The Chelsea game and team selection vs Swansea



Like most United fans I know, I am still pissed off about the Chelsea game. And not because we lost, or because Rafael got sent off, or because Luiz smiled at the camera. I am pissed because we looked like we didn’t give a shit. Some of it comes down to already winning the trophy, and some of it could probably be attested to the fact that we played a really boring XI without any obvious strengths.  Players like Evans, Jones and Giggs played a fairly good game, and Lindegaard was brilliant up until the goal (which I think De Gea would’ve saved). The other players looked to be thinking about the holidays, about having a beer or just wanting to go home and watch a movie. It made me pissed, and I still am. The fact that more than 70000 people came to watch the game, the fact that millions of fans watch it world-wide, and that taking a point or showing that we want to would have an impact on the league table standings should be motivation enough.

Players out of form

So we tried out playing in a somewhat skew 4-3-3 formation with Giggs as a wandering LW, Valencia on the right and RvP up front. In midfield with two players without any signs of match fitness as the running midfielders in Anderson and Cleverley, with Jones centrally doing most of the running. Jones did pretty well going forward and worked hard in defense, but whenever he wasn’t covering Mata, (Mata in Andersons’ or Clevs’ zone, Chelsea got to do whatever they wanted). It was, to put it mildly, annoying as fuck. The lack of quality in midfield aside from Carrick is becoming very obvious the few times we rest him.

For the back-four there isn’t much to say. I called out for Buttner to get a test against Chelsea, but Patrice got the spot as usual. Nothing wrong with that. But Alex has really proved that he deserves to test his abilities against a good team. He was left out against Arsenal, and again here against Chelsea. A player that oozes of will to win, oozes of attacking threat and looks like the type of player that just NEEDS to win, or he’ll go crazy. When Patrice looked hurt around 40~ minutes in, I expected Buttner to get subbed on. No reason to risk an injury on Evra. Nope, didn’t happen either. We sticked with the safe, boring choises and it didnt really pay off at all.

For the striker role, Van Persie is always the right choise. Always start Van Persie in my opinion. The problem in this game would be the lack of midfield support in attack, and the poor quality in crosses from Valencia. Giggs on the other hand was involved in about every chance we created. But attacking with two players against the 6 in defense against Chelsea is hard, and rarely produces any goals. The controversial 89th minute substitution for Chicharito is something that caused havoc at the r/reddevils subreddit. And I agree with those who say that three minutes worth of playtime is a joke for Chicharito who has been our second best striker this season. If you want him to influence the game, give him atleast 20 minutes. Especially when we play as poor as we did.

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68th minute, Cleverley and Anderson off for Rooney and Büttner. The players subbed off was definately right. Anderson looked tired as usual, and Cleverley was out of position for most of the game. Despite working hard, he didn’t really put his mark on the game. Büttner got to play LM/LW with Giggs taking over the midfield role next to Jones and Rooney. Rooney lost the ball 4 (?) times after getting subbed on, and didn’t really do anything worthwhile, and Büttner tried his best but didn’t really do much either.

Players like Evra, who looked tired, and Valencia who was very poor in his delivery got to stay on. De Gea, Ferdinand, Scholes, Kagawa, Hernandez to choose from on the bench, and Chicharito got three minutes on the pitch. We didn’t create anything and lost the game.

Many of the supporters seem to think that both Kagawa and Hernandez deserve more playing time, but they don’t even get five minutes on. For whatever reason, Kagawa can play three great games in a row just to get benched for the next three. It is hard to understand why he isn’t brought on when we are struggling with the offensive part in a game. Especially considering he has been in better form than both Rooney and Valencia lately. Hernandez (as most strikers) needs more than a couple minutes to score. He usually manages to net the winner if given 20-30 minutes on, and a chance or two. With three minutes against a top team, you probably are not even going to get the chance. It was really frustrating.

A boring, safe lineup

So taking a look at the lineup;  Lindegaard – Rafael, Evans, Vidic, Evra – Jones, Anderson, Cleverley – Valencia, van Persie, Giggs. You  find that the only real changes are the two midfielders and Lindegaard. A keeper change isn’t as exciting, but Anders deserves a couple games in the end of the season. Anderson has been unfit for most of the season, but was decent against Arsenal. Cleverley has failed to impress ever since the clash against Real Madrid, and finally got a chance to prove himself.

