What Is This Current Manchester United Team Capable Of?

That sound you hear is United's stuttering attack.
That sound you hear is United's stuttering attack.

I sat utterly bemused Saturday as I watched Manchester United altogether inept in front of goal away to their current bogey ground, Craven Cottage. Manchester United lost their second out of the last three matches and fifth league match of the year to Fulham 3-0, a scoreline that flatters the current champions as it could have easily been more. Fortunately for United supporters, top of the table Chelsea were unable to secure all three points at Upton Park on Sunday in what ended a 1-1 draw with the Hammers. Chelsea’s lead at the summit of the Premier League is now at a manageable 4 points.

Shocked I was though at United’s lack of any cohesion going forward. Wayne Rooney seems to still be trying to do way too much in a floundering United attack that appears with little to no creative flair when Rooney is off his game and Professor Giggs is off the pitch. Michael Owen was physically present, but that’s about it, Paul Scholes had a massive stinker and Antonio Valencia was average at best. The injury crisis at Manchester United has proven to be more serious a problem than first thought as two of United’s first choice central midfielders (Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher) continue to deputize in central defense. Darren Fletcher has arguably been one of United’s best and most consistent players all year long. He hunts for tackles, and his work rate is first class – miles ahead of what Paul Scholes has been capable of this season. I understand Ferguson has been left with no other choice at the back, but Fletcher’s presence away from the center of the park is nothing short of a waste for United.

Only when Ferguson finally saw fit to make a change, substituting Dimitar Berbatov for Darren Gibson, did United start to threaten. The now three-headed United attack was a far-cry in terms of ambition and outright chances as the same three-headed monster of Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez from a year ago. It’s recently been reported that Ryan Giggs seems to think United haven’t missed Cristiano Ronaldo. As much respect as I have for the United legend, I think he’s grasping at straws on this one. United haven’t come close to replacing the Portuguese winger this year. Ronaldo, love him or hate him, was a player that could change a game in a split second with his pace, free kicks, and overall goalscoring prowess – the type of player United so desperately need right now to inject a spark in their stuttering attack.

All credit to Fulham as they were superb going forward. Throughout the match they maintained their poise, shape and weathered the few United storms with confidence. If United’s first choice defensive back four cannot get fit soon, Manchester United will continue to leak goals which will ultimately lead to a lackluster United attack. Even Sir Alex seems to agree, “We have to get our defenders back to give us a proper chance of going for the league.” Ferguson as well seems to realize the bandage that is Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick in central defense is a temporary fix at best.

So, to answer my own question: This current Manchester United team can win the league this year. They’ve been average at best for the majority of the season but only find themselves 4 points behind Chelsea in second. Wayne Rooney has been in fine goal scoring from thus far, Antonio Valencia has proven himself to be a fine purchase, Fletcher has been a Goliath in midfield, Patricve Evra is the best left back in the world and the evergreen Giggs, when playing, has already proven he will aid United’s attack. To further United’s chances, the 3 or 4 clubs knocking on the Champions League door seem ready to battle it out – fist fight style – which could ultimately lead to more dropped points from Arsenal, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Liverpool.

This all goes without saying that if the champs can’t get Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic fit and at their best, United will find themselves off the pace of whoever the Champions will be come May.

9 thoughts on “What Is This Current Manchester United Team Capable Of?”

  1. Not sure how we’ll fair while our first-choice CBs are out but I really think we need a CAM in the winter. It’s obvious that our defense is shot right now but even when Fletch and Carrick were in the middle our creativity was sorely lacking going forward. We still need them (Fletch in particular) back where they belong but I think the more pressing issue is the creative force behind the strikers. Rooney, Berba and Owen (who should never start IMO) are constantly coming back to collect the ball in the midfield and our passing right now just doesn’t seem to be good enough to play that strikerless formation reminiscent of Roma of years past.

    Get someone in at CAM (dream signing, Gourcuff) who can make the Scholesy-esque passes but who can also draw some attention to himself as a threat from outside the box or a threat to take a man on and run into the box. Let our strikers play their damn position.

    I’d advocate putting Fabio on the right and De Laet in the middle with Vidic or Evans when they get back. Yea it’s lacking in experience but as Saturday has shown, we come out in incredibly defensive formations and still get scored on. And to add insult to injury, the fact that we’re using two of our better midfielders in defense just means that we’re lacking quality everywhere on the pitch besides the attacking third.

