Manchester United crashed out of the FA Cup today after coming up short against an impressive Chelsea side but it was only a moment of sheer brilliance from Demba Ba that separated the teams. A save of the season contender from Petr Cech preserved the Blues slender advantage when he stopped Javier Hernandez from getting his customary goal but in truth, United didn’t create enough warrant a positive result.
Too many square pegs in round holes
Something synonymous with Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection in cup competitions appears to be the constant and sometimes unfathomable decisions to field players out of position and while two games in 48 hours is rather extraordinary circumstances, some decisions were rather difficult to comprehend.
When the team sheets were released, it looked as though United would line up in a fairly orthodox fashion but it became clear at kick-off that this was not to be the case. Although the decision to play Antonio Valencia may have paid off in what could be described as probably his best half of the season, Tom Cleverley was a fish out of water at left-midfield and a misguided allegiance to 4-4-2 again led to Chelsea overpowering United in midfield.
Carrick may be super but he’s not that super
After playing the full 90 during mid-week for England and a further hour and a half against Sunderland, few expected Michael Carrick to start a third game in six days today and while it is quite lovely to see just how important Carrick has become to United, it is more than worrying to witness a growing over-reliance on the consistent Geordie.
Ferguson is usually extremely careful in managing his players, doing his utmost to rotate and avoid fatigue but to expect 31-year-old Carrick to perform at the highest level three times in a week is excessive. Perhaps it suggests more over the lack of depth in midfield than anything else and it is clearly in need of one or two fresh faces this summer. Kevin Strootman anyone?
Desperate times out wide
Remember when the times when United were renowned for their flying wingers? Giggs, Ronaldo, Beckham et al – iconic figures in the Ferguson era. But it is becoming increasingly more evident that United’s current crop of wide players aren’t up to scratch. For one reason or another, our wingers have struggled to have any sort of impact this season.
Young and Nani seem prone to getting hurt and both have flattered to deceive on a regular basis while Valencia has been consistently poor this campaign. Today was no different with Nani having his worst game this season, Vmalencia finding it tough at right midfield and Young doing little in his limited time on the pitch. It is an area of grave concern.
Not all doom and gloom
Every cloud regularly has a silver lining and today was no different. Danny Welbeck was head and shoulders above anybody else on the pitch today, Phil Jones continues to assert himself as a very able central midfielder and suggest his short-term future lies in a Roy Keane-destroyer type role.
And in a reality check, we are still 15 points clear and recapturing the league title was always priority number one this campaign.
No Rooney, no United?
It is perhaps no coincidence that Wayne Rooney has been absent for the last two United games which were both certainly sub-par performances. Rooney so frequently provides the link between midfield and attack and without him or the intricate Shinji Kagawa, performances are often disjointed.
So often the source of drive, Rooney was a huge miss today and faces a fight against time to be fit for next weeks Manchester derby. He will no doubt be a key player if United are to move one step closer to securing the title and put a week of disappointment behind them.