Anyone who’s followed this site since it’s inception-and maybe those few of you, literally, who used to read ‘Name on the Trophy’ will know that messrs Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck are two players I’ve always raved about.
This season has been like a dream come true for me seeing two youngsters who’ve served their apprenticeship, through the youth, reserves, on loan and at under 21 international level finally given the chance they’ve earned.
Since the second half of the Community Shield Cleverley and Welbeck have shown that not just are they capable of doing a more than an adequate job for United, but also that they have a great understanding with each other.
It’s not all been plain sailing for the pair convincing a lot of Reds that they’re ready for the first team. Following the WBA game, I saw and read many tweets, blogs and comments suggesting that Cleverley should be jettisoned in favour of Michael Carrick or perhaps Darren Fletcher once he was fully fit. There was also a growing consensus that Welbeck was merely keeping Chicharito’s place warm until the Mexican was fully recovered from his pre-season head injury.
At half time of the Spurs game, both Welbeck and particularly Cleverley came in for a lot of criticism. I arrived late in my seat for the game, due to waiting to give someone a ticket, so missed a lot of the first half. Checking twitter at the interval I was shocked to see so much vitriol aimed at the two youngsters. It wasn’t long in the second half however before they both combined to open the scoring.
After the Spurs game, came Arsenal where after a bright start, Welbeck was injured, then the following week, Cleverley was the victim of a typical Kevin Davies challenged which has ruled him out since.
It’s no coincidence that since Cleverley got injured, Anderson has gone completely off the boil, putting in performances that seem far removed from the all-action dominating player we saw at the beginning of the season.
At the start of the season, beginning with that second half display at Wembley, United had six players that all seemed to completely gel. Ashley Young and Nani were bombing down either wing, cutting inside and leading defenders into a merry dance, Wayne Rooney, was pulling the strings like a more forward Paul Scholes, Anderson was justifying the faith Sir Alex had shown in him and the two youngsters were linking uo well, and even making United seem like a BETTER version of Barcelona. It was arguably some of the most sumptous football I’ve seen in my 20 odd years following the Reds.
Lately, the team has stuttered, and struggled, with some woeful defending, anonymous midfielders and fairly erratic forward displays, mostly in the case of Rooney, who’s been far less convincing of late.
I’m not having a dig at Rooney, strikers are always going to have ups and downs, and his performances on the whole this season have been sublime, but let’s not kid ourselves, the last few games haven’t been great for the Scouse striker. To quote a fat Spanish waiter, this is a ‘fact.’
It’s easy to think that against Liverpool, United need a five man midfield with Rooney up front on his own, but let me ask you, the way he’s currently playing, would you really expect him to be at his most effective, ploughing a lone forward furrow, and dare I say getting agitated, if he’s not getting the service and support he needs? No. Rooney needs Welbeck either alongside him or just in front of him. Some would argue that Chicharito is the man for the job but I have three points against this.
1. Welbeck is the in-form striker.
2. Of the two Chicharito is more effective coming from the bench.
3. Welbeck’s link up play with the rest of the attacking players has been better this season.
I’m not saying the Little Pea couldn’t do a job against Jamie Carragher or some equally ugly defender, just that Welbeck should get the nod.
Then we come to the midfield, where many Reds believe it’s better to have five men against what will probably be the same number for the Scousers. Here, I think we’re showing Liverpool too much respect. A midfield of Nani, Young, Anderson and Cleverley with Rooney and Welbeck up top, would cause Liverpool no end of problems and I think could put them on the back foot for most of the game. In Jordan Henderson, Lverpool have a very average midfielder, Charlie Adam is talented but lacks any real pace and could find himself chasing shadows if United’s quick two touch interplay gets going, while Steven Gerrard is always a threat but could end up having to do the brunt of the defending rather than actually getting forward and causing us problems.
I know it sounds cavalier but United setting their stall out early and taking the game to Liverpool in a 4-4-2 formation, with the players I’ve mentioned, should be more than enough to beat a team, that aren’t anywhere near good enough for title contention this season. You may think it ridiculous but do Barcelona change their formation or attitude when they face the mid table teams? No. If we want to be as good as them, it’s time we started being more confident. In the past, United didn’t worry about the opposition, we just went to away grounds and played our own way, usually steam rolling even the title contenders.
It’s time to rekindle that bravado, starting with today’s game by starting our two gifted youngsters.
Am I off my head? Do we need to be more cautious? Should we just f*ck it and play Welbeck, Rooney, Chicharito and Berbatov! Feel free to comment suggest and abuse below: