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Tired Man Utd need escape act

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Phil McNulty | 00:01 UK time, Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Manchester United's knack of placing themselves in dire peril only to somehow make a dramatic escape is portrayed as part of the magic of the club by Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson simply regards this as Manchester United's way - and may explain the Scot's calm demeanour in front of Europe's media as he dissected a desperate night against Porto that leaves them clinging to the Champions League crown by their fingernails.

The 1999 Champions League final win against Bayern Munich is Ferguson's prime exhibit, but United may have to become the first English side to win in Porto's intimidating Estadio do Dragao if they are dig themselves out of their latest deep hole.

Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira's poker face never flickered as he revealed a secret behind the 2-2 scoreline that leaves United in danger when he said: "We never forgot we were playing against the World and European champions."

Some feat this - and easier said than done on a night when United never remotely resembled champions of the world, Europe or anywhere else for that matter.

Wayne Rooney shows his disappointment after Porto's late equaliser

Ferguson's public verdict on United's display was measured, critical, realistic and yet optimistic about their chances of reaching the last four - but surely he was boiling inside after a display that did not just raise concerns about their Champions League ambitions.

It is a fool's errand to go around writing United off. History is littered with those daft enough to make that particular mistake and it would be no surprise if they went to Porto and came away with the result they needed to keep on course to claim an historic haul of five trophies.

But the mood of anxiety that pervaded Old Trafford almost from the first whistle betrayed growing worries that United night just be running on fumes as the season enters its crucial phase.

Ferguson accepted United looked tired. At times they looked worse than tired - whether this is down to playing just 48 hours after an emotionally draining win against Aston Villa or presents a more long-term problem remains to be seen.

The victory against Villa, in which the hype over Federico Macheda's late winner actually covered up the reality that United were not convincing then either, was meant to galvanise them, inject fresh impetus.

Not a bit of it. United were leg-weary, careless and eye-wateringly poor at the back - a far cry from the defensive history men of not so long ago.

Seasoned United watchers at Old Trafford made constant reference to the jaded body language. Is it just the quick turnaround in games from Sunday or is the season catching up with them? We will know the answer soon enough.

Mariano's late leveller was no more than Porto merited after Carlos Tevez threatened to steal a win for United. United were only allowed back into the game after Cristian Rodriguez's early strike because Bruno Alves gifted Wayne Rooney a goal.

Rooney's effort and endeavour shone like a beacon on a night when Old Trafford was strangely subdued, even before kick-off, and the crowd was rarely lifted by events on the field.

United's defence, which does not seem to have recovered from the wounds inflicted by Liverpool in the 4-1 defeat at Old Trafford, extended an open invitation to Porto's incisive attackers from,the start.

Rio Ferdinand was once more a spectator, and United's chances of progress in Porto will be hugely enhanced if he returns, although it is highly unlikely he will play at Sunderland at the weekend.

This is no criticism of Jonny Evans, but Nemanja Vidic is a more formidable presence with Ferdinand's pace and anticipation alongside him.

United's midfield lacked drive and Paul Scholes needs to produce more of those outstanding performances from the past just to prove time is not threatening to catch up with him. He rarely influenced events.

And then we come to Cristiano Ronaldo. A glorious talent, but a glorious talent who needs to take a long, hard look at team-mate Rooney's determination to chase every ball and pursue every lost cause.

Too often, when Ronaldo loses possession, he almost acts as if it is beneath him to go and retrieve the situation, preferring instead to stand around and wait for a team-mate to do his dirty work.

He performed the trick against Aston Villa on Sunday and was at it again in the build up to Porto's opening goal last night. It was significant that Old Trafford warmed to Rooney's non-stop endeavour while Ronaldo's occasional shrugs after losing possession were met with audible impatience.

United's fans expect to see perspiration running alongside inspiration. And rightly so. They are used to it from men such as Rooney, Scholes and Ryan Giggs, so Ronaldo need not feel exempt.

It was a bad night at the office for the Champions League holders - rounded off by the tannoy incongruously blaring out U2's "Beautiful Day" as Porto's triumphant players cavorted in an Old Trafford deserted apart from elated Portuguese.

Beautiful day? Not today thanks. Not if you were a Manchester United supporter anyway.

But for all the shortcomings of United's display, Ferguson exuded the air of a man who had seen it all before and still had huge confidence the task could be successfully completed.

He said: "We have been good at being first at everything at this club so this is another occasion when we can be first again by winning in Porto."

And, given that history of great escapes and accomplishments, who would write Manchester United off with any degree of certainty, despite their first leg struggles?

If he can get those heavy legs light again by the time United travel to Sunderland on Saturday, a season that has started to stutter can regain momentum once more.


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  • Comment number 1.

    United looked tired... it is going to be a tough ask for them to qualify... i still think they will do it though

  • Comment number 2.

    If United crash out of the Champions league, it would not be a total disaster. I think the rest is needed to fight on other fronts. I would still take the EPL and FA cup over the CL this season.
    Our defence which was rock soild is suddenly leaking goals and we arent threatening enough up front...we need the rest to fight for our EPL crown .... besides the fact that it would hurt if a certain Liverpool win the crown.. Barca will take care of them in the CL...and we need to stamp them out of the league race.

  • Comment number 3.

    "And then we come to Cristiano Ronaldo. A glorious talent, but a glorious talent who needs to take a long, hard look at team-mate Rooney's determination to chase every ball and pursue every lost cause.

    Too often, when Ronaldo loses possession, he almost acts as if it is beneath him to go and retrieve the situation, preferring instead to stand around and wait for a team-mate to do his dirty work."

    Couldn't agree more. I was at the Villa game on Sunday and it was staggering to see it in the flesh - Ronaldo loses the ball, then stands and watches hands on hips as other players (notably Tevez) nearly burst themselves trying to win it back. Ronaldo is undoubtedly a very talented player but he really tries the patience by being so, so lazy and selfish. His attitude stinks, quite frankly.

    Last night in general was terrible - defensively a complete shambles. Vidic and Evra look like shadows of the players they were earlier in the season. I don't know what the reasons are, but I do know if we play anything like as badly in the second leg in Portugal we are going to get well and truly spanked.

  • Comment number 4.

    missed own hargreves so badly!!! and can anyonw explain why fergie didnt play 442 an start tevez?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think there was a little fatigue from the Villa game but I don't think it will have an effect on the rest of the season. This blip which has now lasted 4 games is a combination of defensive injuries/suspensions and when Evra/Vidic/Ferdinand return I tink Utd will be a lot stonger in defence. I have also been disappointed with Ronaldo this season, not so much in that he has scored less goals because his current total is fantastic for a winger but because of his attitude when he loses the ball. He doesn't seem to chase back which he was doing last season and I can only put this down to the fact that being World Player of the Year has gone to his head a little. But in true Utd fashion we only seem to play well when we really need to so going to Porto next week, while tough, doesn't really hold the fear some might think. Utd go out to win anyway and never look to just draw with teams, although a 3-3 draw would suit me! :)

  • Comment number 6.

    Good article Phil and exactly how I felt during and after the game.

    Everytime Porto had the ball they attacked with pace and verve which last season Utd displayed frequently but has been missing for some if not all of this. Worst still everytime they attacked they looked like scoring and I lost count the amount of times it was equal numbers or overloaded in Portos favour.

    Simply put we look totally vulnerable any time a side attacks us. Liverpool really showed the way and since then no side has relented. The cautious nature of teams visiting OT has disappated along with our solidity in defence.

    Now I don't just think this is down to tiredness, Utd have a big squad and even though they have played more games than anyone else they have also rotated more than any other team. I think the real reason is that we've no decent right back cover, which has allowed teams to attack us down the flank with ease (especially considering Ronaldo's reluctance to track back and help in defence, just look at the goals conceded in the last few games). This in turn has led to a nervousness in the centre which was all to evident by Jonny Evans poor clearance attempt for the first goal. We miss Wes Brown more than ever (star man last year if you remember).

    Utd desperately need to get their first choice back four playing together and utlise Carrick / Fletcher in front of them for that extra protection.

    I still have faith, it could have been worst on Sunday and indeed yesterday. The bit of luck that kept Utd winning 1-0 seems to be still with us, hopefully 4 days now will give us enough time to settle back down and hopefully get the result against a Sunderland side also lacking in confidence.

  • Comment number 7.

    I couldn't disagree more with Ferguson. Yes I know United were not fluid and gave the ball away uncharacteristically. These guys are super fit, have the best nutritionists, doctors, physiotherapists, pyschologists and who knows what else at their disposal. How the hell are they tired? There are two glaring faults one of the is Neveille the other is Scholes. They are too old and past it for the level the match was played at. I wouldn't expect to see much of Gary Neville again. O Shea while not a wave maker ran his legs off last night trying to bring the game to Porto and got nothing but abuse from most of the reporters for being at fault for goals conceeded. For my money Tevez should have been on since the start but even he was subdued when he came on. The tie is finely balanced. The same result in Porto next week is possible. United to get it together by then is possible too especially if they have a good result against Sunderland. For my money drop Ronaldo to the subs bench and bring on Kiko and other youngsters still hungry to win. There is a problem at United it's not as big as the journo's make out and it's not anything to do with Ferdinands abscence.

  • Comment number 8.

    Have we been overstating Vidic's performances this season or have we been underrating Ferdinand? Or is it simply poor form? It seems to me that the United defence with Ferdinand and without Vidic is better than the United defence with Vidic and without Ferdinand.

    I think Rio would have been in the ear of Evans, O'Shea and Evra about the sloppiness when they had the ball at their feet.

  • Comment number 9.

    As a man utd fan, I agree it was a bad day in the office but Phil I had appreciate if you give some praises and credit to porto for once who came to old trafford with the intention to get a result unlike other teams who come and sit rather than put all blame on united... I still think we were lucky to come out with a draw...Fernando the 21yr old brazillian's positioning, tackling, game reading was immense and the uruguayian Rodriguez was also lot of credit to porto as they deserved the draw and even though i know we can play better than that, I still think it will be a difficult task to go and win in porto.......sir Alex Ferguson recognises that and I sniff a repeat of 2004 here.........

  • Comment number 10.

    Since the 4-1 mauling by us at Old Toilet, they have not been the same and it's been great to watch!
    Long may it continue!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Well Phil, in terms of the hype of Macheda as opposed to reporting of the actual substance of Sunday's game, how did YOU and the BBC deal with it? Hmm, do I recall more links to Macheda related articles than articles pointing out the poor play from Man U at times.

    Also, Man U may not need to actually win at Porto. Penalties would do if need's be, so let's not get too wrapped up in possible history making or trend bucking.

    As I've said though, Man U have been squeaking results a bit for a longer time than just since the Liverpool game. Newcastle away relied on a Taylor defensive error for the winning goal. Also Blackburn could have had a penalty at Old Trafford that could have turned that result into a draw and, if Ibrahimovic could finish perhaps Man U may have gone out to Inter and this whole Porto story would never have happened.

    The thing that does make me laugh though is that a couple of months ago so many pundits and 'experts' were ready to hand all the trophies to Man U. Don't these people learn or is their excitement greater than their objectivity.

    You are right to say though that Ferguson is keeping a calm air. What is the quote about keeping ones held when all around are losing theirs? He has to steer this ship through some choppy waters in the next week or two are ignoring the fact that as a Chelsea fan I want them to fail, one wonders where their form will come back from.

  • Comment number 12.

    I see a certain dis-unity in the Man Utd squad, namely Rooney's shows of frustration, the lack of heart from Ronaldo and the unusally submissive SAF. Maybe something is cooking behind the scene and the players are affected by it.

  • Comment number 13.

    Porto got the draw their attackin play deserved. It was so pleasing to see a team come and take the game to Utd at OT.
    As good as Porto were Utd were terrible from the first whistle...a very slow and sloppy start which could have seen them 3-0 down inside 15 minutes.
    Well done Porto.

  • Comment number 14.

    At least the Sunderland match should one of the easier ones for Man Utd this season, and please no offense to Sunderland fans but just based on form this season. It should be an opportunity to play well and reduce the tension going around Old Trafford.

    On the other hand, if Sunderland get in enough tackles and make things generally uncomfortable...well you never know...

  • Comment number 15.

    The manks are riding their luck, though we've come to expect that, despite Fergie's constant whingeing. They've conceded 10 goals in the last four games and haven't looked convincing in any of the last six. As PM said, one spectacular goal in the dying minutes by a novice doesn't cover all the cracks.

    Rafa's unusual but accurate dressing room disclosure to expose and explain how to take advantages of the slow Vidic and fading Ferdinand have paved the way for everyone else.

    All Porto have to do is be a bit more careful in defence and the mancs are out. The mancs reliance on older players means hi-tempo football is out. Other key players need an attitude transplant, to both support their team members in terms of play and making sure there's still 11 of them on the pitch at the end of the match.

    Liverpool-Porto final, anyone?

  • Comment number 16.

    Man Utd had the option to move the Villa game to Saturday to give them extra time to prepare for last nights match. Utd, in their arrogance opted not to go for the extra days rest after they drew Porto.

    The Villa result gave Utd momentum, and a win last night would have given them the confidence to go on to the end of the season.

    Not so sure now

  • Comment number 17.

    I was at the game last night and Ronaldo looked so pedestrian. He would attack the lines and get to the opposition by-line, lose the call to the defender then saunter back while Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney chased all the way back to their area.

    He is arguably to blame for both goals because if he'd have tracked back for the second like Giggs would have then the runner may have thought twice before making a move into the box.

    Sir Alex needs to give him a serious talking to because if he continues to play like he did against Villa and last night then Ronaldo will soon understand that the fans can only give so much without return. We have supported him through all the controversy he has had and he should repay that with a team performance on the pitch. Interesting to note that nearly all the Stretford End were on his back last night. He’s treading a very fine line.

    Rooney, Evra, Giggs, Tevez and Neville were the only players who turned up last night and that says a lot when 3 of those came off the bench. Maybe a certain World Player of the Year will benefit by keeping the bench warm for a game.

  • Comment number 18.

    I wonder if they're still a bit punch drunk after that shocking Liverpool defeat. There has been no confidence since then. They need a healthy victory to remind themselves that they are still the best in Europe...

  • Comment number 19.

    I would add Rooney was gifted a goal. What he did was read brilliantly what was about to happen, it was very intelligent running by him not luck!

  • Comment number 20.

    The biggest problems for the United defence at the moment is the lack of a match fit specialist right back meaning that the lamentable John O'Shea plays there, O'Shea is a just about passable stand in centre half and can do a job at left back, but for some reason he is utterly woeful at right back, for all the "strength" of United's squad to lose your first 3 choices in one defensive position is particularly unfortunate.

    The second problem is Ronaldo, if you expect your full backs to run the overlaps as United do with Evra, then it goes hand in hand that your left and right midfielders have to provide cover when you lose the ball, Ronaldo just ambles around on the halfway line and the defence plays one man light, I'm not claiming Evra had a great game, but getting caught halfway up the opposition half as your midfield loses posession and then compound that error by standing and staring, make Evra look a lot worse than he is.

