Jamie Kanwar from Liverpool Kop has interviewed me after yesterday’s defeat.
Jaimie Kanwar: What went wrong for United at Anfield?
Scott the Red: The first problem was the team selection. With Darren Fletcher out injured we needed some grit and fight in the centre of midfield, with Anderson could have provided us with. I can only assume Sir Alex Ferguson thought we were going to control the game with our passing from the centre of midfield but in games like these, you need someone to boss the midfield physically, something Anderson should be selected for when both Fletcher and Owen Hargreaves are unavailable.
Secondly, it’s hard to ignore the impact of the referee in the result. Despite dominating possession (57% according to Sky Sports) away from home we didn’t create enough clear cut chances to win the game, but the ref did play his part. The most obvious was the decision to just yellow card Carragher for his professional foul on Owen.
Vidic committed a similar foul on Gerrard last season, although he wasn’t the last man and Gerrard was far wider of the goal than Owen was, and was sent off for it, a decision which received no criticism from the media. Owen had beaten your defence was pace and had a good opportunity to equal the score – we were massively disadvantaged by that opportunity being taken away but Liverpool weren’t punished equally – Carragher should have been off, it was blatant.
Also, with half an hour played Carragher got his foot to a ball that Carrick was in possession of but he didn’t win it – it remained within Carrick’s path and had he not been brought down he would have been able to carry on in to the box.
Lucas committed nine fouls in the game and the referee gave him his ‘last warning’ with less than half an hour played – he shouldn’t have been on the pitch to pass to Ngog. Still, refereeing decisions come and go. Liverpool got them all on Sunday, I hope we’re as fortunate when we’re next on our travels, at Stamford Bridge!
Thirdly, we just weren’t clinical enough. Rooney and Valencia both had opportunities they should have scored and they didn’t. In tight games against your rivals you only get one or two good chances and we didn’t take ours, Liverpool did.
JK – That’s 3 games in a row in which United have comprehensively lost to Liverpool. What has changed? Why can’t United beat Liverpool anymore?
STR – It’s a strange one but I suppose these things happen in cycles. Before last season, Liverpool hadn’t even managed a goal against us in the league since 2004, and even that was a John O’Shea own goal! Last season was Liverpool’s best year since the last time they won the league, so it stands to reason they would finally get a result against us.
As for yesterday, like someone on my blog said, “when a fox chases a rabbit, the fox is running for his dinner, but the rabbit is running for his life!” Quite simply, Liverpool couldn’t afford to lose again yesterday. I’d argue against it being a “comprehensive” victory for Liverpool though.
United didn’t play very well and whilst still at home, Liverpool needed generous calls from the referee to keep all three points. We saw more of the ball and neither side had many clear cut chances – Torres took Liverpool’s, whilst Valencia saw his come back off the woodwork. There wasn’t a lot in it.
JK – Fernando Torres and Wayne Rooney: who is the better player?
STR – When looking at effectiveness in ways that we can measure unaffected by emotional bias, statistics, then Torres is the better player. Of course statistics don’t do justice to Rooney though considering he’s been forced out to the left for the past couple of seasons and has played second fiddle to Cristiano Ronaldo. In contrast, Torres has been the man at Liverpool with all play revolving around him, so it stands to reason he would score more goals.
But who would I rather have in my team? Without a doubt Wayne Rooney. It’s not just what he adds to the team in terms of goals and assists, but the winning mentality, the passion, the drive and the determination. That’s the emotional side of fans that look for more than just the stats.
JK – How do you rate much-maligned Liverpool pair Dirk Kuyt and Lucas Leiva?
STR – Speaking honestly, I don’t watch a lot of Liverpool games so don’t know much about Lucas from firsthand knowledge. I’ve seen his mistakes and caught highlights on MOTD and he doesn’t appear to be a dreadful player but he wouldn’t get close to the United team – Fletcher, Giggs, Scholes, Carrick, Anderson and Hargreaves are all superior to him, which puts in to perspective how shallow Liverpool’s squad is in this position.
I’ve seen more of Kuyt over the years though and what he lacks in ability he almost makes up for in his work rate. He is a ‘trier’ and should be applauded for playing out of position to fit in to Benitez’s Liverpool but I don’t really rate him.
JK – Who do you see as United’s main challengers for the title this season?
STR – Chelsea. Arsenal have had a good start and they have great players but they don’t have the squad to win the league. Liverpool have the potential to go on a good run, with Gerrard, Torres and Benayoun all capable of making a massive difference, but as a team, don’t have the ability or mentality to win the title.
Chelsea have been there and done it before though, they will be boosted by the return of Michael Essien and Joe Cole this season and they have a manager who knows what he’s doing. Their best players are all a year older which works in our favour though.
