

    I don’t condone cheating. Luis Saurez is a great footballer but he is also a serial cheat. It taints his legacy.

    With van Persie though I just appreciate his desire. So intense was his will to win that in a moment of passion he would do nearly anything to win.

    I appreciate him for not laying down and accepting defeat. He was figuratively kicking and screaming when facing certain defeat. I prefer that to just accepting your fate. Great response.

    I just hope its his last time. And I’m glad nothing came of it. It would have been a hollow victory for me if we had won it by cheating.

    Our wingers aren’t world class at the moment. The likes of Real and Barca won’t be shaking in their boots at the thought of facing Antonio Valencia or Ashley Young or Ryan Giggs on our wings.

    Maybe Valencia does need a rest. He has been playing through a hip injury and maybe he should just rest. Problem though is the lack of cover. we have no one to play on the right in his absence.

    Cleverley might be able to cover on the right.I suspect he might be able to cross some neat balls into the centre. I’m just not sure he could beat his man 1 on 1 however.

    I would be interested to see Evra play as a left wing with Buttner behind him at LB. Just to see how that would workout. (Valencia-Rafael 2.0 maybe?)

    Truth be told, with Nani about to make an exit our winger situation is about to be in the same crisis our midfield is facing; no more world class quality.

  4. Vally is a realy good player but is out of form. Nani who is injured and will probably leave us sooner rather than later. Kagawa can play wide left as can Rooney. Young is playing himself back into form of late, so we should be Ok.
    The issue really is at the back, Evans is a squad player at best, Smalling and Jones are not there yet. Vida needs to time to get fit and Rio looks now like his legs ave gone.
    We also have a keeper who for me is out of his depth, the back up is just that and should never be a first team starter.
    The good thing is we can score lots of goals.

  5. @Stephen: De Gea is a liability at times but we have endured his teething process for a year and a half now already.

    Lets just persevere with him. When he comes good it will be worth the sacrifice and investment we have put into him.

    Ferguson must keep him playing. Swapping with Lindegaard again would be a mistake I feel.

    With an inexperienced goalkeeper, an aging, perpetually injured and constantly rotating defense is it any wonder we’ve leaked as many goals as we have this season.

  6. People mocked me somewhat when I put it out there that we should get a stop gap, but I really feel we should.
    De Gea I am sure will be very good in the future, but he still looks nervous and a little out of his depth.
    We have bee lucky that with our fire power the cracks have been wall-papered over, but this cannot go on as we will get found out.
    With Vida back hopefully this will help, but we must tighten up.

    • @Stephen: I think of De Gea as undergoing the equivalent of a university degree and he is currently a first-year student “in over his head” give him another season to learn his stuff and then once he “graduates” in 2-3 years, he will be the worlds best goal-keeper.

      He is constantly learning and adapting… besides the first goal and a nervous fist-bump in 2nd half, he did not have a bad game (or much to do). He was not at fault for Evan’s own-goal (which should have been called off-side) or Cisse’s hammer-shot.

      Whenever I doubt De Gea, I think about 3-3 Chelsea game and his Schmeichel-esque save. That kid is special.

    • @Stephen: Sorry mate, but i dont buy that “de gea still not ready/inconsistent” talk.
      Hes been the most consistent keeper in the league over the whole of 2012. Reina, cech, friedel, szcesny etc, none have been any more consistent than david.
      And thats without even mentioning the new golden boy joe hart who has been a hell of a lot more inconsistent and error prone than de gea, not that the media would ever bring up his faults and scrutinise his every move like they did with de gea though would they 🙄
      Only area he really struggles is aerially and being a bit braver coming to collect the ball. But coming from spain, where they very rarely have to deal with crosses, i suppose its to be expected and is bound to take time getting used to. Id guess casilla would be the same if he were to come here.
      Im extremely happy with him overall though. Far from a mistake waiting to happen like some of the players in front of him are, or the midfield in front of them who are leaving us exposed far too often.
      Leave him where he is, give him time, and just stop this stupid bloody rotation policy and he’ll only improve.

      • @tonymontanna4united: He hasn’t need the most consistent keeper mate by far. Begovi?, Mignolet and Cech have all been far better.
        He does make mistakes and saying he doesn’t is a fallacy. Yes the defence isn’t great, but playing in front of a keeper who looks very unconfident and can’t speak the language cannot help.
        I think he will come good but it will take time. He does look like a mistake is round the corner, but we have him and we will just have to hope and pray until he comes good.

        • @Stephen: Begovic i’ll give you but cech has been poor for 18 months now, one of my best mates is a chelski fan and hes constantly berating him and saying he wants the young belgian theyve got at athletico (courtois i think) to come back and get his chance.
          I dont deny de gea has flapped at a few crosses, and put us under pressure at times, but im talking about cold hard major errors that have led to us conceeding goals, and watching him this year ive not seen a lot of them.
          Certainly his lack of experience and lack of english is going to hinder us at times, but thats why experienced players like evra, rio, vidic when hes back should be leading by example and keeping from conceeding such silly chances.
          But for the big games where he has been quality, rio hasnt done that, and evra well, hes had a slight upturn in form this season, but his so called defensive game is still bloody shocking. You only need look at newcastles 2nd on saturday to see that.

  7. Rumours are the Robert Lewandowski transfer has been agreed for the summer. Great player but do we need him? The only possible could be that Welbeck may now be sold! Lets hope…..

  8. I agree with most of ur points. But criticising giggs is not one of them.. atleast not today.. giggsy had better influence than valencia in the match.. he should be praised for todays performance.. scholes was very poor though..

  9. The game was as open as yesterday’s presents, as raw as a cold winter day and as telling as the smile on Ferguson’s face when Hernandez finally stuck one in.
    This was United laid bare, nothing hidden and nothing covered up here – it was a blatant acknowledgement that we suck at almost everything except scoring goals.
    Never before has a PL Champion been that one dimensional and it must cross Ferguson’s mind that if he is to succeed this term, the troops must overcome yet one more historic hurdle. A challenge indeed, but a challenge none the less, and the almighty Scot will throw down the gauntlet at the feet of his struggling players and see whether they have the mettle to carry it across the finishing line.

    Never have I been so perplexed about our playing standards as I have so far this season, but then again I can’t remember a time when I’ve enjoyed the thrill of the games more.

  10. Team selection really baffled me.If Carrick can play so many games in a row at such a high level,then why can’t Cleverley be given a chance to do the same?

    Smalling at RB made no sense,he had some decent games there last season but it is not his position.In my opinion he is england’s best defencive prospect.

    De Gea made an error.Period.Trying to put all the blame on Carrick and maybe Evra isn’t right.They all had a part in leading to the goal.The great thing is that Dave’s confidence shouldn’t be too low since we won!We all saw how bad he can be(when he punched it out for a corner instead of catching it) when his confidence is dented.He is definitely going to be a great keeper and will make mistakes.Just look at Joe Hart,he has grown immensely but still makes mistakes.

    Valencia 25>Valencia 7

    RVP,What a player. Honestly I never knew how good he was.He ran the bloody show in that second half,collecting the ball,creating chances,everything! Fergie is right,he is a bit like Eric,for one reason.He gets the best out of those around him.Even players like Ronaldo can’t do that,in fact he does the exact opposite!

    I don’t expect any January signings because Fergie doesn’t like it although I hope he pulls up a suprise.
    Can we have a break from injuries already???????

    7 points clear,who would have thought?

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