    Gibson on the bench. Ando on the bench unless he’s ready to do something besides pass the ball off to someone and then disappear, Berba in the starting lineup and I think Obertan needs to get on one of the wings more often now.

    I’m probably rambling now but regardless of our defensive problems, we’ve had an issue with breaking down teams that park the bus this season well before the injury crisis and I believed then, and still do now, that a world-class CAM is what we need to get things going in the attack. As for the defense we’ve just gotta hope that we can get some first-teamers healthy as soon as possible.

  2. Common sense disagrees with you about Evra – a fullback’s job is to defend, and Ashley Cole does that better than anyone.

  3. In the last 5 games prior to the one that took place yesterday United scored 12 goals and conceded 2.

    Rooney at the moment is Uniteds top scorer and he is only behind Drogba and Defoe who have 13 goals a piece and share the top position.

    The problem isn’t attack it’s a lack of defense.

    The way United play nowadays is to put Rooney up front alone. It isn’t effective with him being a lone striker but there really isn’t much that can be done at the moment.

    Fletcher and Carrick are both goal threats and when there is a march being made on the net they stay on the outskrits of the box to pick up stray shots and score goals or keep it in the box.

    With them relegated to the back and various injuries in many places the defense is composed of midfielders, the midfielders are being asked to play deeper in their own territory and wider and there is a lone striker up front shouldering all the goal scoring responsibilities.

    So far Rooney this year has scored 12 goals and is the third highest goal scorer and considering hes not been played as often as for example Drogba or Defoe who start every game its pretty impressive.

    Problem is you can’t focus on scoring goals when you have deficencies in your defense.

    As long as there are all these defenders out the team is going to have to do their collective best to reduce the amount of goals that get put past them and try and break away and counter attack with what little they have at the front.

    Having said that though it’s pretty hard to really be concerned.

    With the christmas break coming up it’s a good possibility at least 2 or 3 of the 7 injured defenders could come back.

    It also turns the tables for the opponents because their fixture list is getting more difficult(Wenger and Benitez are right to complain as well, the fixture list seems like it practically picks on teams at difficult periods) and obviously Drogba will be gone for part of the season with the African cup.

    From now till the defenders come back United need to hold on and try and not give up too many points or screw up their goal difference too much if it becomes a difficult run.

    If United are capable of doing that and the defenders return after Christmas their main opponent for the title will be without their top goal scorer and weakened.

    I think the ball is in Uniteds court as long as they can hold steady while they are dealing with the injuries.

    It was a similar situation last year instead United were 8 behind Chelsea rather than 4. Chelseas form dipped while Uniteds improved and in the end United were champions.

    I’m still willing to be quoted that United will be champions like I did last year(and got a lot of flack for it too).

  4. While the attack has been disappointing against anyone in the Top 10, it is the instability in defense that is killing everything. As others have said, even in defensive formations United are still leaking goals. Worse yet the attack is slowed because often Rooney is playing box to box. When he is alone up top, it exaserbates the problem further.

    That said, despite dropping golden opportunities United are only 4 pts behind. If they can get at least 4/6 points over the Christmas games, I feel like United can still win the title. Their main rivals will be hurt by the African Cup and they will get healthy in the back. I think that Valencia and Obertan will also continue to improve in the 2nd half. I’ve really come like Obteran’s pace and technique and think he can become what I thought Nani was capable of.

    Despite everything, at least we are in better shape than Liverpool.

  5. Our defense is completely wiped out with injury–with Evra the ONLY first team defender in the entire squad. I am surprised we held on for as long as we did. I cannot think of any other team that can cope with a completely hollowed out defense injury.
    Liverpool played their full squad in the past weeks and barely managed a win. Chelsea had a sprinkle of injuries yet they hardly picked up more points than us. Arsenal seems to be the only highflyers among the traditional Big 4, but it’s not as if they had stiff opposition in the recent fixtures. Aston Villa may put on another schooling to Wenger’s kids.
    I’ve been a United fan since 1991 and I will stick with my team through thick or thin. Get well soon, Vidic/Ferdinand/GNeville/Evans/OShea/Rafael!

  6. And mark my words, Sir Alex and his cohorts will be out for blood next week.
    If I were Hull City players I’d wish I were never born.

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