Everton FA Cup Preview

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David Moyes, credit to him, did a manful job of getting his point across, casting doubts over Mike Riley’s integrity to referee a Man Utd match. Since then you’ve had people wondering if the accusation carried weight. Scott on RoM did some digging and came up with stats on the number of penalties he’s awarded.

I think it’s not worth dwelling on that because Moyes has done his job. He’s shifted the attention onto Riley, and he’ll likely be doing something to ‘correct’ his public perception.

One hopes he doesn’t over compensate by, say, booking Ronaldo for diving in the box when he really is a victim of a two footed, studs up challenge by an Everton player.

The Guardian has a piece berating the state of the pitch, and furthering Wenger’s claim that the pitch was a disgrace. I saw the game in passing and it amazes me that a newly built ground ostensibly meant for showpiece events isn’t upto scratch when it’s actually in use. For a team like United, whose traditional mode of playing football is by passing the ball more than lumping it up the pitch, this won’t come as good news. For Everton — while being a pretty good team, nevertheless — this will come as slightly better news, and could work into their plans of derailing our midfield. At the moment, that seems a much easier task than it seemed in January.

Regarding the squad, there is talk that Fergie might reshuffle his squad, taking into account the injuries and the gruelling nature of our schedule. And I understand that. Quintuple or sextuple, the FA Cup remains the least of Fergie’s priorities. But in the midst of all the shuffling, one would hope he doesn’t mess too much with our centre back pairing. For now I’d happily keep Vidic and Rio till their limbs fall off. Rio’s had enough of a break recuperating, and Vidic is usually a machine — so let’s keep them together for now.

With Fergie’s mooted changes, it will be interesting to see if Rafael returns at right back, seeing as Fergie’s spoken about him in glowing terms regarding his training. Brown has returned to training and will play for the reserves against Preston North End on Monday. Again there is talk of rushing him back to the first team during the course of this season run in. A fully fit Brown will be a breath of fresh air in that right back slot which has always seemed a bugbear for us this season. But more importantly, the return of Rafael (and this reshuffling) should hopefully see O’Shea at left back instead of Evra. I think the diminutive left back could do with some time on the bench to refresh, recharge and get back to his best.

On the midfield, Carrick seems to be out with some knock, while Fletcher returns. Fletch would be a starter in my book. I can’t really put a finger on the other midfield slot so I’ll say Anderson again. On the wings it could be a rare start for Nani, with Ronaldo on the other wing.

Up front will be the most interesting position when we look up the team sheet. Rooney was limping in Porto, and Berbatov is being nursed for future battles. This should leave one striker’s berth to Tevez, and wishful thinking has made the other berth open to Macheda. If you think about it though, it doesn’t really sound too far fetched; Macheda could start simply because he seems to show some important attributes — such as his revolutionary ability to actually lurk in the box when the ball comes in — that our other strikers seem to lack.

Prediction: I don’t really know, but I see a closely fought 2-1 win to United.

Come on you Reds!

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376 Comments

  1. @Karl: After I complete my thesis on “The Complexed Mechanics of Counter-attacking In A 5-3-1-1 Formation”, I’ll start bragging. But for now, humble pie doesn’t taste too bad. 🙂

  2. @donibrasco: You really think Torres, Adebayor and Drogba are better than Rooney and Berbatov?
    Really? including that ‘shit-for-brains’ Adebayor? Really? ❓

  3. @Karl: Certainly not Adebayor, but I’d say Torres is better. And while I think Drogba’s attitude can stink, if he puts his mind to it he can rival the very best in the world. You just have to point out to the 06/07 season where he single handedly brought Chelsea close to us with his amazing goal scoring record and his one man wrecking crew.

  4. Also, I believe this page will eventually slow down with the glut of comments (if it hasn’t already). There’s a new post up that discusses Berbatov. So head over there and continue.

  5. @donibrasco: Adebayor is no where near as good as Rooney or Berbatov. He is though, more effective at Arsenal than Berba is at United, I’d give him that. He scores more, and ‘looks’ a better player on his day. But really, no where near as gifted technically as Roo or Berba.

    I rank Torres highly though. I think United could have done alot with him. Extremely gifted, but loves fat waiters so screw him. But more effective than Berba at least, I’m afraid. Drogba, well I don’t fancy his style of play, but that’s just me. He’s the lob-the-long ball-to-me type of player, and it’s just not my cup of tea that.

  6. @Jonboi: Adebayor this season has played 31 games scored 16 and has 8 assists.
    Berbatov has played 33 games and has scored 13 goals with the second highest assists in the league, so goals per game goals are better but assists are not, so debatable.

