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?