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Crawley expose Man Utd's squad depth

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Phil McNulty | 23:52 UK time, Saturday, 19 February 2011

Old Trafford

Sergio Torres tucked a small piece of grass inside his sock and David Hunt laid claim to Wayne Rooney's shirt as consolation prizes when Crawley's FA Cup voyage ended at Old Trafford.

Moments earlier, before manager Steve Evans and his players took the acclaim of 9,000 supporters massed in Old Trafford's East Stand, only the crossbar stopped Crawley claiming the rightful reward for their heroic labours.

With Manchester United clinging grimly to the lead Wes Brown's first-half goal had given them, substitute Richard Brodie's header looped over stranded United keeper Anders Lindegaard and towards goal. Crawley held its collective breath, but the effort glanced agonisingly off the woodwork and the dream was over.

Evans was left to his 45-minute audience with Sir Alex Ferguson and an exchange of fine wines before turning his thoughts to the reality of promotion from the Blue Square Premier and a meeting with Southport at Broadfield Stadium on Tuesday.

Crawley Town's Sergio Torres is applauded as the minnows run Man Utd close

Crawley Town's Sergio Torres is applauded as the minnows run Man Utd close Photo: Getty

Ferguson did not just offer an expensive glass of red to his fellow Glaswegian, he delivered a glowing testimony to Crawley's approach that threatened to embarrass United's shadow squad as well as admiration for a club that fails to inspire affection among the non-league community.

Crawley's big-spending approach inspired by investors who prefer to stay firmly in the background and the troubled past of manager Evans from his time at Boston United, when he served two touchline bans for improper conduct and was handed a suspended prison sentence for his part in a tax fraud, has drawn resentment from supporters of rival clubs, especially when their riches were increased by an FA Cup fifth round trip to Manchester United.

Indeed, when I dared to suggest the unique appeal of the FA Cup was encapsulated in the meeting of the Premier League's leaders with non-league's emerging force, it was met with the Twitterati's version of having a bucket of caustic soda dumped over my head.

Crawley Town and Evans were not, I discovered in the most graphic terms, a source of pride to many people outside of, well, Crawley. The old cliche of the magic and romance of the FA Cup was not apparently applicable in this instance.

Well on the evidence of the 90 minutes I witnessed at Old Trafford on Saturday, Crawley have plenty to be proud about, whether their critics like it or not.

As countless coaches roared up the M6, the prospect of taking anything back from United was probably only a pipe dream. In the end, the reward of a replay would have been the very least Crawley deserved for a wonderful second half performance.

Evans had every right to savour the occasion, despite the loss, as he said: "The history books will show we went out of the FA Cup but we go away with dignity and pride."

The atmosphere of Old Trafford has whetted Crawley's appetite for more, with Evans saying: "We might come back next year. Our aim is to be in the Football League this time next year and come somewhere like Old Trafford in the FA Cup because it means we have had some good results."

Reproduce what was on offer here and Crawley will reach their immediate goal at least. When Brown gave United the lead just before the half-hour mark and Crawley chased possession for the remainder of the first half there was an ominous look to proceedings, especially when Wayne Rooney was introduced at the start of the second half.

Such was the scale of Crawley's competitiveness after the break that United's frustration was summed up in the closing moments by Rooney chasing after the outstanding Kyle McFadzean and aiming the crudest of kicks in his direction, an offence for which he was fortunate to only receive a yellow card.

McFadzean was one of many Crawley heroes, with Pablo Mills looking suited to a higher level and Torres all heart and effort as they sought that unlikely equaliser.

Evans must now guard against the comedown following the adrenalin of Old Trafford but Crawley carried all the hallmarks of a club and a team destined for higher things.

He said: "Sir Alex was very encouraging and had kind words for us. He has treated us in the most exemplary fashion ever since the draw was made. I talked to Sir Alex and he was saying how important it was for Manchester United to win the Premier League and we are no different with the Blue Square Premier."

Whether Ferguson had kind words for his own team is doubtful. In mitigation, United were facing the usual element of a hiding to nothing that comes with a meeting with non-league opposition. Anything less than overwhelming victory is invariably deemed unsatisfactory.

The object of the exercise was achieved - but at what cost to the reputation and future of some of OId Trafford's undercard?

Given a rare chance to demonstrate their potential in front of a packed Old Trafford gallery, this was a tale of opportunities missed and flaws exposed, especially by Gabriel Obertan and the hapless Bebe.

Little was known about Portuguese Bebe when he arrived in a £7.4m deal from Vitória de Guimarães in the summer. And this grim evidence means we are currently none the wiser about what he may eventually contribute here.

A player of no obvious quality, the 20-year-old's performance went into a deep depression. Ferguson is the master of spotting young talent and nurturing it, with Nani a recent obvious example of how it can be fashioned successfully under his tutelage.

Bebe, however, shows few signs of possessing the raw materials for Ferguson to work with and he did nothing to offer encouragement here, with the same applying to Obertan.

Whereas Bebe is a relative newcomer to the demands of Ferguson and United, Obertan still seems incapable of taking any great leap forward following his £3m arrival from Bordeaux in July 2009.

Michael Carrick's lack of influence in midfield also underscored his decline on a evening when few of United's players will take any good memories away from Old Trafford.

The glory went to Crawley in defeat with a performance that even their many detractors may grudgingly admire, if not openly.

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  • Comment number 1.

    McNulty on the bandwagon again.

    Last time i looked United were in the next round, having played at low gear with a reserve side against a side for whom this was the game of their lives.

    That's something at present neither Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or City can claim. We'll see how strong Arsenal's squad is today after chasing Barca shadows for 90 min midweek...

    Incidentally, have Liverpool won the league yet like you predicted a couple of seasons back? No?

  • Comment number 2.

    Man U took a big risk by taking their foot off the pedals and allowed the Blue Square League club turn the screw on them.

    Would have been glad if the 92nd minute effort from Crawley had scored.

  • Comment number 3.

    Speaking of Liverpool, can you imagine what would have been said and written had Benitez spent £7.4m on a player he'd only seen on YouTube?

  • Comment number 4.

    Oh what a surprise. Man utds reserve team beat a determined and dogged Crawley team who played as if their life depended on it.

    This is a team of players who have barely played, young ones who are years away from reaching their potential and some who are just in the shop window to sell. Its hardly a suprise they didn't gel but We WON!'

    Take that haters - always looking for any opportunity to dig. Our reserve squad has taken us to top of the table four points clear. Phil you are clueless how did you get this job. Ridiculous.

  • Comment number 5.

    My dislike of Man Utd knows no bounds but they handled the game against the non-league side perfectly.
    They could have turned out a full strength team and blitzed Crawley by dozens of goals. Even the weakened side played at a level appropriate to the opposition they faced. I was expecting an absolute mauling, but SAF played the situation just right, as usual.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think SAF summed it up well when a TV reporter asked him what he thought United's young players would take away from this game. His reply, "Me losing my temper" !! He will have a good look at Obertan and Bebe and if he decides they aren't good enought they'll be off. It's interesting that Phil highlighted Nani's importance in this article given that not so long ago he dammed him with faint praise as "Ronaldo Lite" in the wake of the move to Madrid. Hmmm...

  • Comment number 7.

    Once you get past the starting 11, Man U start to look pretty thin. Some wise investment needed in the summer. (P.S. I know that they are still in the FA Cup, Champions League and leading the Premiership before any "smart" Man U fan point that out!)

  • Comment number 8.

    I remember Manchester united being humiliated by York some years ago, that team was an understrength side too, they went on to do nothing and became completely useless.

    Roll's eyes.

  • Comment number 9.

    Where is my comment???

  • Comment number 10.

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

  • Comment number 11.

    Bebe? Overran? They wouldn't even get in to OUR reserves!! What are those puddings good for?

  • Comment number 12.

    Actually, I thought Crawley played exceptionally well, and were strong all over the park. United were a little dis-jointed admittedly, but as one poster has already commented, it was Crawley's cup final.

    Even as the staunchest ManU fan, I can admit that Bebe is no where near the finished article, but I thought he showed some signs of promise. While not that well-directed, I thought his crosses were pretty decent actually. Obertan continues to disappoint, and it seems that top-level football in the EPL is just beyond him at this stage of his career.

    I was most disappointed in the boy Rooney - he was very lucky to stay on the pitch after his kick-out at that Crawley player. For a player with some much talent and so much energy, why on Earth does he continue to do these things ?

