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Cracks Continue To Show At Manchester United


Just how serious is this mini-crisis at United?

Manchester United currently sit third in the Barclays Premier League table level on points with Arsenal (who have a game in hand) and 5 points behind league leaders Chelsea. But how much is Sir Alex relishing this most recent International break? Will the time off give him and his players time to reflect on their recent performances? All facts point to Ferguson righting the ship as United historically start slow to their season only to brush off the cobwebs before making a Championship winning run (see under the previous three years and time after time since the Premier League’s inception). But does this current United squad have the depth & mental focus to reach the summit again? More importantly, can this current crop stay fit and or reach match fitness before it’s too late?

In recent weeks, multiple United players have publicly spoken out in regards to their current situation. Nani, Ben Foster and Tomasz Kuszczak have all whined to the media in what must be viewed as major annoyances to Ferguson and minor distractions to the squad. I realize these three players aren’t the back bone of the current 3-time league champions and if they were to suddenly vanish from Old Trafford in January, many a United supporter would shed not a tear. But the very fact that these players have chosen to speak out as opposed to keeping business in house speaks volumes of  Ferguson’s ability to control his players, a strength that’s benefited Ferguson in the past.

  • Portuguese winger Nani was quoted as saying, “He shouts at players in front of everyone“, which is a laughable, whimpering comment in and of itself but is sure to infuriate Fergie. Nani has also recently made public comments about certain “broken promises” after the departure of his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid – Nani’s lack of “big game” playing time the source of his complaint. Upon Ronaldo’s departure, it was widely agreed upon that Nani and United newbie Antonio Valencia would fight for supremacy on United’s right flank, a battle that the young Ecuadorian Valencia has thus far won. It’s safe to say Nani’s future at United looks a bit cloudy. Recent reports suggest Italian giants AC Milan and Juventus are both keeping a watchful eye on the young winger. With the January transfer window fast approaching, Nani will want to produce more performances like he did on the weekend in Lisbon v. Bosnia Herzegovina in his country’s World Cup playoff or he’ll likely be off to Italy.
  • Kuszczak’s “joke” about Edwin van der Sar not supporting him enough was little more than a minor distraction from the second choice keeper, but again a distraction nonetheless. The “joke” part of his comments only came out after the comments were made to assure a sense of lightheartedness from the Polish keeper. Let’s keep in mind this is a crumbling United defense no where near the form of their title-winning seasons. Both ingredients (Vidic and Ferdinand) of United’s world class central defense of campaigns past have suffered poor form and injury concerns this year in their attempts to protect either one of the three United keepers to see action. What United strive for is a cohesive and (pardon the pun) united back line whoever the keeper may be.
  • Last but not least and most recently, the now (after a series of errors – see under the Manchester derby) third choice United keeper Ben Foster has spoken out about his “disheartened” status as third choice keeper but assures he has no desire to leave. After England’s lackluster 1-0 defeat to Brazil over the weekend, Foster was quoted as saying “I’m third choice for United yet I’m playing for my country“. Again it’s not the depth of how serious Foster’s comments were, it’s the simple fact that he feels the need to speak out at all. Foster is a keeper with loads of potential to have a fantastic career both at club and international level. But he’s young, he’s prone to mistakes and he hasn’t yet earned even second spot at United. He needs to learn to keep those kinds of comments to himself for the betterment of the team. Foster will earn his place, with time.

When you place these comments in the grand scheme of United’s long season, they may not have the impact Chelsea or Arsenal supporters wish them to. But when put into context with United’s current state of affairs, (continued injury concerns, Fergie’s recent run-ins with the FA, etc.) these comments become niggling, annoying distractions. It’s plain to see that Fergie’s recent comments directed towards officials have succeeded in shifting focus from his team’s average play. But is real punishment consciously or subconsciously being handed out on the pitch?

Regardless of your opinion on the matter, I believe Fergie will right the ship. I’m unsure if United will win the league this year, especially if they don’t spend in January. Wayne Rooney continues to impress for both club and country but he’s carrying too much weight for United. As much as I like watching Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen try to fill the gap for United, I know their inconsistent form cannot be counted on in big matches and towards the business end of the season. They simply haven’t proved it yet.

United need to spend some of the £80 million they received for selling Ronaldo to Madrid over the summer. With Spanish side Valencia in the depths of a financial mountain, United should be willing and ready to splash on David Villa and or David Silva to add creativity and partner Rooney up front. United have the potential to win the league and possibly go far in Europe this year. If Owen Hargreaves can return and reach his best form, if United splash some cash in January for a more consistent striker to partner Rooney and if United’s central defense can reach form of season’s past, then United can with their fourth consecutive Premier League title.