    The fact is that while in the record run we played a few defensive line ups, they had some runs together in the side at the moment it's a different 4 every week and the confidence has gone out of them, United haven't become a bad side overnight, they just need a settled back 4 with a specialist right back.

  • Comment number 21.

    mohtechnix...happy to give Porto credit and sorry if you feel I have overlooked them. Not intentional.

    Could it be, and I include myself in this, that many were guilty of under-estimating them? The clue, perhaps, was in the fact that they got a 2-2 draw at Atletico Madrid in the last 16.

    They are a side full of clever players, swift and incisive in attack and they had United penned in to an almost embarrassing degree until Bruno Alves gifted Wayne Rooney the equaliser.

    Glad to see some early agreement with my criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo. I cannot believe Sir Alex Ferguson will let his obvious reluctance/refusal to track back pass without comment.

    There was a real air of frustration aimed at Ronaldo when he was doing this last night. And, in my opinion, United's fans were absolutely right to vent their feelings.

    As I said in the blog, their support for Wayne Rooney's tireless efforts demonstrated what they expect from Manchester United's players - and rightly so.

  • Comment number 22.

    My summary is thus: Utd were jaded, as Ferguson said he took a risk in not moving the premiership tie, and we are yet to see if it works. Jonny Evans showed his age (or lack of) with a couple of mistakes, probably due to having played too many games of late. Tevez should have started, or at least come on sooner.

    As for Ronaldo's back-tracking, he has nowhere near the stamina of Tevez and Rooney, if he were to chase every ball we would never see the bursts of pace we need from him. That is by no means saying his attitude is perfect, but hopefully he will learn to control his frustration into a productive output. I sincerely hope Ferguson gets a psychologist working on him for that. We don't miss Ferdinand, we miss having our solid backfour, and I for one cannot wait for Wes Brown to be fit again.

  • Comment number 23.

    To be saying that Manchester United are in dire peril just makes me laugh...I tell you what dire peril is, West Brom's situation right now, Spurs' situation after 8 games of this season! That is peril! Not a team thats top of the league, with 2 trophies to its name, and in the quarter final of the champions league and fa cup semi's. Comments like that just infuriate me becuase believe me, as a Spurs fan i would swap their apparent 'peril' for our current position anyday.

  • Comment number 24.

    I have to also add that Neville should never-ever be played at CB, and at RB is only useful if he is instructed to stay back, as he doesn't have the pace or stamina to come back when needed.

  • Comment number 25.

    To Bye Bye Badman...Sir Alex Ferguson admitted in his press conference after the game that he had gambled by not moving the Villa game back to the Saturday, but gave what I thought was a very reasonable explanation.

    He said he felt United's players would need the extra day after the international break to face Villa - and then felt the adrenalin rush of a big Champions League night at Old Trafford would invigorate them against Porto.

    It did not come off, but I do not think this was because of arrogance, simply a calculated risk.

  • Comment number 26.

    Phil are you in love with united??? how many blogs have you written about Arsenal recently compared to United?? I hope United lose in Porto then I would like to see what else you are capable of writing.....

    Go Porto

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think the biggest problem for United recently has been the midfield! Yes the defence are not playing very well, but Fergie has tried to reinforce the midfield in order to back up the nervy defence, but Carrick and Fletcher have not been pulling it off. Ever since the Newcastle game, there has been a big gap between the defence and midfield, hence the amount of balls dropping loose in between has been shocking. Normally Carrick sits just in front, collects and distributes, this has not been happening of late. Too many passes have been going wayward. Scholes was awful last night, I can't stand Park or Flecther. Anderson's energy is required next week. All in all, the midfield need to get their game back on track asap, or its goodbye to anymore trophies for this season :'-(

  • Comment number 29.

    The midfield 3 didn't work for me either. The way the line up was announced United were playing a 4-3-3 which meant that we were unable to get any width in attack and couldn't defend wide areas when Porto came forward.

    Rodriguez had John O'Shea in his pocket from the off and United looked clueless when three attackers were all playing off the defenders. It seems that a holding midfielder of the Hargreaves mould would have given that extra support and push forward in attack. Carrick seemed reluctant to come forward with the ball despite not having any player in about an 8 metre radius last night.

    4-4-2 is clearly the way United play with Ronaldo on the right wing, not up front as he seemed to play last night. It just seems strange that Sir Alex needs to mess with the formation in Europe instead of keeping a consistant, tight formation like he does in the Premiership.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'd say people who honestly think the defensive rot set in with those long ball tactics from the 1990 League Champions are mistaken. Lennon roasted Evra at Wembley, Newcastle tore us apart in the first half hour as well, and there were countless near misses during that run of clean sheets. Inter Milan at home is where it first became blindingly obvious to all that United were knackered.

    Still, let's be honest for a minute shall we. United are still top of the league with a game in hand. And we are still in both the major Cup competitions, albeit with two very hard hurdles to get over to progress in either of them.

    When United became the only English team ever to win the Treble the physical effort was astonishing as far greater hurdles than we currently face (on paper) were overcome. It's hardly surprising that this season's chase for a clean sweep is proving at least as difficult.

  • Comment number 31.

    Good Article.
    Thought Manchester United looked tired but more importantly, it is late in the season, the complete first team (particularly the defence) was not playing and Porto attacked knowing that away goals would leave them in a good place for the second leg.

    I think 48 hours is not long enough to get ready for a game even if some of the first team was changed so that played a part.
    Ronaldo needs to take a long hard look in the mirror at the moment, brilliant talent but being put to shame by the effort of Rooney who would be in my team 100 times out of 100 over Ronaldo at the moment.

    In response to one of the blogs, Ferdinand is quality and will always be a missed player BUT Vidic was the heart of the numerous clean sheet record earlier in the season, with or without Rio.

    I think Van Der Saar is not particularly installing the defence with confidence at the moment and when you are missing Brown, Ferdinand, Evra you are going to lose some control.

    As a fan of the English game, I hope that we have 3 teams in the Semi Finals and a Man Utd repeat competition win would be excellent ... but as a fan of the underdog, an Everton FA Cup and Liverpool League win wouldn't upset me too much.

  • Comment number 32.

    Before we were gifted that goal, I really thought we'd go out. It was only 1-0 but the way we were playing made it look like we werent ever going to score.

    The goal was a gift and it changed the match a bit, we didnt sharpen up in defence but at least we were level again.

    Before the game, I wouldnt be happy with this but just for those first 25 minutes I'm okay with it now.

    To think they were the 'easiest' in the draw.

    Well we know what they can do and we should be ready for the second leg when it comes. I think we should play 4-5-1, it may not be very attacking and its a goal we need but we need to boss the midfield to stop the ball getting to Hulk and Rodriguez. Ronaldo is annoying at the moment but if he's in the 5 of that midfield, he will go to support the attacker aswell.

    We'll hopefully have more players back and with it being a Wednesday game they wont be as unfit.

    I think we can still win this but we have to take it carefully.

  • Comment number 33.

    Champions league will be a push now. The league is still priority though

    But fatigue will affect all teams at the top

  • Comment number 34.

    I though Evra had a good game.....or is it just me??

  • Comment number 35.

    On the Ronaldo issue I have to wonder if this is down to the attitude of the lad himself or down to the style of play of the team. SAF has had a clear tactic in the past to leave Ronaldo up front in order to maximise the chance of a break. With only one striker on the pitch Ronaldo tracking back could leave the striker isolated and none of the strikers at United are particularly good at holding the ball up. Of course he could still chase back to the half-way line and still be available for the quick ball out of defense.

    As for Rio he was also missing for much of the long run of clean sheets but Vidic was able to pick up leading the back line in his absense. This seems to have gone and there was a noticable absense of communication across the back four last night, especially for the second Porto goal.

