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Man Utd centre-backs face crucial test

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 11:30 UK time, Friday, 18 March 2011

Think of title-winning teams and you can easily recall the centre-back partnerships involved: Hansen-Lawrenson, Bruce-Pallister, Terry-Carvalho.

The problem for Manchester United is their current centre-half duo - Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic - are both injured at a time when the Premier League race is reaching its climax.

In their places, manager Sir Alex Ferguson is likely to call on Wes Brown and Chris Smalling against Bolton on Saturday as he did against Marseille on Tuesday. The pair have chalked up only six starts in the same team, with Brown often playing at right-back, and only two at the heart of United's defence.

"Centre-backs are totally about partnerships," says former Liverpool defender and Match of the Day pundit Alan Hansen.

"So when it comes to gelling a couple of guys who have hardly played together - one who is inexperienced and one who hasn't played a lot of games - it's not going to be easy.

"It depends on who is involved, but if you have two guys who are good players and instant hits it still takes you six months to form a solid partnership. And I mean six months minimum and that is playing 40 games.

"You've got to know where your partner is going to go, how he is going to go and whether you go with him. Then there is what line you are going to take, how far back you are going to go, who goes for the ball and who covers. They are all questions that take time to resolve."

During the Champions League victory over Marseille, as well as the defeat by Liverpool two weeks ago, there were worrying signs that the centre-back bond between Brown and Smalling was frail.

And the issue has been exacerbated by hamstring problems picked up by right-backs John O'Shea and Rafael in the European tie.

But although they will be tested by Bolton forwards Kevin Davies, Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge this weekend, a home fixture will mean United are likely to dominate possession and chances for Bolton's strikers will be limited.

There may also be reasons to be upbeat from the fact that Vidic's calf injury does not seem to be as serious as Ferdinand's. Past evidence suggests Manchester United are more affected by losing the Serb than the England skipper.

Surprisingly, there is little difference in terms of goals conceded, goals scored or United's win percentage when both Vidic and Ferdinand start compared to when neither is available.

That may be explained by facing inferior opposition but take only Vidic out of the team and the average number of goals conceded per game jumps from 0.69 to 0.91.

Take Ferdinand out of the equation and the jump is from 0.72 goals per game to 0.78.

"Obviously, when you have Ferdinand and Vidic together then they are the best option," says Hansen. "I actually think Ferdinand is the better centre-back but if you are going to lose one you might say that Rio might not be as badly missed because of Vidic's leadership, his last-gasp defending and his ability in the air.

"Manchester United have been vulnerable aerially when Vidic hasn't played and against Bolton they could have Fabio and Patrice Evra, who aren't the tallest players, as full-backs.

"Bolton have got Davies, Elmander and Ivan Klasnic, so manager Owen Coyle will be saying 'every chance you've got get in the box and test them out'."

Smalling, who was playing for non-league Maidstone until 2008, could now appear in the Champions League quarter-finals against Chelsea next month, so the 21-year-old is having to do a certain amount of learning on the job.

Brown, on the other hand, is now 31. Despite a career blighted by injury problems, could his experience not shepherd Smalling through games?

"Smalling needs a Vidic-type figure or a Ferdinand beside him to talk him through how to play the game," Hansen adds. "He looks like a star of the future but centre-back play is not really about the individual. If you've got a regular back four and you've got a kid coming in, he'll be the one who is out of sync.

"I have always thought Brown was a decent player whether he is playing at right-back or centre-back. But Wes hasn't played a lot of matches for a long time and he is not the same kind of figure as Vidic or Ferdinand, so he has to look after himself. He can't go looking after Smalling as well. It's the same if Jonny Evans comes in."

Bolton have been buoyed by the loan signing of Sturridge since he joined them in the January transfer window.

Just as their season looked like it might be beginning to stall the former Chelsea striker scored in each of his first three games and Coyle's side have since gone on to reach the FA Cup semi-finals after beating Birmingham.

The 21-year-old's arrival has given a different emphasis to Bolton's attack, with player touches from the recent victory over Everton and the Trotters' defeat by Chelsea showing the different areas he occupies compared to Elmander.

Sturridge has given Bolton a threat higher up the pitch

When alongside Davies, Sturridge is more likely to play on the shoulder of the last defender, with the Bolton skipper dropping into deeper areas to receive the ball.

The problem beforehand was that Davies and Elmander often occupied the same space and, with neither blessed for pace, Bolton could not stretch teams as much as they would have liked.

Sturridge has changed that and now Elmander often comes in off the right, meaning Bolton have several options in which to change their point of attack.

