Well it wasn’t a classic that’s for sure. These days it has become apparent to me that waking up at 4:30 Pacific Standard Time to watch my beloved Manchester United is the action of stupid man not interested in his health and sleeping pattern. Frankly, the past few years has taught me to expect a Ferguson game plan and squad selection that would leave me cold and disappointed.
Yes we have injuries and yes the season is long but let me start off by saying that this was with no exception the least inspiring squad selection I have ever seen Ferguson produce for a major match against a top opponent. I mean REALLY? REALLY? What a joke a starting eleven this was considering what we had to work with despite our injuries.
I could care less for the excuses Fergie was going to use for his selections. Rooney hadn’t played for a week and neither did most of our squad who were on international duty. Tired or not, this away match comes up only once a season and it is for many of us the biggest match of the campaign. For me it is mandatory that you start the best eleven you have available to you.
Why would I sit Wayne Rooney and why would I sit Chicharito who seems to always grab important away goals against strong opponents? Above all, why would I sit Nani knowing that this season so far, he has been our best player? Then to add to the confusion of squad selection we add the fact that we went into this match with a 4-3-3 that basically conceded the midfield again to our opponent and the fact we were tied after 66 minutes was amazing to me. I just felt we were never in control of the match and that it was inevitable that Liverpool would finally take the lead. And take the lead they did.
The goal was a calamity of errors in setting up a wall and in maintaining one’s position in the wall. But even more frustrating for me was trying to figure out what Pat Evra was doing a full two yards left of the wall in a no man’s land seemingly useless and ineffective? Gerrard hit a low but well aimed shot but it was the kind of goal that should not have happened. The foul that brought it about was questionable as well but the fact is, no way should anybody ever score a goal like that against an elite team like United. As we like to say in my part of the world, it was bush league (ie; well below professional calibre).
After that we were frankly fortunate to get our goal considering we never had much of the ball over the whole match up to that point. But desperation forced our hand and for ten minutes we played our best football once Nani, Chicharito and Rooney were all brought on. Our desperation worked too as we managed to grab the equalizer thanks greatly to a nice corner from Nani, a beautiful flick on by Welbeck and a typical predatory poach from Chicharito. I love the ‘Little Pea’. He has weaknesses in his game but his enthusiasm, movement and instinct make him a true threat and you just had the feeling he was going to save us on this afternoon.
So all is well now that the game is 1-1 but that is when United just switched off and almost gave this game away not once, not twice, not three times but four times before the final whistle. Special thanks and praise must go to my man of the match David De Gea for saving our bacon on at least three occasions with outstanding reflex saves. You couldn’t blame him for the Gerrard goal but you certainly can praise him for the game savers he pulled off on Kuyt, Henderson and Suarez especially. And thank God Henderson’s header was high as well as I felt that should have been a certain goal thanks to a great delivery from Downing and some very questionable marking from Smalling. De Gea bailed us out many times in the game and he certainly now must be altering many people’s early impressions of his game and quality.
To say I was very disappointed by the way we played after we equalized would be a severe understatement. We were clearly out of gas and Liverpool found an extra gear, which made us look like so many of our victims during late moments in games at Old Trafford. It was a very uninspiring and very disconcerting performance to be sure. But as usual we seem to escape major controversy and finger pointing for our poor performances because we either find ways to win games like this against the run of play or at very worst, we steal a draw. And today my friends we definitely stole a draw at Anfield, which on paper makes the result look more than acceptable. The result covers up all the cracks we could see in our foundation with enough mortar as to avoid a bullet storm of questions that I do not feel Fergie has an answer to right now.
And what of Fergie? What did the Gaffer have to say about this great escape? As expected he was upset about the goal we gave up and even pointed a finger at Giggs as the main culprit responsible for the goal. When asked about the game Fergie had the following things to say to Sky Sports;
“It was very difficult. The referee is under a lot of pressure and I’m not surprised they got the free-kick”
It’s exactly the same as last year. The wide players left the wall and it was bad defensive play.”
“I didn’t think they were really threatening until they scored the goal but then the game opened up and we took the chance. In the context of today the result is fair”
Yes lets blame Giggs for a totally useless overall team performance. As much as he was to blame for the goal, he is not to blame for the other half dozen chances Liverpool squandered. I especially think back to the Downing cross that gave a poorly marked Kuyt a glorious chance to retake the lead while Evra the guilty man was caught ball watching and out of position to do anything about it. In fact Evra was a joke throughout and forces me again to ask the question why this man starts for Manchester United?
Fergie thought the result was fair and he had no negative thing to say about the referee because frankly there was nobody other than his own team and his own tactics and team selection that could be blamed for this lacklustre effort. One scoring chance in 90 minutes is not United football folks. I care not for the excuses and reasons for that but one chance just tells me that the tactics and squad selection left a lot to be desired indeed because the talent is there to be utilized properly. My question to Fergie is why he continues to fall into his opposite number’s trap and why he continues to bring our team down to the level of our opponents by continuously settling for the cowardly and overly cautious approach to away matches? I’m sick of it. Yes I’ll take the point especially when I know in my heart we deserved no points today against our bitterest rival.
Not starting a former Evertonian like Rooney who hates Liverpool and leaving out Nani and Chicharito in a must win game surely means we honestly can’t feel great about escaping with a draw? Fergie is one blessed amigo to be sure. Somebody up there likes him because he continues to get away with very questionable and unimpressive decision-making. Correct me if I am wrong but did Vidic not play for Serbia last week and actually miss a penalty before retiring from the national team? Why did he not start then? Where was Cleverley? And why would you not start both Nani and Young as opposed to the useless and invisible Park and counter attack a Liverpool team that is also very suspect in their back four like us? I am tired of this useless squad rotation and especially when you do not field your very best possible team for a match of this significance. Instead of maintaining our lead in the league we instead have now dropped to second as Manchester City comfortably won their game 4-1 to take sole position of the lead.
Yes it’s a long season and you are going to have your highs and lows but just giving away points before the kickoff is certainly not the United way either. As soon as I saw the starting line up I knew. Yes I knew we were in for a tough afternoon. Credit to De Gea for keeping us in a game that we had no business stealing any points from. So Fergie can fool himself and all of those who continue to wear blinkers and deny the reality of the situation.
This club has problems in the back four and has no midfield whatsoever to speak of. For three years now supporters like myself have written our feelings for why we need to buy players for our midfield and why I feel we should be pursuing a replacement for Evra at LB. And year after year passes and Fergie continues to get away with ignoring the obvious. Yes Cleverley’s early play helped a lot of us forget our midfield woes but his absence only solidified my initial feelings that we will continue to struggle as long as we have to count on the likes of Carrick, Giggs, Park and Fletcher in our midfield. Is Anderson and Cleverley the answer there? Seriously, I don’t think so but then again, neither was seen today in a game where their presence may have made more of a positive impression than what we were witness to. But then again what do I know as a supporter who lives thousands of miles away in a country that ranks 87th in world football?
It appears our quick start was nothing more than a mirage and that reality is kicking in right now and truthfully, we don’t look like that much of a threat. Yes we have injuries but most importantly, our confidence looks injured right now as our overly cautious manager has slowly but methodically drowned the mojo we started this season with by making awful squad selections and offering up tactics that destroys our attacking instincts and initiative. Fergie is back to his anti-football ways of last season and I for one am sick of it already.