We are in the month of December, a month of giving , a period to share, a time to merry and cheer; hence is it safe to say Manchester United have got the Christmas spirit and are in a very charitable mood.
I watched in horror as the mighty Manchester United were knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage by lowly Basel; this has only happened twice previously that United would not make the knock out round; of primary importance is the fact that a certain Portuguese team was involved in the most recent Group Stage upheaval of Manchester United, note to Mitchel Platini please do not group United with Benfica, to United fans if it happens again, approach with grave caution.
If i must give my honest opinion, i must say watching United recently has being quite torturous, the football has not been great, its been slow, no verve, no pace, players seem to be off peak and quite colourless. You then ask, what could be the reason or root cause for this apparent decline; bearing in mind that this is the same team that played with reckless abandon in the early months of the season, although a lot of pundits pointed out that this new approach may just possess more harm than good for United as it left it unusually exposed at the back, based on this I will try to highlight areas or events where things went wrong or took a turn in the wrong direction.
The Arsenal and Chelsea humbling
Fresh off a great Community Shield comeback, United had discovered a new approach going forward, a buzz like never before; United were playing with unimaginable pace that if i dare to say had never been seen before, this got people thinking particularly within the United fold that they just may have achieved a means of closing the gap on Barcelona. Then came the visit of Arsenal and Chelsea to Old Trafford and the buzz reached even higher points, not that United were alien to dishing out a beating to any team, but these games were quite humiliating for their supposed close rivals, but then cracks were been noticed in the United Armour at this time going by the number of chances created by both sides on their visit to OT, especially in the Chelsea game where the defense was cut open a number of times. Remember the Torres miss? United were very vulnerable and it was only a matter of time; this was definitely a double edged sword.
Annihilation by City
Forget about the Johnny Evans (United worst player this season) Red, City were rampant, they played with such poise,verve, passion, panache that was always associated with many United sides of time past. It was terrible to watch even from a neutral perspective. United were colourless, clueless and completely immature. Yes, the side is young, Yes, United are built on an attacking philosophy; but then it is well known that defenses win leagues. For crying out loud, some seasons back United kept clean sheets for 14 straight games; United have built rock solid teams at the back in times past; there was no excuse for this degeneration as up until the 90th minute it was 3-1, before an almighty collapse at the back,not because they were pushing forward,but due to a total collapse in concentration and an idea of what was deemed important.
With Youth comes Naivety
Not to sound like Alan Hanson here, but the absence of experience within United’s back line are also root causes of this apparent reduction in standards. Take a trip down memory lane and recount those young United teams from the Busby Babes to Fergies Fledglings, it was always built on an experienced back line, what this achieves is the elimination of school boy type errors or David Luiz type PS3 control pad capitulations, you have a steady base from either Stepney or Schmeichel shouting their lungs out, arranging, organising the defense. Do you see De Gea or Lindergaard doing that?
Without giving any credit to Newcastle,because they are on a free fall any moment now, but what i admire about them is their consistency in selection, this may be born out of an apparent lack of squad depth, lack of money to strengthen etc, but i can assure you a nucleus of 13-14 players featuring week in week out, will improve team chemistry, bonding and a drive from others outside the fold to fight for inclusion in the team; instead of knowing that you may not have to do much and be sure that somewhere along the line the manager would pick you. Sir Alex has always rotated, infact he held an eviable record of never naming the same side for many years, but then the changes weren’t more than two and the Goalie was always constant, now you have two goalies who may have different philosophies on how they want their back four to shape up in front of them, there’s an apparent lack of Chemistry in this regard.
Will United miss Vidic?
Yes, if Evans is the only logical replacement, Rio has lost a few yards; Jones is too adventurous, Smalling has a calm head on his shoulders.
January Sales anyone?
With Vidic out for the season (based on unconfirmed reports); where? how? what areas can United strengthen? If you’d ask me January is never a good month to sign on new players; no advantage of a pre season, no one wants to sell and if they do; they want you to pay over the odds, remember Torres to Chelsea? Forlan to United?
If at all Sir Alex decides to go into the market, i think the following should be top on his radar; two full backs (Right back and Left Back); we all know Evra needs time off and Smalling is not a right back (makes you wonder why O’Shea was sold), a centre back and a holding midfielder, a proper one at that.
My Shopping list would include;
Daniel De Rossi
Giorgio Chellini (Definitely like for like replacement for Vidic, been playing at left back this season for Juve though. Plus Juve haven’t had any euro commitments; hence wont be cup tied)
Marcel Schmelzer (Should give Evra something to think about)
Just because this is January, i believe this 3 would be just fine to give United the push it needs.
The Europa League (a good omen)
I personally think playing in the Europa League is a positive for United, not because they can win it, but because it avails the club the opportunity to show the world its next line of prodigies from its Carrington conveyor belt (Pogba, Morrison and Keane). Also, the first team can use the time off to concentrate on shutting up their noisy neighbours, with little or no distractions.
Can United bounce back?
Defiantly, Yes. Sir Alex Ferguson’s strong points has been his re-engineering and regeneration, he will see this as a challenge and would be eager to bounce back real quick. Truth be told though, the squad is not good enough, but a lot has to be done about the injuries. Remember Hargreaves comments?
The squad needs to wake up and i can assure you a number of hair dryers and tea cups would be flying if they don’t get their act together ASAP.