Good result, poor performance.
It’s always a worry for me when Nani plays from the left – I don’t see how he and Evra work together, and it becomes a weakness. Also, playing Ryan Giggs through the middle was an immediate concern – it’s difficult to criticise Ryan because he’s been such a fantastic player for the club, and to be fair I’m not criticising Ryan as such, I just think Sir Alex got it wrong on this occasion – playing at Anfield, you need a higher tempo or a fitter pair of legs in midfield.
It’s not just Ryan, I’ve said the same with Paul Scholes too, these kind of away games are where they might be found wanting if they play from the start, with opposition who are going to want to get in at them – that’s when their age begins to tell. However when the games slow down, they can then come into their own, and I think that’s something that was proved on Sunday too when Scholes did come on and gave us a better tempo in our game. It’s just my opinion, but I would only really look at using the pair at home, or if we have to use them away, then use them from the bench. It’s been suggested that Giggs’ selection was diplomatic considering the occasion but they could have made Rio captain ahead of Evra; they don’t need to bring Ryan in to play to make him captain. I was going to offer up a free copy of my autobiography on Twitter to anyone who could name the team before it was announced, because I knew the book was safe! Nobody would have picked that side.
The captaincy wouldn’t have even been an issue of course if Vidic had started but I could see why Sir Alex decided to rest him, as was his public line at the time; he found it hard since his return, not that he’s been poor but he hasn’t been firing on all cylinders. It does take a while for players to get back into the swing of it – I thought Vidic was good against Galatasaray, but then nothing that Sir Alex does when selecting the side surprises me anymore. Obviously he has been feeling that discomfort too as he has just been ruled out for another 2 months, which just shows how difficult it is to come back from such an injury. Nonetheless, it’s a massive blow, and you just hope now that Rio and Jonny Evans can keep fit. I wouldn’t play either against Newcastle, I’d wrap Rio in cotton wool particularly after the knock he picked up at Anfield. Saying that, he was exceptional after it looked like he might come off. That means that whoever gets a chance tomorrow night, maybe a Michael Keane or a Scott Wootton, will have a chance to be deputy – it’s just bad luck that Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are out too.
I know some are upset and are questioning the medical staff but the type of injuries picked up shows it’s just a terrible run of luck; these aren’t the kind of injuries that a different kind of training regime can affect. The last thing we need is an injury to either Ferdinand or Evans because we really don’t want to be putting Michael Carrick back there; I’d prefer to see one of the youngsters trusted to be given the opportunity. At the age of 21, like Wootton is, or almost 20, like Keane, if they won’t be given a chance when the numbers are depleted like this they might begin to ask if they ever will.
Rio and Jonny started a good partnership last season and played well together on Sunday too; a knock on point is that of De Gea. De Gea was dropped as Sir Alex looks to build a good defensive unit but De Gea, Ferdinand and Evans formed a fantastic understanding in the second half of last season. I have said often that I think De Gea could do with another stone of weight but I wouldn’t have left him out in the first place; he’s the better goalkeeper of the two – I feel more safe when he is in goal. Agility wise, he’s as good as anyone in the league, and it will be interesting if Vidic’s injury leads to a re-think in the goalkeeper department.
Jonny was the deputy for Nemanja as he was last season and I think he did well at Anfield; sometimes he can be a little rash, but he’s really good on the ball, which is nice in games where you’re under pressure as you can defend a little higher. He was involved in the red card incident with Jonjo Shelvey but I can’t see where anyone is coming from when it is suggested that Evans should have been sent off too – he won the ball cleanly, and Shelvey came over the top of the ball. If the referee had booked Shelvey that would have been understandable, but I must say when I first saw it my immediate reaction was that it should have been a sending off, and the question was whether the referee would have the guts to do it at Anfield. Mark Halsey, for me, is a very very good referee, the best that we have – he doesn’t let occasions get to him, he referees the game.
