Saturday, October 1, 2011


Tuesday nights are often entertaining nights whenever I've got the chance to watch United play. Be it in the Champions League or the Premier League. And this time, it was no different. I got watch it and it was uncannily similar to the Chelsea game which I had seen uninterrupted. Chances galore for both sides, to be fair I think Basel created more. Three goals apiece for both the sides and United having to come from behind in the end after what seemed to be a comfortable 2-0 half time lead.

Injuries to Rooney and Hernandez meant that the manager started the game with just Danny Welbeck up front. What must Berbatov feel inside that icy calm demeanor of his, I wonder. However, the boss seemed to have it right again after two quickfire goals from the young striker in the space of two minutes. mid-way through the first half. Giggs again with the assists. If I haven't got it wrong, he has provided the assist for 11 of the past 13 Champions League goals that United have scored. And the scored remained the same at the halftime whistle. United seemingly in an insurmountable position.
But the first half had already been a sign for things to come in the second half. Basel attacked from the start of the match and would do so the whole night. Their two furthest forward pair of Frei and Streller really caused havoc in the United final third. United's two full-backs were always caught out of position too far upfield and when Basel got in behind Ferdinand seemed too slow for the pace of the game. Jones had his first average game in a red shirt though I say this only because of that pass he made to Valencia in the penalty area, a rather unnecessary attempt to play the ball out from a very tight situation which led to the penalty that gave Basel the lead. Basel could have indeed gone into the break ahead. They knew they were causing the United defence problems and came out of in the second half with intent. United could not keep a lid on the proceedings and were pegged back until they finally conceded.

But for all the defensive frailties we seem to be currently displaying what cannot be counted out is our desire to win and our belief in our ability to get something from a game. Of turning certain defeat into draws and draws into wins. While we could not get the winner this time (Berbatov should probably have played the ball across the face of goal instead of going for it himself) but another late goal from the head of Ashley Young saved United from their first home defeat in... let's just say a really long time.

Sir Alex Ferguson has indeed pointed out during the week that his team might be too cavalier for their own good and this is something that might become the stumbling block in our pursuit of the 20th, not to mention a fourth European title. Ferdinand, for all his warning to the young ones about the fight they are facing to replace him, seems to be the one looking to miss out on more games than the likes of Smalling, Jones and Evans. And he was struggling against the two Basel strikers and was probably lucky not to be sent off after losing his footing and bringing down Frei who would have been through on goal. May be he is still not 100% match fit but it was not convincing defending from him at all. Evra seemed to be doing okay but was woeful during the night. After the Chelsea game, he said the way they defended was not good enough and he seemed to have forgotten his own words. For the second goal, he should have stayed tight to the Basel winger and prevented the cross instead of giving him all the space he needed to put in a beauty of a cross.

So, what has happened to our defence? In one word, injuries. We always seem to be short of the required numbers these past few weeks. Vidic and Rafael are still far from being back in action while Smalling has joined them both on the list while Fabio also seems to have picked up a knock during the Basel game. The lad is pretty unlucky with these injuries and knocks. And these means we have a kind of a rotating back four out of necessity and even midfielders sometimes slotting in. This unsettled defensive roulette means defensive discipline and understanding is not build between the constantly changing participants. And this is one of the reasons we are becoming a bit more porous this season. Let's just hope that our injuries end quickly, especially Vidic's, so we can get some of the meanness back in our backline. With the front end seemingly able to tear into all types of opponents, it would be great to have a more rigid defence behind them soon.