United’s draw against Fulham came in such a manner that for many it actually seemed like a loss. However as the ever-chatty Mickey Phelan stated: “It was points dropped not a match lost.” So what did United’s draw at Craven Cottage tells us this weekend? The obvious one would be that Paul Scholes is like a fine wine/ the best midfielder in PL history/the only cool ginger man on the planet- but I already covered that following the Newcastle game so I won’t bother repeating it. However there was much to ascertain from Sunday’s game-4-4-2 could be the new 4-5-1 and Fergie still loves the BBC are just a couple of points that became evident, here’s five things we learnt.
1. 4-4-2 is back in fashion. Okay, so United didn’t win, sorry for stating the bleeding obvious, but one thing was as clear as the penalty not given against Nemanja Vidic- Dimitar Berbatov should not be dropped. Despite not being a clinical as he perhaps should be, the Bulgarian has started the season well and deserves to be playing regularly- or at the very least given a decent run. With Wayne Rooney hopefully off his toilet very soon then we should see him linking up with Berbatov to form the sort of strike partnership that United fans have been hoping for since the former Spurs striker shook hands with Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford- as Sky Sports went into hysterics at the ‘exclusive pictures.’ It’s not just Berbatov that makes sticking with the more traditionally United formation of 4-4-2 seem logical – Michael Carrick and Anderson would arguably not bring more to the team if they were brought in at the number 9’s expense. There’s a case to be made that even if Berbatov is not fit then Chicharito should be given a chance as part of a front two. If Scholes does need a rest, which although unfortunate is inevitable, then one of the aforementioned midfield men could come in and do the job, but switching to 4-5-1 for the big games, which was the norm last season, is looking like becoming a thing of the past.
2.There is a Plan B after Wazza. Okay so United didn’t win- and I assure you that’s the last time I’m going to say that, but they did score goals- sort of-and do enough at least attacking wise to win the game. Usually two goals would see United beat nearly any team. It’s easy to look at the Reds failure to take all three points and turn it into a simple equation United minus Rooney equals no win. However it wasn’t the bug riddled scousers absence that cost United all three points it was defensive lapses -and the penalty miss, which I’ll get to later. Hopefully United players can take solace from the fact that despite missing out on what would have been a cracking win, and despite there being room for improvement, they still performed better, scored more goals and took more from the game than they have in the previous two seasons.
3. West Ham need to suffer. With Chelsea destroying teams with aplomb and the struggling Hammers at OT in United’s next fixture it’s an ideal opportunity to show the Champions that they’re not the only ones who can take apart teams. The United chant “we often score six but we seldom score ten” is in danger of becoming synonymous with the Chelsea side. However while I don’t expect to see United put six past West Ham- although a hat-trick apiece for Rooney and Berbatov would be splendid, I still think a convincing victory is required. Not only will it all but erase the memory of the points dropped at Fulham but it was also let the rest of the Premier League know that United are still capable of giving teams a good hiding. The recent hysterical drooling from certain sections of the press regarding Chelsea’s two wins over p*ss poor opposition does at least underline one fact- last season the West Londoners goal difference was tantamount to an extra point. Although after only two games it’s far too soon to start worrying about goal difference, United do not want to let it become an for advantage for Chelsea early on in the season. Teams that come to Old Trafford cautious and fearful always end up being comfortably beaten and if United can instil that fear into visiting teams early on this season in it should make the quest for a nineteenth title that little bit easier. It’s just a shame Mick McCarthy doesn’t manage all the visitors.
4. Nani you are okay (you are okay, you are okay, Nani). The penalty miss by Mr Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha no doubt cost United two points and many thought Ryan Giggs should have taken it. Fergie himself said that Giggs who scored two penalties in the game against Spurs last season was no doubt the man for the job. However while I at first was fuming with the Portuguese winger’s profligacy, once the smoke had cleared it was time for a bit of rational perspective. Nani is nothing if not supremely confident and it’s that confidence that United are going to need this season as he’s one of the real match winners the Reds have got. While missing a penalty is always disappointing, United should still have been able to hold out for a win and let’s not forget this isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. A few seasons ago Cristiano Ronaldo missed a late penalty against West Ham who promptly scored a last minute equaliser shortly afterwards. Penalty misses happen- even Eric Cantona did it –very rarely though- and my point is Nani shouldn’t blame himself, it was a decent enough strike- although admittedly a ‘nice height for the goalkeeper’- which produced a good save. Let’s just hope that come the end of the season United fans aren’t looking at is as one of those title costing incidents.
5. The BBC is still off Fergie’s Christmas card list. One of the biggest questions before the match was whether Ferguson would finally end his six-year feud with the BBC and give a post match interview to Match of the Day. Obviously time has not healed the wound the Beeb caused on the United manager by ‘dissing’ his son so he’s still ‘not having it.’ While it all seems a little inconsequential following such an exciting and drama ridden game, it does mean the saga is set to continue with newer facets. The Premier League has declared it is going to order a review regarding the situation- no doubt Fergie’s on a plane to Venezuela as we speak.
Read more of Justin Mottershead’s work on his blog “Name on the Trophy”