The Hangover Pt III. The loss against Manchester City tonight makes it two losses, two draws and two scrappy 1-0 wins since the controversy against Real Madrid back at the start of March – a stark contrast from the free flowing United that stormed to a 15 point lead atop the table.
City put an end to United’s undefeated streak in the league dating back to Norwich in November and deservedly so. They had us on the back foot for the whole game and we had no response. Yaya Toure worryingly bossed the midfield at a canter and Silva’s slick short passing constantly found holes in the defence.
It was an all round lacklustre performance that continued the trend of recent United matches. We might still have a 12 point lead atop the table but, call me pessimistic, that is not unassailable. Remember, we lost an eight point lead with six games left last season – a shock defeat to Stoke and it could be a nine point lead with six games remaining.
We need to focus and finish the job we looked to have all but finished just last week.
Ferguson’s downfall strikes again. Where were the substitutions? Why was Giggs allowed to play a full 95 minutes when we had game changers like Nani and Kagawa on the bench?
It was pointed out by Neil Ashton last week in the Daily Mail and tonight proved the point again unfortunately. Mancini brought on Aguero just after the 70th minute mark and he netted the winner. By the time our substitutions were on in the 80th, 85th and 90th minutes respectively, they didn’t have enough time to settle and have an impact.
The strength of United this season has been in the quality of the squad so it always makes me scratch my head when Ferguson sticks with his starting XI for so long. We needed the incisive passing of Kagawa in the final third and the attacking energy of Cleverley in the middle.
Where’s the attacking impetus gone? United have scored five goals in five games since the Real Madrid loss but in the five games leading up to that match, we scored 11.
A misfiring van Persie isn’t completely to blame despite his barren run because the chances simply aren’t being made. Set pieces were our most dangerous outlet tonight and there was hardly any cutting edge from open play which was quite worrying.
Rooney was rusty and Giggs was gormless which made it very difficult for us to have any threat through the middle and playing it out wide was about as fruitful as an apple tree in the desert.
Right now, United are limping towards a twentieth title rather than storming over the finish line. Although I don’t think that Ferguson will let the complacency take over to the point where the title slips away, it is a shame that the team still hasn’t fully picked themselves up from the woes of Madrid a month ago.
Groundhog day…United need a central midfielder. It might be the most repeated sentence in the world but it just cannot be ignored. Yaya Toure unsurprisingly made the middle of the park his own once again tonight with an alarming amount of ease – we had no answer.
Our midfield pair never really stood a chance. Tonight has to be the last time that Ryan Giggs starts in a midfield two against any of the big clubs. It was his worst performance so far this season but in all fairness, I doubt it was always going to be the case. If Evans or Vidic was fit, Jones would have played in central midfield and we might have had a chance but that is all ifs and buts.
Ferguson simply has to make a move this summer or face another season of midfield mediocrity. Now is the time – Scholes’ full retirement is imminent, Fletcher’s illness seems to be getting the better of him and Anderson hasn’t progressed at all.