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  1. Roy

    November 21, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Just wondering what people think of the Henri handball (France v Ireland)? I found it fascinating that in his after-match interview Henri said he did not intend to do it. That’s a load of balls for sure. You are aware when you put out your hand, and he did. If the ball had come to him in that same position in his OWN penalty area, his hand would have gone AWAY from the ball. Does this make him a “cheat” ? – the answer is YES!

  2. Roy

    November 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I agree, they will be back, but the fans are hungry for more and more success – especially a record 4 in a row (not to mention going one more on Liverpool). I wouldn’t call it “mortgaging the future of the club” when they have over 80 million in the bank. If you want to stay at the top, you have to invest, and invest regularly. If there are cracks, and I believe there are, then buy somebody and fill the cracks. I don’t agree with being complacent saying it’s OK if they don’t win things for a few years. That’s not good enough in my mind. United are a great club, with great traditions. SAF once said… “Coming 2nd is not an option”. (PS: And remember, Fergie is not infallible – he didn’t recognise the talent of Torres did he?).

  3. Thomas

    November 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Agreed JLay.

    SAF generally has sold off players at the right time, Beckham, Ruud, Staam, etc.

    Before the most recent run of titles, United went through a definite dry spell, rebuilding. Remember the days of the 5-4-1, etc.

    United will be back, it just might be a year or two.

  4. JLay

    November 18, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    United have lost great players before, and will lose great players again. As long as Fergie is pulling the strings we’re in good hands.

    The youngsters we’ve brought in may take some time to grow into their roles, but we have a VERY promising bunch in Obertan, Anderson, Valencia, Tosic, Gibson, Wellbeck, Macheda, Fabio, Rafael, etc. Nani may or may not finally “get it” this year – if he doesn’t one of the opthers will. Fergie has a gift for identifying and developing young talent – I’ll take his opinion over anyones, including Wenger’s.

    Silva, Villa, Aguero, Dzeko, and the like would be great, but transfer market values are hopelessly inflated right now. Why mortgage the future of the club for a quick fix?

    How spoiled we’ve become after winning the last few titles! Enjoy the competition – it’s good for the game.

  5. Thomas

    November 17, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Lack of creativity and a faulty back four is the biggest concern.

    When you look at United’s line-ups, they really don’t have any creative players. Nani has flashes of brilliance, but tends to dissapear.

    You can have a midfield of Carrick/Fletcher when you have Ronaldo roaming in front of them, scoring and creating. Not when you are relying on Valencia, Nani, Obertan, or Park.

    • Roy

      November 17, 2009 at 11:36 am

      Lack of creativity is the main problem. Arsenal have Fabregas. Take him out of Arsenal and they have big problems. One news comment I read recently (by a Brazilian coach I think) was that ENGLAND need to be able to “dribble more”. Who in the United line-up is a dribbler? Nobody. Ronaldo did it, but who has replaced him? Nobody! Somebody like David Silva in the middle can do it, which then creates a spare man elsewhere and the goal-scoring chances will flow. United often grind other teams into the ground. Pure pressure! Barcelona showed them how to pass and dribble you to death, and United had no answer to it (I am sorry to say). Obviously I am a United fan, but do not wear Rosey Coloured Glasses to all they do. In many ways I am their biggest critic. I really want them to do well, but this year they have only played 2 games worth watching (Spurs and Chelsea). Unless they do something in the January transfer window they will not win the EPL this year. Even then any newcomer will need time to fit in (United should have bought earlier). SAF “must” get out the cheque book soon, before it’s too late.

  6. Shaju

    November 17, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Current squads only prob is the lack of a player who could really shoot the ball. With CR7 in the squad, goals were coming even from 40 yards, and now even from the 10 yards area, its hard to find the back of the net. I agree with Sarah..on how cr7 cemented the cracks.
    Rooney is the steam of utd, and what is needed is a Ruud like guy who is out and out striker.

  7. Shaju

    November 17, 2009 at 2:04 am

    Yes, just one Creative midfielder + a differnt combo up front if playing 442. Instead of Berba-Rooney it should be Rooney-Owen/any of young strikers macheda/wellbeck/ even J King. Berba and Rooney has fundamentally same style, which is to play to link up as a second striker, and cant work together to score goals. Both are hestitant to shoot balls.
    But as Rooney can be subbed, Berba should be playing in the somewhere just below the hole to link plays.

  8. karshy

    November 16, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    i think a partner for rooney upfront is the last thing we need….we need some creativity left midfield…someone like schweinsteiger , or silva…..and fergie needs to continue with he 433 with which we tore chelsea a new one

  9. Richard the Red (Devil)

    November 16, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    Leave it to a Liverpool supporter to slag off United.

