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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

United v Benfica - Ferguson's fight to keep his job begins in earnest

The boos ringing around Old Trafford on Saturday will no doubt have tore Ferguson up inside. He more than anyone knows that failure is no longer acceptable at Manchester United and already at this early stage in the season it seems as if United will again be fighting for a place at the top table rather than sitting at its head.

This is a club he has served for almost twenty years and he did not deserve the treatment he got against Blackburn. I was pleased to see that even his nemesis Arsene Wenger has expressed his shock at the fans reactions on Saturday. Having said that, it may be the wake up call or jolt in the arm that Ferguson needs.

What United need to do is go back to basics. United have been at their most devastating playing 4-4-2 and Ferguson needs to realise that in order to get United firing again they need to stop trying to fit players into a system they do not feel comfortable with and instead play a system built around the best players at his disposal. Square pegs do not fit in round holes, as the old adage goes.

Ferguson must see this - but he is a stubborn character. But Ferguson must not let stubborness rule his head otherwise his long reign at Old Trafford will come to a sad and damp end. Ferguson has rightly pointed to European nights as being special occasions for United and he must use tonight's platform to show that he still has the witt and tactical nous to get the best from his undoubtedly talented players against one of the all time European great club teams.

Ironically, because of Rooney's suspension and injuries to Keane and Saha, Ferguson has no choice but to play 4-3-3 against Benfica - but lets hope that the old square pegs round holes adage takes a night off tonight - for Ferguson's sake.


Blogger T said...

Nice article Abdul. I remember telling you a few weeks ago that 4-4-2 was Man Utd's better formation.

Giggs and Ronaldo down the wings with Rooney and VNR lurking around the penalty box is a far more intimidating prospect to face. This system would give Man Utd the psychological edge before kick-off against most teams.

Conversely, 4-5-1 with a congested three man central midfield and RVN starved of crosses is a far less intimidating prospect.

The facts bear this out: Man Utd's goal ratio has plummetted with the 4-5-1.

Man Utd's power in the late nineties derived from a driving 4-4-2 and relentless crosses into the penalty box. This was fearsome prospect for visiting teams and fans alike.

Now I watch Man Utd and that fear factor has dissipated. 4-5-1 is the reason why.

Ferguson has abandoned his principles to try to replicate Mourinho's formula for success. It is not proving to be a wise move.

4-5-1 may work well against some teams. But if you want consistent effectiveness and a resurgence of the Man Utd fear factor- 4-4-2 must make a come back.

And I say this an Arsenal fan whose interest lies in seeing Man Utd remain relatively ineffective!

9/27/2005 11:25 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

My first words start with condemnation of those who call themselves Man Utd fans who involved themselves in booing Sir Alex. This man forefronted the team that held the Premiership in a vice when it was born. ~As the league entered into the 21st century, only Blackurn and Arsenal won the title, and that is without even mentioning the 1999 treble amongst other accomplishments. Watching them dismantle teams with talented ease was a thorn many times suffered. The man is a legend at Old Trafford, those mentioned 'fans' bewilder the definition of support in football. Short memories seem to be in abundance when the going gets tough.

Secondly, the team appear to have suffered not from a dip in form but from a dip in direction, in turn losing some hunger for the win. It is minor, rest assured Utd fans, but simply sir Alex is the man to steer the team through it. One would say it is one defeat, but it is no wins now in three games, including Villarreal.

Last week's draw at Anfield may have been a catalyst for the loss, unusual 4-3-3, Rooney not behind VNR where he is more effective, the players seem pressured following Chelsea's win at Charlton. That pressure could be coming from the press, with the draw against Man City at home and a low key display in Spain. The injuries to key players make the resolve within the squad more deepening, and Keane is one player you look to when you want someone to install belief and drive into the game.

I would suggest Utd have seen their reputation scarred with the emergence of Chelsea's form and now need to deal with the fact that they are now ordinary and ensure they play stronger in the forthcoming games to put back that bite they have been known to have.

4-4-2 always my favourite formation, employ two strikers to increase goal scoring chances. You have VNR and Rooney together shows a more formidable forward line than just one. If you have a team that can beat teams comfortably with 4-5-1, don't fix it if it isn't broken. If you don't, change the formation, especially if you have players who can accommodate that change, and Sir Alex can do worse than use 4-4-2.

Chelsea may be the best team with 4-5-1, 4-3-2-1, whichever, but it isnt a constantly formidable formation for them. Crespo and Drogba haven't been prolific enough for the side who rely more on the advancing of the wingers and central midfield to score. OK, they've won all since the season began, including Anderlecht, Drogba has 3 goals, Crespo 2 out of 15 goals. Chelsea have other players primed to score than their forwards, that is the difference.

It's not a crisis at OT, it's an indifference, just for the moment. The key thing is for the formation now to change to suit the current selection, maybe to remain for the remainder of the season. A number of players now need to step up and take responsibility on the pitch instead of leaving it to others. Where Keane or Neville or even Giggs would take charge, now the side needs others to come forward. Giggs is resigned to the bench now, Keane and Neville are injured. Scholes isn't in the mood to be the take-charge person on his own.

Notice how Ferdinand hasn't been wearing the armband lately? I had questioned that decision before and Sir Alex must be looking for an experienced head to lead the side. Ferdinand is one of those who should step forward, his positioning has been proven to be questionable for England and also on Saturday. Another is VNR. Enagaing in a 4-4-2, he can lay in another or work his way to goal with more ease than most, but he needs another striker with him and Rooney clearly fits the bill.

One thing I feel is that criticism from the 'fans' will rain off Sir Alex like bullets to kevlar. He is far more concerned if anything gets to his players other than his own words.


9/27/2005 5:25 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

Nice article Abdul. I wish more team would play 4-4-2 in the premiership.

I actually think that Man United are the only side apart from Chelsea who can play 4-5-1

9/29/2005 4:26 pm


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