It was only as recently as last season that Manchester United were lifting the Premier League trophy and a sense of euphoria surrounded Old Trafford. However now, if results are anything to go by, that day seems decades away writes Rafae Qazi.
An embarrassing loss to the hands of Liverpool brought to the fore the problems that have existed all season long. These problems aren’t new and everyone who affiliates themselves with Manchester United knows about them. However no one who has real authority inside the club seems to be able to solve them. Today in this post I will be focusing solely on what went wrong against Liverpool. If I was to write in more general terms we would be here for far too long.
As soon as I saw the line-ups I immediately understood the magnitude of the task that the Manchester United defense would face. Brendan Rodgers had opted for the SSS of Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling. They all have blistering pace and have superb chemistry. Their speed would cause a significant number of problems for the Manchester United defense, in particular the CB’s.
The Manchester United CB’s were Phil Jones and Nemanja Vidic. Both of them are strong and let their opposing strikers know of their presence however none are particularly quick. The three Liverpool front men would be running rings around them. Thus their physical advantage over the Liverpool front men would be totally nullified.
My theory was proven to be correct as Vidic was sent off after trying to make up lost ground on Daniel Sturridge, who was through on goal. The Manchester United captain was inside the box he made a last ditch, rather reckless challenge to halt Sturridge’s progress. Replay’s showed that Sturridge dived, however it did not take way from the fact that this had been happening throughout the game. The ball had been played behind the Manchester United CB’s, or though them and they would be facing a losing task of tracking back and catching up with either of the 3 Liverpool SSS.
Another quite obvious problem throughout the game was *surprise surprise* Manchester United’s inability to boss the middle of the park and the reason for that is quite simple really. It was a 3 vs 2 in midfield throughout the game. The Liverpool trio of Henderson, Allen and Gerrard completed a total of 131 passes at an 86% completion rate whereas the Manchester United midfield duo of Carrick and Fellani managed a meager 81 passes at 83%.
Without delving too much deeper into statistics it was obvious that the Manchester United midfield was unsurprisingly unable to cope with the extra man. Joe Allen’s and Henderson’s energy resulted in a quick exchange of passing. While Allen tended to sit back, Henderson was often the midfield runner who was found lurking near the opposing box. He supported play well for the front three and provided them with the much needed service. Allen was very steady with his passing and kept the game flowing whereas Steven Gerrard was the anchor in midfield. He shielded the back 4 and broke up play. He started off plays with simple passes to his midfield partners.
Against the extra man and Rooney not dropping back to support the midfield, Carrick and Fellani struggled. Carrick played the anchor role for United and was the primary passer of the ball. He was the one who tended to start off United moves. However he was static, too static. Failing to win the ball in any of his 6 tackles he left all the ‘hard graft’ such as tackling, pressing the opposition and getting ‘stuck in’ all to Fellani. This left Fellani with a mountain to climb. Against the energetic Henderson and Allen he struggled to win the ball and despite winning 4/12 tackles he was unable to single handedly stop the two from bossing possession for Liverpool.
Manchester United getting over run in midfield is by no means a new problem. It has been occurring constantly as they have struggled to compete against the ‘better’ midfield’s of teams such as Manchester City, Chelsea and now Liverpool. The problem was not as glaringly obvious before due to the genius of Paul Scholes who could single handely control the midfield. Unfortunately for United players of his class are ‘once in a generation’ players and finding the next Scholes will be an extremely tough task!
THE FORWARD LINE
I have probably said enough about the Liverpool front line to make most Manchester United fans feel sick but I have to applaud Rodgers.He has managed to find a system where he can get the best out of his two attacking goal threats at the same time. Something, Moyes has not been able to achieve yet. Rodgers has been greatly helped due to Suarez’s and Sturridge’s fantastic chemistry. Undoubtedly the best striking partnership in the Premier League the two strikers seamlessly interchange positions with each other and are on the same wave length most of the time. It was Sturridge who provided the lethal passed that Suarez turned into a goal. The pass was only one of the many examples of combination play between the two Liverpool talismen. Raheem Sterling despite having a rather quiet game has recently ‘come good’. The 19 year old English winger is Liverpool’s outlet. He is frighteningly quick and has recently developed an eye for goal, all encouraging signs for Liverpool and England, however fortunately today for Manchester United fans he was unable to showcase his undoubted talent. With their team 2nd in the table, things for Liverpool’s front three have never been better.
On the other hand the Manchester United forward line of Rooney, RvP, Mata and Januzaj struggled, badly. When analyzing the performances of the Manchester United front four, I was shocked. I knew we were woeful but I didn’t expect us to be so underwhelming. I feel to help you realise the true nature of the calamity our front four produced I must do so individually, one player at a time. To offer you a flavour of what to expect here is a fact,Manchester United managed one shot on target through out the 90 minutes! One Shot! This is a team that prides it self on its deadly forwards. This is a team that has historically brushed aside opponents, single handedly due to its sheer attacking prowess. However as Liverpool fans will tell you, in the modern game, history doesn’t matter. So where did it all go wrong?
As I said earlier I feel the issues our front four faced were stratospheric, thus I will be doing separate posts about them. I do not wish to condense their performance and miss out points which many will find useful. Thus I will be releasing individual posts about each of our front four, Rooney, RvP, Mata and Januzaj. To keep up-to date with these posts and be notified immediately when they are released please follow my blog and vote which player you would like to see analysed first!
Click on Rafae’s name above to follow him on Twitter and view more of his work at his blog – http://rafqazi.wordpress.com