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The Scope 1.3 – The Microscope – January 2012

Things we lost in the center:

The centre has always been the source of direction and control since the beginning of ages. Isaac Newton will tell you, your movement and indeed of any other object, is based on it’s centre of gravity(which makes it clear that Park Ji-Sung’s is somewhere in between his butt cheeks). The direction and control of the World Police in Langley, Virginia has the first name Central. It is therefore clear that if your objective, whether falling on your butt everytime you receive the ball,or expiring inconvenient dictators, is to establish control and direction, you need to find the centre. And solve it.

Central midfield is the most revered role and zone in all of football. It is still however debatable, whether such reverence is applied at the protestant Theatre of Dreams. And in this belated edition(there’s an apology hidden in there) of The Scope,we’re exploring the months of October, November and December with a focus on the central midfield.


1.“We will not miss Makelele”

Florentino Perez was wrong. Denying Claude Makelele an improvement on his Lego’s set to match his teammates, he went on to declare:

“His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents and ninety percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed more than three metres….He wanted half of what Zidane was earning and that was not possible.”

The greedy bastard. After all, he had only helped Real Madrid win “only” 6 trophies. It took six years for Madrid to win anything since
Claude Makelele left. His new boss,eh erm,Claudio was predictably more hospitable:

“I have a fantastic watch. It is run by battery. Claude is my new battery.”

What both principals were describing in many words, is what the official(French for unimaginative) football term coiners, whoever they are, later called The Makelele Role. The holding midfielder. Basically the only guy allowed to bring a chair onto the pitch.

Since February, there has been a moderate switch at Manchester United, away from the holding midfielder, in favor of a box to box combination, as if in tribute to the Scholes-Keane era of the late 90s and early 00s. This tactical change has definitely come with significant effect. In this era of modern football, the idea of attackers initiating attacks from deep, and unconventional positions,has necessitated the employment of deep lying midfielders that have “defensive liberty” to counter the offensive autonomy of said attackers. It was somewhat puzzling therefore to see this radical shift of tactical protocol by United’s technical staff. Puzzling because later Sir Alex,would declare,

“I think we’re making great strides towards that level Barcelona have reached…”

in reference to a team which, despite it’s highly innovative technical standards and unmatched attack, always deploy a holding midfielder. The general effect in United’s games this season, has been the starring roles the opposition’s attacking midfielders and roaming forwards have enjoyed. David Silva, Balotelli,Suarez,Basel’s Shaqiri,Benfica’s Gaitan , have all had considerable joy playing in the grey areas against United’s mobile two man midfield. The generally unscreened defence has had to face more of an offensive threat this season than ever before. De Gea has come under heavy bombardment in his inadequately fenced bunker. October started with him being the joint most fired at target, in the league, alongside Bolton’s Juuskalainen ….whose club was at the bottom of the log with nearly 100 shots being fired at him. Considering that the 3 sides to have conceded the most shots last season were all relegated, it is puzzling indeed.

It is logical to assume that the idea of a box to box combination, was conceived from the noble premise of enhancing the attack. In the early parts of the season, the highly mobile duo of Anderson and Cleverley were part of a free scoring attack, but also highly promiscuous defence. A similarly jittery partnership of Anderson and Fletcher, left the back four brutally exposed to the sadistic Balotelli and wizardry of Silva during the Old Trafford terror attacks.

Yet in that game, United still maintained almost half of the possession. But without one of the midfielders disciplined in deep positions, it would have been a shocker if Silva and the roaming Balotelli had been ineffective.City completed just 22 more passes than United’s 393, for a team passing accuracy of 86% versus United’s 83%, reflecting how possession was evenly balanced(51%vs49% respectively). But the contrast in attacking areas was fascinating. United had 11 shots, with 4 on target, and only 3 of them came from the 3 forwards used, illustrating the low activity in City’s area. The rest of the shots came from midfield and wingers. Fletcher and Anderson completed a combined 5 key passes, showing how both were assigned to be heavily involved in the attack. This clearly had a detrimental effect on the defence with City managing twice the number of shots at 22 with 7 on target. Their attacking players who tend to play from wide coming into the middle, had a field day, facing only the centre backs as both fullbacks were attacking. Well, trying to attack at least. With a holding midfielder screening, the fullbacks have licence to attack as the anchor drops directly between the centre backs. Without one, your fullbacks need to be disciplined in defence. They weren’t and the rest is his(Mr Phelan) story. The result of not having a defensive screen, has seen a major lack of balance in the whole team set up. Cue Xavi Hernandez with the much quoted

“Michael Carrick brings balance to Manchester United.”