JK – With lots of mistakes recently, Rio Ferdinand’s form has to be a concern. Are you worried he’s on a downward spiral?
STR – It’s too hard to judge really. He’s been in and out of the team with injury and just as soon as he gets a good number of games under his belt he gets injured again. He’s a great player but I do wonder whether all his off-field projects might have a negative on his game. But it really is just a case of wait and see.
Saying that, we made lots of mistakes defensively last season but seemed to get away with them more often than not. The 4-1 at Old Trafford was probably the first time all season that our opponents made us pay for our mistakes.
JK – No team has ever won the title 4 years in a row, either pre or post Premiership. With history clearly against you, do you think United can still win the title?
STR – No team had ever won The Treble. No team had ever won 11 titles in 17 years. As a club, clearly we enjoy and excel in achieving things no other club has been able to, so history certainly doesn’t make me question what we will win this season. It can’t be our expectation to win the title every season though, the English league is far too competitive, but we’re fortunate in that whilst we’re weaker this season, our title rivals are too, so I wouldn’t rule anything out for us.
JK – In which positions do you think United are *currently* superior to Liverpool?
STR – Defensively, the only position Liverpool are stronger than us in is right-back, with Neville past his best, O’Shea not really owning the position, and Wes Brown/Rafael still not recovered from injury. Van der Sar, Vidic, Rio and Evra and all better than Liverpool’s counterparts.
Carragher might have been able to give Rio a run for his money during any other season, given Rio’s lacking fitness and form, but by all accounts Carragher isn’t have the best year of his life either.
In the midfield Gerrard would get in to our team above our central midfield options, but I’d have Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson (and Hargreaves) over Mascherano, particularly this season.
Neither side have brilliant wingers but Giggs has been spot on this year (I dunno if he’s classed as a winger or not anymore though) and Valencia has just started to come in to his own but it’s really too early to judge. Is Kuyt classed as a winger? In terms of goals and assists he’s done better than Valencia over the course of the season so far.
Up front Torres has to get in the team and I suppose it would have to be at the expense of Berbatov, who I think is a fabulous player.
JK – Which is better: the United team of 1998-2001 or 2006-09?
STR – The starting XI of 98-01 was better than now but our squad is much better. Take the bench of the European Cup final 99 – Van Der Gouw, May, P Neville, Brown (had made sixteen league appearances ever for us), Greening (had made three league appearances ever for us), Solskjaer and Sheringham. Compare that with 08 – Kuszczak, O’Shea, Fletcher, Giggs, Anderson, Nani and Silvestre. Back in the 90’s it was all about the strongest XI but these days you have to have the strongest squad.
The midfield four of Giggs-Keane-Scholes-Beckham all at their peak is probably the best midfield you’ll ever see, but outside of them were just Butt, Blomqvist and Cruyff. Today’s midfield consists of Fletcher, Hargreaves, Scholes, Anderson, Nani, Giggs, Park and Valencia which doesn’t offer a better midfield four but collectively we have far more better quality options.
JK – Was Ferguson right to get rid of Jaap Stam?
STR – Sir Alex Ferguson says that was one of the biggest mistakes of his time at United so I guess he knows best. Stam did bring out a book calling our players cunts and claiming the manager told them to cheat in Europe, so I don’t think it was necessarily the end of the world that someone like that was no longer at the club!
He was 29 then and the following year we bought 23-year-old Rio, something we may otherwise have missed out on. He was a quality player with one of my favourite ever chants but everything happens for a reason and it’s not as if we’ve suffered too much without him.
JK – Are you worried that when Sir Alex Ferguson leaves, United will experience a decline similar to what Liverpool experienced when Kenny Dalglish left in 1991?
STR – At United we are fortunate to have so many former players involved at the club I imagine that will continue for some time. Sir Bobby Charlton, Solskjaer, Phelan, McClair and until recently, Bryan Robson all are still involved professionally with the club.
I imagine the likes of Giggs and Neville will stay on and Sir Alex will probably take up a role higher up within the club when he retires. In other words, we won’t be going cold turkey when our manager does finally retire and I imagine the philosophy of our club, in bringing through youth and playing attacking football, will continue regardless of who is in charge.
JK – Who are the contenders to take over from Ferguson when he eventually retires?
STR – I fancy Laurent Blanc for the job. He’s been great at Bordeaux and think he’d be worth a punt. Would honestly be gutted if we got Mourinho – people bang on about him having the ‘personality’ for the job, but I would rather someone to have the ability to do what we do at United. He was shocking in the transfer market, he wouldn’t know attacking football if it smacked him over the head and he’s never brought through young players.
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