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Manchester United: Fergie's European Arrogance Has Gone Too Far

Poor team selection, blaming the defence rather than midfield and expecting Phil Jones to quell a midfield three. Has Fergies lost his marbles...

Athletic Bilbao secured a famous win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Thursday. They only have themselves to blame…

Proclaimed by many fans as the biggest clash of the last 16 of the Europa League, Athletic Bilbao overran Manchester United in the first leg of their tie at Old Trafford, a result which leaves Fergie’s men needing at least two goals in the return leg at the San Mames to get through to the quarter finals, a task – which on seeing United’s performance last night – looks plainly impossible. United were nervous, measured and timid as they were completely outclassed by a young Athletic side, who will deservedly be Basque-ing in the glory for quite a while.

Ever since this season began, the teams Ferguson has fielded in Europe have had a whiff of sheer arrogance about them. The nonchalance with which Ferguson’s teams have performed with so far has been shocking. Matches against Basel and Otelul Galati – teams they should have trampled over – became nightmares for every United fan, as Galati very nearly made them pay and Basel deservedly knocked them out of the Champions League. In the wake of that match, Basel’s Xherdan Shaqiri had this to say :

United underestimated us. You could feel it in the tunnel and even in the warm-up.”

“They weren’t fully focused and I’m not sure a United player made one sprint. Afterwards, you couldn’t even swap shirts – they were gone that quickly.”

In essence, Shaqiri has hit the proverbial nail bang on the head. And it seems old habits die hard for Ferguson. The same complacent attitude that has dogged their UCL disaster has trotted alongside them to the Europa League. The second leg at Ajax typified their laggardly attitude to the game. Ajax brushed aside United’s presumptuous ball play and came extremely close to pulling of a coup de maître in front of the OT faithful, reminding us yet again of something Vicente del Bosque said in 2003 :

Its always attractive to play against Manchester United because they allow you to play.”

del Bosque has been amply vindicated by United’s play on Thursday night. From the moment the squad lists were announced, there was an almost imperceptible “oh sh**” feeling around Old Trafford. Playing Ryan Giggs and Phil Jones against a middle three who had very nearly overpowered Barcelona (something which Ferguson hasn’t done in a while, at least not when it mattered) wasn’t just bad, it was downright idiotic. Personally, I’m a huge admirer of Giggs, but there was no way he could stem the tide on his own, especially when his partner Jones has the tactical awareness of a moose on ecstasy.

And based on this performance, you’re better off wagering on the Sky Blues

Jones has been brilliant for him this season at everywhere except centre back, but what must be noted is that his Robson-esque performances came when he was paired with Michael Carrick. This worked because Carrick is technically proficient enough to sit deep and defend, while Jones goes about rampaging the opposition. However, alongside someone much more creative like Giggs, he was expected to stay put and cover the defenders – something he failed at spectacularly. On the wings, the situation was just as dire. On one side, Ashley Young was trying and failing to make things happen, while on the other, Sung-Ji Park (as Carlton Palmer calls him) was pointedly pathetic. Finally, United’s front line looked just like the Soviet frontline after the Battle of Prussia. Go on, take a guess as to how that went.

The match was truly won and lost (mostly lost) in defence. Bilbao’s defence, despite key players missing, was stubborn and unrelenting against United’s one-paced attack, while United’s was an utter shambles. Patrice Evra, who has been unfailingly terrible for approximately two years now was the catalyst in United shooting themselves in the foot. Instead of preventing crosses from getting in, Captain un-Fantastic decided to ignore them altogether, which went very well indeed. Evra should have blocked Susaeta’s cross for the first goal, should have marked De Marcos (a right midfielder who somehow managed to sneak into the left of the box) for the second goal, and was left for dead when Athletic broke for the third goal – which incidentally came when an unmarked De Marcos was in acres of space down the right. Lamentable.

On minor note, Fergie did use all of his substitutes for a change. Although none of them made much impact. Carrick was disappointing, especially considering his recent form. Anderson did raise the game but not by much, and Nani who should have started the match had no time to make an impact.

After the Ajax defeat, Ferguson’s mea culpa was astonishing, blaming the defeat on an inexperienced defence. Surely, if this is the same man that has won all those titles, he must have realized that the midfield was waaay more garbage than the defence? United’s back four on Thursday had an average age of 24.5 and among them, the worst player by far was a 30 year old left back, and the best was a 21 year old Spaniard who has already been written off in many quarters. So much for Ferguson’s inexperience theory.

If this United side are to progress to the quarter-finals, they need to score an unanswered two-goals at the bare minimum. Against an Athletic side who have lost just twice at home this season, roared on by a fervent home crowd numbering over 35,000 in the daunting bear pit that is the San Mames stadium. This might very well be United’s last chance at a trophy this season. Slip up again and they could very well end up trophy-less for the first time since the 2005-06 season. If they do lose, then the derby against City on April the 30th will attain unprecedented importance. And based on this performance, you’re better off wagering on the Sky Blues.

Follow Me On Twitter (@AndyUnix)

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

sri 10:53 am, 10-Mar-2012

You Dim wit. Premier league is priority.

