Published on March 6th, 2013 | by soccersweep
Ferguson gets it wrong
It was a cruel defeat for Manchester United in The Champions League on Tuesday night. They hadn’t dominated the game. They weren’t even particularly convincing. But they had battled away and done just enough to merit their lead. They had been typically workmanlike and professional in their approach and this style looked as if it may pay dividends yet again.
But a few minutes after they went 1-0 up, through a Ramos own goal, disaster struck. Nani went feet first into a high challenge and, to the astonishment of virtually every onlooker, he was given a straight red. It was a difficult decision to swallow and will have ramifications for Manchester United.
Not only will their elimination cost them millions but also deprive them of the chance to progress to the quarter finals of one of the more open CL competitions in recent memory.
But blaming the ref entirely for this defeat would simply mask the bad decisions made by Sir Alex Ferguson before the game. Even the best make mistakes and I’m afraid that Ferguson made big ones on Tuesday.
The first error was to select Nani. soccersweep has opined time and again that, whilst The Portuguese can produce moments of magic, he’s a bit of a loose cannon. He can’t always be trusted to make the right decisions in the biggest games. The red card wasn’t justified but why did Nani have his feet up there in the first place?
Rafael was sent off in The Champions League quarters against Bayern Munchen in 2009 due to inexperience and immaturity. The same could be said about Nani on Tuesday. The difference is that Rafa was 18 at the time, while Nani is 26. He hasn’t matured into a safe pair of hands. Players like Evra, Carrick and even Rooney would never get sent off in a game such as this, where professionalism, team play and focus are all important. They have learnt through experience what to do and what not to do in the biggest games. One thing that you absolutely don’t do is risk getting sent off. And simply put, by raising his foot to head height, Nani ran that risk.
Many have said that Fergie’s team selection and tactics were working brilliantly until Nani saw red. But, surely, Nani’s careless dismissal proved otherwise. Yes, he’s a natural athlete who had looked sprightly and threatened the opposition in the first half. But, as usual, the bad ultimately outweighed the good with the winger.
It’s impossible to know how the game would have panned out had Rooney started. But you would struggle to find anyone, anywhere, anyhow – manager, player or fan – who wouldn’t have selected the best English player of his generation for this game against Real.
There was of course one notable dissenter to that idea. Alex Ferguson decided that Wayne Rooney wasn’t one of his best 11 for United’s biggest game in years. Some say he was trying to Out Mourinho Mourinho with his selection. He may well have over thought his tactics before the game. And he clearly made the wrong decision with Rooney.
Danny Welbeck is a decent, hard working and at best balletic player. But he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo. Time and again he got into good positions before flunking the finish. His best chance came when he got beyond the defence, 10 yards out, and scuffed his shot into the ground before it hit the keeper and went out of play. Welbeck has excellent qualities but a ruthless edge in front of goal isn’t one of them. Yet he was selected in a game where converting chances was all important.
Wayne Rooney was born for those sorts of moments. Even though Real dominated the ball, Manchester United had several excellent chances and one could argue that they went out of the competition due to profligacy in front of goal, in both legs. Rooney would arguably have gobbled up at least one of the opportunities that were presented to his young English counterpart on Tuesday night.
The boss said before the game that he dropped Rooney because he ‘needs a game or two’. Yet he selected Nani, who has been out for most of the season and patently hasn’t hit top form since his return.
Rooney is Manchester United’s best striker. He’s their best player. He’s their best midfielder and he’s their best defender. He might just get the nod ahead of De Gea in goal. So why, on the earth of sweet bejesus, was he not picked on Tuesday? The top teams in the world have a majority of good players and 2 special ones. 3 if they are really lucky. Rooney is undoubtedly one of Manchester United’s special players. His demotion to the bench on Tuesday was a total slap in the face for someone who gives everything for his club.
RvP is a great finisher but he can’t shape a game like Rooney. If the Liverpudlian had been playing we think he would have taken the game to Real. But, by dropping him, Ferguson showed way too much respect to an anything but vintage Real Madrid side. And, furthermore, a sense of trepidation, negativity and foreboding went around the ground as soon as the team sheet dropped and the fans realised that their main man wasn’t starting.
In summary, despite all his genius, Alex Ferguson seems to have developed a bizarre tendency for tinkering with a tried and tested, winning formula in the biggest games. I wouldn’t be surprised if this exact 11 has never started a competitive game for Manchester United before Tuesday. Yet the boss waits until Real Madrid come to town to select it.
soccersweep scoffed at pre-match suggestions that Manchester United’s best player would be dropped for the game. But dropped he was. What a monumentally bad decision.
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