Could United’s defensive crisis be down to the medical team?

October 24, 2012 in Europe

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Watching Manchester United beat Braga 3-2 yesterday was an ordeal. Falling 2-0 behind in the first twenty minutes through goals that could have been stopped was incredibly frustrating, yet somewhat expected at the same time. United were absolutely destroyed from the wings last night, but the United of old would have been able to deal with attacks from out wide - it just seems that the current United teams can’t handle lively attacks. It’s becoming somewhat routine for United to fall behind in games (yesterday was their eighth time in twelve games), and despite the fact that United came back to win, I’m trying to work out who to blame for yesterday.

The defence? Well, playing Michael Carrick in defence was most certainly an emergency solution; he is a passer, not a tackler – can you imagine Mikel Arteta in centre-back? Seeing him left for dead by Eder yesterday should have been expected, and Carrick should really not come under criticism for being exposed in a position which isn’t his. Alex Buttner is also relatively absolved of blame for Braga’s first goal; that was his second game for the club! The manager, then? Resting Ferdinand and Evra in a period where United seem to have become something of a joke in Europe was always risky, but when the defence is as decimated as United’s always seems to be, you have to work with what you’ve got.

It’s this that leads me to vent my rage at United’s medical team. It’s ridiculous that a team that will be hoping to compete for success on four fronts has this many defenders missing; at present, Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are injured, with Jonny Evans having just recovered from injury at the start of the season. It’s inexcusable that the defence is besieged by injuries this often, and it cost us last season; I maintain that with Vidic in the team, United would have won the league. If there is a problem in getting players fit, I’d say that sorting that problem out would be a much better use of money than buying another player.

Luckily, until then, United have enough up front to keep them going. Javier Hernandez showed unexpected sharpness to get on the end of balls from Tom Cleverley and Shinji Kagawa; the latter’s a pass that you would expect in one of his YouTube compilation videos. Wayne Rooney’s transition to midfielder appears to be going smoothly, as he helped build up play while also contributing to his defensive duties, while even Nani looked relatively good when he came on, and he’s been pissing me off for a while. If United can get their tactics right, I can see the attack being successfully rotated to inflict maximum damage on tiring teams; imagine facing Rooney and van Persie for 65 minutes before having to deal with Hernandez and Nani. Ouch.

So what did we learn from Manchester United’s win over Braga yesterday? Despite arguably being the fourth-choice striker at the club, Javier Hernandez is still top-class; United’s defence has the capacity to fold like a freakin’ deckchair; and no matter how many the opposition scores - and on current form, they most certainly will - United will try and outscore them. Only the former is of any real encouragement though, as not every team will be a Southampton or a Braga, and there will be a point where United’s permeable defence will concede too many for their superstar strike force to make up for. Maybe have a chat with the medical team, eh, Fergie?

A quick note on Chelsea’s defeat last night: Chelsea’s group is almost as hard as Manchester City’s, so I would hope that Chelsea don’t take too much offence at being beaten by a spirited Shakhtar Donetsk. Shakhtar are simply THAT team which most people will notice in the Champions League, like Napoli last year, but the truth is that in players such as Willian, Fernandinho and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shakhtar possess an underrated attack force. Might want to learn about them quickly, if you’re not in the know already, seeing as those players will be dominating the transfer rumours come next summer.