    • Jesse

      November 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm


      Thanks for leaving a comment. You’ve done something no individual has done before in inspiring me to break my rule of not joining in on discussions where I’ve written the article.

      Some rules are meant to be broken.

      I am not, and will never be a Liverpool supporter. No offense to them, they’re a great club with great tradition, just not my taste. You may be quite surprised to find out who in fact I do support with all the passion in my mind, body & soul after reading the article, but stick around, I’ll reveal it one day.

      Hint: It’s not the Worthington City U11’s.

      • Richard the Red (Devil)

        November 16, 2009 at 9:06 pm

        Well the egg is on my face, mate. I assumed that The Gaffer had written the article since it is on his site so there is my Liverpool assumption. I apologize for my lack of attention to detail. Anyways, you must be either a City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds, Bayern, or FC United of Manchester supporter to write such drivel. I kid of course. Cheers!

        • The Gaffer

          November 16, 2009 at 9:30 pm

          But I’m a Swansea City supporter?

          The Gaffer

          • Jesse

            November 17, 2009 at 8:11 am

            So you’re sure it’s not possible for someone to take off their rose-colored glasses & take a hard lined, critical look at the very team they support?

            OK, you got me, I’m United through & through. But I challenge everyone who is a United fan & even those who let their feelings known on this article to re-read the piece, but this time, take a step out of the “Manchester United being the greatest thing since sliced bread mold” & really get the overall ideas from the article.

            Yes! there are multiple view points surfacing from the post, that was the point. It wasn’t supposed to be clear & concise, it was created to spark questions, to encourage debate. It’s early days still, probably too early to tell if we’ll win our fourth straight. But there’s obviously something not quite right at Old Trafford, it may be minor & easily fixed, but still, it’s something.

            It’s going to be another great season at United, I’m sure of it. I still feel we can do deep into Europe & promise you we will be there or thereabouts come May. Thanks for the input.

  10. Sarah

    November 16, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Ronaldo was essentially the cement that covered all the cracks at United. With him there, they could rely on him to get them out of a sticky situation, and now that he has gone everyone has been found out, and it seems like they are in shock.

    The money that came in for Ronaldo should have been spent on a 40m+ superstar, but instead they cheaper solutions were selected, so now SAF has to divert attention away from his disjointed and aging squad, by focusing the attention onto himself buy criticizing the refs.

    Its going to be a very interesting January with Man C, Man U and especially Chelsea, all going for a few star players that are available. I am sure that Chelsea will pip Man U to any players as they have to, as the ban reprieve will not last past the January window.

    • Roy

      November 16, 2009 at 2:29 pm

      I agree to some extent. Ronaldo did score some match-winning goals at tricky times. I can’t see that happening again, unless of course Owen is given more time. If any player has the “knack” of popping up, it’s Owen – but SAF won’t give him a decent run. I still believe they need David Silva in the middle.

  11. Darren

    November 16, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I think people are under-estimating Manchester United and, more especially, Arsenal.

    Chelsea are injury-struck in a sudden twist of fate, which doesn’t bode well for a team that will be hit with the absence of some key figures (Drogs, Essien) come February and the AFCON. This isn’t to say Chelsea won’t continue to win, as they have been irresistible in attack, but their gums look a bit bruised and should have a bit of an issue biting with the same aggressiveness as recent matches have shown. This type of tenacity will be missed should a tough away trip to Arsenal in a fortnight still show a long injury list, although Wolves at home in the coming week should be a walk in the park for the Pensioners.

    Arsenal is and will continue to be the black horse of the Premier League. I’m backing them for a very close second place come May. Still young, the team is beginning to take a mature, devastating shape. As the likes of Jack Wilshire and Theo Walcott join Samir Nasri, Andrey, and a hopefully soon healthy Van Persie, we are looking at an Arsenal squad full of energy, ambition, and attacking deft. As Febragas grows with each game, this team is frighteningly good. HOWEVER, lack of big-game experience, typical bad luck, distraction, and narrowness of roster will prove Arsenal’s shortcoming. The first three points were evident in the team’s unfortunate loss to United at Old Trafford earlier in the season while Cesc Fabregas will threaten to break hearts very soon with talk and eventually action in a return to you-know-where and Wenger will struggle to put a striker of Van Persie’s prowess in his place should a lengthened period of injury occur. That being said, I am backing Arsenal to beat Chelsea at home in two weeks and will stand corrected if they can rise above their failings and take top honors in May, which does remain a possibility, albeit not the one I believe will prevail.