Valancia has had a increase in form over the past 3-4 games, but a player like Kagawa has been way better. It was weird to see him start Giggs in a game like this too. You got hungry youngsters that are willing to work their socks off to prove themselves, but pick out a fairly “safe” starting XI. Fair enough. But the bench was filled with old players aswell. All the talk about players like Januzaj and Powell getting a chance to prove themselves in the end of the season, even with Giggs backing them to do so in an interview with SkySports, leading to a bench with  De Gea, Büttner, Ferdinand, Scholes, Kagawa, Rooney, Hernandez. I was disappointed to say the least.

What I was hoping for:

De Gea- Rafael – Jones – Evans- Büttner – Carrick – Powell – Kagawa – Rooney – Cleverley – Van Persie. With Januzaj, Thorpe and Hernandez somewhere on the bench. I was hoping for atleast a 30 minute display from Januzaj and Hernandez, with Thorpe being able to fill in for either Powell in midfield or one of the CBs. Alternatively sub Rafael off for Thorpe and push Jones out for the RB. A team full of players wanting to prove themselves to be good enough for starting, mixed with experience in Evans, Carrick, Rooney and RvP.

The team against Swansea

I expect to see a lot of changes from the Chelsea game. Ferguson talking about Chelsea deserving to win (and they did) aswell as United taking the foot off the pedal. Ferguson hates losing, and I think we’ll see drastic changes for the remaining two games. Swansea has nothing but honor to play for, so the outcome of the game is not going to have a big impact on the league table. Rafael is out with the red card, so Jones is likely to get the RB spot.

I’d love to see something like this;


Where we have a team full of potential match-winners. We have a lot of heart in the sideback positions in Büttner and Jones, which you can expect to see more on the opponents half of the pitch than our own. You have Carrick orchestrating the midfield for Rooney and Powell, who both are more offensive players than anything. The importance of having three men in midfield against a team like Swansea, that has most of their attacking play go through the midfield before playing the winger through, is massive. In Nani, Kagawa and Van Persie up front, you get three mobile attackers with the ability to create chances out of nothing. Kagawa should act as a link up between the midfield and the attacking force, with his brilliant movement and smart passing.Nani should have no problem with exploiting Swanseas weak left-back Ben Davies in 1-on-1 situations, and hopefully a setup like this should bring RvP more support than we saw him get in the Chelsea game. Rooney gets a chance to play in a role that does not require much more than effort and being able to hit passes going forward, which should simplify the midfielding role for him for now.

Starting like the picture above, with the possibility of subbing on players to make it look like this in the final 30;


Giving the likes of Büttner and Kagawa full games, and letting Januzaj and Thorpe get a tryout on the pitch. Both have been magnificent at times for the reserves, and Thorpe seems physically fit to play against an opponent like Swansea. Januzaj should be able to play well against a LB that has been tired out by Nani for 60-70 minutes, and should fit very well alongside Rooney and Kagawa. Hernandez definately deserves a good 30 minutes to get himself a goal or two.

Talking points

1.  Not using youngsters in a game, but picking a “safe team”

2.  The line-up for Swansea. Who deserves a starting spot, and who could do with a rest?

3.  Out of the youngsters coming through, provided they get a chance against Swansea, who is going to surprise and impress us by doing really well?

4.  Do you agree with putting players who’s got something to prove into games that “do not matter” to pick up the slack? Does it help motivate the team to do well?

5. Who and when would you have subbed on against Chelsea yesterday?


Our Current Squad and Its Challenges


In the wake of the FA-cup defeat to Chelsea, where our weaknesses were exploited in every way possible, the topic is more prevailing than ever. As discussed in fulltimedevils’ youtube channel, the need for a dominating, defensively sound midfielder is enormous. Why are we doing well despite of that? When are we being punished for not having one? Who can be our new signing? Those are questions I’d like to try to answer.

Why we are doing well

Manchester United are currently the team with the best performing player in the league, Michael Carrick. What an absolute beast. He dominates when it comes to possession, defensive positioning, hitting those perfect, deciding passes that opens the defense and at co-operating and taking part in 1-2s and other forms of team play on the pitch.

What is unique about Carrick this season, and at times in the past, is his ability to do these things, game after game, no matter how his teammates perform. The players around him are being played “better” by him, as we call it in Norway. It is an invaluable trait for a player to have, and there is no wonder he is the first name on the team sheet when Ferguson picks a team for a big game.

Other than that, if you take a look at United defense, it has really come together since new years. Vidic is back, Ferdinand is in great shape and both Smalling and Evans performs very well when given the chance. We have one of the best defenses in the league, with an in form keeper behind them. This helps our midfield in tremendous ways when it comes to breaking up attacks and starting offensive plays ourselves.

