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Man United 0-0 Rangers: A Harbinger Of Dour Draws At Old Trafford?

Darren Fletcher Manchester United 2010/11 Maurice Edu Rangers Manchester United V Rangers (0-0) 14/09/10 UEFA Champions League Group C Photo Robin Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Glasgow Rangers’s well-deserved draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford Tuesday night is a massive confidence boost for the Scottish club, but the nil-nil draw may end up being a harbinger of what will come in the Premier League for the remainder of the season.

Rangers made it look relatively easy, but you can guarantee that many managers of Premier League clubs were watching Walter Smith’s tactics tonight thinking that they can replicate a similar result when they come to visit Old Trafford this season.

You would be hard pressed to find other teams that played more defensively than Rangers. Oftentimes they played with a 5-4-1 formation, sometimes reverting to a 5-3-1-1. By clogging up the middle of the park, they literally formed a wall around the Rangers goal preventing Manchester United from getting clear shots on goal and blocking any passes or crosses coming into the box. Except for a couple of shots that got through the Rangers defense courtesy of Darron Gibson, it was flawless. The level of concentration and organization displayed by Rangers was extremely impressive. And one of many highlights for the team was the performance of defensive midfielder (and American) Maurice Edu.

Rangers held on for a nil-nil draw and earned a morale victory by securing the one point. They’ll travel back to Scotland with their heads held up, while Manchester United supporters will feel frustrated that the Red Devils were unable to break down a stubborn defense. To make matters worse, Man United right winger Antonio Valencia was stretchered off and will miss a the rest of the season after suffering a broken leg and dislocating his ankle.

Just as teams have battened down the hatches when they’ve faced more skillful sides such as Arsenal or Barcelona, it’s extremely likely that clubs will also use the same tactics against Manchester United in the league. So don’t be surprised if you see some dire matches at Old Trafford in the coming weeks. But Tuesday night could have been so different for Manchester United if one of three things had happened:

  1. If one of Darron Gibson’s shots was on target, he would have scored.
  2. If Fabio Da Silva wasn’t playing, Manchester United would have been far more dangerous down the left wing. Fabio was absolutely awful at crossing the ball into the box. Each time he knocked it in, it was a gift for the Rangers defense who easily cleared it. When Ryan Giggs came on in the second half, he was able to make several more clinical crosses than Fabio’s weak attempts.
  3. If Giggs had started the game, he would have been able to unlock the Rangers defense. Time after time, Manchester United floated the ball into the box which was easily knocked away by Rangers. But a player of Giggs’s capability would have been able to penetrate the Rangers defense by dribbling past them and opening up space. Giggs showed some of that magic late in the second half, but it was too little too late.

For Manchester United, it’s back to the drawing board now as they prepare for Sunday’s mega clash against Liverpool. Sir Alex Ferguson has a lot to ponder and will desperately be in need of three points to revitalize his side and to get them firing on all cylinders. Right now, United seems like a draw machine, drawing 60% of their games (3 out of 5) since the start of the 2010-11 season.

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  1. BRIAN

    September 17, 2010 at 7:01 pm


  2. d rock

    September 15, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    author forgot

    4. Rangers parked the bus. pretty easy to defend with 9 players behind the ball. would you call that formation a 9-0-1?

    i don’t really have a problem with the team selection. i think Sir Alex was resting the main players for the scummers. there are still more group games to come to make it thru, but we are already far enough behind in the league. i think the tactics would have been a bit different if we didn’t lose valencia.

  3. me

    September 15, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    what if Rangers got the penalty for the Smalling foul?
    What if there shot was a few inches wider?
    What if my Auntie had balls? Then she’d be me uncle but she doesn’t end of!!

  4. Matt Duncan

    September 15, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Last season Sunderland went to Old Trafford and played 4-4-2, closed United down and nearly came away with all three points. That was against a full strength team if I remember correctly so it can be done.
    Last night simply highlighted the fact that the EPL teams can not afford to be arrogant in European competition anymore, although this result is more shocking given the poor standard of Rangers’ squad at the moment.