    While we are not yet playing our strongest football, certainly in the EPL, it really is ominous for the chasing pack that we are still in first place -- it seems that we are being allowed to stroll this season's title, at the perfect time, when our midfield especially is poor and in dire need of rebuilding.

    Looking forward to Marseille on Wednesday,

  • Comment number 13.

    Obertan and Bebe are the future of Manchester United.

  • Comment number 14.

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

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi Phil in everyone's life there comes a time when one should take break or retire We feel that time has come for you ...accept it courageously

    We are saying that a team which is full of talent,potential and ambition still got beaten by a lack lusture performance(a team which was full of players from reserves).

    We do not understand whether you are degrading ManU or sarcastically laughing at Crawley?

  • Comment number 16.

    This is disappointing...yes bebe was poor but it's his first season in English football. Agreed that obertan isn't up to scratch but carrick never is flashy, he's a player that does a job. Also, you failed to mention our players who played well, most notably smalling again and pleasingly, darron Gibson.

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.

    As a Utd fan I was obviously disappointed by the performance of certain Utd players. Obertan is not going to make and will go in the summer, Bebe's Utd future must be hanging by a thread also.

    Personally I hate these types of games. The reality is that Fergie makes too many changes, throws together a team that has never played together before and you get a disjointed mess.

    That said, Crawley were fairly toothless in the attack and never looked likley to score, a looping header onto the bar that the keeper had covered was really there only real attempt on goal (despite all the drivel being spouted).

    It is good that Crawley can come away with all the plaudits, they desreve them. I expect a slightly stronger and more cohesive team on Weds !

  • Comment number 19.

    I think the negatives are that Bebe and Obertan went missing for vast tracts of the game. Obertan's first touch was often poor, Carrick did not look at the races and has become a fringe player when he used to be much more, Bebe's crossing needs some work as does his football knowledge in terms of his thought processes and Rooney again had some woeful touches when he came on. Hernandez looked isolated due to the ineffectual play of both Bebe and Obertan. I am also yet to be convinced about Lindegaard.

    Positives were when the twins got forward they looked dangerous, in fact most of our attacking game was through them getting forward and causing problems for a very well drilled Crawley defence. Darren Gibson looked good as well and hopefully will be brought in to the starting lineup more often.

    I though Crawley put on a good display and have some very good players, I was impressed by their centre backs composure and also their left back when he came forward did so with speed and a good attacking brain and intelligence that some teams in the premiership lack. I was largely impressed by them.

  • Comment number 20.

    "13. At 09:27am on 20 Feb 2011, dogeared wrote:
    Obertan and Bebe are the future of Manchester United."

    God help us then. I'm looking forward to the day the real story about Bebe's purchase comes out.

    A few very poor midfield performances is what stopped United running away with this. Anderson and Carrick didn't look like first-teamers, both well below par. Bebe and Obertan seemed to have found their level, i.e. struggling against non-league opposition.

    And Rooney is probably feeling rather embarassed about it all this morning.

    On the positive side, it was good to see Wes getting a run-out at centre back, where he had a good game. I wish he and SAF would sort out whatever problem they have between them so he could move back above Evans in the central defence pecking order.

    The rest of the defence was fine, especially Smalling when he came on, after a good performance last week too. Hernandez would have been fine if he'd had some service.

  • Comment number 21.

    As I pointed out very clearly, there is an element of a hiding to nothing about these games and United got the job done, but can you see the likes of Bebe, Obertan or even the disappointing Michael Carrick figuring when/if United get to the sharp end of the big competitions? I can't and I am happy to stand by my comments.

    I cannot see how any United fan could have been anything other than disappointed with the performances of some of the players who were given a big chance to make an impact.

    Bebe and Obertan in particular show no signs of developing into the sort of players Ferguson would trust on the big occasion.

    And to Corpusboy...I have acknowledged Nani's development for quite some time now, so you are visiting old ground there.

  • Comment number 22.

    1. At 09:07am on 20 Feb 2011, oshealegend wrote:

    McNulty on the bandwagon again.

    Last time i looked United were in the next round, having played at low gear with a reserve side against a side for whom this was the game of their lives.

    That's something at present neither Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or City can claim. We'll see how strong Arsenal's squad is today after chasing Barca shadows for 90 min midweek...

    Arsenal's second string team is WAAAAY better than Man Utd's and i think many people will agree with me on this

  • Comment number 23.

    Whilst I agree that we do not have the strength in depth of other teams such as Aresnal or even Spurs who have a great bench, what Manchester United have which the likes of them do not is the BELIEF that we are going to win every game we play and even when the chips are down, something Arsenal/Spurs and McNultys beloved Liverpool do not.

    Not all of the reserves are going to make it to the first team, the Class of 92 was a one-off where we just happened to have so many great young players coming through at that time, there are plenty in Barcalonas acclaimed youth camp that do not make it, and in the Premier-league world of "Success can't come soon enough" younger players will have to make a name of themselves in the lower teams/leagues to attract the top clubs, which will mean they will brought during a Transfer window, which will ALWAYS hike the prices up.

  • Comment number 24.

    Crawley Town - 11 players playing as a team, assembled and played consecutively as a team this season. Going to win the Blue Square Premier.

    Manchester United - 11players playing for themselves to impress the manager, maybe if lucky played in the reserves together, not in the first team.

    First team members of Manchester United play as a team, played consecutively as a team this season, going to win the Barclays Premier League (Holds breath for other trophies)

    Result shows that when a team gels, it wins, when in the same class. Crawley Town in 2 or 3 years (scouting and looting of the team aside) will be a very different proposition and probably worth playing your first team against.

    Oh and a win is a win is a win.

    For Phil.
    Lest you forget that we had to wait 26years for our league title run to start, sure a few FA cups during this period helped, you have to go through the bad patches just like we did, lets hope for your sake that it doesn't take 26 years for your team to win the title. Who knows just like Manchester United in 1972 get relegated and win the 2nd division in 1973-1974 to begin the process that I as a Manchester United supporter enjoy today.

  • Comment number 25.

    We've been here before haven't we ? Exeter and Burton came for the biggest match in their club's history , United played teams essentially made up of reserves and fringe players in a team of 11 who had never played together before , and United struggled. You could say that having won this one , we are improving...

    It WAS a poor performance from United , but they did enough : Crawley didn't have an effort on target after Brown scored and United go through , entering four crucial consecutive away games having rested most of their first team . I'd have settled for that at the start and many of my fellow season ticket holders would have been as keen as I was to see the game sell out so they could sell their seats on the Ticket Exchange as we knew what was going to happen.

    Three questions : (1) will the money Crawley have made from this be used to pay back the many local businesses Crawley didn't pay when they went bankrupt? (2)Will the authorities now do their job and find out who owns the 40% share the Club confirm is owned by persons unknown (3) how little will Rooney be worth by the end of this season when United sell him to fund a midfielder or two and a goalkeeper?

  • Comment number 26.

    Phil u miss the point - the likes of obertan are Squad players - yes a team of 11 of them will be average, but obertan slots in quite nicely into the 1st 11 as a replacement for nani. He has a lot of ability he's just a bit lightweight atm, so is fine as a sub.

    Having said that, despite fervid working a miracle to get us top - the first team itself is an issue. What positions have we got that don't need improving either for age or ability?
    We need:
    Keeper, replacement for ferdy, i'm not sure the twins are 50 games a season material, replacement for giggs, fletch is the only reliable central mid, and berba is 31 I think! Oh dear glazers!

  • Comment number 27.

    Crewe fan in peace.
    I remeber a few years ago when Crewe were in the Championship and drew Man. U in the cup at Crewe. The game went to extra time and Man U scored in Fergie time of extra time to take the win. My reason for raising this is that 6 or 7 Crewe players put so much into the game that they didn't play for weeks after it with various strains and pulls. It will be interesting to see how well the Crawley players recover after their magnificent effort.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think those criticising Phil McNulty are a bit off the mark here. Supporting a side that has had both a run to the FA Cup and League Cup Semis in the last decade I know what it must be like for a crawley fan. In the first leg of our League cup Semi we managed a draw against a weakened chelsea side and the same questions came up for the Chelsea team. If I were a Man Utd fan I would be very worried about your reserves. Not that they struggled to win, but that they didnt take their chance to make an impression. If you watch Arsenals reserves, every match they get to play they play with heart and really get stuck in and try to make a point.... I just didnt see that from Man Utd yesterday and thats disappointing!

  • Comment number 29.