Well not this season. The only match we’ve seen him as a pure holding midfielder was against Bolton when he replaced Cleverley. Against Basel, at home, he was voted man of the match on many forums, with many declaring the return of Carrick’s attacking passing. United scored 3 and Basel had the same sentence. Most football teams with competent spies have already figured out the way past United. Bypass the highly mobile central midfield through the flanks,get behind them and in front of the defence. Outnumbered. Easy as pie. City’s last 3 goals came in after 90minutes of play and all of them used the same formula. In fact,Benfica and Basel, were the first to exploit the lack of a defensive screen in this way and thus passed on the wisdom to the rest of football.

2. The Boxers

It took 70 games for Michael Carrick to score a goal. A goal Carrick is never supposed to score. The mazy solo run, through the middle, showed the general autonomy both central midfielders are being afforded this season. Against Norwich, Fletcher’s positioning throughout the game was evenly distributed between, deep in midfield, on the right side of midfield and in RAM positions. In the same game Anderson was basically everywhere. Two box to box midfielders. A quick search through the global football community will reveal that this combination is now defunct. Except at Old Trafford. Surprisingly, against Basel at OT, United used a 3 man midfield, with Giggs roaming ahead of Carrick and Anderson, with the latter duo in B2B roles. Whilst Norwich lacked the tactical nous to exploit this peculiarity, Basel were not so ignorant. From 2-0 up, to needing a last gasp diving header from Ashley Young, to secure a soon to be useless draw. A similar 3 man midfield setup was applied at big game specialists Liverpool. Fletcher and Phil “Adrenalin” Jones, behind a very advanced Giggs. However, Fletcher was deployed deep as an anchor, limiting the advances of grey area loyalists,Suarez and Kuyt. It was a successful, disciplined performance, which vindicated the concept of maintaining a holding midfielder.

Unfortunately, the idea was quickly done away with, in the following league game. Hosting the heavy metal blue neighbours, Anderson was recalled to commence his sprinting duels with Fletcher. While they sprinted, Silva and co, elected to sneak past them quietly, via the flanks, for a sixer. The next games were predictably cautious affairs, with 3 clean sheets and more discipline in midfield.

With two “boxers”, the intention was probably to create a dynamic attack, but the result has been contrary. The rapid movements in the middle, have resulted in confusion when going forward. Mainly due to the “thou shalt not move from your post” tactics on the wings. Whilst there’s an attempt to be dynamic through the middle,there’s an even greater determination to be predictable in wide areas. Nani has lately come under pressure for less than match winning performances, but he seems to be the only wide player willing to cut in frequently and create numbers through the middle. Unfortunately for him, when he moves in, the forwards don’t move off him, but choose to play it wide again, to the other flank, nullifying the whole process and purpose of “cutting in”- i.e. attacking through the middle. Park, when played wide left, tries to cut in, but is always obliged by gravity and sudden turns of wind. In all this, the boxers are making fruitless and ultimately, pointless runs towards goal.

3. “Cross my ball and hope to die”

Basel’s sole function this season, has been the dedicated task of exposing Manchester United’s tactical weaknesses. In the final must-win, no, make it, must-draw, group match, United dominated possession at 57%, but created one chance throughout 90min, which Wayne Rooney did well to miss. The midfield, contrary to public opinion, has actually done well in keeping dominant possession, at an average of 54%. The issue has been with wing based tactics. It is clear, the desired creative outlet for United’s coaches, is the wide players. At Basel, a total of 46 crosses were attempted, with only 7 finding a target,(mostly the lone midget Rooney). Meaning on average, a cross was attempted after every 130 seconds. Manchester United are 3rd on the crosses per game chart(26), in the league behind Liverpool(30) and Everton(27). It is interesting (and prejudicial) to note the British leadership at these clubs.

It is somewhat puzzling that in the first seven or so games, the attack was based on a more dynamic platform of movement and unpredictable positioning. Mind boggling also, is the fact that, the clearly favored first team frontmen are the shortest. Perhaps the wide play should be adjusted. Patrice Evra is not the best crosser of a football, but he is probably the second top dribbler
at the club. Similar to Marcelo and Dani Alves,who both benefit from the existence of a dedicated anchor, Evra has close ball control, skill, pace and excellent link up play. It seems rather a waste, to not have him as part of the goal threat, combining with the forwards and wingers, with short, penetrative passing. Alves and Messi, have struck a deadly partnership with their link up play, as has Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Given that the (normally unfit) back up full backs have similar qualities, both wings could become potentially lethal forces on the attack with Nani and Young, and their goal threat capacities.

