Disappointed, But It’s All Down To Us Now.

In a few words, disappointed but philosophical. Hopes were high at Old Trafford but ultimately the forces of history – make that 67 away matches against the top four without a win –  were too powerful to overcome, despite our recent progress. And you know what I’m going say – 6 out of 9 points from the last three fixtures will do. And it is progress.

My rosy glow from That Week still lingers but it’s a touch brown and crinkly round the edges, because we did not give of our best on Saturday. Logically  it’s over-ambitious to believe that we could have taken United, but we’ve never had a better opportunity. I’m always uncomfortable with the familiar phrase, ‘I’d have settled for that before ….’. Whilst it contains the worthy truth of pragmatism, it also smacks of a lack of ambition, a denial of what it is possible. So I suppose two weeks ago I would have ‘settled’ for 2 wins from the last three games, but having seen two of them, I now know more about what is possible, and that is the phenomenal potential of our team.

On the field the game was won and lost down the flanks. It was inevitable that with so much attention and praise lavished on Bale from all quarters, ranging from this humble blog to the national media, he was due a poor performance. For once, Superboy was brought down to the level of the rest of us mere mortals. A reminder both to him and to his adoring Spurs public that he is young and inexperienced will do no harm in the long run but it was painful to watch. I suspect Rafael had a dose of kryptonite down his shorts.

On a few occasions he stood idly as the game passed him by, his lackadasical approach at odds with the fierce concentration of recent weeks. He was at his most culpable for Nani’s goal when he not only failed to track back but could also see his man ahead of him yet still failed to move. His failings were compounded by Assou Ekotto on the opposite side, where he was repeatedly caught out of position and whose decision-making was dire at times, leading to the vital penalty that broke the stalemate. United may have made their pressure tell as the game went on but that ill-judged and desperate tackle was the outcome of the pressure that Benny had been under since kick-off. It eroded his sense of sound judgement to breaking point.

However, it was more complex than both full-backs having bad games simultaneously. United played five across the middle. This meant that we were usually outnumbered 3 to 2 in the centre of the pitch and were also stretched by their two wingers, ultimately to breaking point. This latter led to Bale and Benny staying wide too.Whether this was their inexperience, made worse by Benny being out of his usual position, or from the manager’s tactical advice we will never know. It meant two things. One,without sufficient protection from Modric and Bentley, both were exposed one on one too frequently. Two, there was a gap between them and the centre backs. Time and again, United slid the ball into these channels for Berba or their ever-willing attacking midfielders. King and Dawson had to come across to cover, thus leaving space behind them in dangerous central areas. Wilson and Hud failed to slot into those gaps.

As a result, United had more room than they should have, and the fact is, it was no score at half time primarily because of their profligacy in front of goal. We have to defend as a team, and this was not the case on many occasions.

Fergie also became the first manager since Bale returned to the team to combat his attacking prowess. Valencia is hardly known for his defending but he can at least stay out wide and get in the way, and also he kept Bale occupied with his forward play. Then, with three in the middle Fletcher could ease across to provide the next barrier, and should we get through, the 12 year old full back is nimble and fast. Our lot didn’t help out much and seldom gave him a decent ball or an inside pass.

Fergie and Harry, the two wily, shrewd and battle-hardened campaigners up against each other, and Fergie outsmarted and outmanoeuvred Redknapp. There’s also an argument to say that we were hamstrung even before the kick-off. Redknapp took the risk of changing a winning team by bringing back Palacios and shifting Luka to the left. It did not pay off but frankly I would have done the same. The defensive cover Wilson offers would have been perfect, in theory, for Old Trafford where we would have less of the ball and hit more on the break compared with previous games. We should be comfortable with that formation.

As it turned out, Palacios was rusty after two games out and did not get going until the second half, whereupon he was moved to right back. There is less reason for this other change to the winning team. The reasons looked good on paper – BAE is fast, Kaboul isn’t, Nani likes to come inside onto Benny’s good foot. In practice, Benny played like a man in unfamiliar surroundings, which he was. With the lack of cover I have already mentioned, it fatally weakened the team. It’s been said that Harry rates Kaboul at right back. Kaboul himself this week says that’s not his position. This all smacks of serious confusion, and once again it is my solemn duty to point out that we have a quick international right back out on loan, a decision that to my mind is a massively wasteful use of our squad.

With Bale out the picture, it highlighted the paucity of our attacking options. It was wonderful to see Lennon again and he looked bright enough in short bursts but once on the field we did not give him the ball. Ridiculous. Defoe has not looked at all sharp since his injury, although the contrast between those United passes into channels and our failure to deliver anything much for JD to feed upon over the last few games could indicate a problem for us in the next few, vital matches. The joy of the derby victories has obscured this to a large extent, but it’s worrying.

