But before I set of for the marvellous 5 hour journey through the snowy midlands, I thought I’d try and highlight a few pointers of how we can, and inevitably should, improve from the Hull game a couple of days ago.
Ferguson opted for Fletcher and Carrick on Sunday, which was obviously refreshing after seeing those two stuck annoyingly in defence for the 4 games previous (including away to Wolfsburg in the Champions League); however with Anderson presumably fully fit, why was he overlooked as a partner to Fletcher?
Carrick’s main strength is his passing, of which is generally impeccable, however I feel Fletcher can also adequately pass the ball, thus allowing Anderson’s pace and resolute, mildly aggressive spirit – traits not entirely shared by Carrick – to develop and strengthen us in the centre.
The problem with Berbatov is that he doesn’t do an awful lot. Ever. Yet conveniently, he’ll rely on one of two things: either the odd flash of brilliance that will eradicate any suggestion of him having a useless game, or his team-mates. If neither works however, as was so nearly evident the other night, then he drifts along as casually as the minutes do and has a, shall we say, rather modest on-field display.
Simply therefore, he needs to pull his finger out and finally start acting like the player we need him to be; someone who is constantly in the game, constantly in the thick of the action (even if this just means being in a goalscoring position, which in his credit he did well for his goal on Sunday) and above all complement Rooney’s ambition and energy.
Restriction and over-reliance of the ‘wing system’.
Valencia had a surprisingly low-key day, as did Evra and Giggs on the opposite flanks. And so, as watching these important players fail to perform to their high standards, the team also suffered. It is therefore hardly a profound statement when I suggest that the productivity and effectiveness of the wide-men in the 4-4-2 is essential for it to function, however due to this often limited attacking style of play, opposition defenders – namely the opposing wingers and full-backs – can counter this well and prevent it from occurring.
So this is where the strength of the entire midfield comes in. As good as Carrick’s passing is – although some may argue it has been at times questionable this season – we need added strength and dimension in the centre thus allowing us to attack using alternative routes. Rooney and Berbatov do their jobs well, as they are both equally capable of finding and making space, so the central midfielder’s need to provide them with options that extend beyond the typical and dangerously conventional ‘get the ball out wide and find the man in the box’ that the formation tends to lack deviation away from.
Ok, I think that’ll do. Time for me to head off for my first match of the festive period.
To be honest, as long as our passing and posession is sharper and nowhere near as carless as it was on Sunday, we should be absolutely fine. But more than anything, more than a convincing display; we need the 3 points that will close the gap at the top back down to 2 and keep us well within range. Let’s hope we can do it with minimal fuss and of course, avoiding sloppy, clumsy mistakes.