"Manchester United are at home so you would expect them to dominate the match but a combination of height and pace is the more difficult one to play against because on the one hand you have to keep the big men away from the box and then on the other you need to defend deep to negate the pace of Sturridge," Hansen says.

"You want to clear up the pitch so the big guys are away from the box but then you are so susceptible to pace because you are leaving space in behind. It's a difficult one to get right. The good news is that it's so much easier at home. If you're away from home, that's where the problems arise."

With trips to West Ham, Arsenal and Blackburn still to come for Ferguson's side, Bolton may not pose the biggest test for Brown and Smalling, should injury problems to Ferdinand and Vidic mean they keep their places.

But if Coyle's improving team can take some of the chances that were presented to Marseille on Tuesday then it could prove to be another nervy encounter for United.

You can also discuss more tactical issues and suggest future ideas on Twitter


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice one, there is actually some good points on this blog some of my readers may find this useful, I must send a link, many thanks.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't like Man Utd.

  • Comment number 3.

    All the more important that United get their attacking game sorted to ease the pressure and spotlight on the defence.

    We don't do a great job of protecting the defence this season, especially when we play 4-4-2 (especially when it has the ageing Scholesy in it), so its not a case of just looking at the defence but also the central midfield.

    Often this season we've seen Rooney at numerous times in games filling at left midfield when Giggs goes for one of his adventures through the middle. Against Marseille, for the last 1/3 of the game in the second leg, we saw it happen. Goes to show the importance of the midfield in defending as well as the problems with playing Giggs and Scholes in a 4-4-2

    They still bring something to the table, in terms of attacking, the legendary pair Scholesy and Giggsy but in a 4-4-2, defensively, these days, they have their weaknesses and it has a impact on the side.

    I understand the focus on the centre back pairing but their lives would be made easier if United didn't have their problems in midfield.

    Vidic is the better defender but Rio is the one, in my view, that brings it all together at the back and the side has a more composed look about it, not Vidic.

  • Comment number 4.

    Nah, no need to worry. With the United attacking threat at home, we should get a win. An easy win as well.

    United to win 3-1, Hernandez to get another brace!

  • Comment number 5.

    Not delighted with Chelsea but thank God we didn't get Barca - with the state we're in at the moment I honestly believe we'd have received a hiding.

    Brown and Smalling need time and protection, luxuries that they will inevitably have to go without.

    The return to form of Rooney and return to fitness of Valencia will help, and if we could just get the lung-buster Park fit enough to help out in a middle three (Fletcher, Carrick and Park - dodgy but could do a job in the short-term, flanked by Nani and Valencia), that might see us through for a while. But as discussed to death on other threads, a rebuild of the centre midfield is desperately needed in Summer.

    We have real problems.

  • Comment number 6.

    I would be anxious that Brown is not so confident about his role as he showed against the french. I have more faith in Smalling.
    However I think United are capable of showing enough attacking threat, I would like to see Rooney play in the centre of the park and have Berba and Hernandez up front. With Valencia on the wing I think United could go to town.

  • Comment number 7.

    A United fan, but I must say 'Scottish in the toon's response (no.2) made me laugh :)

  • Comment number 8.

    Agree slightly with post #6, once Brown plays a few games, his confidence will grow and hopefully put in some solid performances alongside Smalling. It can't be easy sat on the bench for most of the season and then have to produce world class defensive displays with little math time under his belt.

  • Comment number 9.

    end of the day smallings form with vidic hasn't got me worried at all. we obviously look better with ferdinand but smalling has reall surised me. imo theo if evans is fit i'd play him in the centre and move brown to right bk, thats how bad brown is right now. vidic's injury problem isn't serious, arsenal have got it just as bad so no escuses for us. we'll beat bolton and have vidic to return

  • Comment number 10.

    ferdinands a great player but theres no doubting the unit as a whole suffers far more when vidic is missing,he is the anchor of the entire team,let alone the defense and at present brown looks a poor substitute for him.

    smalling looks to be getting up to speed quickly with the different requirements in each competition but alongside brown anyone would look shaky,and fabio and evra are not naturally as good defensively as they are at surging forward so it puts a lot of pressure on smalling.

    i think,unless vidic is back for the chelsea tie,utd will really struggle.

  • Comment number 11.

    Don't like Chelsea either.

  • Comment number 12.

    Against Bolton, with all due respect to them, United will be hoping they wont miss Rio and Vidic too badly as they should be able to do enough at the other end of the field.