    At least this has made the end of season more interesting!

  • Comment number 36.

    I hope Chelski batter Liverpool 2night they are getting to cocky for my liking considering they havent won much for decades!

  • Comment number 37.

    Has anyone else noticed that Utd look significantly more dangerous with Berbatov spearheading the attack?
    People will say he hasn't hit top form this season but he's scored 8 and got 9 assists in the league.
    I think that if he's out for any stretch of time Man U will have a very disappointing end to the season.

  • Comment number 38.

    Phil, it may have been a calculated risk, but it was an underestimation of Porto.

    Would Fergie have tried to take on Barcelona, Chelsea or Liverpool after such a short rest?

    He did not give Porto enough respect and paid the price

  • Comment number 39.

    I don't think we should play 4-5-1, United's strength is and always will be 4-4-2. Need to start with Neville's experience, even tho he may get twisted and turned and outpaced (not really justifying my pick am I!) Ronny, Carrick, Anderson/Scholes, Giggs, Tevez and Rooney. We have to go semi gung-ho, as I don't think Porto will adopt the same attacking approach as last night, so a counter-attacking mentality won't work for us. Come onnn Utd!!!

  • Comment number 40.

    Phil are you in love with united??? how many blogs have you written about Arsenal recently compared to United?? I hope United lose in Porto then I would like to see what else you are capable of writing.....

    Go Porto


  • Comment number 41.

    Ronaldo is back to the player of 3 years ago, where is the product? He seems incapable of learning that if he is double marked (i.e. a midfielder comes back to cover the defender marking him) the odds are heavily against him producing any "product". It is only his ability in the air that currently makes him worth his place.

    The midfield is being badly overrun. Is this the same team that should have been 3 up in Milan against Inter in late February? The ability of the midfield to close down the opposition at the edge of the box seems to have vapourized. The result is that Vidic is exposed for what he is a strong, tough defender: just as likely to be playing in "The Championship" as "The Champions League" i.e. the lights are on, but there's no one home.

  • Comment number 42.

    Manchester United were the second best team out there last night, I think the same can be said about Arsenal in their one all draw with Villareal. I thought teams in the Premiership were the only ones taking advantage of Rio Ferdinands absence but it certainly looks as though Europe have heard the news too...

    As for Ronaldo, Best in the world...ahem. I think what people have ultimately failed to see in him is his huffiness and childlike approach to the game. No player who throws his arms around like a baby in a tantrum deserves to play top level football. After all wasn't he the one who pretty much gave the ball away for Porto to score the opener last night, i didn't see him try to compensate at all and win the ball back.

    His attitude really stinks, he'll lose the ball, then when another Manchester player gets it and loses it he'll play holy hell. I personally think that Manchester United will be better off next season without the supposed "talent" Give him to real! Because he is certainly not worth the one hundred million people go on about, no player is.

    I can't see Man U winning at Porto to be fair.

  • Comment number 43.

    To be fair United were shocking. It reminded me of the bad old days in Europe when we couldnt live with the pretty patterns and quick feet of the continentals.

    Its embarrassing when a player nicknamed the "Hulk" has more pace and invention than the so called "world Player of the Year". The only good thibg about last night was the fact that my fellow fans inside OT screamed at Ronaldo everytime he stood hands on hips after surrendering possession.

    As for the rest of the team, where do you start? Evans after having been lauded a month ago is now a liability, O Shea is always an accident waiting to happen but you cant fault his commitment. This leads to Vidic and Evra, both normally assured, over covering "just in case". Thats how Porto scored their second last night.

    As for the midfield, again a player that was being lauded only weeks ago is now anonymous, step forward Michael Carrick. No where to be seen against Villa, MIA again last night. Scholes cant be expected to do it all on his own! As for Scholes, last night he had a shocker and should have been pulled at least 20 minutes earlier. Ronaldos already had his bashing and the only player that comes away with any credit is Fletch who, like Sheasy, always appears to be at least trying their best. Park was poor, no end product at all but when the alternative is Nani who was disgraceful on Sunday what can SAF do.

    Rooney played well, thats it.

    As for the Sunderland game, what would normally be an away banker is now anything but. Evans is out, Rio is unlikely to be risked(thats if hes fit!). Which leaves the collander that is Neville, Sheasy, Vida and Evra.

    Sbragia will instruct his players to get at us from the off just like Porto did.
    I dont think its anything to do with tiredness as SAF has now used over 30 different players this season its just down to confidence and ours is shot to pieces. I mistakenly thought it had been boosted after Macheda, how wrong could i have been.

    The United of 2 months ago would go to Porto next week and win, the present side will be lucky to come away with a draw. The only good thing is that Porto dont sit back. They still went all out against Madrid in the last round even though they were sitting on a 2-2 away result.

    A big performance is now needed at the SoL on Saturday.

    Just to finish, hats off to Porto for the best performance by an away side at OT in any comp this season.

  • Comment number 44.

    To Bye Bye Badman...Sir Alex Ferguson admitted in his press conference after the game that he had gambled by not moving the Villa game back to the Saturday, but gave what I thought was a very reasonable explanation.

    I see why Man Utd wins!!! He moves the games the way he wants. Well, I hope Porto teach him a lesson he will never forget. Can Benitez or Wenger move games like that? How about O-Neil or Allardyce? No wonder.... Man Utd wins "all" except Porto.

  • Comment number 45.

    Is it just me or can nobody else see how poor John Oshea is and the negative effect he has on the team? The man is a waste of a shirt he looks nervous on the ball, when he is in possesion he does nothing with it either knocking it sideways or giving it away. Whne he plays at full back he bombs forward but then when he gets into a dangerous position he loses momentum or cannot deliver a decent cross, Neville was on 5 minutes last night and set up Rooney with a great cross which Oshea is incapable of constantly hitting the first defender. His affect on the team has to be seen first handd to be belived, even when we were winning and winning well last year OShea would come on and anxiety would creep into the team players would seem reluctant to go forward as they were caught out of position from a mis placed pass. His positioning is poor he drifts into the middle when he should be out wide defending against their winger not leaving them with space. A useless player who hasn't fulfilled his potential. Ferguson seems to keep picking him and god only knows why. I'll be glad when Raphael, Neville or even my nan arefit as they are all a step up from Oshea. Rant over!

  • Comment number 46.

    Sell Ronaldo, and sell Berbitov! full stop!
    Then with the money buy some players with 'heart for the club!' Nani can cover the right flank, (though i used to hate him) he posses 5x the team work ability than that of lazy ass Ronaldo. Or get someone like Valencia or Silva.
    Up front we could do with some one like 'Hulk', big, powerful and with a good eye for goal. Or even better than him Benzema, but i doubt that he'd come to Old Trafford? We could also do with a decent right back because Neville's to old and to slow. Plus isn't it about time for some of the old biddys at the club to retire and make way for the new legends, Scholes, Neville and Van der sar. Giggsy is all right because he still posses that drive and determination unlike those just listed.


  • Comment number 47.

    United's flag is deepest red,
    It shrouded all our Munich dead,
    Before their limbs grew stiff and cold,
    Their hearts blood dyed its ev'ry fold.

    Then raise United's banner high,
    Beneath its shade we'll live and die,
    So keep the faith and never fear,
    We'll keep the Red Flag flying here.

    We'll never die, we'll never die,
    We'll never die, we'll never die,
    We'll keep the Red Flag flying high,
    'Cos Man United will never die!!!