Of course, Liverpool won’t be happy, nor were they about the Suarez incident – but by God, he was screaming, throwing his head back and diving – it was so blatant for minimal contact from Evans. There was no way a referee could give a penalty for that incident, and especially not for the reaction from Suarez. He really is the worst diver of them all – there are plenty about, United have some who go to ground too easily, but this fella is an absolute joke – it’s no wonder that he doesn’t get the decisions. It’s in the paper today that Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard are backing him. I’m sorry lads, you should tell him he’s a diver and tell him to stop it. If they think they’re not getting penalties because of it, then good, because he’s diving, and he’s looking for it all the time.
We got our own penalty – the pace that Valencia showed when he got the ball on the half way line was immense, he was like a world class sprinter. Nowadays, if you tackle from behind, you’re giving a penalty away. Players know the rules now, so why did Johnson do it? He caught his ankle, so it’s a penalty, stop moaning! Robin van Persie stepped up to take it after penalty taking duties had gone around the team with many misses.
When I played, Alex Stepney even took some – he scored one and missed one. I’ve been surprised that strikers don’t want to pick the ball up and score the goals – in midweek, Nani picked the ball up and wanted to take it, which is the right attitude. Sir Alex admitted that before the game they hadn’t decided on a taker and that even happened in my time – Sammy McIlroy missed a penalty, and then the next game against Aston Villa at home, we got a penalty, the ball was on the spot and nobody stepped up to take it! I was playing right back; you could hear the crowd getting restless, Sammy refused to take it, so I walked up from the halfway line to take it and I missed! Well, it was saved by Jimmy Rimmer.
I can guarantee that Sir Alex would have made sure everyone knew who was taking the penalties on Sunday and van Persie made no mistake, putting plenty of pace on the ball. I judge how confident I am with how a player steps up to take the kick; if the keeper saves one, then well done, but the kicker has to open up his body for me.
We saw the game out but it was a poor performance; we weren’t great against Galatasaray and Nani seems to be getting a lot of the attention for playing poorly. To me, there’s something not quite right with him at the minute. He doesn’t look like the same player of last year, when I felt he was coming of age – sometimes this season you want to get hold of him and shake him! He reminds me of Gordon Hill; he can win you games, but sometimes you just want to shake him. I can remember Martin Buchan giving him a scuff once or twice, maybe he ought to get hold of Nani! I’d still keep him though; I’ve grown to like him, he can beat players so easily, but it’s a matter of getting into him and like I say, something doesn’t seem right – I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m sure Sir Alex will be looking at it.
The last couple of games have seen unconvincing performances from most of the team to be truthful; but you don’t want to be peaking too early, and we have at least started getting a run of wins. It’s always hard when you’re playing for Manchester United; no matter who the Champions are, United’s scalp is bigger than anyone else’s. In the first seven or eight games it’s just about getting the results and getting to ten games with around 23 or 24 points.
City are perhaps learning that the hard way after getting a couple of draws; after winning the title, I think Roberto Mancini has got a little bit cocky and has tinkered a little bit but hasn’t really strengthened the squad. De Jong and Johnson have left, and their replacements Garcia and Sinclair aren’t really improvements for me – when they played Real Madrid, they got a rude awakening, and it showed how far apart the sides are. 3-2 flattered City big time. Madrid were far superior, the way Ronaldo destroyed Maicon, Zabaleta and Kompany – the manager can’t have enjoyed that. Perhaps City’s arrogance might be the undoing of them; Mancini shouldn’t moan about what team he has to put out, though I think you could take a strongest XI for City and I’d still fancy we had a better team. To buy five players and not strengthen the side… well, they were a few funny signings. If you’re going to make a number of signings after winning a trophy you want to make a statement but I think sides will look at them and realise they’re not to be feared. Chelsea meanwhile have improved their side; Hazard and Oscar have shown that, and once Marin is fit, I expect he will too. I’d have liked us to sign Modric or Martinez but talk of United’s midfield could go on all season…
On the subject of Chelsea, John Terry retired from international football this week. I can’t say that I generally have a lot of sympathy for John but I do feel this case has been handled terribly by the Football Association; he has been tried in a court of law and has been found not guilty, it’s just ludicrous what’s gone on. It should have been the end of it after the verdict; is there a judge on the FA committee that’s going to overrule it?