United crippled by the same old problems
So, here we are again. Another Monday night derby presenting United with the chance to hammer the final nail in City's coffin, only for them to relinquish the opportunity; their limits prominently exposed.
April 12th, 2013
United’s impressive gap at the top had led many to wonder whether the 2012-13 team was indeed one of Fergie’s finest, or whether this Premier League season was characterised by a severe lack of quality – with Monday night’s encounter considered to be the perfect chance to lay down a statement of intent.
Only there was no statement, rather the reiteration of what had emerged over the last couple of games, as United fell victims of the same old mistakes. Last year Sir Alex Ferguson’s negative tactics had handed City the initiative in the crucial showdown at the Etihad; on Monday his approach was bolder with four attacking players on the pitch, but the result was the same and, arguably, it had been coming.
United have steamrolled their way through the Premier League this season, becoming the first team to win 25 of their 30 opening games but, since the second leg against Real Madrid, they have jogged rather than ran; their path suddenly rockier under their feet.
United have, quite simply, gone out of form at the worst possible moment.
And while they remain more than good enough to graft out results against the likes of Sunderland, their limits are there to be exploited – something Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City have done profitably.
Many have pointed at Robin Van Persie’s lack of form in front of goal as the reason behind United’s stuttering form in recent weeks, but to dismiss them as a one-man team is foolish and speculative; for the Dutchman hasn’t lost his form, rather he’s been starved of deliveries.
Nani, Valencia and Ashley Young have all under-performed this season, and it was telling that Sir Alex decided to deploy only one of them against City – the game needed width, but Fergie didn’t seem willing to trust any of the aforementioned trio apart from the average Ashley Young.
With Van Persie deprived of ammunition and wingers as mono-dimensional as a light bulb, the onus on producing falls inevitably on United’s weak link – the midfield.
The decision to start Ryan Giggs alongside Michael Carrick on Monday was puzzling and a tad suicidal, but it was simply forced upon by the circumstances given Tom Cleverley’s rather unimpressive form in recent weeks.
Less than a month after entertaining dreams of another Treble (numbers might not lie but this side will never be in the same bracket of the 1999 vintage) United find themselves with a still relatively comfortable lead, but must address their limits and shortcomings.
Otherwise, falling short in games might become a rather unpleasant habit.
By Dan Cancian (RedRants)