  7. @Red Ranter: Even in their dire straights of the early to mid 80’s the team still played attacking football. They were a shambles but they still tried to give the fans the traditional style of United football. I may have become more of a hard core fan late in the 80’s but like I have said before, I followed the club as best I could considering my geographical circumstances since 1977. In those years I have never seen a United team play with the negativity in style and tactics that this present version does. I am not talking about winning or losing, I am talking about strategy and tactics and playing your personnel properly.

    What’s even worse, since Alex Ferguson has taken over the team, we have never played such depressingly dull and uninspiring football. And yet we are in the thick of it competition wise and that fact alone seems to be blinding many of the reality. This team looks awful and offers up zero entertainment for your money. Sure the occasional game pops up where despite our tactical setup we play out of our skins and club a team like Chelsea 3-0 but for the most part, this club has struggled to fins it’s offensive mojo all season, and has hopefully just ended a period where our defense had also gone pear shaped.

    So forgive me if I take it to heart a little about the “heat of the moment” remark. I’ve had a whole season to mull this over and feel this way. As I said yesterday, the game yesterday never really bothered me that much and I totally agree with Fergie’s squad selections which most out there were upset with. Based on the cramped schedule and that awful Wembley pitch, that was the safe and smart thing to do. Other than that though, none of my feelings have been due to the heat of the moment. They have festered inside my head for quite a while. I was Waiting and waiting like you and everyone else to see when this team would wake up and start playing United style football. Instead we were introduced to the newest export from the Serie A. No, not Kiko Macheda but the boring as Hell Milanese 4-2-3-1 and 4-2-2-2.

    These tactical setups with their defense first motivations and machinations have done the very best in turning our team into a very strong defensive outfit, but also a sporadic and highly predictable one too. Playing the way we do I ask myself, why we never went after a player who was used to this style like Pipo Inzaghi instead of Dimitar Berbatov? No, instead Fergie has tried to fit a number of square pegs into round holes even if he has to sand them down to make them fit. It’s sad and it’s boring as Hell. And I as one of the supporters of this team have nothing but bitterness and scorn for the Boss and his decision to flush the team’s historical style of play down the toilet and replace it with Italian evil. Nope RR, I have had quite some time to get to this point in my feelings about United thank you.

  8. @Stephen: How many assists does Berba have exactly? If I’m not mistaken, it’s 9. That’s one shy of Adebayor.

  9. @Jonboi: Spread the word mate. Just make sure they are United fans and that they bleed Red. Nothing worse than when we get invaded by Scousers or Chelsea scum etc. Again, welcome aboard and hope to see your contributions increase now that you have gotten begun to communicate. 😀

  10. @Jonboi: My take on it is that he is sacrificing Berbatov and bringing him up to play higher in order to free up more space and opportunities for Ronaldo and Rooney. After all, it’s those two inmates who seem to have the freedom to run the asylum and have Fergie’s ear. That’s my take on it anyway.

    Another problem for Berbatov is the fact that our two central midfielders rarely offer enough support up front or enough quality service to him for that matter. Carrick is the only one who has ever bothered to find Berbatov in an advantageous position. They others bloody well ignore him.

    Finally, I think one of the trends that this team has gotten itself in of late is the players off the ball have stopped moving and helping the guy with the ball by getting into attacking or advantageous positions. They just stand around and ball watch rather than move or dart quickly into spaces. Once Berbatov get s a ball, he holds it up and looks for somebody but nobody ever moves or gets into a position where he can make an attacking pass. It’s always a back pass because nobody helps him out. He should sue for non support when he gets a ball just above the box. Watch Chelsea and Arsenal when Drogba or Adebayour get a ball in a similar position. They usually have multiple options when it comes to passing the ball in a positive manner. Also, those teams incorporate a passing tactic which I for one am a big advocate of but which United no longer use. ONE TOUCH passing. One way to beat a defense is to dazzle them with quick and decisive one touch passing which can completely derail a team defensively if done properly. For it to work properly players need to have proper instincts for timing as well as for finding space but above all, they need to be alert and industrious when moving off the ball. United are far to pedestrian and lazy. Hell, just look at the way we give up possession after throw in. One of our players is trying to find somebody and rather than trying to find space, they just stand and watch him like idiots.

