Couple these disasters with City’s return to form and the Rooney to be sold story in the Independent and it’s not a great time to be a United fan. On the bright side, I’m pretty sure the club would sell all tickets very quickly for a third round FA Cup tie against our local rivals. Not all clubs in Manchester could say that. Money can buy a lot of things…
That said I wonder who wouldn’t swap a few empty seats for some of our rival’s finances or manager’s willingness/ability to buy players?
Anyway, I digress. This Sunday’s game against City is huge. It’s as big a derby as I can remember for United. The 6-1 will live long in the memory of fans of both clubs for obviously differing reasons but, in reality, it had little impact on league standings with the league offering both clubs a chance to recover and falter, depending on whether you are red or blue. This weekend, however, could leave United chasing only the league, or City pursuing a famous double (Europa League aside). This is why I’m very concerned, recent form considered.
Ferguson has recently been quoted as saying “questions have been asked about us at the moment but it is only because we have had two bad results.” I, however, fear that these questions have been asked for longer than that. The two bad results have just made them louder. United are, to coin an American Glazeresque phase ‘O from 2’. I fear that Sunday could, if the right team and tactics are not deployed, throw up a statistic not seen since 2001, ‘O from 3′.
The right team? Well, here’s what I think should take the field. I’d stick with Lindegaard for such a big fixture as I feel that a De Gea match costing howler would crush the poor kid and derail his very promising career.
At the back I’m sincerely hoping to see a da Silva twin playing right back in order to free up Valencia to play further up the pitch. Ferdinand needs to start at centre back again and his partner, through lack of other options (Vidic, Evans and Smalling are all out), is more than likely going to be Phil Jones. Stand in captain, Evra, will play at left back. If, however, Smalling’s illness or Evans’ calf recovers in time I’d love to see one of them partner Ferdinand in the middle allowing Jones to play in midfield. I think I may be the only person in the country who sees his long term position as a midfielder.
Talking of midfield Carrick should play there as he does offer a calmness and assuredness that we’ll need at the Etihad in such a big fixture. Assuming that Jones won’t be playing in the midfield Giggs will more than likely partner Carrick there. However, as big a game as this is, when will Pogba and/or Morrison be given their chance? I can’t remember a time when United have had such a torrid time with injuries and yet Ferguson has gone with Park, da Silva and Rooney in the middle of the park over these natural central midfielders. Out wide, as I said, I hope to see Valencia on the right and Nani playing wide left. Ashley Young sits this one out due to injury. I expect to see Park play in the midfield, however, with Valencia at right back.
Up front should be an interesting call. For the Newcastle game I hoped for Berbatov and Rooney to start up front and was pleased to see it on the team sheet. I wasn’t, though, pleased with what I saw on the pitch. Both players were trying to play far too deep far too often. If both start on Sunday then Rooney must be instructed to play much further up the pitch and use his pace and skill to cause the defence problems.
As for City, Mancini, without a hint of irony, has been complaining of the depleted squad he’ll be fielding on Sunday. This squad will be short, admittedly, of the Toure brothers and the suspended Barry and may be missing Balotelli and Dzeko. However, considering their spending resources, I feel not an ounce of sympathy for them!
Will Mancini be using the 6-1 as a reminder of what City can do on form? Possibly. Will Ferguson be doing the same? “I will not be mentioning it,” he recently claimed. I don’t think he has to.