The Absurdity of Manchester United's Midfield and Sir Alex's Selection

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
The Absurdity of Manchester United's Midfield and Sir Alex's Selection
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
A thousand words

For being a legendary manager, Sir Alex sure makes a lot of bad fundamental decisions.

Especially coming off a hopefully learning loss at Chelsea midweek.

But Ferguson showed no signs of insight or clarity when he sat Darren Fletcher and played a flimsy 4-4-2 away to his arch-rivals Sunday.

Selection askew again

Midweek at Stamford Bridge, Sir Alex got about as tricky as he can by playing 4-4-2 away to Chelsea.

But there he marooned Fletcher on the right wing so Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick could eventually give up control in the second half.

He should have learned from that display that any 4-4-2 needs to contain the Scotsman or a similar end-to-end player who can both get stuck in correctly and make occasional more runs into the 18-yard-box.

After all, I wrote about it after the match. Why didn't Ferguson read it? He should really follow me on twitter.

But at least he played Fletcher against the Londoners.

Sir Alex appallingly seated his Scottish nucleus on the bench at Anfield, setting the foundation for an abhorrent losing display.

Let's not get physical (physical)

Why did Fletcher sit?

Submit Vote vote to see results

The game was always going to be cagey and demanding. So why did Ferguson start his lightest midfield possible?

Especially when a five-man midfield in games like these had regrettably become his hallmark.

Giggs and Nani are poor tacklers. The latter particularly lacks defensive sense as well.

Honestly if you need some steal on either wing and Park isn't available, put another da Silva out there and let him run wild. Hell, the twins could probably interchange along the touchline with some really good football.

An approach like that against Liverpool (with Fletcher centrally) would have been very helpful.

But United's longest-tenured manager shows no signs of adapting his thinking or doing it outside of a carefully constructed box.

United could have gotten away with it, though, if their center midfield had any sort of bottle at all.

Carrick the friendly ghost

Scholes and Carrick are a horrible pairing and it's not the former's fault.

At least he has credible attributes that contribute to the team in a meaningful way.

Selecting Scholes is justifiable; his creativity in the middle is tantamount going forward.

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Standing around per usual

This despite the Englishman not actually getting forward himself much these days, content, as everyone knows, to spray passes from deep with artistry and precision.

He needs the right partner. Someone who will go from box to box and really harry opposing playmakers and enforcers.

Carrick doesn't fit that description. He, ironically, is also content to attempt to do exactly what Scholes does but significantly worse, without equal guile, technique, or vision.

He tries to get by being being a ninja but he plays like a ghost. He is anonymous, hoping if he avoids detection he can keep being paid egregious amounts of money to have little or no impact on a football match.

But if you actually watch him individually over the course of a game, wow, he sure is rubbish.

The waferthin Englishman spent most of United's match against Liverpool standing 10 feet away from his maestro. Scholes was shimmying around constantly trying to get the ball as Carrick watched with mouth agape.

Meanwhile whenever United got the ball up to their forwards or wingers, there was no one to come knifing into the box late.

On the other side of the ball, as Scholes threw himself about, the former Spurs midfielder basically played a zone defense and only rarely pressured physically.

He doesn't assert himself or throw his weight around at all as evidenced throughout United's last two losses and recorded in these margins.

Clive Mason/Getty Images

How has he ever been considered up to an English standard or meeting the grade in Manchester has always been purely beyond me and is archived in all my writings.

Rooney creates more problems than he solves

Wayne Rooney should be the player to replace Scholes longterm as the club's prime central-midfielder.

He tracks back, gets stuck-in, and has a very wide passing range as well as being a threat from distance—just like Scholesy, particularly in his prime.

Ferguson is considered a genius but this simple idea, written time and again, remains just a pipe dream to those of us outside his rigid paradigm.

Instead he positions Rooney on the left wing and it is utterly mind-numbing.

Wayne never touches the ball with his left foot to turn or dribble and it makes his dribbling slow, his turns ineffective, and his approach predictable.

If he could touch the ball and turn and dribble with both feet then not only is the ball protected between his legs, but it will be under his center mass, providing better natural balance and a quicker ability to change direction at any whim.

Furthermore, he could dribble faster if he was are able to use either foot; therefore able to take a decisive touch with every step of a running gait.

His array of attacking moves would be diverse and reactive instead of plodding, forecast, and obvious. He might actually get around someone with the ball instead of only rarely getting past them only to be off-balance.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Setting up for another right-footed touch outside of his body, without protecting the ball or beguiling the defender in the slightest.

But Rooney is so one-dimensional. He doesn't stretch play at all on the wing and his dumbfire intention to hoof in right-footed crosses is completely and laughably forecast.

Is this the United hallmark for football? A left-footer on the right wing and a right-footer on the left wing checking inside to punt in hopeful crosses?

I guess so, especially without a central-midfielder getting forward to create play in the final third.

Evidence

Watch United's possession at 34:27 of the first half against Liverpool. Watch Rooney's inability, then track Carrick all the way until Liverpool get their clear-cut chance.

It embodies everything I've said and felt for the last few seasons.

Man Red can still win the league, but it'd help if Ferguson is challenged by someone at his staff to change his parochial, stubborn, failing approach to selection and tactics.

Sometimes I wonder if Mike Phelan is no more than a yes-man. Not even Sir Alex is infallible and, if these decisions are borne from him directly, someone needs to have a word.

United have been riding their luck thus far, something that has been consistently mused upon before being confirmed over the course of two regrettable matches.

Load More Stories

Follow Manchester United from B/R on Facebook

Follow Manchester United from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Manchester United

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.