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Full Back Concerns Against Arsenal

With Gary Neville and John O’Shea going off injured against Portsmouth, United were posed with the problem of who could play against Tottenham Hotspur.

Wes Brown had managed some time with the Reserves meaning he was rumoured to be available, but it seemed obvious that Rafael da Silva deserved the chance. After playing against Everton last weekend and Spurs this, that surely would be enough practice for him ahead of Arsenal, getting him prepared after spending so long out injured.

But after 90 minutes on Saturday, I’m starting to fret about who should start on Wednesday. John O’Shea? Surely not? Maybe? Yes?

Whilst Rafael was effective going forward, providing a few decent crosses for our forwards to latch on to, defensively he was not good enough. We all know that his positioning is not good enough with him being far more used to playing the attacking game in Brazil, with the full-backs playing nothing like the position they are expecting to in the Premiership, but on Saturday it was woeful. He was absolutely nowhere when Spurs went 2-0 up, wandering around carelessly in the box, not aware of where anyone was, and leaving his man totally unmarked to score. It will be Samir Nasri going down that wing on Wednesday, a player who already has two goals against us this season, leaving big question marks over Rafael’s suitability for the game.

The alternative then is John O’Shea, who at worst has been dreadful this season and at best, alright. He’s capable of putting a good tackle in and isn’t beaten on every occasion but with him carrying a bit of injury as well, I struggle to imagine how he would get the best of his Arsenal opponent.

Brown will be available but having not played since his substitute appearance back in January, it’s hard to argue that a European Cup semi-final against Arsenal is the ideal situation to bring him back in to!

Then on the other wing we have the problem of Theo Walcott, who has found some good form this season and plays remarkably like Aaron Lennon, Patrice’s kryptonite. Evra didn’t get near for Lennon for much of Saturday, foolishly backing off him time and again, allowing him all the time and space he needed to whip a cross in or skin him. It was just the same in the League Cup final.

Would it be worth having Fletcher and Park both on the field to sure up the flanks? Quite possibly. But this would certainly mean having Ronaldo sitting behind Rooney as a lone striker, dropping Berbatov to the bench, something I can’t imagine happening. You don’t spend £30 million on a striker then leave him out of a European Cup semi-final, do you? Well, I don’t think Ferguson would anyway.

So we’re just going to have to keep our fingers crossed that Ronaldo continues on with his new improved work-ethic and tracks back even more down his wing to help out O’Shea/Rafael, whilst Park will probably be given the nod on the left and can hassle Walcott all game to help Evra.

Whilst I do fancy us to get a result, I’m not filled with confidence over the strength of our full backs. They couldn’t cut it against Spurs so will have to raise their game massively to deal with Arsenal.

Can they do it?

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. costas says:

    No sorry GHTT. I am a fact man(yeah right!) but i don’t know anything on this.I would suggest an e mail or something like that to the club asking for info?

  2. Tom F says:

    Cheers Bossdem… have you changed your screen name from something else?

    I have had an absolute nightmare with BT trying to get a phone line connected to the new place I moved in to since Feb! They are a joke really, so I have not been on here at all.

    Should hopefully be back on here full time by the end of the week!

  3. Bongo says:

    Arsenal fan here, personally I can see it being a game of a lot of goals.

    Big difference between the two teams is Man U’s defence play really well in a crowded box, whereas Arsenals defence crumbles when crowded out.

    Also in attack Man u, like liverpool, score goals by the sheer number of attempts they produce, Arsenal on the otherhand get far fewer attempts on goal but have been lucky lately to have the majority of those go in (only 4 shots on target against liverpool HaHa, you’re welcome!)

    I feel Arsenal can win because at our best we can beat anyone and we do really well against positive attacking teams like united.

    People talk a lot about Walcotts pace but in sprint tests Nasri is equal to him, Nasri has better technical ability too, better vision and as shown against middlesboro he can track back really well. Saying that when Walcotts on form he can be devestating. 3-2 Arsenal is my prediction and I have a feeling there will be sendings off and controversial penalties too. Both teams are gonna need a bit if luck and no mistakes to win.

  4. corea says:

    “costas- i,l eat my hat if our best player this year doesnt start, especially after not playing the weekend!”

    good point. Giggs must play.
    anything else very tough to call.
    but i will opt for Rafael at RB. don’t know why but i think he will make it. he is young and has a lot of desire and energy.
    but on the other hand O’Shea just merits the chance to play in the CL SM and i think SAF will play him. Don’t you know Fergie ? ;)
    Arsenal weakest link is defence. So fuck off as long as we score 2 more goals than them. Not conceding will be a bonus.

  5. Jonny says:

    Walcott, Nasri and Fabregas have been devastating recently. With Adebayor and Song coming back as well Arsenal should grab a couple of goals, its just a case of how the defence copes. I’d prefer Djourou to Silvestre, him and Toure make a good pairing. Should be an awesome game of football.

  6. bossdem says:

    tomf- no i havent changed my screen name. ive not really spoke to u that much on here, its just that i,d noticed in the past ur posts seem to be spot on almost everytime, compared to way off most of the time, which is how i seem to view most posts! :s

  7. Tom F says:


  8. deathorvictory-mufc says:

    up until a few years ago united had aresenal totally susst!
    we played 4-5-1 with all our work horses on the field and won on every occasion. Then fergie for some reason went back to playing arse at their own passing attacking game e.g the emirates
    we need to start with
    o’shea –rio–vidic–evra
    anderson to man mark cesc(same job essien was on gerrard in anfield) fabregas is everything to them, everything good they do goes through him and hes like being in ando’s pocket
    i’m not sayin we couldnt match them if we went man for man in a 4-4-2 system but it would be high scoring and we don’t want that in a eouropean semi at home!! 4-5-1 and get at arse be tough and firm in the tackle stop their pretty passing and get their shitty defence on the break!!!
    oh and wen we beat them 4-0 in the cup we played 4-5-1

  9. King Eric says:

    Got to be Sheasy at right back on Wednesday. I don’t trust Rafael enough just yet and Brown not match fit.

  10. corea says:


    i think it is a possibility and i won’t be surprised if it happens. but it’s Arsenal, premier league opossition. it’s different to other european teams we faced during the last 2-3 years.

  11. Anant says:

    i wish to see -



    DF MC RG

    CR WR

  12. Wakey says:

    I would personally go with something similar to the formation we ended with at spurs.

    ———- Berba – Tevez ————

    Rooney ——————– Ronaldo

    ——- Carrick — Scholes ———-

    Evra —— Vidic – Rio ——- Rafael

    ————— Edwin ——————

    The front 4 showed what they can do together in the second half with the swapping of positions and the workrate from Tevez and Rooney coupled with the skills of Ronaldo and Berbatov (Ok Rooney showed some good skills to)

    I’m unsure over Scholes, you might want someone who gets stuck in more so Fletcher may be a better choice or go for Anderson who can do scholes vision and passing side (sadly not the shooting) coupled with the workrate and desire to get stuck in.

    I would go with Rafael at Right Back. O’Shea never looks comfortable there and imho shows gives the least at Right Back than anywhere else he plays due to this. Shame Wes hasn’t had more football as he would have been an obvious choice

  13. deathorvictory-mufc says:

    corea – know its synical but arsenal dont like being kicked

  14. miele says:

    I had a dream last night that Giggs scored a replica of that 99 Fa Cup replay goal at OT.

    What a dream.

  15. Macheda is GOD says:

    Wasn’t johnny substituted to take rafaels place?


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