    All roads then lead to, you guessed it, United winning their fourth straight. By all means, SAF’s men may not seem to have hit the same form that took them to such sweeping success in prior seasons, but that is the scary part. They have achieved, in typical United fashion, without playing their best, and I fear for the rest of the Premier League when top gear is reached. It may seem a cliche, but slow-starting United have been in a transition so far this season. You can ask any United fan and probably any member of the United staff what the best XI would be and you would get a different answer, yet the squad is so capable of putting out a winning team every time. I’m backing Carrick to reach his best form after Christmas with the protection of boys like Anderson, the returning Hargreaves, and the all-dominating Fletcher, while Scholes can play a similar role to give him a break. Darron Gibson may also show that he has the class to step into an already very talented central core. Talk of United needing a “creative player” in the midfield is nonsensical, as United have been and are more successful breaking down the game in midfield and creating chances through wingplay. The times they have been unsuccessful this season have been the times this tactic has not come off, but I suspect we will see this become a more consistent success for Sir Alex. On the wings, Nani may or may not be given much more of a chance (especially in light of his dissent), but he is not the player to give United its creativity on the left wing. Zoran Tosic, the soon-arriving Adem Llajic, and Gabriel Obertan are going to fight like hell for this spot, and my money is on Obertan to have it locked come Christmas. The kid has looked expert on the ball and something tells me United’s attacking stride will be met with his full adaption to the team. Valencia on the opposite flank is coming right as an effective Premier League winger, while Park should see his appearances increase with a rotation of Giggs and the aforementioned wingers also at play. This midfield is a madly talented unit and why doubts have been cast over it in the manner they have is beyond me. It just has yet to hit top class. Mark my words, though, it will!
    Cue the “weak spots”, our forward and defensive lines. Michael Owen should be given more of a chance to shine while Rooney is playing the best football of his career. I do think a player in the mould of Ruud Van Nistelroy, a true finisher of greater pace to Owen, will be necessary in coming seasons, but I do not think it will be a shortcoming this time around. Berbatov may or may not improve (give your team less ‘goals from nowhere’ and more sitters!), but he is an asset as will be Danny Welbeck and, less so, Federico Macheda. In defense, Evra is the best fullback in the League, while Vidic, Evans, and Ferdinand prove to be rock-solid at the back. Brown will probably be used in his usual utility role to good effect, rotating with O’Shea in the right-back role, but this is really the position United need some improvement. Fabio and Rafael are young and amateurish at times, brilliant at others, but will not cut it for the top flight THIS season. Should someone like Phillip Lahm come through in January, United will have the best defense in the league. That leaves Van der Sar who, perhaps with the exception of Petr Cech, is big arms and hands above the rest.

  12. elvido

    November 16, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Roy, I agree, Silva and Dzeko would complete the squad!!!

  13. Roy

    November 16, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    It’s true – it’s not much of an article. Just words that mean nothing. My gut feeling is that United will NOT win the League this year, but they will come close. To me, their biggest problem is in midfield (lack of creativity). They have all the workers (Anderson and Fletcher especially are playing well), but Carrick is struggling (a shame coz I like him). Even if Hargreaves comes back, he is not exactly a “creative player”. I think they need a David Silva. Forget David Villa. A good creative midfield player will create chances for the likes of Rooney, Berbatov and Owen (not to mention Valencia).

  14. Richard

    November 16, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Is it the first time United have had “quotes” from players that could potentially disrupt the team? No.

    Moreover, the 3 players in question include the 2nd and 3rd choice goalkeepers and a winger on the verge of being ousted by a distinctly average (right now) winger in Obertan.

    To even include these quotes in an article pondering the teams possible success is ludicrous. I think Chelsea will win the league, but not because of 3 dissenting fringe players.

  15. Wow

    November 16, 2009 at 10:42 am

    This is a terrible article. You contradict yourself time and time again. Make up your mind, will they win the title or not!? To say that Michael Owen has shown “inconsistent” form and even put him in the same responsibility boat as Dimitar Berbatov also shows ignorance on your part. How many minutes has Michael Owen been on the field compared to how many goals he’s scored? Do the same mathematics with Dimitar Berbatov. Owen has performed superbly.

    • Tyson

      November 16, 2009 at 12:46 pm

      This website is going downhill fast thats why nobody replies with comments anymore a lot of people have just stopped reading.

      • The Gaffer

        November 16, 2009 at 1:08 pm

        Hi Tyson, thanks for your reply. I disagree with you. The number of comments and web traffic to the site are up. Monday mornings are typically very slow on the site as everyone is getting back into the saddle again with work after their weekends.

        The Gaffer

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