It is no surprise that United struggle without Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, but it is a surprise that they struggle so much, writes Football365.com. I don’t like blaming injuries, and whilst I think there can be a lot of truth to that argument at times, I think it rarely gets you off the hook entirely. United should have had too much for Bolton at the Reebok, regardless of the missing players. We lost the game, it’s over with now, but the criticism echoes on.
As United fans we have been quick to label our rivals a “one man/two man team”. Chelsea rely on Lampard and Drogba (together they scored 31 of Chelsea’s 64 goals last season, compared to Rooney and Ronaldo’s 31 of 83 goals scored by United), whilst we have looked at the match saving quality of Henry for Arsenal and Gerrard for Liverpool, who have on countless times dragged an average looking side through games to go on to victory. It appears as though the same insult is being directed in United’s direction after losing against Bolton with Ronaldo and Rooney absent. On first viewing, maybe it would be a fair evaluation. We looked a long way off our best on Saturday, and knowing what talented players we have in Rooney and Ronaldo, maybe some could dismiss us as a two man team. But that would be naive and misinformed.
When all our players are fit and on form, United’s first XI this season would look like this: Van der Sar, G Neville, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Ronaldo, Hargreaves, Scholes, Giggs, Rooney, Saha. The players in bold were the ones missing from Saturday’s defeat. Add to that the fact Louis Saha is nowhere near match fitness, after featuring in just nine of the eighteen games we’d played before the Bolton game, and in those nine matches, playing for just 230 out of a possible 810 minutes.
This isn’t me excusing our defeat against Bolton, merely exposing the unfairness of branding us a two man team, when we were missing five out of first choice eleven. Scholes is the most crucial of these, whose impact is more subtle, but his loss is great. It was an observation I made time and again last season, when we looked significantly different when Scholes wasn’t on the field, even if we did go on to pick up the three points. When considering Scholes, Ronaldo and Rooney are safely our three best players, our three most creative players, then it isn’t such a shock to see us look out of sorts up front, particularly when one of our strikers has hardly played this season through injury.
Should United have done better on Saturday? Yes, and in a perfect world, we’d win every match we played, but this is the real world, and you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth. But does the defeat make us a two man team? Only to a short-sighted and ignorant rival. You don’t have to look too hard to disprove their weak criticism!
Is it fair to call United a two man team?
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