4. Lil Big Man

Nani, is Manchester United’s most influential player,in terms of actual football actions, contrary to most people’s opinions about Wayne Rooney. His influence has been on a par with David Silva’s at Manchester City. With a tackle success rate of 63% vs Silva’s 65%, he has been the best non-defender “defender”, even eclipsing the likes of Phil Jones. He’s only been dribbled past 8 times, with Silva being skinned 17 times. Offensively, Nani’s influence has been essential for the team. Currently the league’s best dribbler,he has already notched 7 assists, just 1 behind Silva. With 6 goals scored, 1 ahead of DS, it is strange that Nani has not been used closer to the goal area as the City maestro. Particularly given the fact that he is the league’s 2nd most creative player, with 48 chances created for his teammates, again, 1 behind Silva. Both players create a goalscoring chance every 29 minutes.

He is also the league’s most prolific crosser, with 27 successful from a total of 121 attempted. And that’s where the comparison ends. David Silva has completed 9 crosses so far, from a total of 49 attempted,but has attempted a total of 1046 open play passes, meaning nearly a thousand were short passes, on the ground(95.3% of his passes). Nani has attempted 675 open play passes, 18% crosses and 82% on the ground. His overall pass completion rate has suffered (70%) when compared to Silva’s 85%, considering that his open play pass completion rate is a respectable 79%. It is clear that a specific tactical adjustment is necessary here, to get Nani in and around goal, and also to make better use of his dribbling and creative prowess, by relieving him from the seemingly pointless task of perpetual crossing.

5. A Jones of all trades

Much of United’s success and failures, have been directly linked to Nani and Phil Jones. Mostly, their proper or erroneous employment on the pitch. Nani was the best player in white at Basel, but was also a big factor in the failure. Crossing all night to the lone , thoroughly ineffective and vertically inadequate Rooney, was a puzzling tactic. Similarly, the short Phil Jones, has had a mixed effect on the team’s results. Considering the fact that Evra has a better aerial duels record, it’s brave to have him at centre back. Fabio Cannavaro,overrated as he was, is probably shorter, but was a master of timing and positioning. Jones has none of those attributes and his displays in central defence have been detrimental to his teammates. Ferdinand has suffered due to his shape disrupting bursts from central defence, especially with no holding midfielder to maintain the balance, as he demonstrated his jittery capacity against Benfica. At right back, he has done well, applying his thunderous speed and dribbling to great effect. In central midfield, he has had mixed performances. His adrenalin inspired style, put Fletcher under considerable pressure against Liverpool. Similarly, out of depth at Basel, playing with Giggs,his passing was functional and mostly unstructured. But he completed 2 successful dribbles and a goal. His performance against Wigan perhaps highlighted his attributes. A number of attempted dribbles from midfield and 1 key pass, shows that he is really happy when on the move. Very Anderson-like in his approach of driving the team forward. Against QPR,his partnership with Carrick proved instrumental, with another key pass, an attempted through ball and 3 shots. It may prove a stroke of genius,converting him into either a permanent right back, or attacking midfielder, as opposed to the next John O’Shea.

6. Global Press-edence

Currently, United is 5th, on the highest amount of shots conceded and climbing quickly to reclaim top spot, after Championship products, QPR,Norwich and Wolves, dared to overtake. This unwanted accolade has been mainly achieved by the abandoning of the holding role, but another issue has had it’s effect. Just like the holding role in midfield, it is a global trend to press high up the pitch. And just like the holding role, United have abandoned this technique despite its considerable success early in the season. Once again, only Nani seems to be adhering to modern football trends, as he is the only forward player willing to put proactive pressure on defenders. The zonal marking defensive system the Reds are using,is reminiscent of the “park the bus” protagonists of the early nineties. And the minute the word, “reminiscent” is applicable, it is clear you’re anything but trendy. Being disobedient to global trends is not without effect, especially when you interact with the rest of the global village, every weekend. Luis Suarez,Sergio Aguero,Frei,Shaqiri and even Pablo Aimar,have pressed United’s unprotected defence into submission and duly infected the back of the net.

At Barcelona, Sergio Busquets or Seydou Keita sit in the middle and send their 5 bull terriers, M.I.X. Fabregas and Sanchez,to pressure the opponent’s defenders and midfielders. At Real Madrid, Alonso is deepest when out of possession as the rest of the players harass the opposition high up the pitch. Most defenders are not skillful enough under pressure, to wiggle out of a tricky situation, close to their goal, so they’ll either hoof it desperately, divert pressure by backpassing to even less skilled goalkeepers or simply direct it out of play.

Either way, possession is conceded, in mostly dangerous areas. Perhaps the same technique should be re-applied by United. Getting into a predictable, two band defensive shape, and retreating, is risky business in the modern game, because it affords the opposition, even more time to structure an attack, or draw a foul, closer or even inside the box.

Most of Manchester United’s problems have come from major technical decisions and tactical peculiarities. The most controversial and consequently, most devastating, has been the retrenchment of the holding midfielder. We really miss (a) Makelele.