  • Comment number 48.

    teams (big and small) have seen that if they attack us, they can beat us. this means that our midfield and defence is being put under pressure that they aren't use to and a crisis of confidence

    scholes is in the worst period of form he's had in a while, but we need him cos of injuries to hargreaves and anderson, and he's capable of producing a moment on brilliance at any time

    nev is just coming back from injury and can't really cope with pace at his age

    players like vidic, evans, o'shea and evra have made silly mistakes and we have been punished

    carrick hasn't been at the top of his game

    we've played in every round of every competition so far this season

    the player brought in over the summer to improve the squad - berbatov - is injured (though he wasn't playing too well anyway)

    those have been the main problems and SAF needs to sort them out quick

  • Comment number 49.

    Anybody who attends OT regularly this season will tell you this has not been a vintage season and talk of 5 trophies was media hype not subscribed to by anybody in authority at United at any time I can remember. It was Rafa who apparently had the title won by Christmas! We were poor again last night, the confidence has gone and Oporto were better than anyone expected them to be. All credit to them for doing a job on us. It was a clean, well-refereed game, No sign of the blatant gamemanship on display when Murinho bought them a few seasons ago. I cant see us progressing now in the CL but I still think we will win the PL by a small margin and possibly a domestic treble. Not bad for a club in crisis!

  • Comment number 50.

    If one good thing has come out of our victory at OT (other than the obvious bragging rights!) I think it's been to show teams (Fulham, Villa, Porto... Sunderland??) that United are NOT invincible. YOU HAVE TO ATTACK THEM. For years teams have just sat back cause they've been scared of big bad Man United, they hang on hang on hang on and then Bang! lose to a late goal! It's happened time and time again! But lo and behold, look what happens when you actually put some pressure on them, THEY ARE BEATABLE!!

    We can't lose sight of the fact that United are still having a great season, already won the CC, leading the PL, still in FA Cup and CL (just about) They could still possibly win all of those things.

    But I am just so pleased to see teams finally trying to give them a game, instead of just rolling over!!

  • Comment number 51.

    #38 Bye Bye Badman

    The gamble. I'll bet that if the Villa game was brought forward a day or two then it wouldn't have been on Sky and therefore Man U wouldn't have received the money.

    Of course, an earlier than anticipated Champions League exit will cost more than whatever they received for the Villa game.

  • Comment number 52.

    Time to sell Ronaldo, cash in on him while we still can...he does nothing in games now and his attitude totally sucks!

  • Comment number 53.

    Post 26.

    Arsenal are not WORLD AND EUROPEAN CHAMPIONS...and have never been!

  • Comment number 54.

    To buzzaward...I agree John O'Shea looked short on confidence last night and appeared affected by the whole defensive malaise - but let's not go overboard and write him off. He is still a very good player.

    Quite a few people made the point last night that they felt Manchester United have not been at their best since the first half of the away leg against Inter Milan in the Champions League - although I thought they were mighty impressive against Fulham in the FA Cup.

    Do United fans think there is truth in that? And if so, what do you put it down to?

  • Comment number 55.

    "10. At 10:53am on 08 Apr 2009, scorpioBrockster wrote:
    Since the 4-1 mauling by us at Old Toilet, they have not been the same and it's been great to watch!
    Long may it continue!!"
    You know sport you typify the response of some LFC fans on here, but not all, especially the pragmatic ones. Agreed you did the double over Utd with thumping agg of 6-2 over both PL ties, and any team which comes from behind and beats us 4-1 at Old Trafford deserves to uncork some serious champers.
    However, this year excluding and the FA cup tie in which Alan Smith fractured his leg, do your research on the wretched record LFC have against Utd under Benitez where a hammering by a 3-goal margin has been inflicted on you and where we've averaged 2 goals in each tie. Even Mikel Silvestre got one. So my friend one sparrow won't make spring in a season where Utd have played far more games than LFC and fighting on far more fronts than you. We remember how well LFC coped when they were disrupted courtesy the World Club Cup and in which position they finished in the League that year.
    Despite Utd's wretched and jaded performances we won't meet that fate. Whether another trophy is added to the cabinet is now kind of questionable unless there is a dramatic turnaround. There's no "Keane"-esque figure around in the team. Liverpool could still finish trophyless for all their huffing and puffing. I wont wish LFC luck but would say that if they can overhaul us and come and win the league then they mighty well have earned it fair & square.
    As for Ronaldo, if he wants to leave £75m, we ought to let him. I agree with Alan Green, he's a shadow of himself these days, he sulks, he shruggs and body language suggests he wants to be elsewhere. It was heartening to hear time and again from the terraces that "there's only one Carlos Tevez" - despite an uncertain future this guy works his socks off....we really, really, really shouldn't let him go!
    What do you say Phil?

  • Comment number 56.

    "Hustler wrote:
    If United crash out of the Champions league, it would not be a total disaster."


    as european champions it is incumbent to fight in defence of the title.


  • Comment number 57.

    I actually predicted both games to end 1-1. However I must say that the way the media, and people on 606 were carrying on you would've expected both EPL teams to breeze through. Why the complete lack of respect of other european leagues? I would happily admit the EPL is the best right now, however it will not be forever. This keeps changing and it will continue to do so. Yes the english teams were favourites and rightly so, but as to talk about the semis with three english teams is premature, naive and disrespectful.

    Reminds me of 4 or 5 yrs ago when Andy Gray said ' benfica aren't good enough to be in the EPL' subsequently they knocked out both Man U and Liverpool. And as an Arsenal fans the amount of gooners that thought we'll finish the job in Spain?! a team who has never lost at home in CL and man U couldnt score a goal past them in 4 games.

    I still expect to see two english teams at least in semis. But I will not be shocked if its just one.

  • Comment number 58.

    From what I've seen over the past month, it is increasingly obvious that there is no way Ronaldo will be at Man Utd next season. The difference from last summer's saga is that this year, Ferguson will be keen to get rid of the arrogant, lazy winger.

    Ribery is a world class player, and unlike Ronaldo, possesses the work ethic that is required of a player to endear himselves to the Old Trafford crowd.

    After spending such vast sums on both Nani and Tosic, Man Utd should probably already be able to replace Ronaldo from within, but that is another matter entirely.

    The money that has been spent on Anderson, Nani, Tosic, Carrick, Hargreaves and Berbatov in recent years is insane, and it can be argued that not one of those players has improved Man Utd in the slightest (Hargreaves would have done buth as been blighted by injuries).

    Tiredness and injuries at this stage of the season is not an excuse for Man Utd, because the fact is that for the money they have spent, they should have a squad that is more than capable of dealing with it. It is due to Ferguson's poor judgement in the transfer market that they do not.

  • Comment number 59.

    #44> 'The Greatest Fan'
    Err I think u'l find that L'pool do get a say in their fixtures, they requested that they do not play their Champs League tie on the date that coincides with the Hillsbrough disaster, and they got their wish granted. Last season, Utd played Man City on the date of the Munich disaster. So there's your response to 'Utd do as they please'!!

  • Comment number 60.

    They really look tired. And what I do not understand is Fergie's decision to bring on G. Neville.
    He had a great moment against Villa and now another one. We should forget him.

  • Comment number 61.

    mohtechnix great point there and i'm glad thers a utd fan out ther who can be for JAGOMUFC how bout u comment on ur own team rather than talk about every other team out ther....lets jus get 1 thing straight-wen it comes to manu-liverpool its like a cup final and the rivalry between the 2 takes everythn else out of losing 1-4 in front of ur own fans at OT thats jus give liverpool sum credit coz we were a class apart and as for arsenal-they destroyed u aswell or have u 4gotten???? concentrate on ur mancs and stop moaning about other clubs

  • Comment number 62.

    whether Man Utd progress will depend on how clinical they are on the night, i dont think Porto will allow them many chances at home, certainly not another gift like Rooney's goal last night. Technically Porto looked excellent last night and will go large spells at home controlling possession.

