There were a few moments on Sunday afternoon against Chelsea where you’d have found me shouting, screaming and swearing at the telly when we just kept giving the ball away. Anderson was the main culprit – you’d think he was playing in blue the number of times the ball miraculously got hoofed to a Chelsea player.
Even Fletch gave the ball away more times than he should do. Now we can excuse him a little because of his lack of game time, but for the ball to end up with a blue shirt usually isn’t how United play football. Ever.
So it begs the question: What the hell is going on?! Is it the fact that our midfield has no experience left? No chance – Fergie has been bringing through players like Ando, Fletch and Carrick for the last five years to make sure they know how to play big games, and play them well.
Is it the formation we play? Nope – we’ve played 4-4-2 for years, and the new 4-4-1-1 formation was introduced properly last season so Chicarito and Rooney could play off each other. And did we give the ball away this much then? Not a hope in hell. So we can’t blame the fact that the ball keeps ending up with the opposition on the tactics chosen.
Is it this new ball? Penalties galore have been missed this season – I think that’s 10 now in the first few weekends of the season. It is apparently Nike’s ’roundest ever’ ball, but surely that can’t have anything to do with it? It’s technique, not the equipment used. A craftsman never blames his tools.
The only thing I can put it down to is the lack of shape in our midfield. Previous seasons has seen Scholesly drop further back, but attack when he’s needed. This season, the experience of the Ginger Prince has been missed, but playing two very static central midfielders doesn’t help. It means that Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick and Tom Cleverley have to attack from defence, and vice versa. So the natural thing to do is boot the ball 10 foot in front of you and chase onto it. In Anderson’s case, anyway…
And what’s been happening is Wayne drops back, so we play almost a 4-5-1, meaning that he can attack, whilst the two other central midfielders stay and defend when needs be. Wayne seems to be the most experienced in the starting XI this season – something that shouldn’t be happening.
The rise of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling has seen our flanks gain extra pace and extra width, but can leave us exposed to counter attacks. Which is when our static defensive central mids come into play, which is very clever and very shrewd tactics from SAF. But it won’t work forever, and Chelsea seem to be the first team to have properly exposed that. Mata and Bosingwa played beautifully together at the weekend, and that’s why Chelsea’s total shots were much higher than ours. (No pun intended, Mr Torres.)
What we need is some solidity in midfield. Anderson seems to be a starter this season, as did Cleverley till Kevin Davies thought he’d take his hacksaw of a leg to another player. Ando is naturally a very attacking player, so put him in front of Carrick or Fletcher – both of whom play quite deep and get the ball forward via other players. That way, we’ll be playing more of a diamond midfield, giving us more depth, and a better dynamic to get the ball to our front two.
And if all else fails, let’s get those Sneijder rumours reignited.