Just a few observations to make….
(1) It’s the passing stupid! Every time Man United lose or play badly the passing is dreadful, and therein lays the causality. I don’t think there’s anything more frustrating than watching, not just professional footballers, but those who are supposedly at the peak of the game not be able to play a pass 10 yards in order to be able to start an attacking move. This has been a feature at United for the past few years now, and it’s even more frustrating considering how good the passing had been in the 5-0 wins against Wigan and Fulham, and even QPR and Wolves.
I’m not trying to take anything away from Newcastle here, of course their pressing was great tonight (particularly when compared to ours), but we made them look like they had 15 players between their defence and attack.
(2) The midfield, as we all know, is where the problem lies, and I really hope that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Giggs can play some sublime football, but he just doesn’t cut it at this level anymore, and we shouldn’t be relying on him; the fact that we still are is a joke. Yes, we’ve had injuries, but surely that’s just another reason to buy? Is Fletcher going to be our new Hargreaves now, where we delay potential signatures because when he comes back everything will be okay?
Fact is, we need a bit of steel in the midfield that can pass a ball as well. Now I’m no expert on the up-and-coming or even current talent around the football world, but a player of the mould of someone like Daniele De Rossi springs to mind. As far as I know his contract’s up in the summer, which means that teams like City and Chelsea will be offering the guy bucket loads. Now we all know that the Glazer’s don’t like breaking the bank for many players, but surely they can see that £200k a week for a guy like De Rossi will easily pay itself back.
(3) You’ll have to take my word for it, but I’ve been saying for a while that Jones can be dodgy at the back. He’s sometimes slow in reading the game and reacting to incidents (hence all the Hollywood tackles), and he’s no way near as good in the air as Rio or Vidic. But of course, neither were they at his age, and I can’t stress enough to the blood-thirsty hordes that I’m not writing off or even particularly criticizing the guy.
But for me, at the moment, Jones’ best position is in midfield. He can dominate the game from here, as other teams have so easily done against us, and although he lacks the technique and range of passing that Scholes offered us at times in that position last season, it’s something that very few players of his age have. If the Glazer’s really don’t want to fund any signings, I think this is our best bet.
(4) With regards to Lindegaard, I don’t think anyone can really criticize his performance tonight. He has to take some sort of blame for the third goal, it was a breakdown in communication, and he made a few dodgy kicks, but otherwise he was his usual solid self.
What this does show, however, is the absurdity of that pathetic excuse for statistical analysis, whereby so-called pundits were comparing games/minutes played to goals conceded for Lindegaard and De Gea respectively.
Fact is that De Gea has faced a ridiculously high number of shots and clear-cut chances compared to Lindegaard, and De Gea has simply featured in more of “those” games (such as City at home), where no matter how well he played we was going to concede some goals. Well tonight Lindegaard, for the first time, experienced one of “those” games, and he shipped in three goals in the process. Not his fault, it just shows how stupidly small the sample size was for comparing the two.
(5) Looking at the table and taking comfort from that fact that it’s only January and we’re only three points off the top is a case of false security I’m afraid. Analysing your performance in the league should consider the relative difficulty of the games that you have coming up compared to those of your rivals, and the problem is that we’ve just lost to Newcastle away and still have to play City, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea at their grounds, whilst City have only to play Arsenal away.
I’m not writing us off here, I’ve seen enough seasons of football over the years to know that you should never write off Man United, but, as the bookies will show tomorrow, in terms of statistics and probability, City are by far the favourites to win the league.
Anyway, perhaps I shouldn’t have written the above so soon after the match, with the bitterness of defeat still running through my veins. I’d also have liked to have said something on Rooney, Berbatov & Welbeck, and United’s obsession with trying to make cross after cross when they simply aren’t working, but perhaps that can wait for another time.
But if we step back a bit, we all know that we’ve been ravaged by injuries this season, and this is really costing us. We were missing Smalling (who could have played right-back instead of Valencia), Evans (who could have played centre-back instead of Jones, allowing Jones to play in midfield), Vidic (who could also have played at centre-back) and Fletcher & Cleverley (who could have played in midfield), and Young (who could have played on the wing instead of Valencia, depending on your preference).
However, unless Fergie either:
(a) Has a tactical revolution up his sleeve
(b) Knows something about the ability of our youngsters coming through that I don’t; or,
(c) Knows something stupid that our rivals are going to do so that we can become the best team by default
I really can’t see how we can ignore and gloss over these obvious weaknesses any longer