Old Age? Sir Alex Ferguson Costs Manchester United Victory Against Everton

Pauly KwestelCorrespondent ISeptember 13, 2010

Mikel Arteta celebrates his injury time equalizer
Mikel Arteta celebrates his injury time equalizerMichael Regan/Getty Images

Back in June before I started writing for Bleacher Report, I wrote a blog entry titled, "United Didn't Have a Clue." (It can be found here.) To summarize it in short, I wrote that United should have thrown all their chips in the pot and play for a fourth straight Premier League title, or they should begin the rebuilding process and start getting their young guys valuable match experience. 

The blog post focused on how Manchester United did neither of these things. At times they were looking to get their young guys experience, but when given the chance to give them valuable experience, they went back to their old players.

In the end, their experienced players had just become too old to win another title. At the end of the post I noted that since they lost their chance at four straight titles, they should blow it up, admit that they likely won't win the title this year, and let the kids play. 

This leads to Saturday's match at Goodison Park against Everton. At this point we all know how it ended. Manchester United led Everton 3-1 in the 90th minute, only to concede goals in the 91st and 93rd minutes to finish the match 3-3. I waited until now to write, because I had so many things to say I just could not figure out how to coherently put it to words. 

My problem on Saturday came immediately when I saw the team selection by Sir Alex Ferguson. I understand why Wayne Rooney was dropped and I was OK with the move. What puzzled me was the other players he had on the field. I understand that last year when we were hit hard by injuries we needed to field only one striker often, and with Rooney it worked.

However, when we played a 4-5-1 with Berbatov, often times it didn't work. Since this season Fergie has been boasting about United's plethora of strikers, including young ones Javier Hernandez and Frederico Macheda, I was truly puzzled to see Berbatov lining up as our only striker.

To make matters worse, there were several times early last season where Berbatov and Nani looked like they were going to fight each other on the field, leading the two to not play at the same time between the months of November and March. Yet Nani got the call ahead of Antonio Valencia.

Last season United played a central midfield of Darren Fletcher, Paul Scholes, and Michael Carrick often, and it was very effective. However, due to Carrick being unavailable because of injury that wasn't the case.

The reason Berbatov started alone up front was because Fergie decided to start Gary Neville at right back. He seemed to admit that Gary Neville is not so good anymore, because he put John O'Shea on the field, less as a defensive midfielder and more as a man to cover for Neville since Neville continues to push all the way up when he's not fast enough to get back and defend. 

At home, United have been amazing this season. Away from Old Trafford United they have now conceded three goals in the final minutes of games. Most of this comes from the defense not having enough pace, or the stamina to play a full game. In simple words, the defense is getting old and their abilities are not as good as they used to be. 

What bothers me most is that after the game Sir Alex Ferguson said, "We must learn from this." I have to ask, "Who is learning?" In the last few seasons United have made several late comebacks, the players said it's because players like Giggs and Scholes played in these games when they were young and lost, and now they have the experience to go out and win.

Well the players that lost on Saturday were Giggs, Scholes, O' Shea, and Neville, some of the oldest players in United's squad! Where was the learning experience? Young defenders Rafael and Chris Smalling were on the bench, what did they learn? They learned that United's defenders were too old, slow, and tired to hold onto that lead. 

Sir Alex Ferguson has been great at keeping his older players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes fresh throughout the entire season. Many times it is because they either don't play more than once a week, or it is because they don't play the full 90 minutes especially when the team is ahead 3-1.

On Saturday Fergie made just one change by aking off Patrice Evra, the team's fastest defender, and replacing him with Ji-Sung Park, who was playing out of position in defensive midfield. The move left United's defense with even less pace.

The final minutes of the match saw Everton's midfielders running right past tired, slow, and old players like Scholes and especially Gary Neville, while young fit players such as Rafael and Darren Gibson watched from the bench.

I don't see how this could be a learning experience for Manchester United's young players. If Sir Alex Ferguson wants them to learn, he should let them play. If a young player makes a mistake, it is because of inexperience, and that is OK because that is how you learn. When the experienced players are making mistakes it is because of ability, and with the high standards set by Manchester United, they should not be playing in the first team anymore.