Rating the Manchester United Players Against Stoke

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Rating the Manchester United Players Against Stoke
Michael Regan/Getty Images
Sir Alex Ferguson

Before rating Manchester United's players against Stoke, something needs to be said about what happened outside the match.

Rio Ferdinand is in trouble.

Sir Alex Ferguson was widely quoted on his comments from Friday's press conference about Jason Roberts' threat to not wear a "Kick it Out" T-shirt as a protest, according to Jamie Jackson of The Guardian.

Let's give this a context. This weekend, all Premier League players were supposed to wear the T-shirt as part of the "Kick it Out" campaign.

On Friday, according to Tony Banks of the Daily Express, Jason Roberts had raged against Chelsea for not taking a stronger line against John Terry.

Rio Ferdinand and Joleon Lescott were both thought to be considering joining Roberts in refusing to wear the T-shirt, according Sami Mokbel and Charles Sale of the Mail Online.

Having said that, all the Manchester United players would wear the T-shirt, Sir Alex will have been acutely embarrassed that Rio did not. 

The Manchester United defender must either be deaf or stupid to not do so. The message that Sir Alex had given was not just directed at Roberts, it surely was coded for all his players also. He was clearly pretty angry after the match.

Apart from Rio going against Sir Alex's instructions the manager would have wanted to make a point in a week where Chelsea are perceived to have had a double standard by fining Terry but leaving the captaincy with him.

It's impossible to say whether the situation affected Ferdinand's performance, but he may have made a career-threatening error. Like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs, he is seeking a one-year extension to his contract.

The defence has wobbled this season. Sir Alex has previously showed no patience with Jaap Stam and Roy Keane, also senior professionals who publicly embarrassed him. If the Scot ever needed an excuse to go out and buy another senior defender, this could be it.

At the very least, Rio will be hit with a fine by the club for his defiance.

Getting back to the match Sir Alex made some interesting decisions—first to play 4-2-3-1 and second with his team selection.

First, this is United's third different formation in a month. Maybe, Sir Alex is trying out new tactical formations before the big matches come along, but if he's going do this, he needs to get the personnel right.

OK, so United had most of their squad away on international duty, but he played Carrick who had 180 minutes for England.

The manager seemed to have learned very little from the Tottenham debacle. He played Rooney from the start with Van Persie, but he either stubbornly or blindly seems to believe that Scholes was not the problem in the 3-2 defeat.

The first half at Tottenham was characterised by United being overrun in a midfield where Carrick and Scholes played as a duo. The same thing happened again in the first half against Stoke. A better team would have repeated the Tottenham experience.

It's against this factor that we review the players' performances.

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