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United Need To Show Up For Longer Than 45 Minutes

Things just aren’t going our way at the moment. Whatever the reason, our players haven’t quite clicked yet. Has the inclusion of Dimitar Berbatov upset the rhythm? Is Ronaldo’s form following months of no football effecting the team? Just how badly is the absence of our three first choice midfielders hindering us?

Whilst United have shown they can play brilliant football, sustaining that level of performance seems to be too difficult.

After the opening few minutes at Anfield, we looked as though we were ready to batter Liverpool, yet we faded away in the second half. We did the same at Chelsea, letting them back in the game after controlling in the beginning. At Goodison Park at the weekend, we were in total control of the game in the first half, with another goal or two expected from us in the second half as our players walked off for the break. But yet again, it fell apart.

Against Bolton, we did nothing for the opening 45 minutes, despite having a lot of the ball in their half. However, the best chance of the game fell to Bolton, with Muamba missing the target from a few yards out. We broke the deadlock with the hour played, courtesy of a penalty that shouldn’t have been. The game ended with United enjoying 75% possession, 13 shots on target, 10 shots off target, 16 corners and a passing success of over 90%. Yet we only scored one legitimate goal, after a lovely combination from Ronaldo and Rooney.

Against West Brom, it was another goalless 45 minutes, before getting the break over 10 minutes in the second half, before going on to batter them 4-0.

So, what’s the problem?

“I’m very disappointed because I feel we’ve lost two points,” said Patrice Evra of the Everton game. “We played some great football in the first half and should have killed the game off. Our passing and movement was fantastic and I don’t why we didn’t continue to play like that. Maybe we felt too comfortable because we had played so well. But it’s not just about playing well, you have to kill off the game when you have the chance.”

Is that what it is? Feeling too comfortable? I’m starting to worry whether this is the case. However much Sir Alex Ferguson can drive home the message that we can’t be complacent, are the players suffering from being too big for their boots?

“Champions of England! Champions of Europe!” chant our fans at every game, reminding our players and everyone else what we achieved last season. Is this something our players are focussing on too much? Is that why they can’t play the football they’re capable of for longer than a half?

In all honesty, I don’t think complacency is the problem. There’s something not quite right yet, coupled with very difficult fixtures already this season, but when everything has settled, I have no doubt our class will shine through.

It’s going to get worse before it gets better, with away trips to Arsenal, City and Villa to come before the turn of the year, but this sets us up for a stronger second half of the season. We’ll have all the most difficult games out of the way. However, if we’re going to keep the Premiership trophy in Manchester for another year, we need to show up in both halves.

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. Col says:

    For me, the problem is the centre of midfield. If you don’t control that you won’t dominate a game. I would agree that our defence looks a bit complacent at times – Rio has looked in good shape (I’ll forgive his dodgy passback on Sat) but Vidic hasn’t looked on top of his game and Wes seems to have lossed all confidence. We have the best defence & attack in Europe but we need to dominate the middle of the park. Having any combination of Fletcher, Giggs, Anderson and O’Shea just isn’t going to do that especially against teams who hound, harry & put a foot in e.g. the dippers, Chelski and Everton in 2nd half. We need to get Hargreaves fit or replace him if that isn’t going to happen.

  2. smith says:

    we suffered without the likes of carrick or scholes. flecther can’t pass, anderson can’t shoot, giggs can’t play well for more than 45 mins.

  3. BESHER says:

    For me it’s the absence of CQ coubled with bad luck(we wasted a good chance that could have gone in the last minute of chelsea liver newcastle everton) and injuries

  4. Zae says:

    There is no serious problem. At the moment we cannot really play well for more than 45 minutes, that’s true and still, we have only one defeat to our name.

    Reasons? Giggs cannot play well for 90 minutes any more, Berbatov still hasn’t really settled in, Ronaldo is in poor form as is Nani. Anderson is inconsistent, as you can expect from someone at his age therefore Fletcher is expected to hold the midfield on his own. Unsurprisingly, he’s unable to do that despite some great performances.

    We desperately miss Carrick and Hargreaves at this moment. Their absence wouldn’t be so bad if Ronaldo, Nani and Berbatov played the football they are capable of. But the last six competitive games still read 5 wins, one draw and a goal difference of 15-1.

    Everton have a really good team and it was only a question of when they would finally wake up. Unfortunate that they did it against us and unfortunate that we did not kill them off when had the chance.

