Manchester United plunge down to shallow depth

by Charlie Coffey

Friday, April 16th, 2010

It was obvious. As soon as the camera zoomed in on Wayne Rooney’s face at the end of the match in the Allianz Arena, United fans knew their team would win neither the Premier nor Champions League. The ‘positive’ prognosis the next day offered little comfort. The margin between success and failure for United in the 2009/10 season was four days wide. The luxury of having their best player fit all season had run dry at the most crucial moment.

It was well documented that Rooney has carried his side this team, but only those who have watched United closely on the pitch and not just in the back pages knew to what extent. The paper-talk was of whether Dimitar Berbatov could rescue United without their talisman. There can’t have been many reds that ever truly believed he would.

While those around me at Old Trafford berated Berbatov’s work-rate, I tried to keep the faith. ‘Remember how good he was for Spurs!’ I kept telling myself. This was the man that United and City had been fighting over at Manchester airport, waving tens of millions of pounds at. An outrageous turn on the touchline to set up a goal for Tevez against West Ham in his debut offered hope.

Since then my relationship with Berbatov has sadly waned. The spark has gone; the honeymoon period seems like a lifetime ago. He’s started to lose his hair, his energy, and seemingly his will to live. He only turns me on once every couple of months at best. “But look at that for a touch!” My Dad sometimes gushes during matches. Pele has probably still got a good touch. Berbatov is as limp as he and probably less mobile.

Despite playing an attacking line-up at Blackburn, United had nothing. It is as if the players are resigned to the fact that they have little to no penetration without Rooney. In the second leg against Munich his mere presence inspired those around him. In the final minutes of the match at Ewood Park Alex Ferguson threw on Patrice Evra. That he, a left-back (although one of great quality) was the player the manager looked at to turn the game says it all.

Let’s look at some of the other players on show. Gary Neville: Finished at the highest level. There for his influence only and hindering the development of Rafael, who needs as many games as possible to realise his obvious talent and to iron out the naivety shown against Munich. Paul Scholes: Same tackling deficiency as always but now lacks one half of the package of energy and technique that allowed him to get away with it in the past. No room for sentimentality. Darron Gibson and Park Ji Sung: Decent players of Premier League standard but lacking the talent to make the difference for a team with genuine title aspirations.

To win major silverware a team needs a wealth of players with both excellent physical and technical attributes. This is an obvious point to make, but if Ferguson thinks his current squad is good enough to reproduce their past achievements, even with the additions of the unproven Chris Smalling and Javier Hernandez, he is mistaken. There is every chance despite David Gill’s plastic promises that not much of the £80 million from the Ronaldo sale (that was very probably soaked up by those sponging American bastards) is available, in which case Ferguson has his hands tied. Even then it is sad to see such a proud man toe the line and say he doesn’t need to make major changes to his squad.

As with any team it was fine as long as United were winning, but the untimely injury to Rooney has exposed the slow rot of a squad that has done well to keep the faith in reclaiming the league title for so long after losing two of the most coveted players in world football. The importance of strength and depth has always been known, but this season it has very explicitly decided the destination of the Premier League trophy. I’m hoping to eat my words but I’m pretty sure I’ll go hungry. Rooney has played like two or even three men this season, but just like Ivan Drago in Rocky IV: “He does bleed, he’s not a machine!”

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  • Mike

    United have been playing badly all season and getting away with it- particularly at home. However, I feel at Blackburn they had more than enough chances to win the game. Valencia should have put them 1-0 up before the break but Robinson was in fine form that day.

    Good news as it puts Robinson in the frame for the England squad. England could do with him, he is a very good goalkeeper

  • dexylongshot

    Said it before and i’ll say again, missing Ronny, simple as that. Berba was a bad buy, Tevez a bad sale. I think Gibson is a good prospect and I also think Ji sung is under-rated. What fergie really needs is a Scholes/Keane replacement. A goalscoring midfielder like fat Frank who will wallop 15 in a season from the tip of the diamond and someone doing the dirty work behind who still has an eye for goal. Carrick, fletcher, Ji Sung, Anderson, none of them fit the bill despite there individual talents. Hargreaves is is perfect for the former but unfortunately, looks like he is finished. I’d go for goalscoring James Milner and tacklemaster Scotty Parker in the summer, as well as Joe Cole who could float about pretty much anywhere. AT Full-back, it looks like Fabios going to Portugal. Nev’s getting on but i’d have him over Wes Brown who I think is very mediocre. Then again, i ain’t got the chequebook.

  • Darren

    read this in our forums, we enjoyed winding up a deluded United fan, he is no where to been seen now. What a surprise!

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