United punished for single selection error

Silvio Dante: This attitude of yours, it’s a lot of what’s made you an effective leader. But we’ve all got flaws. Even you. Seven deadly sins and yours is … pride.
Tony Soprano: All due respect, you got no f-ckin’ idea what it’s like to be Number One. Every decision you make affects every facet of every other f-ckin’ thing.
– All Due Respect 5:12 

If the haughty Sir Alex Ferguson had a Confession Bear, he would likely concede to it that he made a mistake in starting Ryan Giggs on Saturday evening — indeed, his immediate substitution at half-time almost confirms this. And if one decision truly does affect everything else, then it is worth exploring the impact of selecting the Welshman for a second game running. For starters, Giggs’ worth is diminishing — and there is little doubt that his establishing as a club great in the years gone by has almost guaranteed that he would start games in the future.

There are, however, two objections that could be made at this point as to explain why Giggs featured: 1) he has a lot of experience, and 2) United were short of options down the left. The first is true, but ultimately, experience is merely just experience if not coupled with something else (Giggs was largely ineffective, and one writer noted that he had only completed five passes). And, experience? United had plenty of it, anyway; among the starters were Rio Ferdinand, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick and Robin van Persie, their combined age having as many digits as pi. The latter point is true in the sense that Giggs was the only conventional left-winger in the absence of Ashley Young, and with Nani on the right, but football has moved on from the two lines of four that it almost doesn’t matter. Against Newcastle in the League Cup, though against admittedly weakened opposition, individuals appeared liberated, as if the structures of the Premier League were somehow culpable for any shortcomings; there, Wayne Rooney popped up on the left, as did Tom Cleverley, as did Anderson, as did Danny Welbeck. All four were benched for Spurs.

The point isn’t so much to criticise Giggs and blame him for defeat, but an attempt to identify where it went wrong. Rio Ferdinand, after a Man of the Match performance at Anfield, could be said to be United’s worst player here after a dismal first half; but to stop there is to refuse to look deeper. You can blame Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, but instead you can dismiss it as a one-off. The real problem is not necessarily the knowledge that the two first half goals could have been prevented, but the reason why United could not respond. Why they could barely keep the ball. Why Spurs kept finding gaps in the midfield. Why the only notable thing that happened in the Spurs box during the first 45 was a penalty appeal. Why this all changed once a substitution was made.

The problem with being expressive about selection, however, is that it is mainly done with the luxury of hindsight; people complain about a ‘clear’ penalty not being given after they’ve seen a replay. They are correct because it’s too easy to be correct. It is why (excuse the switch to first-person) I am hesitant to do so; in fact, I admire those who let their feelings known even before there’s a chance they could be proved wrong. But Giggs against Spurs was not going to work — it was almost inevitable after a difficult 90 minutes against Liverpool a week earlier — and then we found out as much when United fell two goals behind before the interval.

Perhaps if Giggs had stayed on, with the game somehow not beyond United, and scored the equaliser, there would be an altogether different feeling. He would not be past it, rather rolling back the years but then that would mean we’re doing and thinking about football all wrong. It’s a bit like what we had with Wayne Rooney last season; why care that he’s not playing as well as he should be when he’s scoring goals? You don’t have to care. But accepting that playing Giggs was the wrong decision is not some sort of betrayal; and it is wrong to think being quiet or sitting on blind faith is the least you could do for a player that inspired so much before, and still does, albeit in a lesser role. He will still be important, you’d think; a timely cameo, perhaps, a late goal, another record broken. But it is best to stop expecting.

Giggs’ lack of pace meant his presence in a midfield already consisting of Carrick and Scholes would compare unfavourably against Tottenham’s ultra-energetic side (featuring the in-form Defoe, Bale, Dembele, Sandro among others) struggling where benched alternatives might not. The selection was wrong. This point was reinforced when Rooney came on and gave United wings; Nani was allowed to flex, finally (and score because of it), Kagawa would remember what a football felt like and all this, bringing Rooney on, a decision that went some way in affecting every facet of every other f-ckin’ thing, allowed Carrick and Scholes and Scholes and Scholes to play. Van Persie, too, would show signs that he would be a willing partner to Rooney.

United had dramatically improved in the second half, but lost because they never turned up for the first.

(Edit: This was reaction to the 3-2 defeat to Spurs at Old Trafford which isn’t so obvious at first glance. In fact, writing this little message right here is embarrassing. Oh well.)


