Manchester United Boss Sir Alex Ferguson
In the past week, it seems that whatever Sir Alex Ferguson does he cannot seem to win with me. On Monday, I harshly criticized his decision to field a very experienced (read: old) team at Goodison Park, when the team faltered late and blew a 3-1 lead. I said that he should be playing some of the younger guys over some of the older guys.
Well, today I am here to question his very young team selection for Manchester United's Champions League match against Rangers Tuesday.
Before I start, I would like to make clear that I am not having a "this is the end of the world overreaction." A 0-0 draw at home in the first Champions League is far from the end of the world. The object is to advance out of the group, which usually only requires 10 points. That leaves room for a 3-1-1 record. We are already on schedule.
Furthermore, gone are the days where Old Trafford will be a European fortress where it is impossible for visiting teams to come in and take points from United during the group stages. During the knockout rounds, it will continue to be a very difficult place for teams to play, but during the group stages I expect to see a lot of games just like the ones we saw last night.
This is not a new theme either. Over the last two seasons United have dropped several group stage points at home, and last season they failed to win a home match during the group stages.
However, this is not a reason to panic. The reason for this is simple, visiting teams are going to do exactly what Rangers did last night; they are going to come in and park the bus in front of their net and make it impossible for United to score.
Visiting teams will play for a draw at Old Trafford, and often times they will get it. This is no reason to worry because United are better then the other teams in their group. When the other teams are playing at home, they play a more open style to try to win. Since United are better, they are capable of winning these open contests even on the road, as evidenced by last season when they won all three of their group stage away matches.
After complaining about the age of United's squad against Everton on Saturday, one would think I would be very happy to see the team Fergie fielded on Tuesday, but I was not. I am all for getting the young players valuable match time and experience, but at the same time I still want to win.
Usually, it is impossible to get your young players experience while at the same time remaining competitive enough to compete for a title. But that is not the case with Manchester United; however, they will never be able to do both if they keep up this strategy.
It didn't seem like there was any rhyme or reason to the team he put out Tuesday night. Once again it was filled with players who have rarely played together or who's styles clash. That was very evident during the match as the team really failed to gain any consistency.
However, I am OK with this because midfielder Darren Gibson deserves more match time then he is getting, and eventually he will have to start partnering with Darren Fletcher more often. The two need to start developing chemistry somewhere. I was also very glad to see the entire back five changed from the side that faced Everton.
Elsewhere, it was the first start for the partnership of Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez. Many people, including Fergie himself, said before the season that Rooney and Chicarito are too similar players and will not be able to play with each other. It was very evident last night that the two are very similar as they struggled to form a threatening partnership all game.
However, this was a move that had to be made, since even though nobody thinks the two can play together, you have to try it. They may never learn how to play with each other, but they have to be given chances to try. When Carlos Tevez joined United, people were saying the same thing. While it took a while, the two eventually learned how to play with each other and became a fabulous pair to watch.
The problem with his team selection was that you cannot continue to go all season playing all of your older players one day, and all the young players another day. While it is great to get the young guys 90 minutes of match time, it would be far more beneficial if Fergie would combine the two, even if means a young player only getting 60 minutes instead of 90.
With the exception of the Carling Cup matches, Fergie should be mixing in the players throughout the first team, not playing all of them at once. The other problem: if Chicharito is fit, as he is, where was he on Saturday? Hernandez and Berbatov have had a very successful partnership so far. If you know Rooney isn't going to play, why not have Chicharito play against Everton, or at least be on the bench?
I am a guy who likes watching the young guys play. I love watching the Carling Cup matches to see the young players. But last nights match was a truly boring boring match. The inexperience of United showed as they failed to be able to mount a consistent attack with consistent pressure.
Eventually their only chances at goal came from shots from 25-plus yards out off the boot of Darren Gibson. I do understand that Rangers had about eight guys back in the box and getting the ball into the box was nearly impossible, but a mixture of experienced players could have helped show the youngsters to try different ways to be a little creative in creating more attacks, as Giggs did when he replaced the injured Valencia.
After the match, Sir Alex Ferguson defended his team selection saying he played a very strong team, which is true, and that United should have won the match. I must ask, late in that much what did Fergie do to TRY and win that match? His bench selection was questionable at best, leaving his most in form striker Dimitar Berbatov out completely.
At least this time he didn't leave to changes in his pocket, but what did the changes that he made accomplish? He brought on Michael Owen, which forced Hernandez to play out wide, as a third striker. This is a move he has done in the past with Rooney, Berbatov, and Owen. United have yet to score a goal when Owen is on the pitch with two other strikers.
Furthermore what did Owen even do, did he even touch the ball? I surely didn't notice. His selection was even more puzzling seeing as Frederico Macheda was also on the bench. Not only was it a match where it looked like Fergie was favoring young players, but Macheda seems to have a habit of coming off the bench and scoring goals.
The other change Fergie made was bringing on a third central defender to play at left back. Replacing Fabio who had been pushing up and actually creating more attacks then any other player on the field. If you told me Fergie did this to go more defensive to ensure that United did concede a late goal I would agree with the move.
But for the last five to eight minutes of the game, only Rio Ferdinand and Chris Smalling were back on defense as Wes Brown and Jonny Evans were pushing up on attack.
The rule of thumb around Manchester United is you don't question Sir Alex Ferguson since he is the most successful Premier League manager in history. I try to abide by this rule as often as possible, although in the last few years I have found myself questioning him more and more.
About 99 percent of the times that I question him, it turns out that he ends up right and I was wrong to question him. I just hope that the same thing happens this time.