The fear one could attach to the disappointment felt on Saturday at Wembley, is that Manchester United go into the next game only days later nursing a hangover of pity and fail to rebound to focus matters on the League.
Coupled with the fact that the next game is another away fixture at a club who can be awkward at home and fans are left with the thought of a potential for points dropped.
Of course, one would believe that Sir Alex Ferguson would be keen to move on, and will no doubt have etched it in his players’ minds that the focus is on what is next, not what had happened. Unfortunately, the thoughts of the last defeat may have hung around longer than expected, as United came up against a stubborn Newcastle United side looking to secure Premier League status for next season, with Ferguson’s men putting in a performance that, while controlling, failed to break down the Geordie defences, on the way to a frustrating 0-0 draw. And with that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) United’s attack seemed blunt
Newcastle put up strong defences throughout the evening, proving a stubborn force to break down, contributing to a failure by United’s forwards to truly test Tim Krul. As well as this, United seemed to lack a true fluidity to their play to be able to untangle Newcastle’s back four, and find themselves with a clear shot on goal. This frustration seemed to show with Rooney dropping further back in trying to get the ball, and with shots being taken from outside the area by the likes of Nani, Rooney, Hernadez and Giggs. Combined with the fact that the service from midfield was less than stellar, and United found themselves with an attack that never truly gelled throughout the game. For all the possession that United had for the majority of the game, the failure to capitalise and create many chances from this will be seen as an opportunity wasted.
2) The omission of Berbatov was baffling
Many United fans will agree, that Saturday’s game against Manchester City was not one of Dimitar Berbatov’s finest. Wasting two huge opportunities to give United the lead, events may have turned out far differently on a day when the Bulgarian failed to provide much else during the match. Of late, we have found that Ferguson’s preferred strike partnership to be Rooney and Hernandez, with the young Mexican proving to be extremely clinical in front of goal in his debut season, and providing Ferguson with many reasons not to leave him out of the starting line up.
However, one has to question the logic in the way Berbatov is being treated. For a player that feeds of confidence a run of starts is something that could really be of use. As well as this, the fact that the league’s top scorer did not even make the bench, with Michael Owen being preferred is confusing. It is understandable that a rest may have been needed, but when United are chasing a Premier League title, surely the priority would be to have the top scorer available, instead of a striker who has featured a total of 14 times all season? Unfortunately, the gamble failed to come to fruition, as Owen came on for Nani in the late stages of the game, proving to be ineffective in barely registering a touch of the ball.
3) United played well in some aspects
It should be noted that this is not to say United were mesmerising, as mentioned earlier, the attack lacked a killer instinct that allowed a clear sight on goal, leaving a frustrated front line. However, despite this, there were still plenty of positives to take out of the game. First, the defence once again put in an extremely solid showing.
Chris Smalling displayed a maturity in his play that showed he is a more than capable understudy to Rio Ferdinand, and coupled with Nemanja Vidic, made for what looked a sturdy pair of centre backs. Although the midfield was not at it’s best, some still put in a strong showing further up field. Rooney, for example, played some superb long balls, and although kept having to drop deeper in his play, he still put in a strong showing.
Hernandez also looked likely, constantly trying to carve out an opportunity, making darting runs and generally making a nuisance of himself to the Newcastle defenders, culminating in a penalty appeal that led to him being booked for what was perceived to be a dive. Ryan Giggs also showcased his ability with fine deliveries throughout the evening, although one may wonder if fatigue will have played a factor in his performance.
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