There’s a pattern emerging this season.
It began to be habitual during the middle of last season, but now we’re seeing it clearly.
United now are only involved in two types of games. There’s the game where we score in the dying minutes against the defensive teams. And there’s the free scoring, high drama games where we play teams that have a go at us. And that’s it.
It’s beginning to get a little frustrating to look at an opposition team sheet and know exactly what will happen for the next 90 minutes.
Defensive opposition games this season : Rangers (home and away). Valencia (away). Wolves (home, league). Man City (away). Sunderland (away). etc etc etc
Offensive opposition games this season : Wolves (home, league cup). Liverpool (home). Everton (away). Villa (away). Bolton (away). etc etc etc
You can’t even say its down to particular teams. Mick McCarthy brought a Wolves team to us in the League Cup and were offensive and exciting. But for the league game were defensive and dull. It’s a pretty depressing scenario for the fans. Within five minutes of kick off we’re set for the game. It’s pretty easy for me to say I prefer the offensive opposition, the element of danger and unpredictability, but then we’re tending to draw these games this season whereas the “Fergie-time” winners against the defensive teams probably earn us more points.
So it’s no good the fans getting on the players backs during the defensive games. There’s not a great deal we can do. Because we’re United, the press conclude that we’re playing badly but I don’t always believe that to be the case. I think perhaps that there’s something else we need to look at: Two teams.
This may seem a bit silly. In fact, the last time Fergie tried this by signing Veron just to play Champions League games it backfired. But is the answer now to have different players for different situations? Do we need a certain sort of acquisition who’s in the team purely to unlock the 9 man rearguard we’re faced with? Do we need a proper defensive midfielder for the games where teams really come at us?
What do we have for these situations currently? I’m pretty sure Fergie bought Berbatov for the ‘Cantona’ moments he could provide during the tight games. The moment of genius that unlocks a stubborn opposition. But it’s simply not working. Berbatov slows down our play to the point where the opposition defence always have time to re-organise. It’s a simple fact that this wasn’t the case with Tevez and Ronaldo in the team. On the flip side, against attacking teams are our full backs suitable ? I love Evra and Rafael. I genuinely do. But they constantly get exposed and cost us goals, particularly this season, against sides prepared to gamble and attack us.
My suggestion (and I’d genuinely love to hear yours): I’d buy a small, low centre of gravity,world class creative offensive midfielder/striker to sit behind Rooney for the tight games. (Hello Aguero or Marin). I’m getting fed up with every wide player looking back infield for Paul Scholes and then Scholes feeling under pressure every single time he receives the ball to play the killer defence splitting pass. We desperately need more variation here. Oppositions know this is going to happen and park two midfielders in front of Scholesy time and again.
And I’d buy a KICK ASS tough defensive midfielder to roam the area in front of the back four, and cover the frailties. (Hello Annan or M’Vila). If an attacking opposition play two strikers, with the foremost striker being a tough, strong target man, then we get horribly exposed by the knock downs.
To conclude, and reading this back to myself it becomes painfully clear, that we are really missing Ronaldo and Hargreaves. In 2008, where we cleaned up, Hargreaves was the first name on the teamsheet against the higher profile attacking teams, and Ronaldo was the perennial flat track bully, offering genuine genius defence splitting moments and plundering goals for fun against teams that parked the bus.
Yes, I’d love to think that Tom Cleverley, Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, Magnus Eikrem are potentially the players we need that we already have. But I don’t think they’re ready. We either endure the dreaded “transition” period, or we invest in new players now.
We need a team for each occasion, otherwise this season’s mundane predictability will continue.