    So "Crawley's display underlines Man Utd's squad frailty" Really ! Is that why they are top of the league (by 4 points at the moment) If you are the BBC Sport's chief football writer I would take up cricket if I were you.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh and by the way Phil your article yesterday on the match was a joke: "one of the biggest stages in world football"? Ridiculous - I don't know if u are encouraged from the bosses to be so overblown or if u do it for your own ego. Mind u that's the mediA in a nutshell.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why is it every time United play badly our fans come out and hurl abuse at Phil? Everytime they play well and he writes an article saying so it's Liverpool fans out hurling their own abuse.

    This blog has been the only place I have made an effort to visit every week since this season began and I find every entry to be a well worth reading, and always relevant.

  • Comment number 32.

    Yes, this shadow squad of United looks weak, that's why they're in the shadow positions. All they are at the club for is the odd game in place of whoever is in the main team. Judging a squad by how the reserve players play as a unit is wrong, because they won't have had a season of tactical preparation, playing together to get to know each other etc. Their job is literally to slot in to the established side, and when that happens the other more experienced players on the pitch will help bring their level up.

    That team would probably only have known for a few days that it would be playing, and had just those few days to prepare tactically.

    Having said that, I think Bebe and Obertan looked poor and will probably not have any future at Old Trafford, and Gibson and Carrick in the centre of midfield is not an option either. United need to replace Scholes and quickly, and also get Anderson up to speed with playing every week in the heart of midfield. Smalling looks like what he is, a class act as a defender and he will be the perfect replacement for Rio when he retires in the next couple of years.

    I think this summer will represent the start of a period of change for United...many new players are needed, and I think maybe if a very good offer comes in for Rooney United would be stupid to turn it down. They could then spend that money on refurbishing their squad, safe in the knowledge that Hernandez and Berbatov can lead the line with ease.

  • Comment number 33.

    And lets just put this to bed, good chance for brodie, unlucky crawley, but even if the ball were a few inches lower than the bar, it would have been hitting lindergards hand, so either way, that ball, would not have seen the net. watch the replays.
    Shame for crawley, atleast deserved a draw either way. Obertan needs sold, bebe's rags to riches tale isnt going too well either. he needs to do something quick...

  • Comment number 34.

    I agree that Obertan and Bebe were very poor. But what is this nonsense about Gibson having a good game? He was equally bad. I am sick of seeing him in a United shirt. He lacks pace, has no positional vision, gives the ball away and is generally weak. Ok he has an amazing shot every 5 months.

    Fergie once said that if 3 of the 11 have an off game the side will struggle. So why play these three?

    I am a Stretford End season ticket holder - are there any others who actually go to OT who think Gibson is any good or is it just those who see the TV games?


  • Comment number 35. normally annoys me to read all the critisim of your articles, but you got this one wrong.

    Man U's depth outweighs any of their EPL rivals.

    This article / or the title thereof, should have been on:

    1. Crawley, and their brave showing.

    2. The fact that a few players should be released: Obertan, Bebe, maybe Carrick.

    Just because the first two mentioned were poor does not mean there is a lack of squad depth.

    Look at the list of players who will not usually make the first team, when everyone's fit:

    Hernandez, Park, Gibson, Smalling, O'Shea, Brown, Anderson, Giggs or Nani (when Valencia returns), Fabio, Owen, plus Welbeck to return, maybe.

    Surely Phil, that's a pretty good second XI???

    Come now...

  • Comment number 36.

    United did the bare minimum to get by, and it worked. Some players don't look the finished article, having not played a great deal this season. Quelle surprise.

    "...I am happy to stand by my comments."

    Good, because when you end up being wrong about this as you end up being wrong about virtually everything you write (Liverpool to win the league, anyone?) we can call you on it. Again.

    "This blog has been the only place I have made an effort to visit every week since this season began and I find every entry to be a well worth reading, and always relevant."

    Perhaps you just have lower standards than the rest of us.

  • Comment number 37.

    It was an incredibly poor game and although crawley battled hard they didnt really trouble uniteds defense too much with smalling looking very commanding. As an arsenal fan i know all too well that lower league teams can be annoying because your team doesnt take them seriously enough whilst they put in more effort than usual.

    I think united fans shouldnt be too worried. At the end of the day it was a very much second/third string and it's clear fergie will get rid of alot of those last night. I very much doubt theyre the future of united. At least not with fergie in charge. He used them to see what quality and hunger they have safe in the knowledge they'd qualify regardless of performance.

    Also crawley are like the man city of non-league and i can guarantee you the other 23 teams of their division were not wishing them luck. Their manager is an idiot as well and is lucky to still be in the game. Add into the fact they were sponsored by the sun last night i didnt really care for them. It wasnt really a run to be marveled in my opinion.

    As for arsenal, rival fans can say all they want how stretched our squad will be following barca but i think we wouldve gained confidence and besides at least 5 of the starting players midweek will be rested today.

  • Comment number 38.

    This was just another example of Fergie's brinkmanship - something we have seen a lot of this season. He will play a team that he feels is just strong enough to get a result, usually loading the bench with players like Giggs and Berbatov to bring on if things need fixing - the recent away game at Blackpool would be a prime example of this.

    None of which explains why Rooney was introduced at half-time yesterday. After all we were ahead and had dominated the first half without ever looking under any threat. So why bring on Rooney? He seemed to have no clear role or position and was totally anonymous apart from picking up a typically idiotic booking for a totally idiotic piece of petulance near the end.

    The only real positives to emerge from yesterday were that Lindegaard looked fairly accomplished, given that he had little or nothing to do and Chris Smalling impressed yet again when he replaced Rafael da Silva.

    As for the rest of the also-rans, Carrick's decline has been apparent since he got an achilles injury last season, Obertan looks terrific in the Reserves but just doesn't seem to have the temperament to play without anxiety at first-team level. Bebe remains a complete mystery - why did we sign him? Anderson is too erratic, Brown will surely get a free at the end of the season, O'Shea is never quite bad enough to be dumped but never quite good enough to be anything other than a permanent sub, the da Silvas and Hernandez will have better days and Owen, who didn't play, will surely be released in May.

    For all of these guys, it's the presence on yesterday's subs bench of Paul Pogba, Josh King and Ryan Tunnicliffe that should really alarm them. These three, plus the curently injured Will Keane, are the cream of a potentially very exciting group of youngsters coming through from the Academy and into the Reserves. Keane has already been named in the Champions League squad and the three on the bench also now have first-team squad numbers. With these youngsters and the likes of Welbeck and Cleverley due back from loan in the summer, there needs to be - and probably will be - a major clearout at Old Trafford this summer.

    Well done to Crawley, but despite the oohs and aahs from the media, they were never really going to get a result. With Marseille away next week and a lot of big Premiership games ahead, this was just another part of Ferguson's ongoing balancing act - the FA Cup just isn't a priority for United and -up until the semi-finals at least - he will only ever do as much as is absolutely necessary to get through to the next round.

  • Comment number 39.

    I understand that, in the spirit of the F.A. Cup, it's nice to have the main theme of the BBC football blog relating to a small football side playing a big club but this article is well over the top. The main event on yesterday's F.A. Cup ties took place in Stamford Bridge. Stii, this blog is in accordance with the silly (and stupid) 'anonymous' BBC page declaring yesterday that Manchester United fears Crawley Town. We've read a lot of nonsense throughout the years on football journalism and that one has been a biscuit to give an example on how altered text can provide laughable change in context.

    From the game in Old Trafford, all one should take notice of is the Ferguson statement regarding the winter break and the Champions League final prices in Wembley. After so many times, so many fans try to refer to players' salaries as excessive, one could reflect the £80 for a wheel-chair entry to Wembley and corporate ticket prices as a shameful mirroring of greed. You don't set benchmarks with Worlc Cup and Euro finals. You don't set ticket prices in accordance to other events where football fans are blatantly robbed by the system and you certainly don't use it as an excuse for daylight robbery.

  • Comment number 40.

    I note with interest not much is being made out of the somewhat fortune of man u, in so far as having 11 players still on the field of play following that challenge by non other then the grubby lil boy rooney.

    does anyone expect anything less .

  • Comment number 41.

    It wasn't a great performance, but noone can deny United were playing well within themselves in that game, a lot of players were not going in with the same intensity as they will against Marseilles midweek. In contrast Crawley were flying in to the challenge knowing that these moments will get on the highlights reel and give them a little bit more TV exposure.

