Thursday, December 22, 2011

Five Things We Learned Watching Manchester United Put Five Past Fulham

photo by Xanboozledvia PhotoRee

Why five, you ask?  Because, as discussed on The Guardian podcast earlier this week, sixteen seemed a bit much....

1. Nani is looking much more comfortable on the left wing -- I know he only played there a short while on Wednesday night, but the play he displayed on what is widely considered his "less good" side led to the game's opening score. Last season, when deployed on the left -- which was often the case to accommodate Antonio Valencia on the right -- Nani never seemed to bring his best stuff. And when he did, it was often through cutting the ball back toward the middle of the pitch that he scored or created goals. Yesterday's first five minutes were illustrative, though, of the new and improved Nani: staying out on the left flank, the Portuguese maestro swerved in two superb crosses after taking the ball toward the baseline. The second cross led to a classy finish by Danny Welbeck, and showcased the torrid form that Nani's in right now. 

2. The midfield, while not good enough to win in Europe, is likely good enough to win the Premiership. Michael Carrick's return to the Manager's good graces has coincided with a decent run of games for the United midfield. The Englishman has brought a calm assurance to the team's possession, and the Reds seem to be more patient on the ball, as well. Nani's move to the left (albeit nullified when Jones was replaced by Young) has coincided with a return to form by Antonio Valencia. When the Reds attack other teams from wide areas, it opens up the center of the opposition for Carrick's surgical passes and Rooney and Welbeck's dangerous runs.

3.  Anders Lindegaard is a damn fine backup. Although David De Gea appears to be the team's number one 'keeper, Sir Alex has shown he's not afraid to stick the Dane in net against anyone. And the competition with De Gea is not so clear cut -- if the Spaniard is better, it's by the thinnest of Wayne Rooney's hairs. It's a very different situation from last year, with the steep drop off from the world class Van Der Sar to the more pedestrian Tomas Kuszczak, and the ultimate luxury -- the team essentially has two first choice 'keepers. You can also clearly see that the other ten men on the pitch feel the same way: there's no drop off in team confidence when Lindegaard starts.

4. Moussa Dembele of Fulham looks a very decent player. His career was derailed last year by an injury, but the Belgian is slowly but surely beginning to get back to the type of promise he showed early on. At least twice during the game last night Dembele dribbled his way through three or four United players, taking and keeping control of the ball in claustrophobically tight spots, a la David Silva. He also showcased a fine left foot in fizzing the ball just wide of Lindegaard's goal in the game's second half.

5. Just when they appeared to be on the mend, the injury bug struck again last night.  In fact, United's injuries at the current moment could make up quite a decent team: Nemanja Vidic (knee) and Rio Ferdinand (knock) would anchor a defense that would feature the speedy Brazilian twins, Rafael (shoulder) and Fabio (hamstring) at fullback. Newcomers Phil Jones (suspected fractured cheekbone) and Ashley Young (ankle) could fill in the middle alongside Tom Cleverly (ankle), Anderson (knee), and Darren Fletcher (ulcerative colitis), while Michael Owen (thigh) would start up top to complete the 4-5-1. The only position the team would seem to be lacking at is 'keeper, although long-term absentee Kuszczak could reasonably be allowed some playing time. The painful truth is that this team might not win a Premiership title, but would clearly be one of the top dogs in the League.

This is farlieonfootie for December 22.

1 comment:

  1. I'm dizzy from the spin you just put on this game, senior blanca y blandengue (FYI -- this is a Honduran term of affection).

    1. Lindegaard a "damn fine backup?" News flash: he's your starter, dude. He's in there because Fergie is realizing that the other guy isn't very good. You don't have two good starters, you've got two expensive backups. Get real, man.

    2. Midfield good enough to win the Premier League? Maybe if Giggs, the best midfielder on the team -- not Carrick -- was 28 again. Otherwise the midfield remains the reason you probably won't win the league. That and having to start Johnny Evans.

    3. Fulham's looked awful most of the year. Sadly, I'm not sure we learned five things about United last evening, but we did learn one thing about Fulham -- they ain't very good.

    Feliz Navidad!

    -- L. Suarez