25 responses to “United punished for single selection error”

  1. Naftal says :

    Fergie, you’re a genius coach. But i wonder why you always like Carrick and Ferdinand, they are always boring. Let’s first look at carrick. Very slow,unsure about his passes, slow to make decision with the ball and Ferdinand is slow to attack, never positioned, and he runs away from the ball.

    • AZbY says :

      that is because you are a nutter!!

    • Dil says :

      The boss is too protective; he should have started Rooney & may be take him off after causing enough damage to Tot in the first half. Should have started strongly. He has done this mistake now too many times!!

    • lawlaw says :

      That is very true but people dont want to admit.Carrick is not a Manchester United class player and thats just the way it is.United plays with central two midfielders so even Scholes brilliance on the ball does not cut it because at the end of the day he still has to do a lot of running and his age wont allow that.

  2. pjch says :

    Maybe SAF will learn from this and not start Giggs again. He has been an absolute fantastic servant for the club but I’m sorry to say that age has caught up with him. SAF had an opportunity in the transfer window to buy a midfield but refused to do so. Every man and his dog (and pundits) have said for years that our midfield is poor and needs to be overalled but SAF has refused to do so. I know he has bought Powell for the future but when the new manager comes in will the players SAF has bought for the future suit him. Maybe SAF should look to the present and buy players in midfield for now.
    Or he could start Cleverly and Anderson more often instead of every now and then.
    Sorry SAF it took Rooney coming on to get us going – says a lot about our midfield and your selection. Second game when we were outplayed in midfield hope it doesn’t get to be a habit or we will have another trophyless season again

  3. jo says :

    Agree totally…it was one of those games where you read the team sheet with horror. Ferguson has to remember the golden rule that every five a side team knows…never pick two oldies for the same side, they’ll get trounced. It isn’t that difficult to understand…

    Scholes can’t play every game, so Giggs may have a role to play occasionally as a starter, but I can’t wait to see Anderson, Cleverley, Kagawa and Rooney all playing in the same team…well, if Rooney keeps his focus as in the last two games. i’ve never seen him passing the ball consistently well to this level.

    The future is good for United, and Giggs had better start doing dome deep meditation along with his yoga, perhaps he’ll discover some super powers!

  4. xupa says :

    I think you said it all in your last sentence. I don´t think giggs was the main problem, although as a manager i would never have played him against such an energetic oposition.
    The problem are the players on the pitch whoever they may be, they don´t look interested, they haven´t all of sudden lost their ability but they seem to be asleep half the time.
    we are playing a simple pass on goal kicks to one of the defenders but then no one´s moving, and the player on the ball is forced into a predictable pass or losing possession,
    I believe that although rooney was an improvement for the team, the actual hairdryer did the trick, its still fergie´s fault though after seeing an abysmall performance at anfield this kind of awfull atitude by the players should never have happened.
    We have the players to cause damage, they just need to get their fucking act together cause this is getting old very quick.

  5. Adeyemi says :

    Ferguson should be blame..i dot knw why he prefer playin carrick.poor carrick very slow and sluggish.

  6. Ben Hudson says :

    I’m just surprised Fergie actually subbed him. In recent games when Giggs has been woeful, he’s still been given 90 minutes.

    I think the point about Giggs ‘rolling back the years’ is telling. It’s remarkable to note the agendas of commentators, who I’ve never heard criticise Giggs, but have vendettas against the likes of Nani, Rafael and De Gea.

  7. realist says :

    giggs was awful on the ball.
    the spuds goals mainly came down nani and rafaels right side or through the middle.
    we lost the game imo, because we didnt compete properly first half and defended shockingly both halfs!
    defence was actually a shambles….. a dithering wreck!

  8. Minda Gelay says :

    I always surprised why Fergie fails to strengthening the midfield with signing world class, promising and potential players. he also made a mistake with first line-up choice, if i were him i prefer to Cleverly and Anderson in the midfield. How can we forget there Wednesday performance against Newcastle? They are better than any other players in the united squad. Please Fergie, let give them a chance to play in the EPL!

  9. Utdfan says :

    SAF is complacent he should bench Giggs, Carrick, Ferdinand & Evra and replace them with the young ones. These individuals should not be allowed to start games cause they drag the team down…….as for Scholes he should only play in certain games or perhaps come on as an impact sub especially when the opponent’s midfield is not so fast or strong e.g. man City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, Barcelona etc…just shows that the manager is getting toooooo oooooldd, he probably has one foot in the grave, so he should spend more time with his family rather than at man utd cause he is fuc$&@g the opportunity for the young talents at the club with his cronyism attitude !!!

