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Madrid to supply the moment of truth

Ferguson angryCast your minds back as far as they will go, cast them back further again, try to take it to a time when United had a great midfield that everyone was happy with.

Sarcasm of course, it wasn’t actually that long ago but over the past few years you’d be excused for thinking it was as the clamour for United to strengthen the central midfield berths has grown to a point where literally no one seemingly believes United has the ability to compete with any of the European big-boys if or when the time were to come. Well, that time has come, and we’re at half time with all to play for and a one-man-midfield-show fresh in the memory from a player some dare to liken to Captain Marvel….and it wasn’t Ronaldo.

For those who can, cast your minds back even further to before the beginning of time(!) when United welcomed (with one hell of an atmosphere) Madrid’s fellow Spanish invaders Barcelona, in 1984. They came thinking the job was done at 2-0 up, United had other ideas and sent Maradona and Co scurrying back to Spain with their tails between their legs and sent United fans into delirium with memories they will never want to erase thanks to a huge team effort from front to back.

Remi Moses alongside Robbo was a colossus that night yet at the time he wasn’t considered good enough in some quarters. Graeme Hogg had a nightmare in Barcelona but more than made amends with a performance worthy of a captain (which he wasn’t). Hogg was also widely thought of as ‘not good enough’. The list goes on, but they were the players chosen by the manager (Atkinson) to represent the club and guide us beyond the impossible, which they did that night.

Until recently the RedRants comments sections has been littered with woe, scepticism, pessimism and scorn for a manager who’s ‘failed to address the weakness in midfield’. The damping down has only coincided with the teams remarkable surge in form since November time. It’s difficult to criticise when your team’s performing so well; so I get why the mood has changed, I get why the argument cannot hold so much weight while the team achieves win after win. Unfortunately that can change in moment.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier LeagueI’d like to think there’s been two camps evenly split BUT there definitely hasn’t. There’s been an agenda, yet another bandwagon, a deafening disapproval of our midfield for many months with some justifiable criticism but largely a movement that ignored the plans of Sir Alex and the obvious improvements and has now shamelessly crept silently behind the curtain unprepared to give credit where it’s due…..waiting for its moment to say ‘I told you so’.

Tomorrow night will decide whether those voices return with smug venom, or with respectful remorse. It’s time to see what United’s current midfield is capable of against a Madrid side boasting Alonso, Khedira and Ozil in theirs, a midfield trio that have each been popular acquisition suggestions, a midfield trio who couldn’t get the better of us three weeks ago and isn’t guaranteed to get the better of us tomorrow either.

My money’s on United tomorrow, I have faith in the mixture our squad provides. Would I like to go into the game with a Keane or a Robson? Yes of course, but they’re few and far between nowadays and Carrick will do just nicely thanks very much.

A few RedRants comments (all within the last 9 months):

‘This midfield will get torn to shreds’

‘Giggs and Scholes are past it, Anderson’s unfit and not United quality, Cleverley’s English (say no more), Carrick is static’

‘I don’t ever see us challenging Barcelona or Real Madrid. The end is approaching for Ferguson because he cannot produce miracles anymore’

‘Something that really worries me is how easily teams go through our midfield’

‘Real Madrid will probably knock us out anyway, and even if we get through, there’s always Barca, Bayern and Juventus waiting to dominate our midfield. It would be a futile attempt to go for the CL’

‘our inability to be able to press aggressively to try and win back the ball. Point 2 is pretty much out of the question especially because of the quality of our midfield, or lack of it, and the fact that we continue to be outrun in this area of the park on a consistent basis’

‘Our midfield has always been piss poor’

‘Our midfield has been shambolic for a long time as well and he hasn’t addressed the issue’

‘Also I feel that while Ferguson still wants to win he is becoming a bit sentimental and developing a huge blind spot in his old age when it comes to our midfield’

‘the problem we have stems from midfielders going AWOL’

‘Our midfield nowadays, at some stage, has generally been overrun by every team we have faced so far this season’

‘if we get drawn a stronger club in the knockout stages of the Champions League (which we will!) then I feel we will get slaughtered’

These are just a few examples of what’s been said, all I know is, whoever Sir Alex entrusts to do the work in the middle of the park tomorrow will know what’s expected and give it all and more, if that’s not enough then so be it, I just hope the noise from the midfield boo-boys in the woodwork isn’t too deafening if we go out.

Our midfield could definitely be strengthened BUT it is what it is until the summer. So get behind the boys, boys. They need us as much as we want them to go through, it’s their time to prove the doubters wrong. One way or another, we’ll have the answer about our midfield by midnight tomorrow. Come on United!

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Redrich

    5 March 2013 at 03:21

    When we talk about the MF we are really talking about the ability to:

    i/. Rapidly turn transition into a threat and likewise, rapidly turn their threat into our transition.

    ii/. Controlling the center of the pitch, forcing their attack to the flanks.

    iii/. Feeding creative balls to the front men with accuracy and poise.

    iv/. Provide effective cover to the back line (especially on the counter).

    Do we do all of that? Probably not, but we’re not that bad either!

    I like the way Carrick has been constantly trying for the the killer pass – either through or over the back line. His confidence must be at a high now and the more success he has with this, the more he will try it.
    Giggs’ resurgence has added to the service for the front men (remember his stunning pick out of RVP against West Ham), and if Kagawa can pick up where he left off on Saturday, we have plenty of creative options now.

    I also think the lessen has been learned from the Spurs loss where the MF pushed too high and left our defense exposed to their pace. Good job too because Ronaldo and Co. will tear you apart if left one-on-one.

    What we still lack is a big enforcer type that will maraud in the center of pitch, winning high balls and pressing opponents with aggressive marking. Ferguson has done a nice job disguising this lack by platooning Anderson, Cleverly and Scholes (when he was fit), but in truth, without this player it just makes the job so much harder.

    So really we’re not that far away from a very decent showing in MF – but could it be a case of “near enough to touch, but not strong enough to trust”. I guess we’ll see.

    • Opti

      5 March 2013 at 04:13

      @Redrich: Kagawa is Key in this game, I feel, due to his eminent close-ball control. Usually, with Rooney or Carrick or Cleverly or Anderson, they get crowded and then lose the ball. Kagawa does not. He is like the key to unlock Madrid’s pressure and open up our attacks… that’s why I want Chicharito to add his finishing touches to any chances we create. 2 goals in 10 games for RvP means he needs rest…

  2. The_Philosopher

    5 March 2013 at 13:30

    Ok Ian I see what you’re saying. Our midfield isn’t all that bad becasue well we’ve been winning almost everything.

    Take Michael Carrick out of the equation and what we have?

    If you could remove Michael Carrick for the whole season (from beginning to end)would we be where we are right now?

    And if your answer to that question is ‘no’ then my next question is this.

    Is a one man midfield good enough for a club like Manchester United?

    • Ian

      5 March 2013 at 13:44

      Maybe, maybe not. Remove Ronald-who from Madrid and ask yourself the same question about Madrid.

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