Stoke bedeviled but woes persist

Was rushing back from a University game (which we incidentally drew) to catch the 2nd half of the Stoke game.
My Twitter timeline had conveyed the shocking-yet-not-so-shocking news that were being dominated on our patch.

Conceded first? Check. Midfield like a hungry valley waiting for the rain? Check. While everybody ruminated and purred over the benefits the midfield diamond had brought to our play, Fergie decided he’d just stick with what he knows – the 4-4-2 albeit with a hint of sophistication. 

There was nothing sophisticated about welbeck’s finishing and this has to be worked on. His approach play and link up play remain remarkably good, often reminding one of a kid in the park with the cheeky abandon he executes those round the corner flicks and passes. His finishing, however, is costing us, at this rate, ten goals a season. AT LEAST! Ironically, one of his major claims to fame is appearing in a video where the master himself, Ruud, is learning him the ropes of dastardly art of finishing. Boy never learned nothing by the look of it.

In any case, we won the game with 4 goals in the back of the net (top scorers in the league!) and just about hang on to the coat tails of the rent away leaders, Chelsea, who themselves served up a pretty impressive performance at White Hart Lane.

The Devilish

Wayne Rooney got his first goals of the season while Own Goal made a return to the side – for Stoke. Rooney’s form, which comes in bursts is no surprise and has come to be the norm. He also added an assist to his name,  a beautiful cross not unlike that against spurs, to set up welbeck. That’s 5 goals and 5 assists in his last 6 games for club and country. Hot. Red hot.

3 man attack (well, sort of)

It’s not quite Rooney, Ronaldo and Tevez where they’re positional looseness bordered on indiscipline but it was controlled enough. At times, they’re movement was a joy to behold. For Rooney’s first goal, Van Persie drifts out to the left flank to whip in a wicked ball which the England striker converts. Rooney crosses to welbeck to convert…from the right wing. Wait, isn’t welbeck the Left winger? Not quite. His attacking instinct leads him to make outside to inside runs thus creating a very unwelcome problem for defenders. 

Corner Frenzy

There was another goal from a set piece. Very satisfying no less because it came against the set-piece merchants themselves.  When Henry took corners for Arsenal, people wondered what a striker was doing all the way there instead of causing chaos in the box (like the penalty box, at Set pieces, could get any more chaotic). The truth is this – if he delivers the best corner kick, put him on them. Van Persie will continue there for us.

The not so Devilish

Defending

Remains shambolic. I really do hope it does not come back to bite us. Oh, it already has. Spurs took advantage, Everton did so as well. Credit is due for the fighting spirit – apart from the Wigan and Newcastle games, are we yet to take the lead in any of our games? It’s quite incredible. And scary. Our next league game is against Chelsea,  a side who is yet to concede first in the league. And when asked to come from behind, they executed it with aplomb. One hopes Juan Mata gets called up to the Spain army in midweek or we might have a problem.

Lack of pressing

I’ll put up my hands and say I did not watch the first half. Did see some highlights though but will speak mainly based on observations across the season and the 2nd 45 of yesterday. Our lack of pressing is embarrassing. Yes, it’s an option teams take but surely it’s better than this ‘come on and test our defence’ approach we take now. Watching teams like Spurs and Stoke have the leisure of strolling around in their half, at Old Trafford, without a care in the world, is genuinely worrying. Win the ball back high up, it creates problems. We did it against Chelsea a couple of seasons ago (when Valencia tore Cole about 7 new ones). If Guardiola said of Barcelona, “without the ball, we are the worst team in the world”, where does that leave us? The worst lacrosse team in the world?

SAF will sort it out. Sort what out?

Someone commented that they’re manager had managed to provide a post-match presser in all not to do with the football. Rather ironic coming from a man who very recently expressed his exasperation at the non-football nature of questions asked at his weekly date with the media hawks/gawks…whatever. As we know, in the face of public insubordination by his players, SAF is no-nonsense. Hours after blasting Jason Roberts’ decision not to wear a Kick-it-out, the second longest serving player on his starting line-up appeared on the pitch in his Red #MUFC warm up top. Shock, insurrection, bedlam! This, accentuated by the fact that the manager had given a personal guaranty that his players would wear the shirts, was a tad embarrassing. Fergie has promised to “sort him out”. That does miss the point though. It is a free world and Rio has a right to make a choice.
Admittedly, kick-it-out, the initiative against Racism and other sorts of prejudice in English football, is not of FA origins and perhaps Rio is a bit misguided in that respect. Ultimately, that movement has no effective power but has been able to make inroads against racism. Perhaps it will blow over. I do. It’s an issue of personal conviction and Rio, although Evra could sympathize, has experienced, along with his family, a lot with court dates and England sqaud fiascos (?).

We play Braga at Old Trafford on Tuesday. They have unofficially become Portugal’s 4th big club and have certainly proved to be a more than capable. They reached the Europa League final in ’11 and have qualified for the CL proper for the second time running. Now, I know football is not mathematics but if they approach the game the way galatasaray did, it will
certainly make for an open game. I suspect Anderson and Cleverley will feature on the day. Rooney and Van Persie is a cert…we have a variety of possibilities. And I have not mentioned Nani Or Kagawa or Young or Valencia.

Till Tuesday/Wednesday, adios!

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