  10. Trevor says :

    I believe Fergie should end Giggs and Scholes contracts and the money they save (about 15 mil) could buy two class midfield players. Also I think Fergie is arrogant blaming the ref for not putting time on at the end

  11. luckystriker says :

    A lot of angry comments but let’s not get carried away here. After the hairdryer treatment and a substitution, we played some stellar football in the second half and should have come away with at least a point. I read somewhere that United had 350+ passes compared to Spurs’ 60 something.

    In hindsight it was a mistake to start such an immobile and aging midfield, but let’s be honest now, it was spurs at Old Trafford. Even with that lineup, how many of you thought we were going to win it prior to kickoff. I mean, I don’t remember the last time we lost to spurs at Old Trafford and I’ve been watching since the late 80s!

    The last point I want to make is, until we get a bona fide world class midfielder or two SAF’s midfield selections will always have an element of Russian roulette to it. Everyone one of our midfielders has a mark against him; Giggs and Scholes too old. Anderson, too inconsistent and injury prone. Carrick, good when the going’s good but can’t impose himself. Cleverley and Powell, too inexperienced. Whatever SAF’s choice, there’s always the potential for his selections to backfire spectacularly simply due to the collection of defects inherent in each players’ game.

  12. Stevie says :

    I agree whole heartedly. I’ve been saying for the past 2-3 years atleast that Giggs is past it. It’s about time he hung up his boots and relaxed. All his career he’s been an out and out winger, that’s what he did best and when his age cought up and his speed slowed down he’s been tried time and time again in Central Midfield and it does not work. in 4 words He’s sh!t at it. When he plays he holds the squad back. It’s time to let go, for the sake of Manchester United.

  13. Dragon says :

    Completely disagree with ur superficial analysis. The problem was not Giggs starting, but Scholes, and worse still was playing him with Giggs. Scholes is so slow and goes missing so much that it creates too many problems for the other midfielders to counteract. Yes, Scholesy can still spray the ball about better than most. No one would doubt that. But u can’t get away with sitting and spraying the ball about-particularly not in a midfield made up of Nani, Giggs and Carrick.
    The team selection was awful and if I was Anderson or Cleverley I’d be fuming – they dominated the middle of the park against Newcastle and then sat on the bench for the whole game against spurs. Fergie needs to look at himself in the mirror and ask if he really thinks playing 2 midfielders over 35 and one over 30 against strong pacey teams like spurs is ever going to win u championships. I really hope he sees it’s not, sharpish!!

    • realist says :

      partly agree, and partly disagree. i believe scholes is our big problem in midfield in the fact that he is the only player we have that can run a game of football. at the same time, the position he is doing this from makes us vulnerable against the counter attack. its a tough decision though, as scholes still at his age is head and shoulders above any other deep lying playmaker in the whole of the league on the ball, its just that off it he is one of the worst!
      what to do what to do!
      having a defence though would definately help! :s

  14. PRINCE says :

    not a single error but 5 errors, Lindegard, Evra, Carrick, Giggs and Nani should have been replaced with De-Gea, Buttner, Anderson, Cleverly and Rooney. WE don’t have any problem at the midfield but we have a selection problem
    i just don’t know what cleverly and Anderson have to do show this OLDMAN that they are the solution to our midfield. the are young and energetic who can track back with space

  15. yo says :

    man its time to play with our youngsters theyre already establish,cleverly anderson playing the games is very fast the old oplayers are slow
    always talking generation 1999
    theres of 2012 a lot in the reserve and now a thin understanding of rossi pique lately pogba why they all gone
    the veterants are barriers to their progress
    if they love man utd they should let the youngs play

    • Twenny-Four says :

      What I like most about this comment section is how everyone is spelling Tom Cleverley’s name wrong.

      Anyway, to make it clear, views expressed here are not necessarily shared by me – believe me, some aren’t!

  16. yo says :

    and scholes is very good with passes,the best in the game but he is slow very slow for recovery,there was a huge gap in the midfield for the third goal watch it again

  17. Lee says :

    Main problem is the buddy coach,he don t trust his own young player as he keep using those old guard.- why re want to buy young player and don t uses them. is very stupid.

  18. Trevor says :

    starting a midfield at the average age of 110 is asking for trouble.

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