Over-complication hinders Man Utd as Chelsea soar into the distance
For more then a decade Manchester United have been at the summit of English football. Though others have mounted, and in the case of Arsenal, sustained, a domestic challenge, no one has approached United's consistency at the pinnacle of club competition, the Champions League.
United's success was based on a simple formula. The team was organised in a traditional 4-4-2 formation. At its' root was a solid, if unspectacular, defence/ goalkeeper combination. It's trunk was composed of a dynamic central midfield combination, augumented by wingers, free to roam, but who would 'tuck in' when necessary. At its head were two strikers, one of whom could drop deeper, to create , if necessary.
The success of this system was its' simplicity. Everyone knew their role, even if they were new to the team. Players could come of the bench and simply fit into their designated position. This can be seen in the smooth transition from Ince to Keane, Kanchelskis to Beckham, Cole to Van Nistelroy, and the successes enjoyed by 'supersubs' Ole and Teddy. Consequently United's play was direct, fluent and entrancingly incisive.
In the past three years these attributes have dissipated. They remain a good side, and a force in Europe, but have begun to resemble a kind of bastardised version of the Italian greats Juve and Milan. As the limbs of Giggs, Scholes and Keane have aged, so United have slowed their game down to suit. Their loss of capacity has forced the addition of an extra player in the centre of midfield to do the dog work, often at the expense of a striker or winger. Consequently at least two players play out of position, throwing up a whole range of selectorial idiosyncracies. Take, for example, last season and a must win game against a desperately poor Leeds side, Ferguson selected Neville, Fortune and O'Shea in central/ defensive midfield, Scholes on the left and Giggs in the centre!?! The score- 1-1, and a very long drive back down south.
It comes as no surprise to read that United are on course for their lowest goals tally in 15 years. Moreover it pains me to watch Arsenal and Chelsea and be reminded of our fomer beauty. So here is my five point to galvanise United.
1- Play 4-4-2. The players are comfortable with this formation. It prevents them wandering around aimlessly, out of position.
2- Spend some cash on or introduce from the academy long term replacements for Keane, Scholes and Giggs. Do not buy unproven foreign crap, i.e. Kleberson, Djemba, Forlan.
3- Do not sell Keane, Scholes, Giggs until their replacements have surpased them. In the meantime the young players can learn from the old masters, while giving them a rocket up the backside.
4- Purchase a good crosser of the ball. There are several reasons for this. Firstly United haven't been the same force since they let Beckham go. Secondly they possess four of the sharpest aerial threats in the Premier League in Van, Rooney, Saha and Smith. Thirdly, Mediterranean defences are poor at coping with crosses. In 99' Cole and Yorke, supplied by Beckham, caused havoc in the air. I believe the German emphasis on crosses can go some way to explaining their clubs' over-achievement in European and world football club's. Finally, Giggs and Ronaldo can't and never have been able to cross a football.
5- Appoint me as manager. I could be the English Mourinho.