    I am not sure why people struggle to understand the idea that United are, when they can, playing at less that 100% intensity in games in order to save themselves for later on in the season. Yes, this is a risk and can lead to some embarrassments, but it is a calculated risk, and seems to come off for Fergie more often than not. This is why United usually come good in the second half of the season, in my opinion. It makes perfect sense to me. Also, a 1-0 win is just the same as a 10-0 win, you get through to the next round either way.

    Obertan is annoying, he has some wonderful pace which can get him past defences, but his decision making is poor making him lesser version of Theo Walcott. Bebe is something of an enigma - he looks like he has a strong physical presence, but then i see him getting bundled off the ball too easily. Smalling looked assured again, and Darron Gibson made a couple of nice passes which gave me a bit of hope that there is some potential there to be realised.

    Lets also not forget that Crawley hardly had ANY threat in that game the crossbar incident was easily being covered by Lindegaard so was not the "close" that the commentators seemed to wish it was.

  • Comment number 42.

    As a United fan the game again demonstrated as in the Carling cup rout by West Ham the weakness of the squad SAF is working with at the moment. Surely a mass clearout is in the offing in the Summer? Bebe £7 million looks a snip at the moment does he not !!??

  • Comment number 43.

    United's frustration was summed up in the closing moments by Rooney chasing after the outstanding Kyle McFadzean and aiming the crudest of kicks in his direction, an offence for which he was fortunate to only receive a yellow card.

    Phil, this foul was inexcusable, but please next time take note that in the 1st half, Mcfadzean was also very lucky to be on the pitch after an outrageous body check on hernandez which had the same amount of malicious intent as rooneys challenge. He was great at centre back, but obviously a thuggish character who brings a bad image to the sport, wether at a high or low level...

  • Comment number 44.

    Anderson offers little, other than servicing the wannabe WAGs around Manchester most nights.

  • Comment number 45.

    Crawley's ground has a capacity just shy of 5,000.

    It will be very interesting to see how many of the 9,000 who went to Old Trafford try to go to that a sincere hope, I hope they manage to fill the ground for the rest of the season, however the cynic in me suspects that most of the away support were either United fans or fans of other clubs hoping to see a spot of giant-killing.

    Big cup ties like this always brings out the fairweather supporters of any club. As a Bury fan I've seen them play United a couple of times in the cup at Old Trafford, and the same thing happened both times...lots of "support" for Bury, but then the attendances at Gigg Lane went back to the lowly 2,000 each home game.

  • Comment number 46.

    It was a very disappointing game, the stands were about 10-15% empty and the crowds disappointment was clear to see. However when season ticket holders are forced to pay for tickets they don't want, with the standard of football that was produced yesterday, no wonder that they don't want to turn up to cup clashes like this.

    Obertan is trying to follow in a long list of fantastic wingers that Man Utd have had/produced, and unfortunately he wasn't/isn't up to the job. Hernández dissappointment with him was evident to see, not chasing back, and not getting up front to Hernández's flick ons. It was a very lazy performance from him, with the occasional good touch, only to waste it with his next.

    Jury is still out on Bebe, he wasn't as involved with the game as much as Obertan, however he produced some lovely crosses, only to have a target man of a 5'9 striker with two centre backs marking him.

    This brings me to midfield which although never really looked to be chasing the ball around and kept posession very well, was completely blunt in attack, they sat back and didn't attempt to get forward, leaving it to the two wingers who weren't too successful in their tasks of supporting Hernández.

    Not a game for the history books regarding performance, however any game you can come away from with a W and no major injuries is a success.

  • Comment number 47.

    I read your articles all the time Phil and a good portion of the responses you get and I'm starting to wonder if you do these inane and pointless articles to get people like me to respond?

    "Crawley expose Man Utd's squad depth"??? Oh wait, you then only say that Bebe amd Obertan had bad games. Carrick is usually that lathargic in the middle of the pitch so you can leave him out of it.
    It annoys me so much that you never seem to get an article right. How you manage to miss the point is scary!

    It's writers like you that expect England to beat everyone 8-0 and then complain when they don't. I'm happy to see United go through to the next round and not worry about the performance.

    I'm bored of your opinions now Phil. I can't help but think that you don't watch the same sport as me let alone the same matches. Crawly expose Man Utd's squad depth indeed Phil. Or, why didn't you put,"Bebe is a waste of money and Obertan is stuggling". That may be a more accurate headline!

  • Comment number 48.

    As a Utd fan, im a little surprised by the staunch defense of the team that played last night.

    Plaudits should go to Crawley for a great performance and showing why the FA Cup is exciting every year.

    Utd's reserves looked poor and disjointed - FACT. However, i dont see any reason to be concerned just yet. These competitions are used by top sides who are in multiple competitions to test their younger, less experienced players. The only way they'll get better is to train hard and get game time hence why games like last night are so crucial for them.

    Obertan needs to improve fast. He's been with Utd a little while now and hasnt really added anything to his game from what ive seen. Bebe continues to frustrate a lot of people but it's Fergie's use of Bebe that annoys me. I know Fergie wants to develop him into a winger however that's not his natural position so every time Utd players see him, he looks out of sorts. He's a second striker who can run a players, beat them for pace and has a good shot on him. His wing play still needs work.

    The key difference between Obertan and Bebe last night was that Bebe showed that he's developing and has added things to his game. His crossing was better, his ability to hold the ball was better and he got the better of Crawley's left back a few times. We are all so demanding these days but the simple fact remain. Younger players need time and I think Bebe should get it.

    We won and should be happy with that for the time being. That being said, despite some promise in the younger ranks (Gibson was ok) i still think we need to invest in quality and experience.

  • Comment number 49.

    I think Obertan is progressing well,but for Bebe...he still has a long way to go.... a waste of money by Sir Alex.

  • Comment number 50.

    At 7.4 million is Bebe one of the worst signings made by Sir Alex?

    He may be young and new in the country but his body language showed someone well out of their depth. I am amazed that none of the younger players haven't been able to challange for a regular place, to higlight the lack of talent on the wings Giggs has had to move back on to the left which is not the more central roll he has played over the last few seasons. United have a great defence and plenty of choice for strickers but the midfield is a little short of options after Nani and Giggs.

    I'd love to see a player with Modric's ability or just Modric pulling the strings for United.

  • Comment number 51.

    47. At 10:53am on 20 Feb 2011, PeteMcT wrote:

    If you dont value his opinion then why bother turning up here week after week to complain?

  • Comment number 52.

    zzzzzzzzzz change the record. I don't know what most bbc pundits get paid for. Both you and the MOTD panel just give short term opinions which are wise after the fact. If a team lose 3-0 and are in the bottom half MOTD will say they are in trouble, the next week they win 2-0 and they say everything will be fine. You sir are exactly the same.

    I agree that the likes of Obertan, Bebe and Carrick are certainly not Manchester United quality, however your short sighted journalism about manchester Uniteds lack of squad depth shows your ignorance on footballing matters.

    Picture this situation, you play for one of the top clubs in the world, who play week in week out against the worlds finest clubs, your a young foreign/englsih player or a player at that 23 stage where decisions are key to your career, you havent played for months, passed over time and again to play the likes of liverpool, arsenal, chelsea, city and so on. Then you get the nod, CRAWLEY TOWN, is your break, thats what is entrusted to you. How do you expect the players to get motivated to play this non-league side???

    Your article should have been about the magic of the FA cup and how brave crawley are, and how this is exactly what the FA cup is about, not the short comings of uniteds C list team. Man united have won 2 of the last 3 Carling cups with the youth and reserves, have 3 or 4 brilliant loanies out and not to mention 3 or 4 injuries.

    You get paid to write even when their is little or nothing to say, and this article like many before it, show exactly that.

  • Comment number 53.

    Ferguson needs to look at the following

    Obertan, Bebe, Gibson - lack of talent
    Carrick - had potential but now fading fast
    Brown - age ( although a brilliant servant and still better than Johnny Evans)
    Scholes - age ( a legend but legs are going)
    Question Marks over Fabio, O'Shea

  • Comment number 54.

    now the game is over maybe you journalists may wish to dig a little deeper into Crawley Town? how a club with gates of 1100 have outspent all of league 2 and the conference put together? far east investors that are unnamed? money washers more like,theres no romance in this story.

  • Comment number 55.

    shouldnt man utd be fined for fielding a reserve team. others would why not them, they are not bigger than the game and its an insult to crawley. Oshealegend, we are not talking of other teams as they would not have done that. Also as for Arsenal at least they will field a full strength team and most playes will have played both games can man u say that NO !!!.

  • Comment number 56.


    There is no rule in the FA Cup about fielding a strongest team.

  • Comment number 57.

