United And Ferguson, Winning It The Hard Way...
The performance against Birmingham was maybe enough now to convince me, despite Ferguson's detractions, that Manchester United are not close to being the side they were last year, nor can boast the chemistry of the year before. Yes, the defensive woes have coincided with the indifferent results and a lack of solidity that saw them go on a record breaking run of clean sheets in the previous term.
But the limited number of players with impact, essentially those that can score goals - against the run of play, away from home, those 'something out of nothing' strikes - is painfully obvious.
Rooney cannot do it all on his own. A phrase that many pundits have coined is a true one. Furthermore, Berbatov seems, at times, unwilling to help, while Giggs, despite stellar performances throughout this campaign and the last, can and should not be expected to bail the team out, given his veteran status.
In truth, United perhaps remain the most flexible side out of the traditional top four, able to mix up their play to match styles as contrasting as Chelsea's and Arsenal's, and most of the time, something in between. Unfortunately, they have been unable to produce any three of the styles effectively.
In addition, the other big guns, regardless of league position, form and tactical style, all have something in common, when exhibiting a clean bill of health. A dominant midfielder (a scorer and a creator) and a regularly scoring striker. By striker, I mean striker, a leader of the line. Forwards, those in the whole and licenses to role, look away now.
Lampard and Drogba, Gerrard and Torres, Fabregas and Van Persie and Barry and Adebayor. Provided their fitness is a given, the nine players around these pairs can change, but they will always remain a constant, a constant threat. In the red devils case, the positions are six of one and half a dozen of the other. Rooney, as brilliant as he is, is either or and not a certain one of the two.
However, Ferguson's formula has always been one of flexibility, which worked wonders with Ronaldo, Tevez, and Hargreaves anchoring a midfield three. But all three are now absent and while midfield tenacity has been replaced through Darren Fletcher albeit, in my opinion, not to the same level, the attacking options remain more limited and a greater cause for concern.
There is every chance that United could win the title while making no further additions, if Chelsea fluff their lines and the Gunners continue to flatter and deceive in equal measure. But their chances could be enhanced through a shrewd signing or two.
Berbatov as a makeweight could help to secure the signature of a forward, maybe Aguero, preferably Dzeko. While the assurances Hargreaves' provided could be ironed out temporarily with the signing of Marcos Senna.
The transfer options are in factor wider, whether Ferguson admits he needs them is another matter. Stubbornness grows with age.
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