  5. mauly says:

    Not worried yet, as Zae said “last six competitive games still read 5 wins, one draw and a goal difference of 15-1″ We got a point away from home at the biggest club in Liverpool. I’m sure we will be there in the second half of the season, we always are..

  6. Its in my blood says:

    Zae, you’ve just called it! In midfield Fletcher is the only one to have shown consistency. Ronaldo-average, Anderson and Nani-poor! Giggs good for short periods. Park fairly average. Carricks true worth is only now being appreciated. Having said that, they ALL will find form at some point soon. I’m far more concerned with the loss of Quiroz. Phelan looked as though he was struggling to contribute anything meaningful during those woeful second half performances Scott spoke of!

  7. badger says:

    It was only a matter of time before we started to lose points because there is only so much a centre midfield of Giggs and Fletcher can do, Giggsys legs are gone and he cant last 90 minutes and while Fletcher has been game he has very limited ability – huff and puff will only get you so far.

    Nani is an enigma, he obviously has talent but I’m concerned that he doesn’t seem to be learning and is still a very individual, but not team, player. Anderson is another who doesn’t seem to be progressing but that could be due to having played football thoughout the summer.

    Finally whoever gave the go ahead for signing Hargreaves should be shot because it was obvious from his Bayern days that he spends more time injured than on the pitch, did we really need another Saha? We should have got Mascherano.

  8. timbo says:

    Funny how it all seems to be coming round to the midfield now.

    Before the season even started I expressed concerns the quality (versus depth) of our center midfield. Everyone was prattling on about shoring up the attack and the right back slot, but for me the engine room was where our real concerns lay. With or without Berbatov we had a world class attack, and three out of our four back four would practically walk into any side in the world, they’re that good.

    But the engine room? Could you really call it world class, on a parity with our attackers and defenders? No way in hell. Carrick is a good, not great player who is a dependable servant. Hargreaves is too injury prone but does have qualities as a defensive lynch-pin when available. Scholes can’t defend to save his life, is well past his use-by date, and slows up play because of the way he drops back these days to pick up the ball from the defense in order to get things moving. Anderson clearly has potential but has yet to show any real consistency. Giggs is very creative when used in the role of an attacking midfielder but doesn’t have the legs anymore to see out a full 90 minutes. Fletcher and O’Shea, with all due respect to two loyal servants, are at best fine reserve players ready to slot in when the conditions warrant.

    All in all that isn’t a lineup to send fear into the hearts of the top clubs around the EPL or Europe, and it was born out last season, and so far this year, by the manner in which we’ve been outplayed in the center of the field time and time again. Against Roma, Barcelona and Chelsea in the Champions league we were easily outplayed in the engine room, allowing the opposition dominate possession and keep United on the back foot for long stretches. It was only the sheer class of our defense and attack that got us through, and the wins weren’t pretty. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing us lift the trophy in Moscow, but I got no joy out of the manner in which we won, or the way we played in some of the other games leading up to it.

    We desperately need to acquire, or nurture, some world class talent in the center of the pitch to match the quality front an back. Do that and we’ll finally have a team that can thoroughly dominate the EPL and Europe. The Kaka’s and Messi’s of this world would obviously be great acquisitions, but it isn’t likely to happen unless we sell off Ronaldo. But we don’t even have anyone around to rival the likes of Gerrard or (dare I say it) Lampard, so something has to be done, and should have been done during the off-season.
    Now it’s too late, at least for this season.

  9. RedSarg99 says:

    Why is there so much doom and gloom here?
    I think its time to start grooming Rodrigo and Gibson, seeing as Fletch and Anderson are only good for 50 minutes max.
    Having Carrick and Hargo back asap would help keep things ticking over but there is a long term issue in the middle of the park.
    We are not able to keep possesion when under pressue – did you see liverpool yesterday? Winning 1-0 and playing 1 touch triangles in Chelski’s have, calming down the game and releaving pressue.
    Teams that are as physical as Everton will give us problems, no doubt.
    But hell it’s early days yet!

  10. Its in my blood says:

    Timbo, have a word with yourself! Gerrard, Lampard?!? Totally overated. Kaka and Messi dont play in the same midfield areas anyway. Any of the teams you mentioned would miss players like Carrick Scholes Hargreaves for anything other than the odd game. Imagine the rent boys missing their three first choice midfielders? Or Barcelona? Our only real problem is that our probable first choices in midfield have been injured for long periods at the same time. Gosh, we’ve dropped 2 points and the worlds coming to an end.

