Attacking Manchester United

What do Liverpool, Fulham, Aston Villa, FC Porto and Sunderland all have in common? They’ve all scored on Manchester United within the last month.

The champions boasted a staggering number of clean sheets this season, but in recent contests, as the aforementioned sides have proven: if you attack Man U you can break down their defenses and score.

While only Liverpool and Fulham have enjoyed wins, Villa and Sunderland looked perfectly capable of stripping points off United and Porto’s two away goals will give them the confidence to chase victory in the upcoming Champions League match.

The window for taking points from United in the EPL is ever closing with seven matches to play and perhaps the best chance already squandered (Villa’s visit to Old Trafford while Rooney, Scholes and Vidic were all suspended,) but United’s remaining adversaries can take a lesson from the goals conceded: attack, attack, attack.

United have enjoyed many close wins this season, and their 1-0 victories in particular often came from United repeatedly hammering away at a defense-minded side until the deciding goal went in, but since Liverpool scored four goals at Old Trafford on 14 March followed by Fulham’s 2-0 upset the following weekend, Sir Alex Ferguson’s giants have shown they have chinks in their armor.

When Liverpool and Fulham took the game to United and pressed into the attacking third, the champs made mistakes and lost the points. Villa looked the better team by far when they visited Old Trafford on 5 April, but Ronaldo’s second goal gave United a massive lift and they were able to recover and win the match with a stoppage time goal from 17-year old Federico Macheda on his debut. Sunderland also looked perfectly capable with a fantastic equalizer and many brave forays into the attacking third for the rest of the match, but a second United goal was enough to secure the points.

But the clean sheets are gone and opposing sides can see that damage can be done. The question is: is there enough time left to take the points needed for Liverpool or Chelsea to overtake the champs?

Vidic’s suspension and Ferdinand’s injury woes have certainly aided in United conceding goals, but I would argue that United have enjoyed a stigma of being unbeatable for much of the season, encouraging sides to sit back and hope for a point, too often resulting in disappointment. This stigma has since evaporated and Man U’s opponents see the value in chasing the win.

Sunderland looked capable of producing a draw and Villa looked more than capable of a win. While United only needed a small spark to dash the hopes of both clubs, they couldn’t produce this spark against Fulham or Liverpool or prevent Porto from securing two away goals.

While nobody, including myself, will be surprised if United clinch the title once again, I see plenty of room for upset in the remaining matches. Portsmouth, Hull and Boro all have something to fight for. Spurs, City, Arsenal and perhaps even Wigan have shown enough good form feel up to the task.

United are not invincible. Their weaknesses have begun to show. The upcoming fixtures will be telling, but if sides keep attacking, we may continue to enjoy a two- or three-way title race until the very end. We shall see.

7 thoughts on “Attacking Manchester United”

  1. It might also be the fact that this was the defense last season: EVRA VIDIC FERDINAND BROWN, the defense this season has been moslty O’SHEA VIDIC EVANS/RIO/NEVILLE/O’SHEA NEVILLE/O’SHEA/EVANS/BROWN(like twice)/RAFAEL. Notice any difference? Yeah that’d be consistency as opposed to last season. What caused this inconsistency? Injuries. Have teams attacked United anymore than last year? Doubt it. I’m sure any team missing a large chunk of a stable defense like United has done would start to show weaknesses, did you expect the irregular pairings that kept United through the clean sheet run never to get tired, especially when there were limited options due to injuries. But hey feel free to make it as if somehow United have gotten exposed, in case you didn’t notice, could you remind me of a vintage United performance like last season? Nope cuz they haven’t had one. But without these stories, you wouldn’t have anything to write, would you? If this weakness you talk about is injuries to our best centre back pairing plus first choice right back, then maybe you’re right.

  2. Man u still just have too much quality to beat up on the teams not in the top 4. Arsenl should be the only real threat to their 3 points unless Man U give their gmes away. Which they really tried to for the Vill match. I believe the prem is theirs but the Champions league must be beyond them! Just inching past porto Wednesday will be a feat unto itself giving the first match of the tie.

  3. @ Bryan – the defensive back four rotated pretty significantly during the clean sheet record, so your argument holds no water.

    I agree that teams have come out to attack more recently since Liverpool’s win at OT. It’s the same theory which caused Chelsea to have a sub-par performance in the beginning of the season… if you make attackers have to defend, they’re not as effective. Yes, it’s a gamble, as you can get caught on the break, but, in my opinion, it’s better than parking the bus. I also believe that it’s just a poor run of form where United’s mistakes are costing them more often than not. There have been howlers, to be sure, but what team hasn’t had those “WTF” moments?

    That being said, as a United fan, I’m okay with how things are going – I certainly would rather have the 7 point lead with a game in hand, but if you told me that we’d be in first place, with a game in hand at this stage, I’d have taken it. If we need to go back to the swash-buckling 4-3 games of yesteryear to win, then I’m all for it – my heart might suffer a bit from the spastic action, but at the end of the day, three points is three points.