    51. At 10:59am on 20 Feb 2011, Mr Chelsea wrote:

    If you dont value his opinion then why bother turning up here week after week to complain?

    I never said the above Mr Chelsea and the reason I turn up here is that I pay my Licence fee and a small portion of that goes on funding Phil's job.
    I have a right to complain about this and many other pointless and often misleading articles Phil writes. The heading to this blog is poor and completely off the topic he talks about. Read the article again and you'll see he mentions three of United's reserve team as being poor. But wait, isn't the article entitled "Crawley expose United's squad depth"?

    I don't read tabloids as I don't agree with tabloid sensationalism of every story and yet the BBC manages to present that here. This is not why I pay my licence fee.

    These articles must stop soon or Phil must be replaced.

  • Comment number 58.

    I can't say i agree with much of what you have written, increasingly i seem to be at odds with BBC sports writers, maybe i should stick to listening to the excellent guardian football podcast?

    I feel you've gotten caught up in "the magic of the cup" - maybe it's true what they say - if you keep saying something (as ITV love to do) it'll come true. Don't forget that this is a competition United didn't even enter in the 1999 - 2000 year, a fact i've seen rarely mentioned in todays sporting press. SAF XI, the manner they played in and this piece of history all go to show how seriously the big sides take this competition (perhaps with the exception of Arsenal who haven't won anything in years).

    Long story short, Crawley were very impressive (for what they are - a conference side) but lacked quality, especially in the final third against a Man U XI that didn't show up and weren't interested (maybe they were thinking about the CL or the PL and not the FA cup?). Yes Crawley are 92 places or whatever it is below MU but the point of the fact is, they still aren't very good, regardless of how well they've done to get to this stage of the competition. After all, as the stats point out, they had 3 efforts on target (to Man U's 4), but still didn't score. Reading your one sided article you wouldn't think that at all.

    I've not written this post to bad mouth Crawley, who i was impressed by, but to try and add some rational facts which i feel Phil is lacking here. Also, take another look at the last gasp header against the bar, for me the keeper had it covered although the defending for that corner was awful. Which brings me on to my next point, Man U were as bad as Crawley were good. I think SAF's real problem is that MU were not motivated and again, as they have for much of the season, failed to get out of 2nd gear but again just about grind out a result. As much as they were lacking up top and in the middle (Carrick was terrible as was 2nd half Rooney ,Bebe and Obertan) i wouldn't say that the back 4 were overly stretched or troubled and seemed in control for a majority of the game. As one of ITV's pair of idiot pundits said, "the keeper has rarely been troubled".

    To suggest that Rooney showed Man Uniteds frustration is not strictly true, it was bore out of his own frustration for being in a terrible run of form for almost year (since the world cup) now. Although it does suprise me that not many football hacks have noticed the correlation in goals (particularly headers) Rooney scored when Valencia was in the team.United, and especially Rooney miss him.

    I guess what i'm saying is, as a journalist can you report on the facts and try not to colour the piece to much with emotion, which is misleading. I'm not trying to say that football is grey and emotionless but your work shouldn't be swayed by your craving for a "cupset".

    I've always had this problem with the way the sports writers dealt with Tim Henman. Extremely average tennis player who failed to win anything of note and was never going to. But, with a little help from the BBC and the red tops the general public were convinced that Tiger Tim would win Wimbledon, only to be disappointed when the journeymen that he was failed to win a competition he had no right to win. Whilst i'm at it i'll add to my point the way the world cup was similarly handled, we were never going to win and for the media to swing from "come on lads , do it for us" to "disgrace" was almost as bad and predictable as Englands performance.

  • Comment number 59.

    57. At 11:11am on 20 Feb 2011, PeteMcT wrote:


    To be honest, I dont even read the blog headline or the actual blog itself. I just jump right into the comments. Most of which are complaining about the blog ;-)

    Ridiculous that 606 is being shut down and we have to put up with these blogs though.

  • Comment number 60.

    Bebe wouldn't have made the Crawley team yesterday... To contextualise the idiocy of said signing, that's only £0.6 mil less than van der Vaart. As a perpetually optimistic Gooner, I know who I'd prefer Arsene to try and nurture...

  • Comment number 61.

    Oh, and with regards to my second / third team list:

    'Hernandez, Park, Gibson, Smalling, O'Shea, Brown, Anderson, Giggs or Nani (when Valencia returns), Fabio, Owen, plus Welbeck to return, maybe'

    I forgot Johnny Evans. But I think this is a good thing, is it just me or is he severely overated? Hopefully with Smalling looking good, Evans will leave soon. No pace, ball watches, clumsy, often looks like a deer in the headlights, I would rather have an ageing / injury prone Wes Brown as backup.

  • Comment number 62.

    Anyone who thinks Bebe or Obertan are good enough for Man United are deluded beyond belief. Bebe was woeful and Obertans only real asset is his pace. Phil also makes a good point about Carrick who seems to get worse with every passing game! Those 3 have to go in summer and I'm still not convinced about Gibson decent this decent showing. Good points about Cleverly, who is surely good enough to make the squad and also the performance of Wes Brown. Sort out whatever problem you have Fergie because he is still class! Keep up the good work Phil

  • Comment number 63.

    22. At 09:57am on 20 Feb 2011, Mo_AFC wrote:
    1. At 09:07am on 20 Feb 2011, oshealegend wrote:

    McNulty on the bandwagon again.

    Last time i looked United were in the next round, having played at low gear with a reserve side against a side for whom this was the game of their lives.

    That's something at present neither Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool or City can claim. We'll see how strong Arsenal's squad is today after chasing Barca shadows for 90 min midweek...

    Arsenal's second string team is WAAAAY better than Man Utd's and i think many people will agree with me on this


    yes as clearly shown when they got battered 10-1 by aston villa reserves a month or so ago!!!

  • Comment number 64.

    Some very poor performances and all credit to Crawley as Fergie said, they deserved at least a draw. Obertan and Bebe are not united quality, very poor signings indeed. Carrick needs to go, if he can't control the midfield against Crawley what chance does he have against Premier League opponents? I hear reports of Rodwell and Modric bids in the summer, time to re-invest in the midfield big time and those two would be great. Scholes and Giggs are still are best centre midfielders. That says it all, Glazers need to reinvest tht 80 mill fro Ronaldo. Rooney needs to start earning his quarter mil

  • Comment number 65.

    21. At 09:57am on 20 Feb 2011, philmcnultybbcsport wrote:
    As I pointed out very clearly, there is an element of a hiding to nothing about these games and United got the job done, but can you see the likes of Bebe, Obertan or even the disappointing Michael Carrick figuring when/if United get to the sharp end of the big competitions? I can't and I am happy to stand by my comments.

    I cannot see how any United fan could have been anything other than disappointed with the performances of some of the players who were given a big chance to make an impact.

    Bebe and Obertan in particular show no signs of developing into the sort of players Ferguson would trust on the big occasion.

    Let's just clarify this, Phil. Do you want to analyse the performances of each Utd player or just pick on Bebe and Obertan (as most posters on here do also)?

    Why not break this down a little?
    -Linegraad: Barely arrived and had little to do. No idea how he will turn out but Fergie is likely to buy a big name keeper in the summer.
    -Rafael: Established as a 1st team player and was fine before having to go off.
    -Brown/O'Shea: Hugely experienced internationals who are squad/utility players. Both started at the centre of the defence which is not where they usually get into the 1st team these days and both did fine.
    -Fabio: Looks as good as his brother if he could stay fit.
    -Carrick: Having a poor season and his place is in question if he doesn't turn things around.
    -Anderson: Has had some good games this season but can't quite establish himself as 1st choice.
    -Hernandez: Has done enough in his first season to show the quality that he has.
    Gibson: 5th in the midfield pecking order (6th if Hargo ever returns) and actually had a good game. Most Utd fans see him as just a squad player at best. Fergie may prove us wrong.
    Bebe/Obertan: Have not been at the sharp end of anything with Utd so far and, unless you're playing truant, you should realise as a journalist that these 2 are punts by Fergie. They only feature in minor cup games and will play no part in the run-in this season, as they have played virtually no part in the real business of the season so far. This is the type of game that Fergie uses to try them out. Nothing promising so far but few Utd fans think that they will make it at OT and whether they do or not will have no bearing on Utd's future.