  11. fidlurs says:

    imo we have a big problem with set pieces. we just don’t seem to be as much of a threat from corners and freekicks as our riches of attacking talent indicate we should be.

    offhand, i cant remember the last time we scored a truly significant goal off a setpiece, not saying that our ability to score from open play is bad, just that given the number of corners we are able to win every game, we should at least make one of them count every few games.

  12. badger says:

    Excellent post Timbo, fully agree with you there mate (apart from Fat Frank!) – compared to our defence or attack you have to say that the midfield is weak (that’s not saying its bad, just in comparison to the others).

    Imagine if we had a world class midfielder pulling the strings, that really would be something to behold.

  13. Ste says:

    We do have a world class centre midfield, its just that they are all injured!!! For christ sake, 2 points dropped isnt a big deal, we still are only 5 points behind Chelsea with a game in hand! We have come back from much bigger deficits, to much better teams.

    And get this for some Breaking News!!! The title isnt won in October!!! Wow!!!…

  14. john ferry says:

    Both Nani and Anderson have the potential to dominate teams in the future, but they are in need of consistent playing time. This isn’t going to happen with our current midfield line up, especially when Hargreaves and Carrick are fit. At the moment we need more depth in the mid field, but its just a matter of time. Would someone please tell Ronaldo to stop blasting shots in the oppositions walls. In my blood, we are in agreement.

  15. Stephen says:

    Ste, good point it is a competetive league this year and plenty more points will be dropped by everyone.
    We have played Everton, Chelsea, Liverpool, Blackburn and Portsmouth away this season none of which are mugs.

  16. OTRed says:

    @timbo: so now the double winning team of last season with the same midfield has suddenly become bad and can’t handle games anymore??? Honestly, I’d like to see some of you comment in the 04/05 season, i can imagine it’d be much worse than this.

  17. DarkDevil says:

    I don’t know what the problem is but whatever it is, it’s got to stop. Our success last season while glorious it may have been was not exactly dominating. We almost let Chelsea back into the title race last season and we were a John Terry away from losing the Champs League to them. After thumping Arsenal in the FA Cup we should have thumped Portsmouth but we didn’t.

    This season we need to show that though we were good last season, we’re better this season which should be the case considering that players like Anderson and Nani should now be well settled into the squad and Ronaldo, Rooney and Berbatov should be murdering opposing teams.

    Defensively, Ferdinand seems to be guilty of resting on his laurels and as a team, this shit of letting teams back into the game is becoming our achillies heel. We need to really show up against West Ham and we need to start playing out of our skin for a couple games on the trot otherwise we could be finding ourselves too far off the pace from Hull!

  18. 20legend says:

    Our slow start hasn’t surprised me, we do this every year and i think the reason is we never do a proper preseason with all our players looking fit and mean enough to destroy the opposition. Also we are missing Scholes and Carrick. Those two are our playmakers, the rest are forwards, we need one of those two back to start playing those passes into areas where our forwards can destroy other teams. Anderson and Fletcher are both all-action midfielders who run for every 50-50 ball but together they don’t have the playmaking ability of Scholes or Carrick. Having one of them back will allow us to create more and better chances. The only goal against Everton came from a peach of a pass from Giggsy. Giggsy’s a legend but he will produce those passes maybe once in two matches but Scholes or Carrick would pull em out much more often.

    As for us drawing games in the second half after going a goal up in the first half, maybe we need Whinger to comment we are a first-half team? That definitely perked us up last time and a blow to their pride is what some of those lads need now IMO. Also can some of the cockney c*nts tell Ronaldo that he is crap this weekend? Would be much appreciated by us reds.:D

  19. suhayl says:

    In derby games…games that are physical and are all 100 miles per hour and blood and guts. Ofcourse fletcher and giggs in the centre arent going to have the physical nature and legs to compete.

    And yes we are missing scholsey and carricks creativity.
    Carricks presence.
    And hargos relentless workrate..tackling…running…stamin..crossing bombing up and down.

    Those 3 are a big big big miss. And any team in the world would miss em. And i hope they are all back soon sharpish..cos we miss em all

    Timbo??? what are you on???? glory hunters talk like that.

    PS. SAF….play carlos if we need passion and fight


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