Manchester United: A Little Fatigued

Nigel AssamContributor IMarch 23, 2009

LONDON - MARCH 21:  Aaron Hughes of Fulham and Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester United at Craven Cottage on March 21, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Everybody knows that not every game will go well for any team—a fact brought to the fore in yesterday's 2-0 defeat of Manchester United at the hands of Fulham.

With the talk for the past few months of the quintuple, the pressure has been mounting on the Red Devils, who so far, have claimed two trophys and, despite two losses in row, are still favourites to win the Premier League.

Sir Alex Ferguson has said all along—as well as in a recent interview in the New Statesman—that getting the quintuple is impossible.

This is not a sound of defeat; rather, it is the understanding of a veteran manager who has experienced everything there is in football and knows that, along with skill and talent, it takes luck to win.

Against all of that, there is the threat of mental fatigue.

Physically, the players would have returned from last week's defeat at home against Liverpool ready to do battle against Fulham, but is it possible that mentally, the expectations placed upon them by their supporters, the media, the betters, and everyone else, they are a little exhausted?

No doubt Sir Alex Ferguson is keeping everything in perspective behind the scenes. It is expected that he would like to win the quintuple and he knows that his players would like this also, yet he is realistic and is keeping them grounded.

Keeping players grounded is one of the skills and talents of a successful manager.

In the first half against Fulham, one wondered if they were watching Manchester United or their inconsistent crosstown rivals. However, in the second half, with United attacking and controlling the match, there was the presence of the United all watchers of football would expect.

The inconsistent passing, the easy loss of balls to Fulham, the outclassing of them by the Cottagers, and the lack of confidence in the first half intimated that they were not mentally present at Craven Cottage.

But the frustration was getting the better of the team, shown in a petulant, even lazy Cristiano Ronaldo, an unhappy Wayne Rooney, and an unusually weak Rio Ferdinand, among others.

Patrice Evra was getting the run-around; going forward, he is a talented supporter, but when defending against strong attackers, sometimes they seem to get the better of him.

With Rooney now missing two games, Carlos Tevez will certainly have more playing time and will be able to show Sir Alex why he should pay out for the Argentinian, especially because the suspicion that Ronaldo will leave at some time for Real Madrid.

Both Tevez and Rooney are two of the most hardworking players in the league today and the Argentinian's attitude is almost always positive; there is never any slagging from either player, which is why they are both loved.

But these are professionals and like the professionals they are, with the guidance of the greatest manager in the English game, United will recover and can expect to continue to be favourites to win the Premier League and score the impossible quintuple.