Tag Archives: Alex Ferguson

Manchester United Vs The Arsenal – It will be won in the middle of the pitch


After serious doubts were raised over Arsenals trophy credentials this season, Arsenal have silenced their critics and have done so with big back to back victories. After breezing past Liverpool at a canter Arsenal travelled the fortress that is the Westfalenstadion and put in a typical European away performance and return to England with the three points & being restored to the top of their Champions League group. There is no time to look back and admire however as we travel to Old Trafford in what is most likely the biggest game we’ve had all week. Not in terms of the quality of the team but in one respect only, the psychological affects that come with it.
Three points against Manchester United at Old Trafford is a feat that we haven’t managed to achieve since 2006 and from then to now, it’s been fairly obvious that United have been far better. This season however marks a turning point and thus far Arsenal have been superior not only to Manchester United but also to most other Premier League teams and with 8 points already between United and us, 3 more points for would be monumental. Ending up victorious against a side like United’s however is always a hard job and with us being unsuccessful in our last 6 times, how should an Arsenal team flying on form enter the game on the weekend?
With Micheal Carrick ruled out injured we have the perfect opportunity to play our natural game. With two central players posing as wide men, Cazorla and Rosicky on either flank will be looking to come in and without the retention services of Micheal Carrick factored in, the midfield is not a battle Manchester United have any hope they can win. Giroud will have his starting place nailed on but the attacking three behind him would be difficult to guess and that is the biggest problem for United defenders. With Ozil, Rosicky, Cazorla & Wilshere are all central players however two of them will end up playing wide and though they might start the game on the flanks they most certainly won’t end the game there. Whilst extremely frustrating to watch from the fans point of view it does make it extremely difficult to mark, coupled with Fellaini being the most defensive player of Man United’s midfield it doesn’t bode well for them that their central midfielders will be outnumber by 3-2.
Specific to the way United play, especially against Arsenal, traditionally they attack down either flank. In his time Alex Ferguson would flood the midfield and hope to hit us on the counter and expose the weakness of the team defensively. Today however United cannot do that now for a number of reason, firstly because Arsenal’s team have worked collectively to shut out opponents and if you look at the games against the big teams they haven’t conceded many. In a way it’s seems easier to defend against bigger teams because mentally you are more focused, you understand that it’s a game of fine margins and that any mistake at any time can cost you. However without seeming disrespectful, playing some of the smaller sides in the Premier League you can always rely on your attacking talent to bail you out. Another reason quite simply is United wingers aren’t what they used to be, the fall in quality from last season to this season is a big gap despite not losing any players and if you compare them to 3 or 4 seasons ago the drop in quality is monumental. It’s a simple enough defensive job for our full backs and supporting midfielders and that is to keep Januzaj & Valencia quite and the game is ours to dictate how we want.
If we do manage to be successful in nullifying their threats, Moyes may result to his old tricks against Arsenal and going back for the physical approach and after making Fellaini his first signing as United manager they have a player they can knock the ball long to. Whilst I think the myth that we can’t deal with physical sides should be dispelled by now, it does at least give us problems and slows us down. The only problem that would hinder Moyes in carrying out such a style of play is that United players have no competence in playing this way. It’s difficult to adjust to a big mans knock downs and runs as we have found out with Giroud last year and manufacturing an understanding as big as this in the middle of a game is never going to work. We need to make sure we’re on top of every ball and that every second touch is an Arsenal players, it’s imperative players such as Rosicky, Arteta and Ramsey keep up a high intensity for as long as it’s needed.
With Flamini returning to the team we suddenly find ourselves with two options at defensive midfield and whilst a player retrained will never quite have the same nature as a real defensive midfielder, Arteta should be preferred to Flamini in this game. With everything mentioned above the game will most probably be finely poised and one thing that Arteta brings that Flamini doesn’t is calm and composure. If you scroll up and see what Arsenal need to do, there’s not a single thing that Arteta couldn’t handle and out of the two is less likely to be walking a tight rope or be sent off. Despite all the preparations however football doesn’t always pan out the way it’s meant to and all the preparation and tactics in the world can’t prepare for a mistake, or a world class 30 yard goal and tomorrow may be just about riding our luck. However any which way we win as long as 3 points is the outcome that’s all that is important.


