Sir Alex Ferguson has shouldered the blame for our draw against Porto last night, claiming his decision to play our Premiership game on Sunday instead of Saturday is what cost us.
We certainly looked like a tired team last night, that is without question. Our passing was sloppy and our movement was slow. There’s no point singling out individuals but too many of our players didn’t look up to it.
Whilst I agree with the boss that we looked tired, I would still argue that the gamble did pay off.
“We showed tiredness because of the gamble I took playing Sunday which was not the best preparation,” said Ferguson. “But we faced a situation and we took the best option hoping a European occasion would bring the adrenalin up. I was tempted to get Villa moved to the Saturday. However, we had so many players on international duty in places like Bolivia, Rio de Janeiro and Korea, involving some very long and tiring journeys, I thought it best to go with Sunday.”
Had United drawn or lost to Aston Villa after taking the extra days rest and giving us less time to prepare for Porto, then the gamble certainly wouldn’t have paid off. We’d allowed our travelling players another day to rest, which had to be done, considering Tevez didn’t return until Friday evening and would have had to play the following day, given Berbatov and Rooney’s absence. But had we not got the three points, then there would have been no point. We might as well have played with those players, had that game written off, then given us an extra day for Porto, hoping to get the win there.
To think that we should have beaten Villa then go on to beat Porto should be the least of our expectations is silly. Whilst that would have been the desired results, we can’t forget that 14 of our players travelled all over the place to represent their countries in the week leading up to the Villa game. To win that, particularly when it looked like a draw was the best we could hope for at times, was a bloody brilliant result for us.
To draw at home to Porto is a bad result for us, particularly with the two away goals conceded, but given a choice between the two games, I’d have taken the win over Villa every time. To reach the semi-finals against Villarreal or Arsenal we have to draw and score at least a couple of goals, or we have to win. If we can’t beat Porto away then can we complain about not progressing? Obviously it’s something we really want but if our lads can’t go to Portugal and get a win, then it’s time to draw a line under our European dreams for this season and focus on the league. Stick on your Moscow DVD if you need cheering up.
Even with hindsight, knowing how the matches ended up, I would still prefer us take the extra day for the Premiership game, knowing it would disadvantage us in the Champions League. Yes, it was a gamble, but on Saturday we were second in the league and on Sunday we were top. This certainly would not have been the case had we not taken our extra day to rest.