  5. Dave C

    September 15, 2010 at 10:07 am

    So in a matter of two weeks, you’ve gone from predicting that Man Utd and Chelsea will trounce everyone in every match, and only goal difference will seperate them in the end, to saying that a nil-nil draw is the sign of things to come at Old Trafford?

    I can’t wait till Man Utd lose a game, and you predict they’re gonna lose every game for the rest of the season and get relegated.

    • The Gaffer

      September 15, 2010 at 11:07 am

      Dave, I still contend that Chelsea and Man United will run away with the league, but there’s still a long way to go in the season. I’m not saying that a nil-nil draw is going to be a prediction of what results will happen at Old Trafford… just that other Premier League clubs will try to adopt similar tactics more than usual. Man United will find a way to win these games, but it won’t be pretty.

      The Gaffer

    • premierleaguered

      September 16, 2010 at 8:37 am

      What a fool you are ???

  6. Sir Guy

    September 15, 2010 at 8:58 am

    While I will certainly be watching the Man Utd v Liverpool match I think calling it a mega clash is being a little kind to Liverpool.

    Liverpool is no longer Liverpool, if you get my meaning. They are undergoing a period of transition, which may or may not result in them returning to the form long associated with them. They were a 7th place club last year and currently sit 13th (in a “young” table). If Torres doesn’t come out of his stupor I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be a long season for the Reds.

    As for Sunday’s match, I expect it to be just another home win for Man Utd. Not easy, but a win nonetheless. Of course, off current form, Liverpool just need to remember that as long as there is one second left on the clock United can be had!

  7. MNUfan1991

    September 15, 2010 at 8:27 am

    We have a large squad and we simply cannot play the same top-11 day in and day out. The starters will wear out while the backup will never see game time.
    The draw against Rangers is disappointing, but in the end it really wouldn’t matter. As long as they make it to top-of-the-group (which they will, no doubt) all will be forgotten. If the draw would galvanize our backup players then it will be worth it.
    Get well soon, Valencia. I see no malice in the tackle and hold no grudge at all against Broadfoot. This is football, after all.
    United Till I Die

  8. Paul

    September 15, 2010 at 12:14 am

    Berbatov, Nani and Scholes have accounted for 5 assists and 6 goals in United’s 4 league games. Not having these guys available on the bench really hurt the offensive substitutions in the last 20 minutes.

    I hope Valencia recovers soon.

  9. Charles

    September 14, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Sir Alex will rightly be second-guessed and criticized for resting his starters and playing relatively few of his top players.

    At the same time, you have to think that if a Premiership team plays these tactics against the full top squad of United, that they will leave Old Trafford with no points. There is a huge difference between a United reserve squad and its top flight.

  10. Guitarearl

    September 14, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    Also have to remark on that hideous injury sustained by Antonio Valencia. The contact was pretty minor, and it was one of those injuries that makes you want to yak. Broadfoot saw it in action, and you could see him doing everything he could to maintain himself.

    Everyone wants to anoint Sir Alex all the time, but he came up with this draw when he started a relative B team that wasn’t particularly sharp, expecting an easy victory. A manager ought to be able to work around such tactics. As you said, all it would take was Gibson’s shot being 6 inches lower and this is 3 pts. But nobody looked particularly inspired besides Gibson and perhaps Giggs.

    • Paul

      September 15, 2010 at 12:21 am

      I think that is a big ‘what if’ on Gibson’s shots being on target. I think that part of the reason he doesn’t get a lot of playing time is that he can be trigger happy. As exciting as those 30-yard shots are, they rarely find the back of the net.

  11. RW

    September 14, 2010 at 9:55 pm

    Is the Liverpool/ManU game really on Their schedule doesn’t list the game.

    • The Gaffer

      September 14, 2010 at 9:58 pm

      It’s definitely on Fox Soccer Plus at 8.30am ET, but even though the schedule doesn’t list it (the site is still in beta), I believe the game will still be shown on Let me double check to make sure though RW.

      The Gaffer

      • The Gaffer

        September 15, 2010 at 6:56 pm

        RW, I checked with Fox and they’ve now updated their schedule for to include the Man United v Liverpool game. Good news.

        The Gaffer

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