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United's Frailties Finally Exposed
Posted Feb 09, 2011 by Shaun Edwards
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Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Mick McCarthy’s battling Wolves side brought with it both surprise and non-surprise. The fact that United finally lost a match wasn’t really a shock – it was not as if they had ignited the league in the same way that Wenger’s ‘Invincibles’ had back in 2003-2004 – but the fact that they did so against bottom of the table Wolves certainly was.Not only has this given Sir Alex a bit of a surprise, it’s also likely to have raised several concerns at Old Trafford that might have had a blind eye turned towards them had United continued to avoid defeat.
The obvious truth is that United have actually been riding their luck for a considerable amount of time, seemingly content to avoid defeat and pick up the three points where possible and only ever really putting their foot down once every couple of months or so. The fact that facing Manchester United still presents an air of intimidation of it’s own accord is presumably what has stopped more teams taking advantage of Sir Alex’s underperforming side.
The hideously unlucky Blackpool were a great example of what really going for it against United can bring,. Having taken the game to United (as they have done against most teams) they found themselves running into a deserved 2-0 lead and it was only an absurd penalty decision that prevented them from easily running away with the match. All the way through United looked a shadow of the teams that Sir Alex has previously deployed.
Another concern is the fact that this result has once again widened up the chase for the league title far more than anyone would have expected around Christmas time. With the gap between United and the ‘noisy neighbours’ now down to just 4 points, everything is perfectly poised for the season’s second Manchester derby which will take place on Saturday. On their current form, City are expecting to take three points, assuming they’re prepared to take risks they’re perfectly capable of doing so. Not only this, but United will also play both Chelsea and Liverpool by the 10th March. In less than a month, they could find themselves down in third or fourth and wondering just what happened to the league title many were saying they had wrapped up by Christmas.
The final issue is just how much of a problem United had without Rio Ferdinand, who was left out with a calf strain that he sustained during the warm-up. Whilst Jonny Evans has filled this gap in the centre before, this time he was virtually ineffectual. What will concern Sir Alex is that Evans did little to bolster United’s back four during the set-pieces which brought Wolves back into the game. Whilst Vidic was predictably solid, an absence of a high quality defensive partner does seem to affect him and you wonder how United will cope at the back should they encounter a Chelsea strike force working at full capacity.
Against City on Saturday, United’s mettle may be tested thoroughly for the first time this season. It will be intriguing to see how they react to the situation.
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