Virus will expose United’s lack of strength in depth

by Charlie Coffey

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

A contagious virus is sweeping through Manchester United at the worst possible time, adding to their extensive injury list. For the first time in recent history Manchester City have greater strength in depth than their more illustrious neighbours, and it is likely that, with ten United first-team players now likely to be unavailable tonight, City will be the team that most people expect to win the Manchester derby.

Wayne Rooney, Michael Owen, Nani, Owen Hargreaves, Antonio Valencia and Ryan Giggs were already injured before Anderson, Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidic and Dimitar Berbatov fell victim to the mysterious illness that leaves United with a somewhat thin squad to make the short trip to Eastlands. Although City have been poor recently relative to the amount they have spent on players, United have been grinding out results without playing particularly well and have been grateful for an easy run of fixtures that have made their stand-ins look almost acceptable.

The fact that Gabriel Obertan and Bebe (even though it was unclear as to whether the defender had the last touch), can score in the same match away in Europe is more testament to how bad Bursaspor (yet to score in four matches) are than to the merit of the players themselves. These two would not get into most Premier League sides, and are merely made to look half-decent by having good players around them.

I was at Old Trafford on Saturday and have never seen a worse performance by a winger in a red shirt there than Bebe’s, including the Soccer Aid charity matches that have been played there in the past. His crossing wasn’t just slightly out, he was twatting the ball off the pitch or miles over the players waiting in the box. It’s easily said, but I genuinely think I’m a better crosser of the ball, and I’m an average Sunday league centre-back. I know he’s a striker by trade, but crossing is a basic skill expected of all professionals, never mind those at United who have been bought for over seven million quid.

No team could comfortably deal with ten missing first-teamers, but these are not youth players standing in, they are millionaire footballers scouted by the club as capable of making the grade at this level. I genuinely think that when those who embody the winning mentality of the club, especially Alex Ferguson, leave, United may struggle to be title contenders unless there is investment in the squad, which is impossible given the record losses of last year thanks to you-know-who, and given that United’s main rivals Chelsea, and the pretenders of City, can continue to spend and spend.

The one area of the pitch in which United had genuine quality on Saturday was at the centre of defence (having said that they still conceded!). United look so much more assured with Rio Ferdinand and Vidic playing together and if Vidic does succumb to his virus, which is by no means a given due to his mentality, then United have serious problems. Wes Brown is capable of dealing with the best on his day but has not looked fully fit and has been inconsistent.

In short, City could not wish to host United at a better time. Without risking the implications of lasagne-style accusations, the timing of this virus is a little too perfect for City… As we saw last season though United still wear the trousers, but they are looking a little threadbare at present. United fans will hope they don’t bare their arse tonight.

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  • Paal

    So what you are saying is that with Hargreaves, Owen, Giggs, Nani, Valencia and Rooney out injured – and Anderson, Gibson, Carrick and Berbatov out with a virus – our lack of depth will be exposed

    My God you are brilliant – 10 midfield/strikers out in addition to another 3 out on loan – and we have lack of depth.

    Despite that – if all those are out – we can still field the following team in midfield/attack : Park, Fletcher, Scholes, O’Shea, Obertan and Hernandez

    Lack of depth ?

    Remove 10 midfielders and attackers from any other team in the World and see what they have left 🙂

  • charlie coffey

    Did you read the article or just the title?!

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