Fergie faces a massive challenge

by Gavin Caney

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Alex Ferguson has rebuilt and rebuilt at Old Trafford. He has overcome almost everything that anyone has thrown at him so talk of him deserving the sack is ridiculous. Yet like any United fan, I saw Leeds’ win coming weeks ago and few could say they didn’t deserve it on the day. So  just what is going wrong at the ‘Theatre of Dreams?’

Firstly, no team in the world can expect to sell Ronaldo and improve. Couple that with fan-favourite Carlos Tevez turning his back on the Stretford End faithful and the squad is considerably weaker than last year. Ferguson’s replacements Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen have shown glimpses of their potential, but they are never going to be better than the two players they have replaced.

It’s also clear that a lot of the so-called ‘new generation’ are just not good enough. Wellbeck has failed to live up to all the hype and is Frazier Campbell in the making. Obertan may improve with time but must offer much more than his dismal showing against Leeds. Darron Gibson could do a Darren Fletcher and finally show us what Ferguson sees in him, but at the moment he is inconsistent and much like Michael Carrick struggles to influence a game for a full 90 minutes.

Nani is on his way off, and is quite frankly an insult to Fergie’s legacy. Anderson amazes and frustrates in equal measures and has failed to really push on like many hoped. Carrick has gone backwards. All have hardly been helped by Ferguson’s inadequacy to name the same midfield, or side, for the past 100 games. Long gone are the days of Beckham, Scholes, Keane and Giggs playing most if not all games. Sir Alex is probably not sure of his best midfield.

Three of the clubs heroes are now on their last legs. Giggs is by far in the best shape and form, but can’t do it every week. Paul Scholes, one of the best midfielders of his era, is really on the wane, and Gary Neville would no longer be first choice, let alone second.

Many of the other squad players are now simply horribly average or might definitely take a couple of years to improve. See Rafael, Evans, Kusczak, Brown, Fabio, Park  and O’Shea to name a few. Were May, Butt, Blomqvist, Fortune and the four strikers of the treble-season much better players than today’s squad?

Injuries haven’t helped, especially in defence, but in years gone by United’s second-string would be plenty good enough. Maybe the rest of the Premier League has finally caught up?

United fans can hardly complain. Years of success and brilliance has seen them still in second place in the Premier League. Through to the Carling Cup Semi’s. AC Milan in the Champions League. Many fans would give their left testicle for such a season. Yet success breeds greediness. Chelsea, despite being top, were booed off in a display that would have mortified the Shed Enders of yester-year.

Only the most stupid would turn on Alex Ferguson, but at the same time, only the most stupid would fail to realise that United have been well below-par this season. Rooney, Giggs, Fletcher and Evra aside, most players have been inconsistent. Tottenham away and the second-half of Man City at home were high points. Arsenal should have won at Old Trafford. Low points include three home defeats in the last six at O.T. and seven in all competitions. Dimitar Berbatov continues to infuriate by showing touches of his quality and then completely disappearing. Opinion is divided on the £30 million man. Will he ever reproduce his Spurs form or convince all of his worth? Moping about next to the tiresome Rooney only continues to make him look worse. It’s worrying times for all in the red-half of Manchester, as their blue neighbours improve financially as well as on the pitch. United are saddled with more debt than they are average players.

United always bounce back – or so the expression goes. So it’ll be interesting to see what side is picked to play fierce rivals Man City. After losing to Leeds, a defeat against Man City would be a bitter pill to swallow for the diehard Reds who frequent the Bishop’s Blaize among other local watering holes. If United win the title this year it may be his biggest achievement yet. For the meantime Alex Ferguson will be desperate to end the week well, just as desperately as everyone else hopes it ends badly.

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  • Ed

    The shortage of money is the big difference this time around. In the past, we’ve been able to strengthen the squad as needed but this no longer seems to be an option under the Yanks. No financial quick fix to the obvious weaknesses in the squad.

    With money we could build again around Rooney, Evra, Fletcher, Vidic and maybe Valencia. Without money we could plateau until (hopefully) the youngsters come good. It’s a high plateau but not the peak and that’s the problem. Excess success has spoilt us and we are not taking kindly to the reality of not being able to compete as a team and financially with City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    A nightmare scenario would be a finish outside the top 4 and the bankers panic. There again maybe not. Maybe somebody with real money would then step in and take us forward again.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    which does kind of beg the question have they bought their way to success in recent years? Beckham and co was way back in the 90’s, the current crop of kids don’t seem to be up to it.

    As an Arsenal fan I’m loving it, Sunday was the first and only time I will ever cheer Leeds, actually, I’ll cheer them on against the Spuds in a few weeks too!

  • Ed

    Darren – Wenger will buy a quick fix for your missing strikers. All clubs chasing success do it. Not just us.

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    you say that but he has faith in his players. Look at Song for example, everyone and I mean everyone said we need a defensive midfielder, this no longer applys. He is without doubt the leagues most improved player.

    Wenger doesnt do quick fixes, in fact he is as tight as, if the player is right and will fit in with our style of play then he will buy.

    Saying that our next signing has to be a good one as we actually have a chance of winning something this season

  • Patrick

    Good article. If I were a United fan I’d feel much the same. As I’m not it’s quite nice to see them drop to a more chasable level and make the race for the Prem more interesting, not to mention the F.A Cup more open. Losing C. Ron was always going to be a massive blow and there doesn’t seem to be anyone even close to helping fill the void he left. Leeds thoroughly deserved their victory and I hope one or two other teams go to OT with victory in mind from now on.

    One thing I’d like to see, though admittedly it’s highly unlikely, is for Fergie to stop his incessant whining about refs. He was tapping his watch on 30 mins last Sunday to indicate the ‘keeper time wasting and he then called Chris Foy’s 5 added minutes ‘an insult to football’. With 5 subs made (30 secs each = 2 and a half mins) and no massive stoppages (only the dust-up springs to mind) I thought 5 mins was more than generous though I did expect to see 7/8 considering previous OT added time. I liked that he admitted that Leeds deserved to win, but couldn’t he at least keep his gripes behind closed doors. It does him and United a total disservice to keep whinging on every bloody time they lose. United have no divine right to win matches and competitions and last week they got what they deserved – nothing. Accept it and move on.

  • Gavin

    Fergie’s time rants are pathetic, but at least he was big enough to admit Leeds deserved to win on the day. I am concerned about the Vidic rumours that just won’t seem to go away. Ferguson’s response to why he didn’t play against Leeds was hardly encouraging either.

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