Date: 31st December 2011 at 4:59pm
Written by:

Not a happy birthday

New Year’s Eve and the birthday of one of the most successful and celebrated managers in football. Manchester United played host to Blackburn Rovers, a side in which their manager, Steve Kean, had been the subject of many taunts and calls for his head by the club’s own fans. Many other managers had publicly backed Kean but their struggle for form subsequently left them languishing at the foot of the table. A trip to Old Trafford may not have been one they had been looking forward to. As for United, a side that had been ravaged by injuries of late had a mix and match look about them as they took the field. Michael Carrick partnered Phil Jones as central defenders, while Park Ji-Sung and Rafael Da Silva in the centre of midfield. There was no place for Wayne Rooney in the side altogether (put down to a lack of fitness), so DImitar Berbatov, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck all started for United. The bench was a strong of teenage names, with the returning Anderson and Lindegaard the only established players on the bench. The game started well enough, United were very much in control, although creating little. A slow and fairly steady start. An unexpected twist. 15 minutes in and Dimitar Berbatov is judged to have brought down Samba inside the box, and the resulting penalty was swiftly put away by Yakubu to give Blackburn an unlikely 1-0 lead. The first half continued in much the same way as it had started, although United began to show a little more urgency in their play. However, they could not break down a resolute opposition that meant going in at half time down by a goal. Half time saw the ineffective Hernandez replaced by Anderson, who moved into midfield and although the centre looked better for it, things went from bad to worse as Yakubu beat Carrick and Jones and grab a second. Immediate response as Berbatov headed home from close range after Rafael’s shot. Game on. United surge forward, with Valencia down the right hand side being a constant source of attack. 10 minutes later and the equaliser is achieved as Berbatov fires home first time from Valencia’s pass. The search for the winner begins. United kept possession as Blackburn allowed little space for manoeuvre, defending effectively in numbers. With United continuing to press for a winner, it was not until the last 10 minutes of the game that it was settled, but in an unbelievable manner. Blackburn won a corner, the kick came in and a half hearted attempt to punch it away by De Gea was not enough as the ball was won by Hanley, beating the United defenders on the line to give Kean’s side a shock 3-2 lead. From there, despite having possession, United failed to respond effectively, causing a shock on Ferguson’s birthday that would have left him in no mood for celebrating. One hopes that the side regroup with lessons learned for the trip to Newcastle. With that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.

1) Time to give Lindegaard a longer run?

Throughout this season, I have defended David De Gea, citing his inexperience and his acclimitisation to a new league and style of play as a major factor to the quality of his performances. Sure enough, early on he was shaky, leaving many to doubt whether or not United had truly got themselves a quality goalkeeper, given the price tag (reportedly) of £18 million. However, his performances improved, displaying strong shot stopping and a high standard of distribution. Certain aspects clearly needed development but it was all part of a process. Now it would be ridiculous to state his career is finished or that he will not be good enough in goal for United, I still believe that with time and patience he will find himself ready to sit behind the United defence. However, one could argue the time has not yet come, and in the meantime there is an adequate understudy to take over for a while at least. Lindegaard has been consistent whenever called upon this season, and has given little argument to be kept out of a starting place, perhaps explaining Ferguson’s tactics of changing them from time to time. Has this logic been harmful? The side has been chopped and changed enough this season without also varying the goalkeepers regularly. Certainly one must admit that De Gea, although clearly highly talented still does not take command of his box as he should and looking particularly prone when it comes to corners. Perhaps it is time Lindegaard got a run in the team for the time-being.

2) Blackburn took their chances

With minutes to go, and United 3-2 down, and interesting statistic popped up. United had had 4 attempts on target as opposed to Blackburn’s 3. For all the possession, the corners and potential United had going forward, all they had to show for it was the solitary extra attempt on target and being a goal down. One must admit Blackburn worked hard, defended well and took their chances as and when they were presented to them. For United, it summed up a frustrating afternoon where they could and should have done better. Even considering the number of injuries, the side that was put out should have been capable of better but struggled to breakdown a resilient Blackburn side.

3) Park and Da Silva do not make a midfield partnership

This as well as the pairing of Jones and Carrick in the centre of defence displayed the lack of depth in the United side a the present time due to injury. Some have suggested that Carrick and Da Silva should have switched but initially the selection made sense as Carrick would appear to be strong defensively than the much more attack minded Rafael. This will give weight to the argument that some sort of strengthening needs to take place in January, not necessarily to revolutionise the squad, if only to bring quality and a little more depth to a side that is clearly being hindered by injury at the moment and leading to the use of players out of position. In fact, the day could have been the ideal occasion to use one of the youngsters on the bench who would be playing in roles they were accustomed to playing, Pogba for example. The team selection is not the sole reason United failed to win on the day, given the possession the side put out simply should have done better, but it did highlight the issue of depth in the squad at present.

4) Berbatov – full of energy and posing a threat

After his hat trick against Wigan, cautious fans were quick to point out, perhaps correctly, that the one hat trick against a struggling side does not prove his worth to the side when one considers his time at the club. However, his performance at Old Trafford on Saturday was definitely one of the better ones on an otherwise disappointing day. Despite conceding the penalty, in which there was a tussle between both players that ultimately led to Berbatov bringing Samba down, he made up for it with a well taken brace. Certainly one cannot accuse the Bulgarian of lacking energy as he tracked back to defend as well as posing a threat up front. The issue going back was his marking of Samba, a clear mismatch that called for someone else like Jones to deal with him as Berbatov struggled to get the better of him all game.