[Statistics and analysis does not include Carling Cup matches]

The Telescope will be published separately.


  1. [OPTI]Madschester United

    9 January 2012 at 20:04


    I hope someone reads this at United. I’ll tweet this along with all United tweeps.

    One thing I wish is that you would have a conclusion to collect your thoughts from the previous 6 sections into an “Action sheet” with bullets/drawings of what Fergie/United should do to best utilize players, tactics, etc…

    Great job with the enjoyable and enlightening read!!!

  2. [OPTI]Madschester United

    9 January 2012 at 20:11


    I’d like your take on this: Do you think it is possible to beat Barca without playing a holding midfielder. That is, is there a 3rd class of tactics, wherein one can counter Barca’s strengths (fluidity, movement) and expose their weaknesses (average defense, attacking full-backs)???

    Surely we do not live in a “Be like Barca or Die”-world… or do we?

  3. RMJ

    9 January 2012 at 20:12

    nice article jay…been on vacation and the sunday win is good way to get back into the mix of things. agree with everything that you said. but nothing is going to change. englishmen will always prefer all action sort of players ahead of technicallly gifted ones. a simple example would bevat spurs where scott parker gets all sorts of praise but people completely ignore the fact that he cant string one intelliget pass together. sandro and modric are far superior players but neithergets as much respect as parker, why? cos he playsin the english way

    • Stephen

      9 January 2012 at 20:16

      @RMJ: That is simply not true and a little offensive, most English journos have been raving about Silva and Modric this season.
      The press worship Barca so gets your facts right before you post mate….

      • RMJ

        10 January 2012 at 14:24

        @Stephen: I was talking about fans more than journalists. One only needs to look back to our eearlier games and the general fans dissatisfaction with carrick because he supposedly passes sideways and doesn’t tackle enough.

        The thing is silva plays rather high up than his counterparts and is a goal threat while Carrick isnt and wont be in the headlines long enough to constitute genuine praise.

        • Stephen

          10 January 2012 at 15:03

          @RMJ: Bro, Carrick is a decent player but hardly World Class. To blame “the English” for only wanting Roy Keeane type players is some what sterotypical and truthfully wrong. At OT and with the fans Carrick is popular, we just want someone who can put their foot in to complement.

  4. RedDevilEddy

    9 January 2012 at 20:37

    Loved it, absolutely loved it. Brilliantly written Jay, I love these articles so much you have no idea. I am quickly becoming your biggest fan ๐Ÿ˜† Remember I’ve always been on your side regarding Carrick, I think that deserves some mention! ๐Ÿ˜‰ :mrgreen:

    Just want to add(or ask?) that I don’t really want United to transform into a Barcelona-type team without any real striker. I’ve always loved our 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, and I want us to stick to that. Of course going into a 4-2-3-1 would not be shabby at all, it’s just that every time United have tried out their 4-3-3 variant it’s bloody digusting to watch! And I also like us to play a wide game, surely that is possible despite adding more central prowess!

    And my question to you is: What do you think about Welbeck? I know you like modern, intelligent players, and everything I’ve seen with Welbeck reminds me of the kind of “modern” playmaking striker that can bring this club forward. Your opinion?

  5. colver

    9 January 2012 at 20:55

    OPT you are crazy talking about beating Barcelona. To play Barcelona we actually have to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League!

    As Jay Wire correctly points out our kamikaze tactics and a certain Phil Jones are part of the reason we failed to qualify. In Europe tactical gaffes are exposed much more effectively than in the Premier League. It is no coincidence that even as Anderson and Cleverley were getting lauded in the Premier League at the start of the season we have been rubbish in Europe from start to finish.

    The only teams that has matched Barcelona under Pep has been Chelsea in 2009. Inter were lucky with the Volcano and everything and various divine intervention. Chelsea were Barcelona’s equal in 2009.

    To play two legs against Pep’s Barcelona and only go out very unluckily on away goals and only concede one goal over two legs deserves some serious respect.

    Their midfield? Essien, Ballack, Lampard. Very robust, hard working, physical midfielders.

    We do not have that personnel.

    Carrick while a good holding midfielder is no Makelele (or Essien) and Anderson and Cleverley are not the same calibre as Lampard and Ballack back then.

    • [OPTI]Madschester United

      9 January 2012 at 21:25

      @colver: I used Barca as a measuring stick…

  6. d

    9 January 2012 at 21:52

    Absolutely amazing read. I’ve been craving a real analysis of the team’s play and by god we got a doosy here don’t we.

  7. Moscow is my heaven

    9 January 2012 at 21:56

    Fantastic. Pure joy to read as usual JayWire.

