Ahead of their match with Stoke City, there was a cry for focus for the Manchester United players, but it was two senior players that let them down.
Two of the greatest servants in the club’s history, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville, were the two biggest culprits as to why United threw away their one-goal lead, and the withdrawal of both of them by Sir Alex Ferguson it may signal the changes that Wayne Rooney was maybe calling for.
Thankfully for United, though, Javier Hernandez was there to spare their blushes, which prevented their sixth Barclays Premier League draw of the season, however, this obvious, glaring problem should not go unnoticed, so it can be corrected.
After his dramatic, well-documented u-turn to sign a new contract with United, Rooney said that the changes that he felt that were needed to take the club forward were on their way to being made.
More than likely both of these players, along with Ryan Giggs, are in the final year with United as they are all on one-year contracts with the club.
The quality of service and the time that these three players have given Manchester United will never be rivaled by anyone again, because of how the game has changed.
Neville, who serves as the honorary club captain off the field, has only featured twice this season, and each time he has let the team down.
It is really no fault of him, though, because Ferguson should realize that Neville lacks the pace to contend with the modern-day, pacey wingers.
Right or wrong, Neville was booked in the first-half by Andre Marriner for hitting Matthew Etherington with his studs, but the stupidity of him after that was enough to send Ferguson into a fit of rage.
On a yellow card, Neville challenged the same player this time, and the challenge of worthy of booking, and for United’s sake it went unpunished and they did not go down to ten men.
Before the start of the second-half, Neville was very surprised that he was replaced by Sir Alex Ferguson with Wes Brown.
The United skipper, who is very well known for his out spoken mentality, could very well face the wrath of Ferguson once the United manager sees his row with the home fans after he walked down the sidelines to locker room to change out of his kit.
The lapses of concentration continued for United, but this time it was the careless of one of their most consistent players this season.
Scholes is known for picking a pass out, and the Stoke City players should have congratulated him after he neatly picked out Kenwyne Jones, which put the United defenders on the back foot and ultimately led to their equalizer.
However, if it was just a one-off then it would not have been such a big deal, but a few minutes before, Scholes gave the ball away to Jonathan Walters, but thankfully Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic dealt masterfully with the danger.
To be fair to him, though, it was Scholes’ glancing touch that helped the ball on it’s way to Patrice Evra in the build up to winning goal.
Ferguson should get some of the blame for the Tuncay’s goal as well, because it was him bringing on Michael Carrick for John O’Shea, which is the areas that were at fault for the equalizer.
The introduction of Carrick was to make sure that United would keep the ball, but it also clustered the center of the midfield with three defensive-minded central midfielders as well.
In addition to Scholes and Carrick, Darren Fletcher is paid to roam and cut out the dangers of the opponent’s attack, and the obvious issue was that they thought that the other was going to get the ball.
Ferguson thought that the appearance of Tuncay meant that the Stoke attack would have more pace, which he thought would be better handled by Evra, but that was not the case.
By starting Evra in the midfield, it was always going to be a tough ask for him to change the instilled mentality to get forward, and have them switch it off and tightly defend and protect the back-four.
Ferguson saw this telling issue, and quickly brought on Gabriel Obertan for Scholes following Chicharito’s second goal of the match.
Giggs should really escape any criticism, but his nagging hamstring has flared up again, which in this a time of need, United need all their leaders on the field instead of on the sidelines.
His injury also leaves the United squad lacking the balance that it needs, and that was clearly seen with Evra lined-up as the left winger against Stoke.
The character that Manchester United showed to get all three points at the Britannia Stadium will be well received, but they should have never been in that position if the attention to the danger was handled astutely.