    Still dont think too many people would be that surprised if Man Utd went there and nicked a 1-0.

    By the way Phil 'a night when Old Trafford was strangely subdued' ???? When is Old Trafford lively???

  • Comment number 63.

    Balmudo says..."Time to sell Ronaldo, cash in on him while we still can...he does nothing in games now and his attitude totally sucks!

    My opinion? Not sure it has reached the stage where United can afford to cast such a world-class player aside, but I detected real signs at Old Trafford last night that the fans' love affair with Ronaldo is on the wane.

    This was not helped by Ronaldo himself, but Ferguson clearly still sees him as a huge part of United's future and do not bet against the great manager rectifying this situation.

    But Balmudo's put it out there discuss.

  • Comment number 64.

    SHANUAZ man u WANTED to play on that day and liverpool CANT play on that day coz we have a memorial.......we were not given a choice like united were,we had to REQUEST THE DAY OFF FROM UEFA-get ur facts straight

  • Comment number 65.

    All I hear here, are these so called united fans calling for SAF do bench or worse(sell) Ronny. Forget it, we need him as he is, fast on the attack.

    Back track is for players like Carrik or Fletcher, good attitude or not, he is simply our best attacking player, and as far as United is concerned, the phylosofy of the club is to attack even if we are winning by a big margin.

    Don't forget that both Porto's goals happened from the left side same as Aston Villa's first goal.


  • Comment number 66.

    shanuaz i think YOU will find manu wanted to paly on that day and were GIVEN AN OPTION to changer there fixture against villa....where liverpool HAD TO REQUEST to change the date from uefa coz we have a memorial on that day-get ur facts straight

  • Comment number 67.

    Phil, please explain the reason behind your constant critism of Ronaldo? As a Man U fan I hate to think what we would be without him! Ok his body language may not be great this season but are we looking into it too much? Shouldnt we focus on what he brings to the team, week in week out?

    Ronaldo and Rooney remain Uniteds prime attacking threat. Teams have cottoned on to this and without the fluidity in our attack and restricting Ronaldo to a wide position it is far easier to nullify his threat. His frustrations should be hidden, granted. However, if I was him I too would be frustrated at the lack of quality United have to support Ronaldo and Rooney.

    Perhaps fatigue has uncovered how truely average our midfield is. And here in lies the problem.
    Scholes looks to be trying too hard, although he did improve from the initial 20mins.
    Park looked terrible last night.
    I cant find words to describe how rubbish Carrick was, and proves to be against better opposition. I think he twice passed the ball forward and just once ran with the ball ten yards. He never turns when in possession and doesnt offer anything going forward. Iv never seen a player stroll around the pitch doing nothing! He offers no protection for the defence and never once pressed the Porto players into hurrying a pass, never mind stick out a leg to intercept a pass. We played with ten men again last night thanks to Carrick.
    Fletcher was our best midfielder with effort and energy in his play if nothing else.

    Evra has been up and down the left for 2 years and just appears a bit tired. Our central midfield needs to provide better cover for the defence to help eliminate the individual errors at the back which are occuring as a result of fatigue - 2 years of consistent brilliance has finally caught up.

    Fergie has some decisions to make. I would suggest Anderson and Tevez in the mix somewhere to add energy and penetration to a tiring team and relieve some pressure off our defence as well as helping out our star pair - Ronaldo and Rooney.

  • Comment number 68.

    The solution is simple, drop Ronaldo. Yes our defence is playing woefully bad in the last few weeks, mostly due to the lack of a quality right back, but that?s not the problem I've noticed this last few weeks. When any player loses the ball on the half way line you would expect them to chase back and fight for the team, maybe not put in the tackle and try to win it back alone, but to get back in there and close up the space (although if you look at Rooney he had OT on its feet last night in recognition of his chasing back), however the world player of the year is starting to believe his own hype and instead of doing the work he has stopped dead in his tracks, put his had on his hips and then had the audacity to shake his head in disgust when his "team mates" concede a goal. I for one would hate to see Ronaldo pull on a real Madrid top in the close season, and am sure that is why fergie fails to chastise him for such acts which can be down to nothing more that laziness, petulance and down right poor attitude. Id like to see fergie's reaction if Rooney just decided to stop running, here's betting he'd have a boot shaped scar above his eye. I hope Sir Alex can sort out Rolando?s attitude, lack of desire and try and put some heart back into the boy, if not just let him go for whatever Madrid have to offer, because even the greatest players in the world won't be up to it if they don't try. As for the champions league, id love if we win it again, but personally don't see it happening (please prove me wrong) so I say baton down the hatches and ride out the Liverpool storm in the domestic game and stop them getting the title, because that has to be the ultimate aim, anything else will just be a bonus, but to lose out on the league would be a disaster.

  • Comment number 69.

    I've watched every game of Uniteds slump in form and i can tell you it's a combination of the following:
    Loss of confidence at the back and i'm not talking about the Liverpool game, Santa Cruz's goal appeared to rip the hearts out of the defensive unit and since then the back-line has always exuded a lack of confidence which was evident in Evans backing off for Porto's opener and the number of defensive mistakes made by every member of our back four in recent weeks.
    Tiredness, your article sort of asks whether this is a real issue or whether it's because of the lack of time between Villa and Porto - it's a real issue.
    The team looked tired against Liverpool and Villa and i'm not sure if many have noticed the lack of energy in the middle, when posession is lost they take an age to get back (you can actually see them jogging ever so slowly as the opposition counter attacks) giving an already fragile defense no cover.
    Certain players look more tired than others (Evra and Carrick look totally spent) but tiredness affects so many areas of your game from your ability to get into position to the simple task of controlling a football and it's showing.
    Even United's forwards are showing less work-rate and consistency with the exception of Wayne Rooney who i can safely call a world class footballer.
    Sir Alex must find a way of re-energising his players or United won't be winning anymore trophies this season.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think United will win on Saturday, Ferguson will have a different team out against Porto next wednesday, so they will have more energy too due to an extra day. But Porto are fantastic, I can't see them bottling it like United did. 3:3 would do me fine, I think it's time to stick Foster in the sticks. Drop Scholes and Neveille completely. Use Ronaldo as an impact sub and turn to the youth. One of these teams is going to win the Champions league.

  • Comment number 71.

    ~51 Mr Blue Burns

    You're wrong one of the reasons we didn't move it was because Sky wanted us to take the early kick off slot on Saturday meaning that the problem of fatigue against Porto would have transmuted into fatigue against Villa, it wasn't a question of money if they'd have been offered 3 o'clock or the evening kick off they might've taken it

  • Comment number 72.

    Apart from Chelsea at Old Trafford, I think you'd be hard pushed to find another big game that United have performed to their potential in this season.

  • Comment number 73.

    Porto were much the better side last night, but never write Man U off.
    Fergie must sort that defence out though, it's suddenly very poor.
    I think Evans has been playing poor, he gave the ball away far too much last night and against Villa.
    As for Scholes, one or two of his passes actually found a colleague. He also hit one of the longest back passes I've ever seen, so much for his "vision".

  • Comment number 74.

    Has the effort it took to become World Champions now being felt?
    I think the long trip didnt help and we are now seeing those extra games catching up with our players.

    Our players look lost - complacency has set in. We need to go back to basics - run, chase, pass, move. That determination we had to win the ball back and the care we took in protecting it has gone.

    We need leaders!
    I am envious of Chelsea and Liverpool central midfield - full of big time players whilst we are crying out for a leader, an inspiration from the middle of the park.

  • Comment number 75.