Duncan 12:31 pm, 10-Mar-2012

Arrogant article

OnlyChild 2:17 pm, 10-Mar-2012

Another so called Red, Fergie bashing. Only suprise is this time it isn't that man bag wearing whopper with the ice cream. A transitional period in our recent history where yet again, whilst bedding in new, young talent, we're challenging for the big one (League before Europe, any fucking day). Admit it, you take pictures of corner takers at OT on your shiny I-Phone, don't you? Crank.

yogavo 5:04 pm, 10-Mar-2012

"Only suprise is this time it isn't that man bag wearing whopper with the ice cream." aye

ma 5:26 pm, 10-Mar-2012

It's pathetic when supporters with united goggles can't see wood for the trees. Be honest, United midfield has been underwhelming for most of the season, not to mention a lack of depth for the past 3 years, and that is SAF's responsibility. SAF wants to overtake Barcelona, but never will until he improves the current side and gets a couple of new world-class players. Over the past few months the side has been lethargic, incapable of passing and controlling the ball over long periods of play and with some honorable exceptions have not been worth the money they receive. By the same token there has been some seriously weird game tactics being sponsored by SAF. Also why does Berbatov get so few games? He offers something different and unpredictable in attack which is not the current case.

OnlyChild 8:07 pm, 10-Mar-2012

Well, thats me convinced. Eastlands it is next season.

tishy 9:37 pm, 10-Mar-2012

i agree with some of the article, our midfield is poor and needs a massive overhaul, not just 1 player but at least 3 out - park, anderson, berbatov, da silva twins (maybe), owen and maybe evra if we can replace him in - we need an established right back, also a few midfielders like a gotze, eriksen ore hamsek and we need a proper holding midfielder as well. point is we have too much dead wood and need a clear out and to freshen up the squad with some talented young creative midfielders. this wont happen of course and SAF, for all his good points, doesn't seem to do the obvious thing or maybe he can with the glaziers. we have been saying the midfield needs big money spent on it since the ECL final in 2009 and it still hasn't been addressed by the way, evra was correct not to mark the goalscorer for their second goal as he was playing him off side, unfortunately the assistant missed this and the goal stood, so evra actually defended quiet well there but he has been useless defensively for the past couple of years now, that's why we should sell him.

Gregjones 10:37 pm, 10-Mar-2012

United don't appear tol care. I did speak to some die hard Unied supporters who were gutted with the result, but I'm not sure about the club. Their season was written off months ago.

mike kama 11:01 pm, 10-Mar-2012

Spot on! Ferguson was wrong that day and didn't even have the decency to admit it and promise not to do it again! Bilbao played well, United provided the training posts! Phil Jones is not anywhere near a CH because he's just too dim and slow for that position! Yet when Smalling went injured, and Ferdinand was an option, he wasn't used! Evra has to sit out the rest of the season because even after serving well for so many years doesn't earn you the right to play sh!t when you feel like it! A lamp post would've blocked those crosses better than Evra! His form right now is just wrong! If Ferguson and co go on like this, Carling Cups will be the only realistic target and fans will be saying much more harsh horse sh!t than I am!

Christian 5:48 am, 11-Mar-2012

Yeah. We should probably fire fergie and hire you. You are obviously better for the job. Fergie has no idea what he he is doing. That explains the dry-streak we have been experiencing throughout the last few years. Retard. Seriously. Retard. Get a grip and stop judging the best manager of all times for making what you would call a mistake. Your oppinion is worth less than nothing.

Nazz 2:18 pm, 11-Mar-2012

I am a hardcore man utd fan and i couldnt agree more with this, its really painful to see where we rank among so called mid-class european cubs

Ensabahnor 2:30 pm, 11-Mar-2012

@MA I agree with the article writer that our midfield set up was what cost us the Bilbao match & many other games this season. The improvement since Scholes came back is evident. However, I wholly disagree with your assertion that not having the strength in depth & not acquiring talent to replace ageing one is Sir Alex's fault. It's the fault of greedy owners who did nothing for Manchester United (save for improving marketing returns) but take and take from it. Let's not even mention saddling the club with back breaking debt. Had it not been for Sir Alex's genius (yes, genuine genius) we would have been were other clubs with even lesser debt are, mid-table at best. To be continued...

Electroartist 6:13 pm, 11-Mar-2012

United need two world class players as they are slipping further behind Barcelona and even Fegusons comments about what team to pick suggests he's starting to find it difficult to get consistency and balance with what he's got. Reckon he'll fuck off soon. Then United are really screwed.

JLF 10:51 pm, 11-Mar-2012

Jones is not a central midfielder. Fergie is trying to give him game time until there's some value in the market for central midfielders. Who was the 21 year old spaniard (rafael is Brazilian). Evra comments are half right, because he's still very good going forward. Despite all that, agree with the general thrust of the article, but wouldn't limit the accusation to European games...too often he drops people who are in form!

mal 12:06 am, 12-Mar-2012

JLF: 21 year old spaniard is de gea. like you, I agree with the general tenor of the article; I think the players don't give a fcuk about the europa and as long as we get 20 this season, neither do the fans.

Anandu Unnikrishnan 3:02 am, 12-Mar-2012

@Sri, @Duncan - mates I didn't intend this to be about Europa league being more important or anything. Because we're in it, we might as well take it seriously. Fergie has said that he will be treating the competition just like any other competition, and the squads he has fielded have attributed to his words (apart from Ajax second leg). Like mal said, none of the players seem to give even half a rat's ass if we win the competition or not. The general mood seems to be "score 1 and hope they don't come at you" because some performances in Europe this season have been utterly s***. Let me just ask you this - if we were still in the UCL, and City were still 2 points up, would your attitude towards Europe be the same?

yogavo 5:10 pm, 13-Mar-2012

christian is the only one who makes any sense here. the rest are the fools that play football manager and think they know a great player when they see his stats. the rest are the ones who call football phone ins and want wayne rooney sold or fergie sacked. cop on to yourself, you idiots, try following a team they have never been top.

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