  4. It’s motivation, not weakness. If you have already won it all last year, where do you find the motivation to win it all again this year? If united can tap into that motivation, then they will win.

  5. As I said, I won’t be surprised if United win. But there is room for surprise. Which keeps things exciting.

    I should have mentioned Liverpool and Chelsea have little room for error themselves as we cannot expect the champs to drop many points if they do drop any at all.

    Even with the clean sheets, United have not been dominating like they did last season. Many 1-0 wins. And yes three points are three points. But that should give sides the confidence to have a go. We’ve seen a lot of timidness with mid- and lower-table sides. But Fulham have reminded us that this is a sport where the underdog can topple the behemoth. If Fulham can upset United in such a manner, then Boro, Spurs, Hull, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Wigan and City have just as good a chance as anyone.

  6. As a United fan I really don’t think United have at any point played very well during this entire season.

    A lot of people don’t seem to give credit where it’s due. A defensive line is like a chain. A chain is only as good as its weakest link.

    Last year we had the defensive line of Rio Ferdinand(best CB in the world), Vidic(arguably best defender in the world), Patrice Evra(do I need say more?) and Wes Brown(this kid can read the play very well and see things coming from a mile away).

    This year without Wes Brown we have been relegated to a 21 year old Johnny Evans or O Shea making up our defensive line with our other regulars.

    Johnny Evans is very inexperienced and O Shea is great going forward but at the back he’s prone to making mistakes and has given away more free kicks by far than anybody.

    Wes Brown is one of those players who can break down attacks very quickly and can see it coming from a mile away his expertise is sorely required in the back line.

    A counter attacking side will take advantage of Evra going forward and then with O Shea being a relatively incapable defender you have Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left to do all the defending on their own. Their good but nobody is that good.

    Also take into consideration when United counter attack and Evra goes forward with the ball who drops in behind him in case a counter attack takes place?

    Last year it was Owen Hargreaves who could read the play exceptionally well and quickly break down any counter attack attempt before it got under way but there is nobody to fill that boid.

    With Wes Brown and Owen Hargreaves missing it is no wonder United have not lived upto their potential of the previous season. Really the fact that a broken and flawed United can perform this well is remkarable in of itself with the two of them missing I was confident this season United were going to be broken.

    Fergie is just too smart though with his scouts bringing in fresh new talent to change the flow of the game and snatching away wins in the last few minutes. I doubt they will lose this season and next season they will have a team that isn’t broken if the two players they relied on so heavily return.

  7. Well well well.. what a twist of events it has been for united over the last month or so… however, will Man UTD break down and not win the EPL? Your answer is as good as mine if your logical and not a LiverFool fan, we all know Man UTD can take it even though it will be an interesting ride towards the finish line. Our defence line has bveen good for a very long time with all the clean sheets but lets just not forget what makes our back four’s job harder than it is… and thats our mid-field. Who can argue that our mid field has been the best? I agree with one of the lads who commented on this blog that Owen Hargreves played a major part in reading the game well and stopping counter attacks. I hoped Anderson would have learnt alot last season and probably do well seeing as he is a busy bee and very hard working just like Tevez (who should not be sold by the way), Rooney and Park.

    If our mid field could hold the ball and give out those killer passes and even defend from mid field, we would have many clean sheets. (date back to the clean sheet days and you will see that we stopped many attacks from mid field and took the ball right back to opposition), i know we had a lot of 1 – 0 wins but atleast we did not conced.

    Porto Vs. Man UTD – firstly i dont think Gary Neville is up for such, yes he has the expirience and stamina to last even 120 minutes however i dont think he reads the ball miles away, so who should replace him? Wes Brown would be a good replacement but he is injured, i would put Oshea there or Rafael (because just like Evra, Rafael has speed and can push the ball upfront). Another problem we’ve had this eason is Carrick… some of you might not agree but he has nt been the best so far, he’s not the carrick we used to know these days – so who should replace him? HHHmmm.. difficult one aint it? Fergies just needs to jerk him up again and get him to work his A*** off.

    Berbertov has his moments of brilliance other than that sometimes he just sucks but we need him around. Fletcher recent form has been pretty good, you can tell Park’s hardwoking traits are rubbing off fletcher.

    I am a blood and bone Man UTD fan, am not happy with the way we are playing (i might get a heart attack soon at my tender age by end of season) however we are grinding out results hopefully not for long. We need to improve our goal difference otherwise if twists and turns occur – which they might – our goal difference will not do us any good. I think we can hold a clean sheet against Porto.. thats one of the few things we have been good at this season, we have not scored alot of goals but boy oh boy can we keep a clean sheet (even though we have not done ot of late) and if we keep one in Porto – we will go through. Even though i get the feeling that we need to score atleast 2 goals and not conced.

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