    So the bottom line is this:

    GK: VDS, Kuz, Linegraad
    RB: Rafael, O'Shea, Brown
    CB: Vidic, Rio, Smalling, Evans, Brown, O'Shea
    LB: Evra, Fabio, O'Shea

    CM: Fletcher, Carrick, Anderson, Scholes
    Wide players: Nani, Valencia, Giggs, Park

    Strikers: Rooney, Berbatov, Hernandez, Owen

    That's 24 players without a mention of the up and coming experiments: Gibson, Obertan, Bebe or the on loan potential:

    Cleverly, Welbeck, Diouf, Macheda or even the reserve potential that was on the bench yesterday:

    Tunnicliffe, Pogba and King.

    As has been said, when you throw a mix of these players together you don't get any team cohesion but put them in 1s and 2s in with the first team and see how they do. Crawley were well-up for the game and deserve great credit but just like with Burton and Exeter in the recent past, drawing negative conclusions about Utd's back-up players in matches like this is a dangerous game.

    Back to you Phil, tell me where Utd are weak in terms of back-up (except midfield where all Utd fans have been saying for 2 seasons now needs strengthening). Is it just Obertan and Bebe you really have a problem with? These two are 5th and 6th in the pecking order for their positions, essentially experimental players that play no part in Utd's campaigns at this point.

    Either break it down Phil, or back off.

  • Comment number 66.

    I doubt we can take yesterday's game as any indication of United's squad depth. It seems that the FA Cup is losing it's glamour when the Premiership teams don't play with the intensity that they usually do, and who can blame them except fans who feel short-changed by a half-paced disjointed display?
    As for squad depth, Obertan is on a hiding to nothing being played in low-key games. Put him in the first team for a competitive match and see how he goes. He's got speed to burn and confidence is key to a winger, encourage him and set him loose.

  • Comment number 67.

    Could it be that United's reserves just played really badly and Crawley played out of their skins but still lost?

    Or am I not reading enough into a single one-off cup tie?

  • Comment number 68.

    Think it's true that United are down to the last rations Phil (how much longer can Scholes and Giggs go on?), but, perhaps because of the bubble that the Premier League has created for itself, I don't think you're giving enough credit to the football that goes on outside it. Yourself included I think, many people (usually from the traditional Sky 4) are saying this season is substandard, and this is why the PL is very tight, but have you considered that the other teams might have improved? OK, still a long way to go, but Spurs won at the San Siro and Arsenal beat Barcelona midweek, so has the standard gone down?

    Even non-league clubs a long way down the pyramid are increasingly well organised and fit. It looked like United believed that over 90 minutes Crawley would inevitably tire and make mistakes, because that's what's usually happened in the past, and the fitter United would be there to capitalise, but in fact quality was required, and without their star performers, a lot of United's pretenders weren't up to the required standard. No doubt the United first choices are a cut above, but I think it's particularly the finesse of Giggs and Scholes that has been central to United's success in the Ferguson era. How do you think United would have fared, and where do you think Ferguson would be, without these 2? How are United going to fare without them?

    It just so happened I bumped into a fellow Cheltenham fan at my local DVD rental shop in the south of Japan last night (it's true - he lives just a few minutes away) and he felt exactly like the Crawley resenters you've described above. He was hoping for a 9-0 United win. A fellow Cheltenham friend felt the same about the Max Griggs backed Rushden when we were still non-league. It didn't bother me then, and it doesn't bother me now, probably because I'm also a Man City fan. As Cheltenham showed by beating Rushden to League status, greater financial clout is no guarantee of success, but it does allow you to buy the extra quality in the final third required to make the difference at the highest levels. Often the extra quality is minimal, but it's a very expensive minimal. That's why Obertan and Bebe came on the 'cheap', and Dzeko and Balotelli, I'm hoping in the long run, didn't.

    No guarantees today against County, but no pudding of a pitch that we saw at Leicester, Birmingham and Notts County, or concrete bowl played on with one of those rubber bouncy balls you had as a kid, like at Aris, to help negate technical advantages. As all the opponents showed in these games, and Crawley against United too, remove that little bit of quality, and it becomes a much more 'level' playing field. City shouldn't expect County to roll over and die. As Crawley showed, victory will need to be earned, and probably require some QUALITY.

  • Comment number 69.

    Bebe = potential

    I personally am happy with the result and its the same with most FA and league cup ties, young players are used and as such will have no immediate cohesion because they don't usually play together.

    I will happily take staying in the competition, especially with the run of games we have coming up of which these players will have little to do.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think utd fans need to get off Phil's back and accept it was a truely dismal display. (was SAF please?)
    However, we have been here before and maybe this is what will be the final straw for some of our fringe players. I have complete faith in SAF.

  • Comment number 71.

    and p.s while i have always thought Bebe could not get into my local Sunday team, he played poor but i actually saw glimpses (as small as they were)that there might be something there to work with. ( i admit this may be more of hope than fact)

  • Comment number 72.

    This current United team is arguably the worst side since the early Ferguson days.
    As a United supporter it gives me no no pleasure in saying that I can see them ending the year empty handed.
    It says it all that a 37 year old Giggs, who can't go 20 seconds without giving the ball away, is holding a place down because there is no one better than him at the club.
    By the way, the real Bebe is running around a park somewhere in Portugal at the moment!

  • Comment number 73.

    The Bebe signing was the result of the faith Fergie has in Carlos Querioz, who United can thank for Ronaldo and Nani. If Bebe turns out to be as useless as the performance yesterday, then two out of three aint bad. He does look shocking though!! That being said, I bet Bebe ends up looking better business than Torres for £50m to Chelsea - (how many shirt sales wil there be if they don't make champs league??)

    It was obvious before yesterday's game that United need to recruit in certain areas. What's the big deal?!

  • Comment number 74.

    As a United supporter I have to say I was extremely disappointed with the performance.

    Congratulatios must go to Crawley Town for, literally, playing the game of their lives. They gave it their all, and deserve to feel proud.

    I have maintained for a long time - and been shouted down (and at) by the many one-eyed Man United "FANS" (not necessarilly supporters) who disagree - that we have a large squad but little strength in depth in vital positions.

    We have regularly seen this season that, without Giggs/Scholes/Nani we have no creativity in midfield. Given the ages of Giggs and Scholes this is extremely worrisome.

    United may have bossed the 1st half, but never really had the creativity to create many clear-cut chances from their possession. The few chances and half-chances that were created were not taken in the clinical and efficient manner to be expected of the Prem Leaders.

    In the 2nd half United were outplayed, and made to look very ordinary, and I doubt that SAF will be very complimentary to the players behind closed doors.

    It was Crawley Town who made the game memorable, and they deserve the recognition.

    As for them being "disliked" and "unpopular" in non-league circles, it seems that jealousy makes people nasty. Manchester United deal with more than their fair share of similar from the ABU brigade. As the non-league bearers of the "Red Devils" moniker, Crawley are probably used to it and also don't give a rats' ...

  • Comment number 75.

    Yamser - have you been watching Giggs this season? Giving the ball away every 20 seconds??

  • Comment number 76.

    To demison...I take your point about Bebe and Obertan being squad players, but at a club like Manchester United with the demands made and the trophies they hope to win, squad players need to be able to come in and perform at elite level. Do you think Bebe and Obertan have that quality? I don't at this moment.

    It is nothing personal against either and Ferguson presumably believes they have something, but whereas you can see what Hernandez has, and also was Nani had even when tended towards the show pony, I am not certain what Bebe or Obertan bring in terms of additional quality, or even like-for-like replacement quality.

    I will be happy to be proved wrong.

    Crawley fans. Let's hear your thoughts on your team. And surely even fans of other non-league clubs who clearly have no time for Crawley or their manager Steve Evans must have a measure of respect after yesterday. Let me know.

  • Comment number 77.

    What's this? More predictions of United's demise? From the same people who at the start of the season were asking "just who is going to stop Chelsea?"

  • Comment number 78.

