Date: 23rd October 2011 at 6:48pm
Written by:
Phil Jones

The former Blackburn youngster has settled in well

It’s difficult writing after such humiliation; frustration seeps into the choice of words, anger affects tone and the overwhelming embarrassment leaves my enthusiasm capitulated.

I imagine it was easier to keep level-headed on the titanic; not that we are a sinking ship regardless of what our belligerent blue neighbours will have us think.

To analyse the team as a whole today, to ask where or what went wrong is feckless; we got our arses handed to us in our own house and we may as well hold our hands up to the better team. We can look at the sending off, our first-half possession for glimmers of hope but any right-minded United fan must’ve known that we were the weaker team today before the teams took the pitch, the weaker squad before this seasons Premier League began.

It’s been a strange season, our early results against Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea had us all in la-la land. It was difficult not to get carried away when obliterating such opposition by significant margins. I was as guilty as the next person in looking at the number of goals we scored ahead of the way we played, or perhaps more significantly, the way the opposition played. Our southern counterparts came to Old Trafford laying gifts at our feet like we were the second-coming and their generosity led us to believe we could walk on water. The following results against Stoke, Norwich and Basle left our buoyancy in question and today demonstrated that we will now have to swim against the tide to get back level pegging.

Any success that Man City have had to date and continue to have will have been bought, this is a fact and one which cannot be argued against. They have an immeasurable amount of oil-stained money which will continue to be plugged into all aspects of the club. Mancini has spent ludicrously over the odds for players that don’t even make it to the Council House bench. City, and to an extent Chelsea, have a luxury that we, for the foreseeable future, cannot compete with. We would lose in bidding wars with either club when attempting to sign players with a neutral patronage; Essien, Obi Mikel (thankfully), etc. In these cash strapped times we have to be shrewd in our signings; I fear this was the downfall in today’s game and could be the reason we’re not running round Old Trafford with no. 20 come May.
You will cut a solitary figure in Old Trafford to start Glazer-praising; they have been berated since day dot and will be leaving to a barrage of abuse and a sigh of relief but you can’t fault them for the cash injected in pre-season. I don’t know any Red or football fan who expected United to spend £50m+ this summer or was moaning when we did.

We’ve known for a long while that Van der Sar was on route to retirement and would need to be replaced; United did, not once but twice with Lindegaard and De Gea. Lindegaard had a cracking debut in Europe and has been solid whenever called upon. De Gea has been under more scrutiny than any other player in world football since his debut and has produced a string of match-winning/saving performances. Both goalkeepers are talented and could go on to establish themselves in the No. 1 shirt.

I first saw Phil Jones at the 7-1 drubbing of Blackburn last season. He looked demented; absolutely off his rocker, running around Old Trafford like a kid who’d forgot his medication. Not the initial attribute one looks for in a footballer granted, but Fergie, and it would seem the rest of the footballing world, seen something special. Everyone wanted him and we had got him, we had to or someone else would and he was too good to let slip through the net. Once he calms down Phil Jones has all the makings of a world beater, his early performances garnering accolades from all tabloids and, for what it’s worth, the Ingurland manager. He position is centre-back, or is it right-back, or centre-mid, or goalkeeper; he is a work in progress and time will tell where he will fit the mould.
And then there is Ashley Young; the one we did let slip through the net at Watford, approaching Watford an hour after he’d signed for Villa. I had earmarked him as Giggsy’s heir moons ago and was gutted he didn’t join years ago. Young has made the left-wing his tenure and has stepped up in class since he arrived. Young, like the two other summer signings, has proven that he can make the transition to the lofty expectations bestowed when adorning the red shirt.

Three great players who became three great signings who play three different positions already occupied by present United players. Kuszczak and Amos are still at Old Trafford, which means we have 4 keepers who can play first-team football. If we look at Jones in his natural position of centre-back he joins Evans, Vidic, Smalling, Ferdinand. Young can challenge on either wing against Park, Giggs, Nani and Valencia. Each signing we made this summer plays in a position that has 3 or 4 current players vying for the same place. You can’t criticize any signing; they’ve all come in and done considerably well in their roles but do we need so many players for one position. The position/player that needed replacing and where we are weakest is centre-midfield/Paul Scholes yet we didn’t buy one.

Look across the top teams in our league or the top teams around Europe and their lynchpin is generally their centre midfielder. This is where we lost the game today, where we struggled against Liverpool and what will determine our season. Our midfield options are Park, Anderson, Carrick, Fletcher and Cleverly. All talented players in their own right but not a world beater amongst them; Liverpool have a Gerrard, City a Toure, Spurs a Modric, Chelsea a Lampard, Barcelona a Iniesta or Xavi, Inter a Sneijder, and so on and so on.

There is a multitude of speculation for the reason the Sneijder deal didn’t happen but if he wasn’t going to sign then we should have been in the market for someone else of similar ilk. If finance for the deal was the problem then why didn’t we sell players to generate the money? I have shown the excess of players we have without even mentioning our 7 strikers. The question still begs answering why we have kept Berbatov when PSG offered nearly 20m for him and he’s played just once this season?

We can ill-afford to have a plethora of players in our camp whose contribution are null and void the same way that City can. We can’t keep on blaming the Glazers when we are hoarding players who equate millions of pounds. The gaping hole in our midfield was more important to fill than the man between the sticks, was more important than having the countries next big thing on our books and more important than having a player who does the same job as four other players. Today was the bitter taste of what we can expect to swallow for the many, many years ahead unless we sign the correct players for positions we need filling.

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