  8. Craig Mc

    9 January 2012 at 23:40

    Louis Nani
    1. PL’s BEST Dribbler
    2. BEST non defender – defender, 63% tackle success, only dribbled past 8 times – so NEVER a skinned sausage ๐Ÿ˜€ .
    3. Great with assists and would have far surpassed Silva if only our forwards weren’t shot shy or could shoot straight ๐Ÿ˜† .
    4. PL’s 2nd most CREATIVE player, 48 ahead of his team mates.
    5. PL’s most prolific crosser – but needs to be set free from shackles of wing play – as Nani has stated Fergie won’t allow him to play the kind of freedom he has playing for Portugal. Where he is so effective, the Portuguese reckon he is every bit as important to them as Ronaldo and some say more to them in all round play than Ronnie.
    6. One that Jaywire missed – is that Nani is PL’s most marked player – usually 2-3 opponents marking him together. See our opponents coaches know that he is a player that can hurt them if given room to play his game.
    7. Only United player adhering to modern football trends by proactively pressing up on opposition defenders.
    8. The player most abused and bashed by his team mates petulant behaviour towards the littlest mistake he makes. Hope his team mates are reading this article by Jaywire, same for Fergie and the coaches. They need their eyes opened m’thinks ๐Ÿ˜€ .
    Well haven’t I been telling you all this for bloddy ages – he is one of the finest yet most United FAN under rated player in our team. The lad is better than you all think and I am glad that Jaywire has shown how. It is not me being biased as I am oft accused of, it is just that I have seen all of this, and as one who has watched the lad in all the Portugal games, I can tell you that the way they employ him is to their benefit as he is unshackled and so much more effective.

    • Stephen

      10 January 2012 at 10:03

      @Craig Mc: Way you describe Nani mate it looks like he was unlucky not to pick up the Ballon d’Or ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜†

      • Craig Mc

        10 January 2012 at 18:31

        @Stephen: I didn’t describe him tho mate – I was just re-iterating THE TRUE STATS that Jaywire stated clearly in his article. You can’t deny it, so you gotta live with it mate – otherwise tough titties. Too many stats there to ignore. If Nani adds more goals to his game – he would be nominated for the Ballon de what not, and why not ๐Ÿ˜€ .

  9. Craig Mc

    9 January 2012 at 23:45

    Thankyou Jaywire for this article, and all the good points and giftedness of some of our other players if as you say they were more effectively employed!

  10. Nuevo

    10 January 2012 at 05:50

    jaywire: just the other day i was wondering where the ‘Tarantino’ of this blog had disappeared and I see this today. Absolutely brilliant and spot on analysis. Real eye opener about Nani being the best defending ‘non defender’.

    Btw just reading the part abt Nani, I was sure Craig would be jumping up and down with joy and there it was in the comments ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜†

  11. Ritesh

    10 January 2012 at 06:16

    Absolutely brilliant post, hope someone can get it to Sir Alex to read

  12. Daniele

    10 January 2012 at 09:55

    Superb read Jay, the most compelling and in-depth analysis of our season so far!

  13. Stephen

    10 January 2012 at 13:01

    As much as I was delighted to see Scholes back on Sunday and he probably passed the ball better than any United player has done this season, the is more of an intrinsic issue here. Scholes for all his quality is yesterdays man, in the past for me he has been one of the best midfield players in the World, but he is 37. Watching Henry last night who is a sprightly 34 and lean, his legs obviously have also gone by the wayside but his finish was superb.
    We are now just wallpapering over the clear cracks of our at best average midfield at worst dire. Would Carrick, Anderson, Giggs and even Fletch get into any other Top four side in Europe? Maybe but not the blue chip clubs looking to win Leagues and Champions Leagues.

    Fergie said this after our bungles efforts to get Wesley Sneijder:

    “The young boy Pogba is showing great promise,” he says of the boy who could be shaped to become the next Paul Scholes.
    “We are quite positive about him. If we hold him back, what is going to happen? He will leave in a couple of years’ time when his contract has finished.

    “We have to give him the opportunity to see how he will do in the first team. He has great ability. He has the physique and athleticism.

    With him now being linked from AC Milan to Man City, what message does Scholes coming back send to him? We simply have no faith in you? This is how I would see it. United are a massive name in British football, but outside of this Country not so much, similar to Bayern in Germany. Fergie seems to live within his own legendary self, he has too many yes men now surrounding him and too much loyalty with players who are simply past it.

    10 years ago would he have stuck with an ailing Gary Neville, Giggs and Scholes I would say no. Fergie has been in the past good and even a little premature in letting players go, now he has almost done an about turn.

