Last week, I argued that Sir Alex Ferguson hadn’t made a mistake in playing our youngsters against Besiktas in the penultimate Champions League group stage game. It was important for the youngsters to be given a go and we have to recognise that the only way for them to improve and be ready for occasions like that, is to play them in occasions like that.
However, when I made that argument, I didn’t anticipate us travelling to the home of the German champions with just one defender.
It would be really bad luck to have as many players injured as we do, but it’s absolutely ridiculous to think they’ve all come from one position. Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Wes Brown, Gary Neville, Rafael, Fabio, John O’Shea and Jonny Evans are all missing.
So where does this leave us? There has been some talk of Patrice Evra playing centrally alongside Michael Carrick, but that seems daft. You’ve got to think of our opponents here and our own players’ strengths.
Edin Džeko is 6 foot 3, 7 inches taller than Patrice. Whilst Evra’s defensive game is great, his best attribute is his ability to go forward. By playing him in the centre we’d be taking away the best part of him game and putting all the pressure on one of his weakest – dealing with height.
Darron Gibson has played in the centre of defence before and claims he would be happy to play there in Germany tonight. If you presume Darren Fletcher will be playing at right back, then we’re left with three central midfielders in the centre of defence. This of course isn’t ideal, but thankfully we have a wealth of central midfielders, meaning the likes of Anderson and Paul Scholes can fill that role.
The other option is to throw Oliver Gill, the chairman’s son, in at the deep end. Having made just nine appearances for the Reserves this season and not ever getting a sniff of the first team, I’m not overwhelmed with confidence. Whilst the experience may have positive effects on him, it coming so early could also be damaging. If he gets bent over by Džeko all evening, it’s not going to be too good for his confidence. Regardless, he is billed as a ‘no nonsense defender’ and might do a job if surrounded by the more experienced players, with Scholes sitting deep in front of him.
Because of our weakness in defence, the manager should go about picking his strongest players, or there abouts, for the other positions. Maybe tonight is the time for Nani to return to the first team with Antonio Valencia possibly on the other wing. Park Ji-Sung could also be used to sure up the midfield. This might be a good opportunity for Michael Owen and Danny Welbeck to get some decent playing time.
Whilst of course finishing top would most likely give us the easiest route to the quarter-finals, we’re not hanging in the balance here. We’ve qualified, we know we’ll definitely be playing Champions League football in the next round, and that should be good enough.
In a perfect world, things would be a lot simpler, but it’s not perfect, and this is United. How else would we do things if not making it hard for ourselves??
On the bright side: 1. we just need one point 2. Wolfsburg are 8th in their league and have conceded almost 2 goals a game this season, 3. we tend to perform when our backs are against the wall.
Come on United!
A live blog will hopefully be running on RoM but I can’t confirm that yet. Check out the blog half an hour before kick off and hopefully we’ll be live.
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