A towering Marouane Fellaini header condemned Manchester United to an opening day defeat to Everton. However, alarm bell's shouldn't be ringing just yet, unless you're Patrice Evra, of course.
How Will Ferguson Accommodate His Stars?
With Shinji Kagawa’s exciting debut performance on Monday night, Sir Alex Ferguson now has a serious selection dilemma: how does he accommodate all of his stars? With Wayne Rooney the lynchpin in this United side and Robin van Persie expected to get the goals, where does that leave Shinji Kagawa?
Playing in the hole behind Rooney against Everton, the sprightly Japanese midfielder was a hub of energy and creativity. To have room for the three, Fergie would have to compromise out wide, but whom? Can he really entertain disrupting the side’s balance by adopting a more central approach? Nani showed no signs why he should consider warranting selection, while Antonio Valencia was drafted in at right-back, with Danny Welbeck operating inefficiently on the left wing.
Whichever formation and line-up the Scot goes for, some big names are going to be left feeling disappointed.
Midfielders Cannot Defend
United need to ease their current injury troubles; they missed Rio Ferdinand, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans at the back, and it showed. Michael Carrick was at fault for the goal and was perplexingly marking the towering Marouane Fellaini all night – he was promptly run ragged. Valencia got the nod at right-back ahead of Rafael, but the powerful winger is no full-back. Though he works hard, he doesn’t possess the defensive positioning to perform in the role.
Instead, Carrick’s impromptu shift at centre-half (a feat he’s not unused to performing in times of need) not only brought the United defence a fair share of scrutiny, it also highlighted the lack of ‘legs’ in the centre of the park. Paul Scholes and Tom Cleverly were caught on the break more than once. United should stabilise if they can get a couple of first-choice defenders back to full fitness before Saturday.
We Need a New Left-back
Patrice Evra’s first touch went on holiday circa 2010 and has yet to book its return flight. The previously marauding Frenchman, known for his lightning forward runs as much for his astute defensive ability has languished in a state of underperformance for far too long. He was outclassed by Tony Hibbert, a man whose performances echo players of old; tough, disciplined and no-nonsense.
United have just announced the signing of Alexander Buttner from Vitesse Arnham as cover for Evra during Fabio’s loan move to QPR. The signing couldn’t have come at a better time. Perhaps Evra’s underwhelming performances over the last season or two have been down to stagnation. There is simply no competition for his place. With Buttner breathing down his neck, perhaps the diminutive Frenchman can at last return to the form which helped him be considered one of Europe’s finest full-backs.
Patrice Evra’s first touch went on holiday circa 2010 and has yet to book its return flight
Despite the Welbeck star rising rapidly over the last 18 months, there still remains the simple assessment that the young lad is not good enough for Manchester United. He works hard and he creates space with his off-the-ball running. Aside from that, United’s residence ‘number 19’ has little else to offer.
Whether occupying a place in the side for another winger, i.e. Ashley Young, or wandering up front offering little in the way of a presence, Welbeck continues to be picked in the starting XI. With van Persie eagerly waiting for his first start and with Valencia surely to be re-instated on right wing in the coming games, Welbeck must finally relinquish his grasp on a first team berth.
And when you have Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez in reserve, there’s an argument to suggest Welbeck doesn’t even deserve a place on the bench.
Under Ferguson, United have traditionally been slow starters. The much talked about ‘stepping up a gear’ usually occurs post-Christmas when other teams are roiling from the gruelling festive schedule. So, whatever assumptions and opinions critics and fans draw from the Red Devils’ opening game, it remains to be said that there is little need to panic. With defenders out, several signings learning the ins-and-outs of each other’s games, and van Persie still to wind up into full gear himself, the season’s expectations cannot look anything but bright.
Other great football articles
Click here for more stories on Football and Sport
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Twitter
Click here to follow Sabotage Times on Facebook