    This could be down to several things, money, we have spend less than Sunderland and Stoke in the past few seasons the Glazers certainly are not here for the love of United and the managers talk of value in the market is certainly somewhat of a contradiction when he spent ยฃ18m on Carrick who was available 2 seasons prior at ยฃ2.5. Berba was hardly cheap and could now walk out on a free very soon and lets not start on Bebe and Anderson.

    We are now either going through a transitional season, with Modric, Tiote all being lined up for a summer swoop or Fergie has lost his touch, senses and worst of all judgement. He has been a magnificent manager, but at 70 can he still cut it?

    I hope so as I would hate to see him go out like Brian Clough….

    • [OPTI]Madschester United

      10 January 2012 at 14:13

      @Stephen: I see the Scholes “signing” as a genius public move against the money-pinching Glazers. They are cornered now and I can only imagine that this summer will either:

      1) see Fergie leave the club after being denied proper funding from God Damn Glazers
      2) Fergie will spend the Glazers into selling the club to Singapore stock exchange…

      Before Glazers, Fergie wasn’t exactly known as buying “value”

      • RMJ

        10 January 2012 at 14:33

        @[OPTI]Madschester United: I will beg to differ with both OPTI nd stephen here…for me the fact of the matter is Pogba isnt ready and a premier league blooding at this stage is too much of a gamble.Our academy hasn’t churned out any midfielders of note since the fledglings and this has been a real problem for us. We have had excellent strikers and defenders turn up but no midfielders which follows the above mentioned implications of jaywire’s post in the context of english football. If anything I am surprised that Pogba hasnt followed Cleverly’s footsteps and headed to a year in the championship and later with a struggling premier ship side where he will get both the attention, training and experience he needs to make the next step?
        I think Fergie is banking on Cleverly making it back but i really do worry since we are short a defensive midfielder if Carrick gets injured.

        • Stephen

          10 January 2012 at 15:17

          @RMJ: In March Pogba will be 19, a year younger than Wiltshere, hardly a kid is he?

        • RMJ

          10 January 2012 at 15:33

          @Stephen: LOL but fact of the matter is he is wasting away at reserves and needs to spend at clubs where he can mature..Cleverly took a while and he spent 3 years at different clubs, which i thing more than contributed beneficially to his football

        • Stephen

          10 January 2012 at 15:41

          @RMJ: In theory that would be ideal, but the lad will potentially leave for Milan. If we give him some Premiership minutes this might encourage him to stay and sign another contract. He is renowned as one of the hottest prospects around and we surely want him to stay. Sometimes you have to hack off a limb to save a tree, yes he might not be ready but you will never know unless he plays.

      • Stephen

        10 January 2012 at 15:06

        @[OPTI]Madschester United: I agree but we have a player who is looking potentailly leave the club in the Summer and we will never know if he could be the next Fabregas or Wiltshire who have both broken through at a similar age.

    • Craig Mc

      10 January 2012 at 18:43

      @Stephen: I am concerned about your jusgement mate regarding scholesy being our best passer – errm wasn’t his pass responsible for leading up to their 2nd goal! However you are very right about Fergie’s ramblings these days – make no sense, and about Pogba – it all looks like Fergie just trots out answers like a conveyor belt of ‘well I have to find some excuse’ for why my team is being allowed to run down.

  14. colver

    10 January 2012 at 15:54

    Agree with you Stephen. We have no qualms about buying youngsters who are 18 and 19 from other clubs and giving them immediate first team action (Rooney, Ronaldo, Smalling ETC). But when it comes to our own youngsters we seem to have an overly cautious approach.

    That may pay off with British youth products such as Beckham, Cleverley and Welbeck who all benefited from loan moves and a slow introduction to the first team.

    Incidentally with Fergie’s fledglings one of the reasons we could afford to be patient is we had very good first team players in their positions (Kanchelskis, Ince, Irwin ETC)

    It is difficult to see how a depleted midfield can justify such a slow development process for Pogba. I mean for christ’s sake he didn’t even get full games in the Carling Cup

    But foreigners with itchy feet have no loyalty to our club and if not given first team opportunities they will go elsewhere.

    And Ferguson is WELL AWARE of our policy of slow development so it is very hypocritical to use Pogba as a reason for not buying Sneijder when Pogba is not going to see regular first team action for at least a couple of years even if he stays at the club.

    • Stephen

      10 January 2012 at 16:04

      @colver: Colver, I totally agree, we seem to fast track players we bring to club but not our own. This obviously could be down to the large transfer fees we outlay for the likes of Smalling, Jones and even Ronaldo at the time.

      Fergie has always had a blind spot when it comes to the centre of midfield, bar Keane and Ince this is an area which he has been lucky with. Scholes, Butt, Fletch, Giggs and Beckham were youth products, Robson he inherited. Webb was a failure as was big money moves like Veron. Carrick I would argue has only been a moderate and expensive success. Kleberson, Djemba Djemba, Liam Miller and Phelan were disasters.

