Fan Speak Manchester United: Thrilling encounter exudes class but exposes problems

It was a topsy-turvy game at Old Trafford as United overturned Newcastle 4-3, but supporter Rasheed says the victory exposed United’s fickle defense and so-called squad depth.
By Rasheed Abu Bakar

Manchester United continued their unbelievable streak of come-from-behind victories at the expense of a Newcastle side that was missing a lot of first-choice players.

Whilst the game was typical of United’s stature this season, the entertainment factor that the neutrals rave about is of great concern to me. Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to be entertained by my favourite club, but certainly not in this way.

As the pendulum swung between Newcastle and United, Javier Hernandez’s last minute winner meant United only took and kept the lead when it mattered the most – in the last few minutes of the game.

Yes, the never-say-die attitude of the club I have supported my entire life is highly intoxicating but apart from the sublime Michael Carrick assist and Chicharito’s finish, we were appalling.

Defense gone asleep

Passes were going astray, possession was easily given away and most alarmingly, United’s backline, including David De Gea, simply could not handle the speed and strength of Newcastle’s attack.

Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were a constant menace. United defenders have never dealt with pace well and Johnny Evans, who was really solid in the last few games, had one of his least impressive shifts and was often outplayed by the Senegalese strikers.

It didn’t help that De Gea gave British pundits more ammo to shoot him down in post-match analyses. The Spaniard must have forgotten Michu’s goal last week as he parried Ba’s long-range effort to the oncoming James Perch, who gave Newcastle the lead.

It’s hard to say if De Gea is a raw gem that Ferguson needs to polish. A good shot-stopper, his flapping arms when he comes for a cross always reminds me of United reject, Massimo Taibi. I doubt De Gea will follow the same fate but he certainly needs a huge dose of confidence, which is something Antonio Valencia still lacks.

I remember fondly the days when Valencia would gallop down the right wing and skip past defenders with ease. It seemed not too long ago; last season, to be exact. But lately, the Ecuadorian is making want-away Nani look like a much-needed resource.

Squad Depth

It did surprise me when the teams were announced. No Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck. Instead, veteran Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes were given a run-out. Word from Ferguson confirmed that Rooney and Young were injured and Welbeck was taken ill.

Last season, United recorded a total of 39 different injuries to the squad. In September this year, the club announced a five-year agreement with Toshiba Medical Systems for it to become its Official Medical Systems Partner, under which Toshiba will provide state-of-the-art medical equipment to the club’s medical team, based at Carrington.

My only thought at such agreement is that United has a strange problem where players get injured more often in training than on match days. If I recall correctly, the last United player to be stretchered off during a game was Rooney against Fulham a few months ago.

Injuries to important members to the squad have shown that the United’s bench is not as potent or deep as what others make it out to be. With the scores tied at 3-3, Tom Cleverly was the only attacking player who could most likely make an impact.

We have reached the halfway point of the season and a seven-point lead is still not enough of an advantage to take it easy. Ferguson knows this and I bet he also knows that he (and my heart) cannot risk having another nail-biter like Newcastle.

Whilst the attack and determination is sublime, there are other areas and players that really need attention.