Thursday, January 14, 2010

Half-way stage assessment

With winter well and truly whistling in, we have time to take a look at Manchester United's season so far and evaluate the overall performance of the team.

Firstly, we have had to cope with the sale of Ronaldo which has left a gaping vacancy to be filled at Old Trafford. Although he had a quiet start on the right wing, Antonio Valencia has now warmed to the task by weighing in with seven goals and several assists. The Ecuadorian now looks like he can go from strength to strength as he understands his role in the team and learns how to play the United way.

The downside for United so far has obviously been the unlucky timing of injuries to the entire defence. We have struggled without the twin towers of Ferdinand and Vidic, including the loss of the back-up in Brown, O'Shea and Evans. Playing Carrick and Fletcher in central defence has come at a cost and we need to get Ferdinand and Vidic back to full fitness as soon as possible.

The midfield is perhaps our strongest area in terms of numbers yet it has been flimsy at times as Ferguson has rotated between Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Scholes and Gibson. He still hasn't found his best combination. None of the partnerships have really seemed to click. Anderson had a good season last time out with some impressive performances in big games, but this season he has really struggled with mediocre displays. He can't seem to make a forward pass to save his life. Nani is no better. For me he's the worst player on our squad list. He played some matches earlier in the season and was totally awful in each outing. I'm sick and tired of his pathetic performances. A complete waste of time and money. Anderson and Nani would be two good sales for me.

What Man. Utd are really missing in the middle is yet another player with a long-term injury - Owen Hargreaves. A player with aggression, bite, passing ability and somewhat of a free-kick specialist, he never stops running and fighting for the cause. The sooner we can get him back to match fitness the better. It will be like signing a new player.

Wayne Rooney has been the shining star for the Red Devils this term and finds himself at the top of the premier league scoring charts with 14 goals as the second half of the season begins. The sale of Ronaldo has certainly benefited Rooney, as he has now been pushed up into his best position - centre forward - and the goals are flowing nicely. He has struck up decent understandings with Giggs and Valencia. But as good as Rooney is, he can't do it all on his own.

I don't know what to say about Dimitar Berbatov. We know he has the talent, which we saw week in, week out at Spurs, but he just isn't clicking at Old Trafford, and his lazy attitude on the pitch is not helping matters either. To have paid 30 million pounds for a goalscorer, with a return of just five goals this season, is a deal which has backfired terribly. Rooney needs a partner who knows how to put the ball in the net, not try fancy flicks that don't come off. Berba would be the first name on my list of sales this summer.

Michael Owen has neither provided too much accuracy in front of goal, showing too many missed chances and fluffed mis-hits when in good positions. Manchester United need to find another front man to take some of the load off of Wayne Rooney's shoulders. David Villa would be a perfect acquisition. He's a goal machine.

While Scholes has been distinctly off the pace, fellow-veteran Ryan Giggs has been flying and playing some of his best football of his career. He has adapted to his loss of blistering pace by using his super-quick footballing brain to pick out passes, score the odd goal and rip the odd full-back (Micah Richards comes to mind!)

Gabriel Obertan and Darron Gibson have put in some impressive displays and look the best of the younger players to make it through to the first team. Rafael, when playing, looks a pretty excellent right-back too.

So while there has been disappointments and doubts in this strange season, Man.Utd still lie 2nd in the table, a point behind Chelsea, have a semi-final in the Carling Cup fast approaching (weather permitting) with enemies Man. City, and have a mouth-watering tie with AC Milan in the last 16 of the Champions League. Everything is still there to play for. If certain key players can return to the team and stay there (Van Der Sar, Ferdinand, Vidic, Hargreaves) then we may be able to bring some silverware back to Old Trafford this season.

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