Man United have had a poor season by their standards. After clawing the league back from City’s clutches, it looks like they have thrown it all away in the space of a month, with only one game to go and City in the driving seat. United require a win at safe Sunderland, while relegation-threatened QPR travel to City to try to muster a point (or more). If they manage one point, it should be enough because United should beat Sunderland, who have nothing to play for.
But the worrying thing is I think Fergie is starting to get his tactics wrong. He picked an awful team for the Manchester Derby. With the likes of Scholes, Giggs, Carrick AND Park all in the midfield, with Valencia inexplicably relegated to the bench, it was clear we were struggling from the off, and deservedly we lost. We went out of all other cup competitions this year, relatively early on, and this is totally unlike us. To be fair, we had to play both City and Liverpool away in the FA Cup, and we beat City at the Ethiad, so we had a little pride from that, but still it isn’t impressive at all.
What to do about it? Everyone seems to think we need a new midfielder. Perhaps we do, but the primary concern is phasing out the players we no longer need, and faster than we are at the moment. We are relying too much on our older players, who either do not cut it any more, or will not in a year’s time. We must stop clinging onto whatever’s left in Scholes and Giggs, and let the younger players come through. We are not Chelsea, we actually put emphasis on our youth in our first team. This leads on to another point – we’ve let both Morrison and Pogba slip this year, and this is not what we need. We are supposed to be the team that everyone wants to play for, how aren’t we able to keep these two? This signifies a massive backstep in our club’s development, especially in a time when City and Chelsea have even more spending power at their disposal.
Gaitan has been heavily linked with us, but I don’t think he’d be worth the money. What I really think we need is a solution to our other weak spots. We have no decent left winger. Ashley Young is a good long range shooter and free kick taker, but he is useless in other areas of his game. Nani is not a LW, but can do a job there. Valencia is very right footed and can only play on the right. So the idea of Eden Hazard or James Rodrigez sounds pretty good to me, as it’s something we’ve really lacked this year – a LW who can beat a man AND put a ball in. Gareth Bale is the best in the world at this, I think, but obviously he’s off limits.
Another area we need strengthening is undoubtedly the full backs. Evra has had a torrid season, and we’ve now said Fabio’s off to Portugal, so we certainly need a new LB. Leighton Baines would be perfect for the club. RB is more tricky. I think perhaps we should leave it alone, because I don’t think Jones is going to get games if we have a permanent RB, and I think he’s going to be an amazing player for United and England, despite a poor second half of the season. But Chris Smalling is not going to play RB. He is no good there, he’s a CB. There are question marks about Rio’s ability to carry on (bizarrely, well before the question marks about Giggs and Scholes (5 and 4 years older respectively) have been made. All 3 positions require pace, so they should all be doubted, not just one of them. Another question is whether Vidic will be able to fit back into the team after so long out. He has always been a great player, but frustrates me for his occasional poor discipline. Our captain needs to keep his head, not get sent off in crucial matches (and against, of all people, Fernando Torres). This leads onto another point – why is Evra, particularly given his recent trouble with the media) dubbed our vice captain? He is the worst example of a human being, and it’s clear to anyone that there would be better captains in the shapes of Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick or Wayne Rooney (despite his poor image,at times). In fact, the only reason I can see that Evra would be chosen is that he plays absolutely every single game for United, purely because we have no back up in his position. I certainly don’t think he’s anywhere near as good as he used to be. If he’s going to go forward, he needs to ensure he can put a decent ball in, otherwise we’re caught short at the back for nought.
It’s funny, but everyone appears to have forgotten how we ripped teams apart early in the season (pre-Man City match). We had Cleverley and Anderson in the midfield, and, believe it or not, they dominated games. They also did this in pre-season matches, including against Barcalona (which we won 2-1) if anyone was watching those games. These two are players we must hold onto if we are to develop as a team. It is certainly frustrating that they both get injured more regularly than most, but we must persevere to get the most out of them.
I have to give a shout out to Danny Welbeck for his contributions this year. He’s had a tough last few games, in which nothing’s come off for him (except in the Everton game, in which he was easily MOM and scored a beautiful goal, assisting two more), but he’s been there all season long, always giving his all and always getting involved. He’s tall, pacy, and he’s brilliant at hold up play. He’s not a bad passer either.
Now to the important matter of David De Gea. He had a terrible start to the season, and there was a long period for which I’d rather we had any other PL GK instead of him. However, he has developed and grown into the season. I no longer get tense whenever a simple ball is played into the box, and he’s even pulled off the save of the season against a Juan Mata free kick (in the dying seconds of a 3-3 match, I might add). He’s been so much improved, but it remains to be seen how good he will be for us. People say he’s got so much potential, but potential needs to be realised. I’m pleased he’s got over his fear of crosses, but there’s more he needs to do to prove himself to me and many other United fans. I still maintain that Neuer would’ve been a better signing, but I’m open to David to prove me wrong.
Valencia has had a bizarre season, from a poor start to becoming our key player when he started playing again in around March time, he’s certainly gone through the motions. He’s an invaluable asset to the team though, and deserves all the credit he gets.
Finally, the player of the season, Wayne Rooney, deserves credit. He’s kept the team going, managed to keep himself completely injury free all season long, and was so close to avoiding a EPL yellow card for the entire season. Alas, it was not to be, but he’s been our top scorer by a huge distance and that’s because he’s the best we’ve (and England have) got. If England progress from the group stage this summer, he’ll be key, I think. He’s scored some beauties this year too.
All the best to Darren Fletcher, who must be feeling gutted about what’s happened to him. I regret that I don’t think we’ll realistically ever get the same Darren again. He’ll be lucky if he ever gets back into the team.