With plenty already being said about Manchester United’s numerous troubles this season, BubblyMickey throws in his two pennies on what has gone wrong on the pitch for the Red Devils:
I’ve watched three United matches recently, and what a selection to pick: the two Champions League matches against Lille and the Teeside debacle sandwiched between. Now I will confess that I am as optimistic a United fan as you will find – on that note and despite what I am about to write, I still believe we will catch Chelsea and win the title – but even I was rendered speechless by the cr*p that I watched. Actually, thatâ€™s not strictly true: in fact, my exact words were: â€œ@#**&$^@%@@â€.
Devoid of creativity, lack of organisation, a sharp drop in standards of quality – but most important of all, a startling shortage of effort. Roy Keane hit the nail on the head in his criticism of his fellow team-mates.
Youngsters John Oâ€™Shea and Darren Fletcher were touted as two of the best young players in the country when they first broke into the first team. Despite being surrounded by some of the best mentors possible, they are yet to develop into Premiership superstars. Some may say theyâ€™re not working hard enough, others will argue they just donâ€™t have the quality. So yeah, theyâ€™re pretty much lazy and rubbish. Oâ€™Shea can often be seen ambling out to close players down: at this level, and as Gaizka Mendieta showed, you will be punished. Roy Keane, Jaap Stam, even Paul Scholes would waste no time in getting out to the player on the ball (in Scholesyâ€™s case, he would probably slide in and get booked â€“ but beats conceding a goal!). As a teenager, Fletcher was touted as the next David Beckham, but he has yet to show true signs of going anywhere near that level. We always hear stories of how players like Eric Cantona and David Beckham were the first to step out on the training ground and the last to leave. Oâ€™Shea and Fletcher could do a lot worse than follow their exampleâ€¦
If there is a case for Kieran Richardson and Alan Smith, then you could say that they have been played out of position for much of the season. I remember when United had a defensive injury crisis in â€™95, Roy Keane filled in admirably for 5 or 6 games as right-back. Even Quinton Fortune and Phil Neville have played in a variety of positions and not let us down.
Without a doubt, the standards are high at United; and whether for lack of ability or lack of determination, these guys just arenâ€™t clearing the bar.
Rio Ferdinand clearly is good enough. Without a doubt, he is one of the top defenders in the world on his day; one who was a star performer for England at the last World Cup and one who would walk into Sven Goran Erikssonâ€™s side ahead of Terry and Campbell. His composure on the ball, reading of the game and ability to organize the rest of the defence are second-to-none. But, for a player who is getting paid 120-grand a week, who fans stuck who stuck with him during his, albeit harsh, 8-month ban, he is not doing enough to pick himself up from a catalogue of high-profile errors this season. The best United players, a la Keaneâ€™s own goal against Real Madrid in 2000 and Giggs missing the open goal against Arsenal in 2003, have all made mistakes in their time at Old Trafford. But they always work hard to pick themselves up and get on with the job at hand.
There are other culprits as well. Paul Scholes has yet to score this season. Ruud Van Nistelrooy is hitting the net, but still a shadow of the 44-goal scoring machine of 2003. Cristiano Ronaldoâ€™s form has suffered from personal problems such as his fatherâ€™s illness and the allegations of rape. More than anything else, I believe that United are suffering from a lack of cover, as the quality of the understudies is just plain average. In years gone by, having Ole Solskjaer, Teddy Sheringham and Nicky Butt on the bench would keep the first XI on the edge and at the top of their game, knowing that any signs of a sub-standard performance would lead to instant action from SAF.
Whilst the situation has not been helped by a catalogue of injuries, that is no excuse for United to be playing THAT badly (losing to Middlesbrough, drawing with Liverpool â€“ what is that?!?!). As Keano would say, â€œitâ€™s time some players to stand up and be counted.â€ What a better time to start than tomorrow. There would be no better way to for Messrs Ferdinand and co, to shove all of that back in my face than by beating Chelsea and dragging ourselves back into contention for the Premiershipâ€¦ Come On You Reds!