King was again excellent, still a master of the penalty box but my man of the match was Gomes, not his busiest afternoon but he was impeccable. Otherwise, Hud was invisible and Modric poor.

One bright note was the way in which we responded when Luka switched to the middle and Wilson went to full back. The team immediately looked more comfortable and started to move the ball around with pace and confidence. United’s tactics were better than ours but they can’t be everywhere and we began to suddenly realise that we had space if we chose to use it. Nani’s great goal and Wilson’s foolishness put paid to that, but it shows that we do have a plan B if things aren’t working, something that could not be said with confidence at the start of the season.

And that attacking balance should be just right for Saturday. It’s in our hands, and I could not ask for more at this stage.

15 thoughts on “Disappointed, But It’s All Down To Us Now.

  1. Yes thats how it plays beat Bolton and Burnley and if we need it a point at City although not in that order but 7points and its ours no matter what the rest do .Come on the lads go for it be brave like out motto says.

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  2. As history reminds us, it is quite a hurdle for Spurs to claim a win at Old Trafford. I’m not saying that we couldn’t have secured the win, however, I was unsure that it would happen. 6 points out of the 3 fixtures we had is still an accomplishment and there is no need to dwell on the negatives from this point onwards. Heads held high lads! Let’s take that 4th spot!

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  3. I just wanted to say what a great article it was. In hindsight changing the winning team was the wrong decision, but he did only (Assou Ekotto the exception) change it back to our original 1st team, that would have been picked before Wilson’s suspension. Losing at Old Trafford is hardly a crime so we’ll brush the dissapointment away and hold on to any lessons without panicking or worrying about Bolton at home or Burnley away… games we should win, then we just need a result at City – or Villa do, either way we’re there!

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  4. I disagree with a few of your comments mainly because of what i no is going on in this part of the country the North West. Technically the destiny of our season is in our hands but in reality we have to take two things away from the powers that run the game. Firstly the Referee he can scupper our chances Mr Mariner never had to give a bad decision because we made our own but i bet my life he would have. The League is dictated by Sky and TV money and all the bad Refereeing is helping the FA and the Premier League in Writing the script. The FA and Premier would like Teams in Dept like Utd to win the League and Liverpool to get fourth and Pompy to win the cup.The last and most important problem is why i cant watch my team if you look at the teams who have beaten us and drew they all had one thing in conmen very high tempo and outstanding defending. The way these Teams chase the Football is breathtaking and is one of the reason Teams have massive weight loss and gaunt looking faces this is behind all the shock results from poor teams on paper even injuries make no different to performance Stoke lost there Keeper and centre half suspended yet beat us at home .The sight of Nani and Evra being sick never shocked me because is shock incident in the Bayern game only made my evidence more convincing and both players got the penalty’s and both of them were sick .The sad fact is the Premier team of the year is full of teams players using this energy and the one Team that alerted me to this drug have no players in the team because i have never stopped my campaign but one word of warning they are now Lurking in our shadows with a better goal different’s I am glad none of our players are in the Tainted Premier League Team its the slimmest Team ever and is all down to UK sport and the FA drug policy’ One foot note the fastest player in a burst of speed during a game is Wallcock no surprise there but amazingly the second best is Arsenals Sol Campbell the player who objected to Targeting Testing along with Ferguson and others. We will need loads of this Energy to overcome another old Arsenal player Viera and Boltons whiltshire .The League will be won by Tempo and Referees and the team i discovered can decide both fourth and the champions even if they have had a mixed season they are now flying and scored seven for 0 against lets hope Druba wins the day.

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  5. HARRY TOOK US UP THEIR IN THE BEST FORM WE HAVE HAD IN AN ETERNITY. HE AS USUAL TOOK A GAMBLE THAT DIDNT WORK. THIS COULDN’T BY ANY CHANCE BE THE REASON WHY HE
    HAS ONE 1FA CUP IN HOW MANY YEARS,WE SHOULD HAVE WON OR AT LEAST PLAYED OUR GAME.
    S**** MANAGEMENT THAT EVEN A DRUNK ARSENAL FAN COULD HAVE SURPASSED. BELIEVE IT OR NOT I LIKE MOST SPORTS MAN CAN TAKE LOSING ….BUT ONLY IF YOU’VE DONE YOUR UPMOST BEST, HARRY IS AND ALWAYS WILL BE SMALL TIME. PLEASE DO NOT TELL ME ABOUT BEING GREEDY AND UNREALISTIC, COS I AM NOT A SKY DEVOTEE . IF YOU HAVE THE PLAYERS AND THE MANAGEMENT AND THE MOMENTUM THEN YOU ARE VIRTUALLY THEIR ,BUT HARRY INSISTS ON PLAYING (SOME TIMISH DEFOE,CROUCH)OUT OF FORM WILSON TIME AFTER TIME. IF ????THESE GAMBLES WORKED ID HAPPILY TAKE MY DOSE AND SIT DOWN,BUT HARRY REFUSES TO LET THE FOOTBALL SCIENCE WORK ITSELF. AVERAGELY MEDIOCRE ……NO WINNING MANAGER WOULD HAVE CHANGED OUR SIDE LIKE THAT,HE ALWAYS FORCES THINGS TILL BREAKING POINT. IM GUTTED …WHEN THE TRUE FOOTBALLERS (PAV GUD MOD )PLAYED (70F***MINS IN)WE HAD THEM LIKE CHELSEA AND ARSENAL RUNNING SCARED. CLOSE BUT NO FKNI CIGAR…WIT THIS GUY IT ‘LL BE ROLL UPS AND NO BACKY.