    Berbatov worked well at Spurs because that team historically has always been an attack oriented side but also because they play beautiful one touch football at times. I am not talking about their defensive weaknesses or other problems but up until this season, the last problem Spurs had was lack of imagination in attack. My God how I remember that team playing beautiful one touch football in the 80’s when Hoddle and Ardiles were running that midfield. But even recently they worked some beautiful football using Berbatov properly and having him benefit with their great movement off the ball and the one touch attacking system. At United, we have become to slow, boring and lazy to incorporate a system that requires players to offer up as much energy and ambition as the one touch approach demands. Maybe Fergie thinks we will burn out too soon due to such a packed schedule, I don’t know, but what I do know is that our system has derailed one of the best forwards in world football and turned his passion and desire not to mention his confidence into jello.

  11. @Karl: Yes Anderson is being used improperly but there are elements of his game, fundamentals in his development that are very weak and that have nothing to do with positional play. Too numerous to mention so no, I do not believe placing him on the left wing would make him a better player at this point. Anderson was simply an error in judgment. He is not nor will he ever be the player we expected or the player he was billed as. And lets not even get into the next Ronaldinho nonsense.

  12. @Karl: Berbatov is not a midfielder, and he is no talisman. 99% of the time he is playing with his back to the opposing goal. Balls come into him and he is too far out to do anything but back pass. No movement around him limits his options and again, how a player is supposed to be a talisman while constantly facing OUR goalkeeper is beyond me. No, Berbatov was hired as Cantonesque style forward who could score and yes, set up others. But Cantona was blessed with more pace, a better attacking ssytem to play with and players who could play wide and deliver crosses. Above all, the United teams of the 90’s had a central midfield of quality and graft which protected Berbatov and also serviced him. We have none of these assets so Berbatov is left to hang in the wind. Fergie is to blame for everything when it comes to the fall of Dimitar Berbatov. Do not be too surprised if in the near future Berba declares that he is not too happy with things and that he would like to be moved on to another club. And this time, I honestly wouldn’t blame him. 30 million for a sacrificial lamb is just not money spent or utilized smartly.

  13. @Jon: I do agree his record is not as good as Adebayor’s but only marginally and the Ivorian is settled in a side which he has been apart of for four seasons, not three quarters of one, in his first two season at Arsenal he only scored a toatal of 16 goals in 57 games, not good.

  14. @Karl: Yesterday many of the youngsters broke through and made a statement that Fergie cannot ignore. In a must win highly tense environment the young players played well and were very composed. The Twins were highly impressive as was Macheda in his movement and tidiness. Gibson never made a fool of himself and Welbeck had his moments although he did show a considerable weakness with his left foot. A few hiccups from Ben Foster but for the most part the young keeper did the job and kept a clean sheet for 120 minutes. All against a good team with it’s “A” lineup out there minus Arteta. So who were the players who played poorly. Well Rio and Vidic were superb but really, Anderson, Park and Tevez were the worst players on the pitch. Our so called veterans or first team alumni. No, I think yesterday’s game may have sealed the fate once and for all for Mr. Tevez. He’s gone, believe it. Anderson, Nani are nothing more than failed experiments. And in Nani’s case, it’s not his fault. Anderson has shown to be a player who offers a few great attributes, most notably his ability to stick his fat ass out and protect the ball, but one who is missing far too much in his limited arsenal to appease the coaches and especially United supporters who deserve better in the center of midfield. Park serves his purpose but this season he has been played far to much and fart to often in games where his limited assets were not needed. No, I say bring on the youth and let them take over some of the positions that need changes. Get rid of Evra, Anderson, Tevez and some others and let the Macheda’s, Da Silva’s run supreme.

  15. @Jonboi: Bingo! Absolutely correct. I am talking about a Lampard, Ballack, Fabregas, Gerrard etc. If that is what we have turned Berbatov into, then may I suggest to the powers that be that perhaps it’s time to tell him to turn around and face the opposing goalkeeper instead and then he must redirect his passes forward rather than backward. It’s like watching the present incarnation of Paul Scholes at forward. Back pass and safe pass but never anything bold or adventurous. Tell me Fergie, what does all the safe possession in the world do for you if you don’t create scoring opportunities. The object of the game is to out score the opponent, not play keep away.

  16. @Stephen: I’d like to answer that if I could mate. In Portugal or Brazil but far from Old Trafford. Or may I suggest in Norway so that Red Devil Eddy can watch him live to his heart’s content.

  17. @Stephen: I hope this would be the case with Berba too..an explosion of goals soon. Most unfortunately, players with the big price tags don’t get that much time to show what exactly they are capable of. Patience is inversely correlated with a player’s price tag.