Manchester United no longer have the fear factor

On Sunday, Arsenal travel to Manchester United looking for their first victory at Old Trafford since 2006. It is the 1st time Arsenal would have played Manchester United since the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson. It will be the first time Arsenal would have been to Old Trafford since the fear factor of the ground was no more.

I am a cricket fan (despite this, please read on). For a long time in cricket, there was something called the ‘Shane Warne Theory’. The basics of it were that legendary Australian bowler Shane Warne could take wickets by being just Shane Warne. He did not need to bowl great, he did not need to spin it round corners, he could bowl slow and straight and take a wicket, because he was Shane Warne. A slow straight ball could get someone out, and his victim would be adamant that the ball span. Shane Warne had a physiological edge over opponent batsmen.

Batsmen would be beaten before they had faced a ball. They would be beaten before they walked to the crease. They lost their wicket in the dressing room, where they were fearful of facing Shane Warne. Fearful of how far he would spin it. Fearful that he was the greatest bowler of all time and that he would add their scalp to his collection. When they finally got to the crease, they looked forward, the fear was in their eyes. They were like a deer in headlights. And before you know it, Warne had bowled a tame, straight delivery, and the batsman was heading back to the pavilion. He had been beaten, not by the ball, but by the bowler. The fear factory of Shane Warne.

Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson also had this. Like with a cricketer playing the bowler, rather than playing the ball, teams went to Old Trafford and became scared. This was Old Trafford. This was Sir Alex’s Manchester United. Winners of 13 of the last 21 titles. They did not play the 11 players on the pitch, they played the club, the manager, they played Shane Warne.

Teams were beaten before they kicked off at Old Trafford. They were beaten before they got to the changing rooms. They were beaten before they travelled to the game. They were beaten on their own training pitch, when they accepted that Manchester United were so much better than them. Their manager would bash into them to defend, defend, defend, that a point is a good result, that Manchester United were brilliant. How can you beat a side when you know all the players facing you are superior. And superior by miles. They were beaten not by the physical aspect of playing Manchester United at Old Trafford, but the physiological aspect.

Of course Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling & Wes Brown are brilliant defenders, they play for Manchester United. Danny Welbeck, David Bellion, Bebe, top class striker, they must be, they play for Manchester United. Darren Fletcher, Michael Carrick, a 41 year old Ryan Giggs, these have to be top central midfielder’s, they play for Manchester United. And with that, you were physiologically beaten.

The amount of times I watched Manchester United play another Premier League side and that side throw the game away. Run scared. Change the way they play, and end up defeated. I have seen sides put in a heroic performances against Arsenal to snatch a draw, or win, to then next week, play with fear. It is as if they were a different side. And defeat followed.

In the 2010/11 season, Manchester United won the league title. The key behind their success was home form. They won 18 out of 19 games. Now this was not a vintage Manchester United team. There were no Ronaldo’s, Giggs (before he became a pensioner), Cantona’s, Keane’s or Beckham’s. No, they had this record with a very average squad. Owen, Anderson, Smalling, Park, Hernandez, Carrick, Nani, Fabio, Rafael, O’Shea, Fletcher, Valencia, Obertan, Macheda, Gibson & Bebe all played a part.

Read those names again, take out the fact they play for Manchester United, and you will realise they are all fairly average. How did they win 18 of 19 games at home? The fear factor.

With Sir Alex Ferguson leaving, the fear factor has left as well. David Moyes is an ordinary manager, and suddenly, teams are not looking at Manchester United like a world class team full of world class players, they are looking at them for what they are, a mid table side with distinctively average players.

Bar Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, they have no world beaters. An average goal keeper. A defence which will either contain aged, past it players, or young, naive players (Smalling – The English Senderos), full backs which can be got at, a slow, uncreative midfield and little width. The fact is Manchester United are not very good. Yet they are no different from last year, when they were Champions. What has changed? The fear factor have gone. Side are now playing the 11 players on the field, not Manchester United the club.

Of their 5 homes games this season, they have only won 2 of those. A 3-2 victory over Southampton and a 2-0 win over bottom placed Crystal Palace. Not exactly convincing!

The fear factor has certainly gone with Manchester United. And with Arsenal unbeaten away for over 260 days, the psychological aspect of the game could be turning. They should be fearing us now.

Manchester are there for the taking. Play without fear and we win.