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Ferguson’s Defensive Dilemma


What an incredible week it’s been in world football –

  • The hype of the World Cup draw lived up to the anticipation with more talking points than an O’Reilly Factor marathon. The England v USA debate has just started and I imagine it won’t end until June 13th, 2010. The group of death, who will go through, which teams will underachieve, which teams will overachieve – all these points have been at the fore front of our minds and will continue to raise interesting debate for the next 7 months.
  • The Premier League returned with yet another loss notched in the column of a Big 4 team when Manchester City beat visitors Chelsea 2-1 at Eastlands Saturday. A lackluster West Ham United side fell to a vastly superior Manchester United allowing the Champions a chance to pull within 2 points of the league leaders.
  • A highly entertaining weekend in Italy’s Serie A saw what I believe to be one of the goals of the year so far when Juve’s Claudio Marchisio lifted the ball over Inter Milan’s Julio Cesar to score the second and winning goal for Juventus. Also in Italy, Roma prevailed 1-0 in what ended up an open and flowing Rome derby and AC Milan thrashed Sampdoria as the Rossoneri attacked with purpose led by Ronaldinho.

I recently opined that a mini crisis was going on at Manchester United, but after this weekend, I admit I was wrong. The nagging, annoying comments made by some of Manchester United’s “B squad” were nothing compared to the defensive problem Sir Alex Ferguson now has on his hands. Fergie hasn’t had a defensive crisis this serious in his 23-year reign at United with a long and ever growing list of defenders out including both Da Silva brothers, Rio Ferdinand (calf and back), Nemanja Vidic (flu), John O’Shea (dead leg), Johnny Evans (ankle), Gary Neville (groin) and Wes Brown (hamstring).

Not that it really mattered in the end, but Saturday’s 4-0 destruction of West Ham saw Michael Carrick come on to replace Gary Neville at center-back. (No that wasn’t a misprint, Michael Carrick replaced Gary Neville in central defense). In fact, Manchester United’s back four at the end of the match consisted of Carrick & Evra in the middle, with midfielders Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher rounding out the back line.”Losing the defenders we are at the moment is becoming a bit of a headache for us“, said Ferguson after Saturday’s match.

The lucky thing for the Red Devils is that even with that make-shift, rag-tag back line, West Ham never threatened, you never got the sense they could or would score. Tuesday’s midweek Champions League trip to German Champions Wolfsburg will be a different story than the match at Upton Park on the weekend. Manchester United will only need a point to win their group and will look to do so on the last matchday of the group stages in their hopes of securing an easier match in the round of 16 come February. When Wolfsburg visited Old Trafford in September, United came from behind to win the match 2-1. This is a Wolfsburg side that is unbeaten at home this season in the Champions League and are very capable of scoring goals against United.

How long can United’s patched up back line hold up? United is now only 2 points behind league leaders Chelsea and with Aston Villa visiting Old Trafford this weekend they’re certainly not in the luxurious position to drop points if they want to stay in this title race.

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  1. Gaz

    December 7, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    But they’re still in first place.

    Love ’em or hate ’em (or really, really hate ’em), they still manage to do the business despite these dilemmas.

  2. The Gaffer

    December 7, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    Bad news for United. Rooney and Berbatov have been added to the injury list, while John O’Shea and Jonny Evans will both be out until January:{B4CEE8FA-9A47-47BC-B069-3F7A2F35DB70}&newsid=6643889

    The Gaffer

  3. Tyson

    December 7, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    8 defender injuries is unreal.

    To make matters worse Rooney is playing up front as lone striker due to other injuries and problems there.

    Fergie knows exactly what he is doing through with 11 goals and 9 points in the last three games.

  4. Nick

    December 7, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Certainly gonna be interesting to see next week’s match!

  5. Marc

    December 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    United flew off to Germany with a very young squad. I am eager to see what the team selection is going to be.
    Gill Carrick Gibson Evra
    Park Anderson Scholes Valencia

    • Jorge Curioso

      December 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

      All those injuries, and still no Nani. 🙂

      • Sam Davis

        December 8, 2009 at 12:07 am

        Nani OUT!

        Seriously though, I’m not sure what’s gonna happen tomorrow but if you thought the way we’ve been coming out in the last few matches (4-5-1) was boring, I’m not sure you’ll be able to make it to halftime.

        Then again, trying to determine how this “backline” is gonna perform against Wolfsburg might be nerve-wracking enough to keep us into it. I remember the laughable defending in the 3-3 with CSKA (I think we were missing only Rio then) and this backline isn’t even close to that level of quality.

        “The nagging, annoying comments made by some of Manchester United’s “B squad” were nothing compared to the defensive problem Sir Alex Ferguson now has on his hands.”

        Cool story, bro. At least try to give the illusion of impartiality next time.

  6. Anonymous

    December 7, 2009 at 10:45 am

    Barca won the Champions Lg not United

  7. Mike

    December 7, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Aren’t United soon to go to the Club World Cup?, that could be tough on their injury problems as well.

  8. Jorge Curioso

    December 7, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Sorry for the OT aside, but I had a question: how does one assign an avatar to one’s identity here? I don’t see how to get to a page where this is possible.

    On topic, United just seem to keep on winning, not whining.

    p.s. Along those lines, what happened to that Liverpool fan blog? I looked forward to reading about Pool’s latest shattering disappointment from a fan’s perspective.

    • The Gaffer

      December 7, 2009 at 10:05 am

      Jorge, both are good questions. For your avatar (this applies to all readers), register for free at and then your avatar should start showing up on this blog.

      Ethan Armstrong is still writing his Liverpool blog entry each week. I’m sure there’ll be a new one coming soon.

      The Gaffer

      • Jorge Curioso

        December 7, 2009 at 2:13 pm

        Thanks, Gaffeur!

    • ovalball

      December 7, 2009 at 11:54 am

      Thanks for asking about the avatar. I, too, have wondered, but wasn’t smart enough to ask. 😀

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