    After the Bolton game there's a break for the Internationals which hopefully from United's point of view will see the return to fitness of Vidic and even Evans to sure up the centre of defence.

    It is a slight worry though if Vidic should suffer a medium to long term injury, especially with Ferdinand forever on the injury list.

  • Comment number 13.

    take only Vidic out of the team and the average number of goals conceded per game jumps from 0.69 to 0.91.

    Take Ferdinand out of the equation and the jump is from 0.72 goals per game to 0.78.

    What was the orignal figure taken from? Surely your not comparing the same things if the first figure is different?? I'd have thought the right comparison would be the first figure being the games Rio and Vidic have played together (therefore the same for both comparisons), then the second figure in each would mean a little bit more?!

    Although this comparison is also massively flawed - when Rio is out, Smalling is a similar type of player, so compliments Vidic better than he does Rio, therefore it is likely that the figures would be worse when Vidic is out, as the defence is not as balanced.

    Seriously tired of stats like this, just for the sake of having some stats in an article.

  • Comment number 14.

    I wouldn't be surprised if United started with Vidic against Bolton. Ferguson seems to enjoy creating this illusion that we've got injury problems to let teams feel like we're weakened. It's probably more worrying when ferguson doesn't say we've got injury problems. There was hardly any talk from ferguson highlighting our midfield injury problems before the arsenal game and then we all saw the starting line-up!

  • Comment number 15.

    ON the partnership of Brown and Smalling, which is the point of the articel I suppose, Smalling has been a revelation this season, Brown is now a liability. When he was younger, he had the pace/athleticism to recover from his awful positioning/over commitment to challenges. Now he just gets caught out positionally constantly. His distribution is also not at the level it was as recently as 2008. Basically, he's not good. I think Fergie needs to try Gill or Wes' little brother. There inexperience can't make them any worse than Wes right?

    One thing of course that has bene mentioned many times, is the midfield. Would we even have this blog, if United had a proper defensive midfielder? Probably not. Midfield needs a real re-build this summer, and IF Fergie is not willing to chance some young defenders now, then they're never going to be good enough, so we will need some strengthening there too.

  • Comment number 16.

    For me, the problem is in midfield with Scholes out for two matches and United have only Gibson fit 100% for the bill. Rooney can player well in midfield but most of the time off striker and not sure about off two strikers with a bit more defending!

  • Comment number 17.

    'Wes' little brother'

    From what I have seen, I wouldn't try out Reece.

  • Comment number 18.

    No matter what the statistics, this is a considerably weaker central defensive partnership for Man U. Having said that, Smalling and Brown are both good players so have the potential to do a good job.

    You can't forget that Man U always seem to pull something out of the bag, so if I were a Man U fan I wouldn't fret too much.

  • Comment number 19.

    I dont know Giggsy - he reminds me a lot of Wes at that age, and that is a good thing if he can stay injury free. As I say, compared to big bro now, I'd take the punt myself! :)
    Although I said about Gill too, who is also in our CL squad remember. he must be due a chance soon?

  • Comment number 20.

    Watched him again last night and he was very poor. Gill was easily better.

    They'll be out on loan again next season me thinks. Reserve football is pants.

    De Laet (out on loan at Pompey) is probably the better player but is more comfortable at full back me thinks.

    to be honest, I am far more hopeful about the midfield and forward prospects we have in relation to making the grade, than the defenders.

    In relation to the central midfield problems, we got two good young players in Tunnicliffe and Pogba but obviously they are quite a way off at the moment, though you never know. I get the feeling Pogba finds it too easy at times and needs a tougher test, i.e., loan spell.

  • Comment number 21.

    The experience of Kevin Davies against the inexperienced Chris Smalling will be an interesting match up - but I think Owen Coyle and his side are going to be handed too much to deal with in Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez that will limit the opportunities to get a number of players forward to test Wes Brown and Smalling should they be the central partnership tomorrow.

  • Comment number 22.

    #20 - ah, havent watched last nights game yet. Yeah, like De Laet, but agree that he's a FB. My feeling is though, if they're not good enough at 19/20, then it's unlikely they will be after going out on loan to a lower league - effectively like playing in the reserves except getting kicked more (no disrespect intended to lower league teams - more competitive games and in fairness though, a lot of low-quality teams full of "rough"/"old fashioned" players), although admittedly more riding on the games.