    Hotdog - what about Valencia? Surely his crossing is something to have optimism about. How many of Rooney's goals last season were set up by Valencia?? He also had what seemed to be a ridiculous price tag - but I reckon if he can return from injury as the same player then that price will be fully justified. Surely benefit of the doubt goes to SAF

  • Comment number 79.

    i watched the game and firstly i have to say well done to crawley for a sterling performance. it is clear that this team, put together at great expense for conference level standards, will soon be a league 2 side and will probably continue to move up the leagues if the investment continues.

    as i was so tired after returning from a trip to the states i simply couldnt stay awake for any post match interviews and i still havent seen SAF's take on things. so if anyone knows different from what im about to say then im happy to be corrected.

    it looked to me that anderson got a knock quite early and had to receive treatment on the sidelines. im wondering whether this accounted for a fairly quiet display from him and why he was subbed at half time. then you had both rafael and fabio getting injured quite early in the 2nd half resulting in JOS, who had done quite well at CB in the 1st half, having to move to RB and then his less favoured LB. this, im sure, disrupted a team that looked quite comfortable in the 1st half, especially after scoring, and probably expected to dominate the game 2nd half.

    the most impressive united players in the 1st half were darron gibson, hernandez and the back four.

    however, crawley's determination coupled with the disruption of the forced changes meant that united's 2nd half display was very disappointing. the players most at fault were obertan and bebe who im sure would have both been subbed without the injuries to the other players. they wasted a lot of posession and SAF tried to do what he could by firstly getting them to swap wings and then put obertan back on the left with bebe moving more central and hernandez moving wide right. also rooney's performance was disappointing. he started quite well but got increasingly frustrated as the game wore on and deservedly saw yellow for a poor challenge.

    As a united fan do i agree with phil's judgement that this shows the frailty of united's squad? well yes and no! yes there are some players who dont seem to be progressing and in games like this where there are wholesale changes and a large number of 2nd string players playing at the same time, look out of their depth. no because a lot of the same players look better when they are slotted in with mainly 1st team players around them.

    also there are positives as others have mentioned: smalling continues to impress and was outstanding, one stuid foul apart in the 2nd half. hernandez showed great energy, rafael and fabio both looked good in the first half, wes showed that he can still do a job if required, and JOS again showed his versatility. gibson, 1st half, showed he can actually make some great passes, something i have been critical of in the past.

  • Comment number 80.

    Near the end of last seans McNulty was criticising Man Utd's lack of squad depth. Then at the start of the season he started to suggest we had squad depth and now... fickle?

    If you had bothered to watch any of the reserve matches you would see what Bebe is about (and his position is not that of a winger as Sir Alex has already stated). I also recall you stating that Obertan "was the real deal" when he first appeared. Granted he has not progressed but there is still time and he lacks match experience and (most importantly) confidence - he played better after our goal.

    Unless Man Utd won 3-0 it was never going to be an experience to savour. It was also clear that most of the players were treating it as a reserve match with Crawley treating it as the game of their lives. The first half was a pleasure cruise... they had zero chances and we could have been up by a couple more, had that happened it would have been a cricket score. Instead Crawley played out of their skins and gave it their all, while Man Utd continued to cruise. But even then they only got two efforts on goal for the entire match! Yet the press seem to have got it into their FA cup romancing minds that Crawley completely outplayed Man Utd. The truth was Man Utd's reserves didn't even have to get out of first gear, nevermind second gear.

  • Comment number 81.

    To demison...I take your point about Bebe and Obertan being squad players, but at a club like Manchester United with the demands made and the trophies they hope to win, squad players need to be able to come in and perform at elite level. Do you think Bebe and Obertan have that quality? I don't at this moment.

    Do you think clubs get it right every single time they sign a young player? You could go through every squad in world football and pick out 5 or 6 who aren't up to standards required.

    Bebe, bought as a striker, stuck on the wing. Obertan has given it a go, but looks like coming up short. People have completely lost touch with youth development and the time it takes, thanks largely to ill informed knee jerk blogs like this one

  • Comment number 82.

    While it wasn't the best blog i have ever read, im not sure it deserves all this criticism. Yes united werent great, and again fergie has put a team out that just about win the match - his skill for doing that is admirable, but lots of united fans collectively have pretty much proved phils point for him. Between them they have decided that the following players arent good enough for manchester united, or are now past it, however good they once were:

    brown, o'shea, fabio, anderson, gibson, obertan, bebe, carrick, and several passing mentions that perhaps rooney should be sold. This is 9 players all of whom played yesterday. If these players arent good enough for united then who do you have left? Smalling had a good game yesterday, but on previous occasions i have seen united fans giving him some stick too. United fans dont seem to like evans either, and giggs and scholes, while playing brilliantly now, can't go on for ever. Hargreaves and owen are forever injured, and valencia has been out for a while... This doesnt leave many players who arent in the first team...

    Before someone now points out that united are still top of the league, i realise this, but there are many seasons when the form that they have shown wouldnt have been enough, and its not just about the premier league this season. What happens if chelsea come out of their rut next season, or city start to gel as a team (unlikely I know) and arsenals forever young team comes of age (again unlikely given wengers preference for bringing in more young players each season).

    I will also say that its not just united that I think have a lack of strength in depth, I think a fair few of the PL teams have the same problem.

  • Comment number 83.

    Before someone now points out that united are still top of the league, i realise this, but there are many seasons when the form that they have shown wouldnt have been enough

    So a side that are chasing a 4th league title in 5 years are in a false position because of the form of the chasing pack?

    Use Brain. Then post.

  • Comment number 84.

    Fully fit United 1st team and bench (clearly subjective)

    Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Rafael, Giigs, Nani, Scholes, Fletcher, Berbatov, Rooney

    Subs: Brown, Anderson, Carrick, Hernandez, Valencia, Smalling, O Shea.

    I'm more concerned about the man between the sticks!

  • Comment number 85.

    Do your research Phil. A little background on Bebe would show anybody that todays game was a battle he couldn't win.A 3rd division Portuguese leauge isn't exactly the same style as low league english football. Crawley came out trying to battle our side, Bebe isn't used to that physical side and has never learnt how to use his weight to keep possession. On that evidence alone you see it was impossible for him to play well yesterday. There are other reasons but I won't go into them now, I've already wrote a 606 on it. He's a good player, but he'll need a lot of time. Remember Drogba didn't start to look great till near his 30's!

  • Comment number 86.


    I didnt say that, I purely meant that just because united are top of the league doesnt mean that they have a squad of 25 world beaters

  • Comment number 87.

    although bebe was poor to judge him on the basis of a couple of appearances is harsh, obertan on the other hand was awful, having raw pace does not make you a good player and his final ball throughout the night was average at best. I have seen Gibson a number of times this season and despite having a good game against Crawley town he is often overshadowed by his midfield teammates, although he has a good shot to his game he does not possess any of the qualities to be able to control the midfield and i do agree that the once talented michael carrick is now a shadow of the player who was tottenham best midfielder for a few seasons,I personally would love to see either schweinsteiger or modric in that position and as a future replacement for scholes.

  • Comment number 88.

    Yesterday was the first time I can undestand some Stretford Enders leaving early, it was dire. United played like a team that knew they would win the game without having to even try and played exactly like that, without trying. Bebe was dreadful but is playing out of position and Obertan hasn't progressed at all from last season.

    A dreadful performance, but we're through. That's all that had to happen at the end of the day. Onwards to Wednesday.

  • Comment number 89.

    Kapnag I think you need to pipe down and realise that you do have some average players in your squad

    The one thing you have though within your team is belief. Which we dont have so for all your average players lack of ability, they make up for it with determination & desire. You can thank SAF for that.

  • Comment number 90.

    People aer making a lot out of the fact that Fergie never saw Bebe play... but he never saw Hernandez either. Thats why United have scouts. It is a bizarre deal but if its true that United bought him. Fergie was quick to outline his plans for him. This season was about getting him acclimatised to England, both in terms of football and of course living. Lets not forget that this is a guy who was homeless so moving to a new country with wealth is a pretty big deal! Next year Fergie plans to loan him out to gain experience and further develop his football knowledge.

    United were disappointing, Rooney, Bebe and Obertan in particular. To be honest I thought the twins, Brown and Smalling were excellent. Up until his injury, Rafael in particular looked superb.

    For the likes of Obertan, Bebe and Fabio, this is a very new experience. In the Reserves or at previous clubs they won't have played opposition that are so fired up and getting stuck into you. It is going to be hard for them. Take Obertan. Some of his best performances have been in Europe or against Premier League teams. However when playing a team that is after more than a just a point, a team that is having a once in a life match, he struggles.

    The senior United players out there did look to be just "getting on with the job", not fighting tooth and nail like Crawley.

    Also lets stop the "United were hanging on" nonsense. Okay it is nice to romanticise about the non-league side battering United but aside from the effort that hit the bar (which the keeper nearly had fingers to and may have saved), they didn't create a great deal. As they pumped the ball into the box, Smalling/O'Shea and Brown headed it back out. Just like how Mills did in the first half. At no point did either side really overwhelm each other.

    This was the game of their lives for Crawley Town. They fought amazingly and deserve credit. It was something new for United's foreign youngsters, hopefully they'll learn from it.