    Knowing United, I'm not getting my hopes up about Porto - they will probably go there and win

    But saying that I have never expected them to take home the 5 trophies (and I would ask if they only win 3, with no Champions League - will fans still refer to it as a triple?) - they haven't looked as good as last season, some individual brilliance saved them against Villa - probably good enough for the league but they'll likely get shown up in Europe

    Either way I don't think everybody should be getting ahead of themselves - Liverpool still have to prove themselves and United are still getting the results they need

    could be interesting

  • Comment number 76.

    NJ-YNWA, yes i guess Utd were given the option of playing Villa on Saturday, but i'd say the option was more controlled by SkyTv, rather then the FA, whereas UEFA do not dance to Sky's tune, that probably why L'fools had to officially request. But fair play, i take ur point on board, which u were adamant enough to emphasize twice!

  • Comment number 77.

    Why not to talk about excellent Porto? MU, with all attention in the press, with its huge budget, and a Portugal superstar in its ranks, were overplayed and overthought by a talented team with a fraction of a budget available to them. Isn't it a story to talk about?

  • Comment number 78.

    kingrgs78...Carlos Tevez is certainly a big favourite with the Old Trafford crowd and I am sure Ferguson will keep him if the price is right - but he may think the reported £32m is excessive if he can possibly get another player in who he feels offers greater value for money.

    It is an intriguing situation - you don't often get the Old Trafford crowd ordering Ferguson around, but the loud support for Tevez tells you what they want.

    What do other United fans feel? Do you think Ferguson may look elsewhere? Does Tevez start enough games to justify such a lavish outlay? Let me know.

    To Soccerspeare...I disagree that I constantly criticise Ronaldo, and I stand by my comments about him last night. Every word.

    You may wish to refer to some of the comments from Manchester United fans in response to my blog. It seems I am not alone in being disappointed with him and I believe my criticism is valid.

    And to philtoon82 - I have been to plenty of lively Old Trafford occasions. It is a myth that every ground is a seething cauldron every time a game is played.

    Inevitably some grounds are more atmospheric than others, but I do not buy into the theory that Old Trafford rarely has a good atmosphere.

  • Comment number 79.

    Another problem which hasn't been discussed here is a lack of leadership on the pitch. When you are winning games easily and in good form you don't need leadership, but once you fall into a trough you need leaders to bring confidence and pull you through.

    Who are the leaders for United at the moment? Beyond Ferdinand there isn't an obvious answer to that. The lack of leadership last night was exemplified by the pathetic body language of Ronaldo, in particular his look of disgust at Giggs taking responsibility for that free kick in injury time. If you are undermining each other in that way it makes it harder to pull through and win.

  • Comment number 80.

    #71 Chad Sexington

    I have heard the reasoning that leaving the Villa game on Sunday was about rest after internationals. However, call me cynical, but I didn't hear this explanation BEFORE the Villa match, though I will hold my hands up if I am wrong.

    Also, I don't know if they would have got the Saturday lunchtime game. Wasn't there one already on? Also, if these things are true, it seems that Sky are in the pockets of Man U if Sky say 'tell us when you want to play and we'll give you money to televise it'.

    Still, as I read yesterday, Man U are apparently going to report the biggest profit for a football club this week, so, money shouldn't be a driving factor.

  • Comment number 81.

    As a United fan I know we can win the second leg-at least we have our stall set out-win or bust. It will suit us. On a personal note I have been consistent in my crticism of Ronaldo and I won't change now. I said loads of times that I would have sold him in the summer. He is just too wasteful for me-always has been. When the really big games come up, he is missing. One free kick out of a hundred don't cut it. Rooney is our number1 for me-has been all along.

  • Comment number 82.

    The amount of players who played badly last night was beyond belief. Evra, Neville, Carrick, Scholes, Ronaldo, Fletcher, and Park. It was awful watching it, and to be honest it was the same on Sunday apart from the last 10 minutes. The sad fact is that the old guard ARE too old now, Giggs is the only one who still adds something to the team.

    When Giggs came on against Villa and went on the left, Evra seemed much happier, and the there was more balance to the team. SAF needs to find his best midfield and stick with it for the vast majority of the remaining games.

    I still think United will progress, but they need to improve alot very quickly, or they could end up without any of the major silverware.

  • Comment number 83.

    45. At 11:45am on 08 Apr 2009, buzzaward wrote:
    Is it just me or can nobody else see how poor John Oshea is and the negative effect he has on the team?
    I think this is utter nonesense. This is a player who behind Vidic played More than anyone in Uniteds record shut out. The role he was playing last night was more of an attacking Midfielder which is not his job, it should be Ronaldos. Ferguson got a Kick in the teeth for going 3:4:3 or whatever his line up was but it certainly wasn't 4:4:2. I think O Shea looks awkward, as Berbatov looks lazy, as Ronaldo looks good, but none of this is true at the moment. I was delighed to see giggsy take the free kick, at least he got it over the wall.
    I would buy the defence have a lack of confidence, I don't buy for a second these guys are tired. I dont' think United will crash and Burn like Rangers did last season.

  • Comment number 84.

    i believe that if united had a few more players fit like hargreaves, anderson, rio and a right back we would be well back on track. scholes and neville arent the same players anymore and are going rapidly downhill while giggs is getting better. i still think if we get players fit we can do what porto did to us and win the quintuple.

  • Comment number 85.

    I am officially writing Man Utd off, Porto ran them ragged last night and were unfortunate not to come away with a lead. United are distintcly average at the back without both Ferdinand and Vidic and have relied too long on Ronaldo and Rooney to inspire them.

    This reliance on key players is starting to catch up with them, as the momentum and conifidence created by previous success begins to evaporate. I expect them to go out of the Champions League now but they may just have enough of a gap in the Premiership (lets not call it the EPL) although their drop in performance means they are operating on much smaller margins than before.

    For me this all makes sense O Shea, Fletcher, Park, Evans etc are all average and Giggs and Scholes are well past their best. With Ronaldo set to leave and with Taggart's marbles starting to slosh around in the red wine that seems to be staining his face I reckon that now is the time for the old man to retire. If not he risks going on too long as Brian Clough did.

    Talk of a quintuple should be well and truly quashed now and instead United should focus on trying to win their first meaningful trophy.

  • Comment number 86.


    Tevez is a crowd favourite because his attitude is the opposite of Ronaldo's, he works his socks of for the team and has scored some vital goals in his time at the club.

    Sadly Tevez is definitely not worth 32m, he's not a majorly effective goalscorer or creative forward and his touch and other technical aspects of his game aren't up there with someone like Wayne Rooney for instance.

    Sir Alex is a great manager for a reason, the crowd can say what they like but i can assure you that he will not be spending 32m on a fotballer best known for his work-rate when that sort of money could get you a real talent.

  • Comment number 87.

    Phil, Man Utd are riding their luck since 1999, when they conquered a stunned & declining Juve (1-1 in Manchester being 0-1 down, 2-3 in Turin being 2-0 down), the same dominant Juve coming from 3 consecutive Champions League finals and a UEFA Cup final the year before.

    Man Utd won their 2nd Champions League in 1999 coming back from death, after Bayern dominated them all around the pitch. Same fate last year for their 3rd Cup, when Chelsea deserved more than losing because of a fated Terry's slip.

    My point is: Sir Alex knows his job very well, but please consider the "advantages" he has had from luck, mind games and referees influencing in the last 10 years. What you media call "epic wins" are a great amount of luck by a mile.

  • Comment number 88.

    I'm a fanatical Man Utd supporter but even I have to admit that the team's performance against Porto was a total disgrace. And unbelievably it's the fourth disgraceful performance in a row.