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    • Thanks maye…from the heart.

      Redknapp is not the dog’s bollo but he’s not the parson’s nose either, or am I mixing my animal genital metaphors here? And winning managers do often change their team, or at least the Sky Four do. Did I hear that Fergie has gone over a 100 games without playing the same team in two successive games, or have I just got Fergie on my mind?

      Thanks for dropping by, Al

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  6. Very impressive tactical analysis as ever Alan. I thought the gap between King and Dawson was a big problem first half, less so second. I was less aware of the full backs influence on this but think you are right.

    I did however think Modric had a decent game, if below his very high standards and do not agree that he was poor. Benny is talented but a liability too often on either flank. I have long thought he doesn’t work hard enough to close the cross from coming in, likes to let the ball bounce (both of these are absoultely criminal for a defender), is too often wrong side or square with the attcaker and prone to casual nudges on forwards thereby is a constant penalty and free kick risk.

    Whilst it takes two to tango and Man utd are a good side obviously, overall , personnel changes or not, we again gave me the impression that we didn’t 100% believe we could win there. Much too tentative until 1-0 down. We again played the name rather than the opposition players themselves.

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  7. You’re right about Daws and King. United just stretched us too far and too often.

    And a lot of truth about Benny. I think he has games when for whatever reason – we can’t tell what he’s feeling – his mind goes and he does all the things you identified. At other times he gets the lot right.

    Do you really know Alan Gilzean?

    Thanks again for your comments, always a good read, Al

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  8. Cheers Alan,

    Luckily for Gilly, No!

    Yes, and it’s fair to say Benny’s come on enormously in the last year. A very talented but inconsistent and frustrating player at Spurs? Who’d a thought it ha ha.

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  9. Was so depressed on Saturday, had to go back to bed – my wife seems to believe I “collapsed” on the bed in a vodka-induced coma – and woke up at 2.00 am!!!! That right back position was the problem, what a mistake to dispatch Hutton to Sunderland. Also worried me that the two strikers were firing blanks, tempting to relegate Defoe to the bench for the next one and play Eidur, he looked sharp when he came on. All to play for, to dare is to do and to do is to dare. COYS!!!

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  10. Okay, so Utd and Citeh is 3-3, Utd need the win, and the ref plays nearly two minutes over the alloted injusry time, and they get their goal. “It’s a minimum of X minutes” explain the FA and Sky.

    Cut to Saturday. The board goes up – 4 minutes. A Utd player drops to his knees, and holds the game up for over a minute. Does the ref add anything on to the “minimum?” Yes indeed he does. 6 SECONDS!! 4 minutes and 6 seconds!!! But of course, Utd were winning by then.

    Utd deserved the win, but where’s the consistency with the reffing?

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  11. I also thought that Modric wasn’t too bad and flickered occasionally but he can’t do it all on his own.
    It seems to me that Defoe is still carrying his groin strain and we might well see the return of Crouch against Bolton.
    They had two players in Berbatov and Nani that had the skill to make the difference, and they did.
    Man Utd were competent, they didn’t waste the ball like we did and were more organised and compact in defence.

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  12. Good write up and posts too apart from the ODD one.

    We basically fielded the line up that got us to fourth at OT and found that manure can still always find a way past us. That is one bad Spurs habit that may take Harry some time to erase.

    What is is with RBs anyway. Charlie got chewed in the 5-2, Hutton got savaged by Rooney at the Lane this season, and this time around it was so bad that none dare show their face on Saturday 🙂

    Anyway, we are still fourth having got the nightmare trio of games out the way that so many claimed would kill us off. Right now the biggest problem I see is our strikers. If Pav and Defoe were horses they would be off to the glue factory after the past few games. Time for the IceMan to cometh and teach our strike force how to score and play together.

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