      He got away with playing Mclair, Fortune and Phil Neville there who were out of position, for me this has been his Achilles heal at United.

  15. colver

    10 January 2012 at 16:12

    Agree Stephen. Unfortunately I do not really think we will see a solution in this area of the pitch so long as Ferguson is at the club. As you pointed out he seems to be banking everything on Cleverley.

    A midfield of Carrick and Cleverley is not bad at all. But I wouldn’t say it is good enough to mix it up with the best teams in Europe. Especially when you consider the back-up is Anderson and Fletcher.

    Maybe Pogba will be the next big thing. But I doubt he will stick around long enough for us to find out. In any case I am not really comfortable putting all our hopes on potential when there is a very real need for a quality central midfielder who can make an immediate impact. And if Pogba follows the expected path of going out on loan next season we are another man down especially as Scholes will presumabely retire again next season and Giggs cannot go on forever.

    I know Mourinho does not have any fans. But he has not been shy to overhaul teams (Inter; Real Madrid) and I would love for him to give our central midfield an upgrade.

    • Stephen

      10 January 2012 at 16:20

      @colver: Cleverley looks like a decent prospect but we can hardly put all our eggs in that basket. We need at least two other options, also we are the only top side in Europe still playing 4-4-2.
      Mourinho never over hauls sides, the problems Inter are having currently is that they are too old. He did brilliantly with the players he had, adding an aging Pandev and hardly a spring chicken in Milito were good signing but hardly anything radical, they were also champions when he took over. With Real they finished second with a ridiculous amount of points, he again has just taken them on, but they were already a terrific side. But as a motivator he is second to none, bar Fergie.

    • [OPTI]Madschester United

      10 January 2012 at 16:42

      @colver: Not sure why people are saying that Cleverly is not the answer and that by banking on him, we place all our eggs in one red basket.

      Clea(ver)rly, the first 5-6 games + preseason says that he IS the answer – he has the brains, the abilities, the movement, youth, and pace to make it at United — what he lacks is experience, but that takes time.

      Carrick (as mentioned by Jaywire) is capable of improving United when played properly and holding midfielders don’t need pace (ask Makalรฉle) so his age is not a problem (yet!). Carrick is another basket.

      Pogba has the technique to become a great player but seems a tiny bit too arrogant after his stellar season in academy+reserve and thinks he should be a feature at United currently. Pogba needs to learn from the sidelines for now and bide his time — also, playing with two inexperienced CMs (Clevz and Pogba) would be suicide…. let Cleverly breathe while Pogba learns.

      That’s two good midfielders with youth on the sideline.

      Fletcher, Djemba Anderson (<— harsh, I know – sorry Eddy), Giggs, Scholes, and Park will fill out the team and provide the much needed stamina and experience for the entire season.

      CM will need a makeover and it will come from the "fillers" being sold and improvement acquired. Pogba will be eased in next season and Cleverly+Carrick will be the starting pair when both are healthy.

      All eggs in different baskets.

      United will be fine as we are just experiencing growing pains, hiccups, and other maladies associated with Title 19 and an aging squad in need of re-vamping.

      PS: I got lost in my own thinking and this does not exactly state what I am trying to say, but the general gist is: WE'RE FINE. Let Pogba learn or leave and let's clean up our fillers.

  16. Stephen

    10 January 2012 at 17:01

    I have never said that mate, I take it by people you mean me. He looks a cracking player but we need more than just one option. What if he gets injured or looses form? Most sides have more than one option, they have four or five players who are of better standard than we have that is all I am saying.
    For me Carrick is not Makalรฉle, he is more of a Pirlo a deep lying playmaker. Makalรฉle used to just break up play and tackle, Carrick simply isn’t very aggressive unlike the Frenchman but can pass which he can’t. For me they are very different, Carrick would thrive playing with him and someone like Cleverley who likes to get forward while he doesn’t have to get his hands dirty, relied upon to get goals but can dictate play.

  17. Jay wire

    10 January 2012 at 17:54

    OPTI-Thanks mate. On playing against Barcelona without a holding midfielder, the truth is, playing against any decent team without one, is dangerous. I really meant, even the much lauded Barca, with all their innovations and new techniques, ALWAYS employ a holding midfielder. Just like everyone else. The role was actually made popular by their rivals Madrid, so it’s not something Barca initiated. Beating Barcelona, is no easy task to be frank. If my stats are right,since Guardiola took over, they’ve only conceded more than two goals once. When Inter beat them 3-1. They’re solid defensively and are the most dangerous attacking team. But Arsenal, Chelsea,Shaktar,Inter etc, have shown that,with the right tactics, you can push them. Pressing from the front is not a choice. It’s a must. A holding midfielder is also a must. Clinical forwards are a must because you’ll have very little opportunity to attack. Similarly, lightning quick, counter attacking should be incisive. Especially from wide, like Arsenal did, and Real Madrid in the first half in December. They hate fast wingers like Di Maria. The only team that seems to be on an equal footing technically, in my opinion, is AC Milan. They seem to match them pound for pound historically.