    Apart from Rooney everyone else was below par. Starting from the back I give Van der Saar one more season. Gary Neville should retire, he's a total disaster at the back. O'Shea is not good enough for Man Utd - he should go play for Stoke City or West Brom.

    Scholes is a spent force and should also retire. Carrick is our best passer but seems to have gone off the boil. Fletcher at least puts in effort to make up for his shortcomings. Park belongs at Stoke City too.
    Giggs can have another year as long as he comes on as a Sub only.

    Ronaldo must go, preferably as soon as possible. His laziness and Prima Donna attitude makes a mockery of all his talent - I'd rather have Ribery of Bayern. Ronaldo has been shockingly bad this season compared to last season perhaps because he wanted to go to Real Madrid. I say if he doesn't want to put in the effort required then we must get rid of him. And get rid of Berbatov as well - his lazy couldn't care less style makes me sick. Tevez needs to be retained. Letting him go would be a big mistake.

    Ferguson seems to be taking the current run of poor form quite calmly. The Ferguson of old would have been screaming and shouting. And throwing boots at players! If we fail to win anything this season I think he should step down and let some fresh air into the Club so that the rebuilding can start.

    Quite honestly, I'm at a loss for words with the way we have played in the last four games. Shockingly bad and totally disgraceful. We may very well end up winning nothing.

  • Comment number 89.

    (taking that it is 32 million for Tevez) that's a hell of an amount to pay when he's a similar player to rooney and we have the likes of macheda and welbeck coming through the ranks and Campbell and Manucho on loan

    i know it's early days for Kiko and Danny and Campbell and Manucho have hardly shone for Spurs and Hull respectfully, but i can see why SAF is waiting before putting pen to paper - knowing us he'd get a possible career-threatening injury days after (Hargreaves style)

  • Comment number 90.


    I for one think english fans are being a tad arrogant. Everywhere you look in the media it says 'tired Man Utd..' or similar. Can't anyone accept that Porto outplayed manchester? Why is everybody looking for an excuse?

    Everyone showed relief when Porto was matched against united 'ahah we have the easiest draw, piece of cake, etc' and now 'oooh, they were tired! poor them'.

    You know what? No. Porto were the better team and there are no excuses. The level that Porto is used to play against in the Portuguese league is no where near the level of Man Utd, and Porto came to the so called fortress and started ripping them apart. Credit to them, stop the excuses.

  • Comment number 91.

    MrBlueBurns: Not sure if this is what you were asking, but I had seen a couple of articles saying leaving the Villa game on the Sunday was a calculated gamble before the weekend.

    I don't think it's a case of United saying "jump" and Sky saying "how high?" especially. It's just that clubs have the OPTION of a playing outside the Saturday at 3 kickoff time if they want the money. And then usually if the club has a Tuesday Champions League game they'd ask to get it put back to Saturday. I don't know this for a fact, it's my perception from what I've read written about these things and Mr McNulty could tell you better than me.

    But back to the Villa game, I HAD read people saying Ferguson was taking a gamble but that's not to say he wasn't laying the groundwork to try and take pressure off the team in advance. It'd be silly to discount that entirely.

  • Comment number 92.

    Mr_Frederer...fair point about lack of leadership and one that was being discussed by many in the media after the game. Rio Ferdinand does appear to be the natural leader in the United side these days and he is being badly missed.

    Also interesting to see so many of you mentioning Owen Hargreaves. He is perfectly suited to the anchor role in the European game and it is a real shame he has been dogged by consistent injuries.

    Hargreaves is also a strong character to have in a side and United must hope he returns fully restored next season.

    Interesting points from Always United re. Tevez. I think you are on to something there.

    And to GiusCoUK - every club that has success on the scale enjoyed by Manchester United needs luck somewhere along the way, but I think the point is being stretched to a ridiculous extent to put what Ferguson has achieved down to so much good fortune.

  • Comment number 93.

    SAF messed up big time by "DECLINING" to play on Saturday. Virtually all other managers would have played on the Saturday knowing they had the massive game of a Champions League Quater Final comingup.

    Look at Wenger, they played Man City on SATURDAY and then went to play AWAY at Villareal.

  • Comment number 94.

    Even I, as an optimistic Utd fan, do not think we have a hope in hell of doing Porto on their own turf. I also think Sunderland will now be licking their lips at the prospect of a visit from the champions.

    We need to do something fast. Personally I think the problem lies in midfield. Carrick has been woeful recently, Scholes had one of his worst ever displays last night, and Fletcher never has been good enough.

    I really dont understand why we didnt play 442 last night. I know Tevez has recently played at high altitude, but the man has endless energy, he would have been fine starting up top. This could have meant we didnt need to play Park, who like Flatcher (and Nani for that matter) are just not good enough for Utd.

    I just hope Liverpool do as I expect and draw nil nil with Blackburn on saturday.

  • Comment number 95.

    I have watched the Fulham and A Villa game & we are not playing any decent soccer. I dont think its due to something nastey boiling behind the scene. NO. I think its pressure. The team is almost in all trophies and top of EPL. U cant take that away from the players. The fact that the tired Man U escaped defeat to Porto is a sign of true champions. We are playing Sunderland on Sat which is not a great team, with due respect to all, and it will be important for SAF to rest some key players for the return much. We just need a win & am sure Ronaldo and Rooney will perform wonders.
    After all if we are not that good to retain the cup then I would rather we lose to Porto that face the humiliation of losing to noisy Wenger kids!

  • Comment number 96.

    Some feat this - and easier said then done on a night when United never remotely resembled champions of the world, Europe or anywhere else for that matter.

    Incorrect use of words mr McNulty = (and easier said then done) the correct word to use would be than NOT then.

  • Comment number 97.

    Having started In the Porto game on Tuesday, Manchester Utd Midfielder Cristiano Ronaldo expressed frustration with his level of play, saying that his ability to draw fouls by flopping to the floor with little or no provocation was still only at "about 85 percent."
    "physically I feel healthy, but my flailing and splaying still aren't where they need to be," said Ronaldo, who has begun to practice windmilling his arms and falling backward during training. "I'm used to throwing myself 10, sometimes 12 feet down the pitch. At this point, I'm lucky if I'm getting 8 on a good flop. My wailing is good, but I need to be hitting the floor a lot harder than the guy hit me, if I was hit. I can't catch myself with my hands like I did in the second half. That was pub football."
    Ronaldo then flung himself out of the changing room, slid backward onto a bus, and tumbled wildly into his Manchester home.

  • Comment number 98.

    70. At 12:16pm on 08 Apr 2009, collie21 wrote:

    I think United will win on Saturday, Ferguson will have a different team out against Porto next wednesday, so they will have more energy too due to an extra day. But Porto are fantastic, I can't see them bottling it like United did. 3:3 would do me fine, I think it's time to stick Foster in the sticks. Drop Scholes and Neveille completely. Use Ronaldo as an impact sub and turn to the youth. One of these teams is going to win the Champions league.


  • Comment number 99.

    at #90

    I don't think anyone is taking anything away from Porto they did play very well, what people are saying is that Utd didn't perform as wll which is undeniable. Yes some of this may be down to the way Porto played but certainly not all of it. Don't forget Utd have played better teams (on paper) and won comfortably.

    The sudden loss of form at this time of the season is very unlike Utd, usually it is the total opposite, in fact they only time they started to stumble like this they lost the league to the Arsenal.

    Aside from that i agree with a lot of the other comments so far, though like phil and a few other posters agree I wouldn't discard Ronaldo just yet, he's not the only one suffering relatively poor form this season (and he's still scored 20 goals remember), I'd like to see Ribery AND Ronaldo on the flanks not just one of them :)

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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