The mindset of our ever so under appreciated, hard working offensive players such as Valencia, Welbeck and Rooney, who all tracks back with great heart and soul, is essential to our play. Valencia, who is having his worst season with United since he came, still offers a lot defensively, and both Rooney and Welbeck tracks back like no other striker in the league. Welbeck has been the most impressive one, being a beast against both Real Madrid, City, Spurs and yesterday against Chelsea. He completely ran the game for us, and  put a very good pressure on the Chelsea midfield and defense.

However, two of our midfielders did not perform well at all yesterday, which leads me to the next point;

When a piece of the puzzle stops performing

We end up with showing nothing. By being unable to take the ball of Chelseas offensive in Hazard, Mata, Oscar and Ramires, we are also unable to dominate the game. Jones was nowhere to be seen for big parts of the game, and Cleverley was invisible. What do we have to  put on? An out of form Anderson or a Giggs (who offers a lot offensively, but not much in terms of defense). And that is exactly where the problems lays. We do not have depth in midfield to handle tough, defensive games. The European football is becoming more and more a product of a 4-2-3-1 or a skew 4-3-3 (4-1-2-2-1/4-1-2-1-2) and we do not have the midfielders to handle that.

In the YouTube channel mentioned above, they discuss this and suggest Dembele and a few other players. For me, it has gotten to the point that anything will do, really. We just really need a player there. It is a shame Fletcher is unfit and diseased, or we would have done a lot better in games that required heavy defending.

The punishment

Are the games you see United on the back foot. Against spurs when we are ahead, we leave the game initiative in their hands, bend over and just take it from behind. You can cross your fingers or pray to whichever god you stand behind, but fact is we leave a lot of the outcome to the opposition. I much rather see us pushing the advantage when ahead, but the ability to reclaim the ball in midfield is lacking in many games for us. This leads to offensive players desperately trying to play ball without any support, and a boring game for the viewer as well. I would love for us to start DOMINATING while we are up. Just like we did Norwich. And of course, Norwich isn’t the hardest of opponents, but we have the quality to do that to better teams, for sure.

New signings

There are two different types of players we could be going for really. You have the type that  is quite similar to Carrick. Good both ways, with emphasis on the constructive part of the game, or the more beefy type, who creates havoc in midfield and gives us the pressure that Jones did for us at the Bernabeu.

In the category of all round midfielders, there are many to choose from. Some more well known, but I’ll list some names anyway;

– Gundrogan, Dortmund. Solid all round. Shines offensively, but is a safe choice that rarely is going to lose the ball. Brings that Turkish work ethic with him, which is to never give up the ball.

– Vidal, Juventus. As Marchisio, Pirlo and Pogba should be enough, I thought about the idea of luring Vidal to join up with countryman Henriquez at United. He is a very quick, hard working and technically good midfielder that is in his mid 20s. Expensive? Yes. Quality costs money.

– Gonsalons, Lyon. Very similar to Carrick in his play style. Tall and rather slow, but a magician with the ball. A cheaper alternative as Lyon isnt really the team they used to be. Not the most exciting talent, but would certainly bring depth to our squad.

– Ward-Prowse, Southampton. New British super-talent that can become as good as anyone really. Under the wings of Ferguson, there is nothing stopping him.

– Powell, United. Maybe we don’t need a new signing? He has been VERY convincing for the reserves, and definitely deserves more first team action than he has gotten. He was a beast vs Chelsea in the league cup, and has been good every time I have seen him. I have not been this confident in a youth player in a long, long time.

– Strootman. Second to Fellaini on beefiness, slower than Vidal, but great work-rate and a very nice strike on the ball. Has the ability to hit short, quick passes as well as the long more difficult ones, and is probably available in the summer. PSV signed a new, Swedish talent to take his spot. We have great history of doing well with Dutch players, and I’d love to see him come in.

In the beefy category, there are many players. Many of them unproven, but still a lot of players to choose from;

–  Capoue, Toulouse. A leader and a strong midfielder who loves to brawl. Potent passer and relatively young.

– Fellaini. Could be placed in both categories, but has said he wants to play CDM. Has the air dominance as his main trait, and is familiar with EPL football.

Leroy Fer, Twente. Beefy, quick player who loves to be in situations. Cheap alternative and a great prospect.

There are plenty other interesting players, but these are my most likely ones to be mentioned.

If you read this far, thank you. Do you have any suggestions or good criticism to the post or the blog in general, please comment!