  • Comment number 91.

    Please Please Please can somebody else take Phils' job!?!?

    Any chance to take a pop at Utd and he's there, we WIN the game n he's still there sticking his ore in. This rediculous as it happens every week now.

    How can we have such a bias columnist?!?!

  • Comment number 92.

    Kapnag I think you need to pipe down and realise that you do have some average players in your squad

    The one thing you have though within your team is belief. Which we dont have so for all your average players lack of ability, they make up for it with determination & desire. You can thank SAF for that.


    ANd chelsea don't? I said quite clearly - EVEYONE HAS WEAK PLAYERS IN THEIR SQUAD.

    Why don't you look at Chelsea's form for the last 15 games in the premier league as proof of that. Old squad, inadequate replacements.

    I'd love to know where I've said United are rammed full of world class players throughout their squad. I'm making the point that youth players don't often come into their own until 23-24. Sometimes even 26. Unfortunately, football fans these days know very little about the game

  • Comment number 93.

    I am a Stretford End season ticket holder - are there any others who actually go to OT who think Gibson is any good or is it just those who see the TV games?
    I felt a couple of years back that Gibson needed elevating above Carrick, unfortunately he just hasn;t kicked on. We see flashes such as surging forward runs, great shots, and the range of passing he showed yesterday. But the reality is he's 23/24 and by that age, players should be established. I just can't see how he will improve and become so consistent that he commands a regular game. Cleverley should get a shirt next season and probably will do at the expense of a hargreaves, gibson, and carrick as I would imagine 2 of the 3 will be gone. Love to see a Modric type in there. Still on midfielders, as much as I like the energy and positive play of anderson, he doesnt actually give us any end product and I'm surprised why fellow utd fans are so in love with him. He has a good chance dont get me wrong and I like his qualities but he has to show more and dominate games, be influential etc.

    Massive summer coming for us as it may be the end for VDS, brown, carrick, hargreaves, scholes(?) owen, obertan/bebe.

    Response to the TS, I think most utd fans expected us to win with problems!!! That being said, I thought that Brown was good as were the Da Silva's. Rafael may just have saved Fergie a lot of money this summer as he's improved so much this past few months. Unfortunately his bro is behind evra and when he does get a chance he doesnt last long...perhaps a premiership loan next season is the way to go? All in all, a disappointing performance but how many times have we played badly this season? Big games coming up and hopefully we'll start to see a settled side in the prem and champs lge.

  • Comment number 94.

    Going on a message board and offering an opinion which is not hysterical in the extreme is a risky tactic, but bear with me.
    Firstly, I'm a United fan and can't understand why some fellow fans are getting so shirty about Phil's criticism of our reserves.
    They were poor. Phil watched the game. He thought they were poor. He said so.
    I don't want any journalist pandering to my team. I want them to give an honest appraisal of what they see.
    In mitigation, you very rarely see the best of Premier League players when they are faced with resilient, committed lower tier opposition - witness Arsenal's struggles against Leeds and Ipswich this season.
    It is also true to say that it is difficult for a group of players to shine when they are given so few opportunities to play together.
    That said, there seems to be a big gap in the development (or maybe just the ability) of some of our young players compared to others.
    For example, Hernandez had little to go on yesterday but still looked relatively sharp and committed, while Smalling impressed when he came on.
    However, Obertan and Bebe were desperately poor. I'm not for one minute going to suggest throwing all our young players on the bonfire if they fail to shine against Crawley but Fergie, as he has done so many times in the past, will need to decide which can become good players with a bit of work and which are not going to make it.
    We could easily have written off Nani and Berbatov if we'd judged them on their first season.
    My gut feeling is that Obertan doesn't have the character, and probably not the ability, to make it at this level. Gibson did ok yesterday but seems to be a poor man's version of Carrick (hardly glowing praise given how Carrick's star has waned).
    I can't see those two making it but I'm going to reserve judgement on Bebe. I can't honestly say that I've been impressed so far but Ferguson, and Queiroz who recommended him, aren't mugs.
    Whatever happens, though, it is clear our reserves aren't yet at the level they need to be at.
    If we're going to win the league, we're going to need the likes of Evra, Vidic, Ferdinand, Giggs, Rooney, Berbatov etc to stay fit, and then we urgently need to bring in a top quality central midfielder or two in the summer.
    Do that and I think the paranoia over the quality of our reserves will dissipate.

  • Comment number 95.

    Yes we played poorly, but we still won. Hasn't that been the story of our season? Bebe has played, what 5 times since coming to United? It is far, far to early to judge him. Obertan is a conundrum, you see the talent he has but his decision making is extremely poor. In him i see a less talented but still potentially good Nani. Give the boy time, i wrote off Nani years ago. I called for his head every summer but now look at him, the same may happen to Obertan.

    There were pleasing performances tonight, Smalling looks like the future of our central defence, Gibson, despite the critics, is one of my favoured youth players. Hernandez ran and ran and ran some more but is definitely not a lone striker as he essentially was yesterday. Fabio and Rafael, the future at full back, Rafael is first choice right back while Fabio is second left back after the best left back in the world.

    There is quality in this youth team, Cleverly continues to impress on loan, as does Welbeck and Diouf. Macheda is also a great prospect. In 3 or 4 years this youth team with players like the above along with Will Keane, Magnus Eikrem, Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba all extremely talented young players.

    There is a weakness in midfield, but not for long, with Rodwell hopefully coming in from Fulham. Just you watch, this youth team is going to rule English football for years to come, just not quite yet.

  • Comment number 96.

    *It is a bizarre deal but if its true that United bought him because other clubs were interested, well there must be a reason.

    One last thing. Lets not forget that bodging a team together leads to players being unsure of what your team mate will do. Much of United's poor possession came from misreading intentions and alike. Lack of game time together will do that to you.

  • Comment number 97.

    83. At 12:16pm on 20 Feb 2011, Kapnag wrote:
    Before someone now points out that united are still top of the league, i realise this, but there are many seasons when the form that they have shown wouldnt have been enough

    So a side that are chasing a 4th league title in 5 years are in a false position because of the form of the chasing pack?

    Use Brain. Then post.


    well said, united seem to be judged on a seperate criteria to everyone else.

    the number of times i have seen people post on 606, or other forums, that if united win the league then it will be because the rest are poor and not because they deserve it, is numerous. i wonder if arsenal go on to win the league, people would say the same? also didnt the excellent performances of spurs and arsenal (against, if you believe the hype, the best club side in the history of football) dispell this myth of the standard of the PL being poor? sorry, i know this is off topic slightly but the question does remain that if united are so poor then why do we see them top of the league by 4 points, into the 6th round of the fa cup, top their CL group (after playing similar type sides to yesterdays in 3 of their 6 group games)?

    many abu's will point to luck/refs/fergie time/political unrest in egypt/global warming or whatever. but the fact is that united have, like yesterday, been just good enough to be where they find themselves. a lot of credit has to go to SAF for instilling such a fantastic winning mentality in his players, but lets have it straight, united are not as bad as some would have you believe. maybe not as fluent, or exciting, or inspirational as previous vintages i agree....but poor they are not.

  • Comment number 98.

    Utd put out 8 reserves, including the 3rd choice keeper, & still won. If Fergie thought Crawley had any chance at all he'd have picked a better team despite the nice things he said about them to the press. In the next round the odds are Utd will face Premier league opposition. Look at the line up for that game compare to this to show how highly he truly rated Crawley. Crawley gave it everything but all they really got was a day out for the players & fans at the best stadium in the football league.

  • Comment number 99.

    *oops, meant Everton

  • Comment number 100.

    One extra point, re Rooney.
    His performance yesterday convinced me, once again this season, that he is in a deeply dark place personally and his love of football has dipped significantly.
    After failing to get involved in the match, he produced a disgraceful hack which could quite easily have resulted in a red card.
    When he is on song, he is a joy to watch, not just because of his ability, but because of his evident enthusiasm for the game.
    However, watching him like this is painful.
    It seems a strange thing to say as a United fan, but it might actually have done him some good if the ref had sent him off.
    Refs don't stand up to Rooney's ill-discipline, and if he did get the odd red card, it would force Rooney and Ferguson to address the situation and hopefully get him back on track.
    When Chelsea were five points ahead earlier this season I said the only way we stood a chance in the league was if Rooney stayed fit and on fire.
    Incredibly, we're four points ahead without him playing well, but Arsenal are getting stronger, and we definitely need him back to his best by the time we go to The Emirates. That game will decide the title.


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