Following the Crawley Town horror show, the entire British media has been awash with various rants and observations on which United ‘fringe’ players deserve the chop.
In fact such as been the venom towards certain United reserves, I half expect the crowd at Moss Lane to be carrying torches and pitch forks for the next second string fixture.
Now that the dust has settled somewhat on the sub-par showing on Saturday, I feel it’s time for a bit of sober reflection, coupled with a sprinkling of rational perspective when it comes to which players should be shown the Old Trafford exit door.
While it would be easy to jump on the ‘send the buggers back’ bandwagon, I’m going to save that for later and instead first give my opinion on three fringe members of the United squad who I feel deserve at least one more season to prove their worth.
1. Bebe. One thing that I cannot understand for the life of me is how a player that’s played less games than Owen Hargreaves has for United, is already being consigned to the scrapheap by certain fans. Yes, he’s been abysmal at times and yes, he’s come from -almost literally- nowhere, oh and yes, we could have got Rafael Van Der Vaart for about one million more, but that still doesn’t excuse some of the vitriol that’s been aimed Mr. Correia’s way.
I’m a firm believer in giving every United player a chance, even if they seem well out of their depth at first, but for Bebe, it seems the jury has already returned with a verdict of ‘not good enough.’ Well correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Bebe come from the third tier in Portugal to the biggest club in the world only a few months ago? Wasn’t he signed for his potential rather than being thrown into the first team this season? Okay, when he has played for the first team he’s looked largely unimpressive, but he’s got to be given more time.
It’s ludicrous to judge a player after only a handful of first team games, when he’ only just made such a massive step up and a move far away from his homeland. Bebe’s shown glimpses of his potential and while I’m not saying he’ll definitely make it, I feel he deserves at least a season to prove his worth. A loan move may give both him and United the chance to see what he’s capable of in English football and if Sir Alex does decide to loan him out, then I’m all for that, but getting rid of him in the Summer, for me would be a mistake as not only would we lose practically all the money we spent on him, but also the chance to see if all the hype- weren’t Real Madrid also interested- had any substance to it.
Darron Gibson. I recently wrote an article titled ‘In Defence of Darron Gibson,’ I may as well of titled it In Defence of Gary Glitter, for the amount of negative responses I received. It seems Gibson is practically every United fan’s favourite whipping boy, almost to the point where it no longer matter how he plays.
Last Saturday was a case in point, was Gibson the worst player on the pitch? No. Did he at least make some superb passes and seem willing to have a go? Yes. Did almost all the media and a large amount of United fans criticise him without restraint? Yes. Gibson may not be the best midfielder at Old Trafford, in fact he may be the least skillful and the slowest, but that doesn’t mean he’s completely useless. Unlike some of his team mates, Gibson can pack a decent shot, even if he does often overdo it in the shooting stakes.
As he showed on Saturday and earlier in the season at Birmingham, he can pass the ball as well. I genuinely think Gibson still has a future at Old Trafford, I feel he’s not as bad as everyone says, last season he was somewhat unlucky in that had his strike against Bayern Munich helped see United through to the next round of the Champion’s League, then he would have been lauded as a hero. Yet it didn’t and was largely forgotten. Ditto his brace against Spurs, which helped United finish the season with at least some silverware to show for it.
I’m not saying Gibson doesn’t have his faults, but it seems one rule for other midfielders one rule for him. Take the Rangers game at Old Trafford, he was poor but so was everyone else. That excuse doesn’t wash with many fans for Gibson, but if you criticise Michael Carrick for his no-show in Rome, that’s the first line of defence- everyone was poor.
Then there’s his lack of a consistent run, if you cite that as a reason for Anderson struggling for form, it’s acceptable, yet not for Gibson. It’s double standards a lot of the time with some fans or sections of the media. I may be wrong but I think Fergie rates him- a bit at least- and may give him one more season to prove his worth, if he does, I for one won’t be complaining.
Jonny Evans. I know he didn’t play against Crawley but Evans has long been touted as someone who should be sold sooner rather than later. Like Gibson this may seem about as popular a choice as claiming we should buy back the Djemba twins, but allow me to make my case. Yes, Evans has gone from worrying to alarming in a matter of months, yet good players don’t become bad ones overnight. Evans was an integral part of the 2009 title win, as with Rio Ferdinand out, he played a lot of games in the centre of defence, least of all during part of the record breaking clean sheet run.
The problem with Evans is that he seems to have gone backwards, gradually getting a little bit worse, each passing year. This isn’t wholly true and is far from all his fault. For starters, he’s not been able to form a consistent run or partnership in defence whenever he’s played, which cannot have helped his cause. He’s played alongside, Brown, Vidic, Smalling and Rio at certain times over the past few years and it can’t have been easy trying to gain an understanding with someone, only for the next game to be partnering someone else.
I understand defenders should be able to play alongside anyone and I’m not excusing some of his performances, merely highlighting the difficulties he must have faced. There’s also the added pressure of knowing that when you’re in a bad run of form as Evans is, every mistake is scrutinised, which can only add to your anxiousness. Evans looks to have lost a lot of confidence, but that doesn’t mean he can’t regain it, look at Carrick at the end of last season- he seemed a lost cause, yet now he’s back in the side, practically every week.
Evans was once one of the most talked about young defenders in Europe, there were those inside Old Trafford that rated him more highly than Gerard Pique when they were both at the club. It may seem crazy now but for many Evans seemed the brighter prospect.
Last year, United had a defensive crisis which culminated in Carrick, Fletcher and Ritchie De Laet being a centre back trio for the away game to Fulham. Should United suffer a similar crisis next season, wouldn’t it be better to have Evans still at the club, rather than have to rely on midfielders, youth players or maybe a full back to play out of position?
Evans was a reliable gifted defender just over a year ago, and although he seems to have lost his way, he deserves one more season to prove to himself and United he’s the player we all knew he was. People may look at how Smalling has come in and done a tremendous job, but people shouldn’t forget that was the sort of job Evans used to be relied upon for, maybe he still can.
Coming soon: The players that should be sold in the Summer.
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