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.