Update: The official lineup has been released, which you can see here. Very interesting that Bale starts after just 45 minutes for Wales, and it’s a surpremely attacking lineup that slightly screws up my Key to Victory below as Bent isn’t in there. I think that taking away that pace on the counterattack is a mistake and I would have played him with Berbatov especially as that gives us a proper aerial threat from crosses now that we have 2 wingers in there.
Well, kickoff is about an hour away and I’m surprisingly calm. Maybe the utter stress of the past week has made me numb, but I’m just hoping for the best at Old Trafford.
That said, we couldn’t have asked for a worse time to play United.
They’re a wounded animal, angry that they’ve dominated matches from start to finish but somehow their finishing has let them down. They’ll be looking to send a message and sending it against an alleged Top Four challenger will be exactly what the doctor, or Sir Alex, ordered.
If you had to pick out a massive weak spot in our defensive unit (other than the Black Hole Of Doom known as the Jenas-Zokora partnership) it would be our ability to deal with crosses. Doesn’t matter if it’s open play or a set piece, you’ll find Paul Robinson rooted to his line while our defenders are letting their man go free left and right. It was a problem for us even when Ledley and Dawson were in the side and it’s certainly not going to be better with Rocha and Gardner in there.
And they will be tested by the club that is the model of quality wingplay. Attacking down both flanks with wingers and fullbacks is exactly what Sir Alex wants from his side and there will be balls fired into our box from start to finish and it’s really only a matter of time before they put one, or three, away.
I’d say we have to counter attack at pace, but we won’t have any in midfield if Routledge is benched for Tainio and Jol decides to go back to the Jenas-Zokora “both of you are holders” strategy. I would much rather see us put Huddlestone in there with Jenas again and let Tommy try and put some balls over the top for Bent to get onto. We’re going to lose the battle in the middle of the park on the simple tasks (possession, challenges) we may as well have someone who can create something out of nothing with a bit of genius, and Huddlestone is that man.
It’ll free up Jenas to join the attack as well, so that ideally we see:
COUNTERATTACK: Huddlestone plays a long through ball into the channels for Bent as there will be space left by United’s attacking full backs. Bent holds it up while Jenas storms into the box, outrunning the much slower Carrick/Scholes/Hargreaves midfield. Bent lays the ball off for Jenas to score.
I think that’s our best chance of getting a goal.