Manchester United: Fergie Adopts S**t On A Stick Football

A victory it may have been, but the travelling herd of Manchester United supporters weren't swooning in Swansea.
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A victory it may have been, but the travelling herd of Manchester United supporters weren't swooning in Swansea.

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A third successive 1-0 win for ManchesterUnited isn't the desired remedy, as the fallout from the derby decimation continues.

‘Put a s**t hanging from a stick in the middle of this passionate, crazy stadium and there are people who will tell you it's a work of art. It's not: it's a shit hanging from a stick.’ Those are the memorable words of Jorge Valdano describing the mind-numbing boredom of the Liverpool-Chelsea Champions League clashes between 2005 and 2007. A phrase worthy of its own chapter in football’s encyclopaedia, let alone its lexicon, said style has been adopted by Manchester United again.

A third successive 1-0 win in the league further illustrated how, at any cost, Sir Alex Ferguson is willing to imbue his squad with belief after the derby disaster. The result now outweighs the performance for the Reds, yet Ferguson risks alienating United supporters on the pitch, having done so off of it.

Like Roberto Mancini’s petty lecture to Mario Balotelli in Los Angeles in the summer, the Scot has become a killjoy and defected from the United Way. Any remote outburst of cavaliering football has been curbed in favour of overreacting at the squad’s shortcomings. United have either been too open or too reticent this season, not in between – which should be the manager’s target.

Even when beating Arsenal 8-2 many supporters didn’t feel secure until there was a five goal cushion. A porous midfield and defence gifted the demoralised Gunners several great chances in a game which they should have scored more than the two goals they registered. It is only after the belated hiding smacked United across the face that they have looked secure.

But Ferguson has now overcompensated for the permeable performances. Reading this, many will doubtless muse, ‘there’s no pleasing some’, but is it that difficult to strike a suitable balance? Unfortunately for Ferguson it is, as more evidence seeps out of the club to advertise the team’s deficiencies.

When Owen Hargreaves lamented the medical treatment he received at United, he had a point. Gary Neville’s ‘two week’ lay-off in 2007 turned out to be one year and Hargreaves’ numerous setbacks included his ill-advised start against Wolves – against whom he lasted literally five minutes. Now it transpires that Tom Cleverley was rushed back, hence his relapse putting him out until Christmas. They’ll diagnose a fracture in April.

Staking dependence in Giggs and Carrick six months later indicates a severe lack of progress.

Rushing new salvation Cleverley back confirms how reliant United are on a first-team novice, how inept the midfield is, and how badly they f****d up not signing a trequartista. As suspected, this contradicts how ‘comfortable’ Ferguson is with the squad, when in actuality he is lying. Liverpool’s interest in Phil Jones compelled him to part with £20m a year earlier than preferred, hence the fruitless haggling over Wesley Sneijder.

For Swansea, it was Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick in the middle of the park. This was the best possible alternative with Cleverley unavailable, and also the most disconcerting. Said partnership was United’s best last season, under the impression that it was only interim, since both started in the Champions League final to a predictably disastrous effect. Staking dependence in them six months later indicates a severe lack of progress.

Carrick was, contrary to popular belief, not United’s best player. That was Rio Ferdinand, who reminded his scrutinisers that he can still do a passable impression of Franz Beckenbauer. His reading of the game and distribution was calmness personified, as he invariably initiated United’s possession spells in the opponent’s half.

Provisionally necessary his role may be, but Carrick is wasted in a defensive capacity. He did what was demanded of him against the Swans who, Scott Sinclair’s sitter aside, were as threatening as Andy Carroll. ‘Magnificent’ was the classic Ferguson over-statement to instil a player with brittle confidence to step up his game in the weeks ahead.

Unfortunately this invited statistic-obsessed dullards to confirm the magnificence because he completed the most passes on the pitch, against the team with the highest average possession at home in league. One cannot stress enough that some stats are absolutely worthless. It’s straw-clutching to trot out such numeric superiority when Carrick (three-time European Cup final starter) is playing against play-off winners. Has it really come to this?

Contrasting to the Anfield support, Old Trafford doesn’t laud s**t on a stick football. Ferguson had V-signs flicked at him during one stultifying spell over six years ago following a home defeat to Blackburn, having benched Wayne Rooney. The quandary is that, as many hollered in the summer, he needs world-class players in order for United to retain their title, and he didn’t buy one in the transfer window, let alone the two required.

Wins are welcome, but the style isn’t. That goal difference that is widening is the clichéd extra point for Manchester City, and United need to address that by being adventurous. Benfica arrive on Tuesday, which is just as well for United’s television viewers. Frozen Planet is on Wednesday at 9pm, the temptation to switch over to some genuine adventurousness courtesy of Attenborough would have been irresistable.

Other recent Manchester United stories you might like:

Is Michael Carrick Manchester United's Midfield Saviour?

Christian Eriksen: The Man To Set Manchester United Alight

Manchester United: Rooney In Midfield Proves Fergie Has Lost It

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