    Let’s head on over to the new article. We’ll continue there. 🙂

  18. @Jonboi: What frustrated me in the game is the continued good play and positioning of Macheda and Welbeck but the lack of quality service they were receiving throughout the contest. Our strikers are only as good as the service they receive. You cannot blame the Tevez’s, Berbatov’s, Rooney’s, Welbeck’s and Macheda’s for not scoring enough goals when they are constantly moving into good positions but the ball isn’t reaching them. Well in Tevez’ case there are other problems. His first touch and ability to handle the ball has declined greatly. but at least with the two youngsters, the interaction between the two was great at times yesterday but at no time did they have any kind of positive interaction with a midfielder. Our midfield and Patrice Evra is the cause of this team’s problems. The sooner Fergie realizes that the center of his midfield, his left winger/LMF and his LB are not doing the job. The only player in that entire group who gets a free pass is Ronaldo and perhaps Carrick because of the role he is being forced to play. 🙄

  19. @Karl: I don’t think there is any doubt that in the Twins, Jonny Evans, Possebon, Welbeck and Macheda that we have high quality youngsters who are capable of elevating themselves to Premiership levels of excellence. On the other hand there are players like Anderson who has not been able to do this as well as the declining abilities of Evra, Tevez, Berbatov, Scholes and Neville that we have had to put up with. At this stage of the season, I like experience but not when experience takes one step forward and two steps back. Bring on the youth and let them prove to doubters like yourself that they are the real deal and that right now, they are indeed a better option than some of the old guard. Honestly, I can no longer stomach Evra, Neville and Anderson. And I prefer Macheda over Tevez and even Berbatov. Both of the Twins would be my starting choice at RB and LB. Why? Because they are good enough and they are better than the veterans who have held those positions up to now.

  20. @Grognard: So in the next transfer window, who would YOU buy? My guess is that you’ll offload Anderson. But would you buy a holding DMF or a strong, forceful attacking playmaker? Just interested in your ideas.

    I personally believe we shouldn’t sell Anderson anytime soon. I think he can turn out to be a gem of a player, he has miles to go. I know as fans we get easily tired of waiting for ages for a player to develop, but I think Anderson has shown good promise in the previous season. Let’s hope this season is just not his, because the last thing we want to do is let go of a player who might be stellar in a year, all because of a mismatch season. That said, I thought he was moronic yesterday, and a shame to his price tag. If he were 29, I’d curse at him and demand his transfer. He’s more than half a decade younger, so I think we should give him a shot.

    Heading over to the new article on Berbatov? Will see you over there. 🙂

  21. @Gabriel: Berba does not employ anything resembling a Stevie G role on our club. Where the Hell do you get this rubbish mate? Steven Gerrard is an attack oriented central midfielder who spends most of his time in the game facing the opposing goal and attacking him with shots, hard and fast runs into the box with and without the ball and who distributes the ball to attackers both center and wide with a varying array of passes that destroy defensive team’s setups. Berbatov is a forward playing far too high and always at half speed. He face our goalkeeper and does a good job of protecting the ball at his feet and then distributing short precise passes, usually back passes that do nothing more than retain possession of the ball. For the past two months he has not picked up any assists because he has stopped trying to produce passes that probe the defense in an attack oriented manner and thus has not had an assist in ages and hasn’t scored in ages. Nowwhere in his game or skill set does he have the shot, long range passing ability, drive, pace and dribbling skill that Steven Gerrard possesses. And as he isn’t the midfielder that Gerrard is, he does not mark or track back as well as Gerrard either. So to compare Berbatov to Gerrard positionally is ludicrous. I’m sorry if my words offend you,but how am I to keep my frustration and shock over your comments contained. Truly stunning! 😕 😕 😯 😯 🙄

    What he is truly employing is a role similar to Cantona’s but without the pace and aggresiveness needed to emulate the King.

  22. @Karl: On that we are in agreement 100%. If you cannot win playing Man Utd football and do it with style, then you are selling out to the evil that is Italian football where the bottom line is all that matters and entertainment is flushed down the toilet. That may be fine for the no taste in football types that live in Liverpool or in Italy, but Manchester United fans are a much more sophisticated lot. We are more cultured and love our football like Fergie loves his fine wine. Better yet, we are used to champagne football and caviar dreams. Not the greasy fish n chips that we are being served this season with a flat bottle of Retsina. 🙄

  23. @Jon: Try not using too many “smiley faces”. Often when that happens you will get that message. The site is quirky at best. It’s got nothing to do with what you are writing, just the amount of smileys. If you never used smileys try pasting and posting it again but break it into more paragraphs. I find that it has worked for me when I do that.

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