5) Return of Anderson, where was Rooney?

Before the game, Sir Alex Ferguson explained the decision to leave out Wayne Rooney, stating that he had not been training well during the week but that hopefully he would be ready for the Newcastle game. This statement suggested a lack of fitness, but the decision to leave him out clearly backfired, as having him as an option on the bench would have at least provided more depth to a side that failed to breakdown the opposition effectively. Finally, the return of Anderson from injury was seen. Naturally he would not be starting so soon after recovering and it was a gamble to include him but it felt necessary to bring him on for the second half. The midfield certainly looked better with him involved and the standard of play increased, but alas his efforts were to no avail as United dropped points and gave Manchester City the advantage in the title race. Happy New Year, indeed.


14 responses to “Five Things We Learned – United vs. Blackburn”

  1. Lionel says:

    I personally think that De Gea needs to go out on loan and gain some premier league experience because right now he is too much of a liability especially when you have Linderggard who can do the job. Rafael had no business playing centre midfield and it showed, and am still amazed that Rooney and Giggs were not on the bench! Also I really do not like it when Welbeck is playing wide since it’s not his natural position and he tends to make similar runs with the strikers and we end up lacking with on both sides of the pitch

  2. jarul says:

    this is what you deserve fergi
    for your birth day

  3. Anneeq Anwar says:

    Luckily this hasnt been too dear a loss when we look at the other results with Chelsea losing 3-1 and Totenham drawing 1-1. Of course tho all eyes will be on City, if they score 5 past Sunderland, itl be really difficult for Man Utd. This is why the derby game at eastlands is going to be so crucial, cos itl be the only time when the points city are going to get will be in our hands cos they’re not going to lose many!! Defo a must win……..

    The goal keeping position is a tricky one, cos De Gea isnt a bad goally, he’s actually been one of the best. Sure he has periods of nervousness but hes 21 and hes human. Certainly after seeing the near perfect goal keeping of Van Der Sar we shouldnt be too demanding, I mean VDS left a pretty high standard! But at the same time tho, we cant ignore that Lindegaard looks more assured between the posts, and hes been solid. On merit i think he deserves a longer run.

    • Lionel says:

      There is no doubt that De Gea is talented but right now he is not ready to play for United, he lacks confidence and command in the goalpost and as you can see he gets ruffed up in the box a lot. He is really in need of a loan move to gain premier league experience and he really should bulk up a little b/c he looks like a pencil.

  4. Chogster says:

    Lindegaard performances this season have been so far pretty flawless, whereas De Gea has made countless errors that are going to end up costing us the title! Give Lindegaard the No1 jersey, stop chopping and changing and let’s get some consistency!

  5. Blue Tony says:

    I think De Gea needs more time. He’s young and obviously talented. Fergie knows what he is doing. Trust in Fergie. Leave De Gea in the top spot.

    • Lionel says:

      He needs a loan move and he needs to bulk up and Linderggard needs to be playing on a more regular basis

  6. True red devil says:

    C’mon…stop blaming de gea for evrything…..Here iz sumthng fo all d glory seekers/degea haters…
    Remember who got sent off against City and left a nice big hole in defense. Who says De Gea can’t have clean sheets??

    Tottenham 0 – United 3 – De Gea in goal
    United 1 – 0 Everton – De Gea in goal
    Swansea 0 – United 1 – De Gea in goal
    QPR – 0 United 2 – De Gea in goal
    Bolton 0 – United 5 – De Gea in goal.

    Lindergaard has played in goal against Norwich, Fulham, Sunderland and Villa. De Gea has played in goal against Arsenal, Tottenham, City, Chelsea, Liverpool. The only ones we didn’t win out of them are Liverpool (1-1) and City (1-6). How the hell can anyone say De Gea is a bad keeper?

    • Paul says:

      Ill tell you how he’s a bad keeper: both goals v man city in community shield. Both his fault. With a win against benfica at home we would have qualified to latter stages of the ecl but this didn’t happen because de gea gifted benfica a goal by passing to their attacker to draw the game. The winner yesterday was his fault. That’s how I can tell you he’s a bad keeper.

  7. zirri says:

    man united problem is Fergie…what the hell is he doing…he knew he cant put does young ones why did he include them on the bench…if Keane is brought quicker than he was he could have made more efforts..and Pogba on the bench 4 rafeal…i really hate Fergie @ Man united..he is too old. Please get a rest we dont need u anymore

  8. Mr d says:

    yesterday was a nightmare, and could prove crucial in the title race. I agree re De Gea…the poor sod isn’t ready yet. He will be a fine keeper in the future, but he is just not ready yet. On a lighter note, has anyone noticed a pattern over the years when we lose at old trafford? we either get absolutely spanked, or we lose to the fulhams/middlesbrough/blackburns of this world. Bearing in mind the latter, i wonder if there is something in the theory that fergie takes the lesser teams lightly? ho hum. happy new year

  9. sj says:

    All those who think they know better than fergie ! shut up @zirri r u retarded ??. Yep i guess

  10. Anagafo Michael says:

    Fergie wants to be a problem to Man U. He feels he can field even eleven sticks and still win.