    Eddy. To tell you the truth, I don’t want United to be like Barca. It kills our identity. But we have to acknowledge at some point, that they’re undeniably reshaping football technical concepts. When Arsenal played them at the Nou Camp, Jack Wilshere exclaimed that he had never run or done as much football work in his career. Coming from a player whose team failed even a single shot, even off target, that tells you something about Barca technical standard. It’s just what it is. In the late 80s, Milan were that team. No one had seen such technical ideas before. But the rest of football learned the new techniques and incorporated them into their own concepts. We never seem to do that at United. Look at Madrid. They’ve always played a direct style of football, but they’ve now incorporated high line pressing as Barca do, and use possession football as well. Still direct, but they’ve adapted, and in my opinion, have been the most enterprizing team in world football this season. But don’t look like a Barca replica, even if they have adopted some of the technical concepts from Barca

  18. Jay wire

    10 January 2012 at 18:02

    Credit to Ian for the apt pics. Totally spot on esp the Nani vs Silva one.

  19. colver

    10 January 2012 at 18:09

    OPT: Scholes and Giggs should be gone next season. Park is NOT a central midfielder. Anderson and Fletcher are very average.

    So my point stands. Our midfield is Carrick and Cleverley. We are stuck in a 4-4-2 that falls apart when either of these players in injured. And while Cleverley has been impressive in the games he has played he has also missed a ton of games. Injury prone or unlucky? Too early to tell.

    In any case neither Carrick nor Cleverley is world class. Am I asking too much? Maybe. But it hurts when teams like City have world class central midfielders like Toure and even Tottenham have world class Modric and Barcelona have Xavi Iniesta AND Fabregas

    And against the best teams in the world you really do have to play three in central midfield to stand a chance.

    We were suicidal last summer against Barcelona lining up in the final with Giggs and Carrick as our midfield.

    I don’t fancy either Fletcher or Anderson to slot into a three man central midfield. So there is a very real need for us to buy an extra central midfielder this summer. We are most certainly not fine!

    • [OPTI]Madschester United

      10 January 2012 at 19:04

      Get rif of Scholes (legend!), Giggs (legend!), Fletcher (ouch!)
      Promote Pogba and use Anderson as sub/filler
      Buy 2 CMs (one est. star <26yr i.e Modric/Hamsik mold and one young super talent <21yr i.e. Gรถtze mold) for 50-60 mill total OR just get ONE established star and let Jones be groomed as our "new" young CM.

      Midfield = {Carrick, Older Star, Anderson, Cleverly, Young Star, Pogba}. SORTED.

      For attack, we're fine but should get rid of Berba (ouch!) and Macheda unless he improves in coming 8 months and bring in another youngster either bought or youth team (Keane?).

      Defense, we need to make Rio a backup or sell him to Qatar and make up our minds on Rafael and Fabio then get 1 good young CB — Sakho (he will be expensive!!!!)

      In goal, we need to get rid of either DDG or Anders and stick with one #1 keeper … cannot stand this Carroll/Howard-esque rotation going on…. my bet is on DDG due to his youth (and transfer price).

  20. Craig Mc

    10 January 2012 at 19:07

    Jaywire – mate I am a little disappointed that you didn’t highlight that NANI as well as Berba are United’s best players at FIRST TOUCH ๐Ÿ˜€ . But then I can highlight it for you, and I just did ๐Ÿ˜† . Oh yes!

    • Moscow is my heaven

      10 January 2012 at 20:30

      @Craig Mc: I’d like to see Nani berate Rooney for a change – for his first touch! Lil Man takes a lot of heat from Wayne, I don’t know why.

  21. Moscow is my heaven

    10 January 2012 at 20:37

    We need at least two top class central midfielders and perhaps a squad midfielder as well for next season. We should use the summer pre-season to test drive a new 4-3-3 formation, with Rooney flanked by Nani and Valencia.


    Anderson (please, just leave)
    Fletcher ๐Ÿ™
    Giggs (retirement)



    • [OPTI]Madschester United

      10 January 2012 at 22:11

      @Moscow is my heaven: Anderson should suffice as a squad player — on his day he can be sublime. Assk Eddy ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Moscow is my heaven

    10 January 2012 at 20:40

    Alternatively, we could tap up Wilshere ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

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