    It's a shame Corry is more of a defensive midfielder now than a CB as he is excellent. He should be back for his chance with us next season, along with Cleverly. Then add Pogba and Tunnicliffe into the mix, and we do ahve some very good young midfielders. (add in James, Norwood and Petrucci too!).
    Up front, King and Cofie look bright, and Keane can score for fun. Barmby Jr is a heck of a player too!
    The one I'm most excited about though is th eone I've been raving about for 3 or 4 years now. People are starting to become aware of the kid this year - Ravel Morrison. :)

    BUT, after all that - with the exception of Evans and Cleverly, will these kids be ready to bring us glory next season - probably not - and more to the point, they're not likely to get the chance either like Beckhma et al did - that was special circumstances. I dont think fergie at this stage in his career, is willing to sacrifice a season to develop a large group of kids together. It'll be more when they're needed, we''ll test them - like Rafael and Fabio for example.

    Still, I'm excited for the long term future, the immediate future is unsure.

  • Comment number 23.

    I agree with 12!

    Be interesting to see who Davies targets as the weak link in the back four. He usually plays off one of the centre backs if he sees them as vunerable.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see him target Wes Brown.

    Still think United will have too much for them going forward tho

  • Comment number 24.


    Mentally, i.e., in terms of pressure and responsibility, playing competitive lower league football is far better than playing reserve football and a pretty important part of a player's development, in my view (re: mentally).

    Playing lower league football at Watford hasn't done Cleverley's development and is turning out to be a fine player indeed.

    Players sooner or later need to be thrown in the competitive end, rather than the friendly and cosy environment of reserve football.

    It does seem like we expose our young players to first team quite slow. Which has is benefits as well as drawbacks.

    Just need to be patient.

  • Comment number 25.

    'Playing lower league football at Watford hasn't done Cleverley's development'...oopsy....'any harm'

    I just think the likes of King would benefit from going out on loan and getting some pressure applied on them. As they seem pretty comfortable at reserve level. Reckon King will go out on loan again, hopefully he has a better season next season in terms of injuries. Injuries have been his problem in the last two years.

  • Comment number 26.

    #24, true with some players, the drop down has benefitted - Cleverly is a good example of that. But some players seem to go backwards with this method. Think, you spend years developing a player to play a certain way in the clubs philosophy, and then it can all get undone in the lower leagues. I'm thinking particularly of more technical players - like players who are good on the ball, but not lightning quick or big and strong. They dont get the protection from ref's in the lower leagues, where more (technically illegal) physicality is deemed acceptable when it isnt at the higher levels. The player either loses confidence, or changes the way they play for the worse.
    Think about it, how many of the young players we talk about coming up from lower league clubs - the Bale's/Walcott's/Chamberlain's/Wickham's - have not got either lightning pace, or are not very strong?

    That's my worry. It brings more negative's than positive's.

  • Comment number 27.

    Sooner or later, these technical players need to be able to cope with the physical nature as the PL has this, to a lesser extent.

    They need the physical test, the PL is physical, as well as the mental test that comes along with playing in a competitive environment.

    Yes, there are risks involved but for me, the kind of risks that have to be taken.

    Cleverley isn't lightning quick or strong but he is, pardon the pun, clever and that is what got him through that Watford spell. Him and Arsenal's Lansbury really did the business for them.

    Its not as if Fergie/coaches send the players to any old club. They think about what kind of club would be suitable for the players.

    Your never going to find a club that is a exact replica of the style that is in place at our club. Every club is different.

    Arsenal farm out plenty of young attacking players in the lower leagues but there is no club that plays like them.

    Its a risk but a calculated risk.

    I remember watching the reserve game against Villa earlier this season, they are best reserve side probably for quite some time. We had a central midfield trio of Eikrem, Evans and Morrison. Two of those being the two most technically gifted players we've had for some time (one of those gone now of course). Our central midfield was non-existent after the first 5 minutes. Partially because of Bannan but also because our midfield simply got over-powered, out-muscled and couldn't cope physically by the more physical Villa central midfield.

  • Comment number 28.

    Dont like Scots or Toons...

  • Comment number 29.

    Brown is a good player, and had potential to be a great one if it wasn't for injuries. Sir Alex himself said he could have been one of the best English defenders of his generation.

    However when he plays I can't shake the 'David James' feeling, that he at any given moment is going to do something calamitous.

  • Comment number 30.

    Notlob will come determined to show how well they can pass the ball and take united on. I expect united to be at it from the start. Don't agree at all that the central midfield has failed to give the defence the protection it needs, quite the opposite in fact, as shown by united's defensive record. Good point from AH about the pace/aerial threat poser, but i expect an early united goal would quickly lead to united sitting back and playing on the counter; fully confident that brown and smalling would relish the challenge of davies and co, and with rooney dropping in I can see United destroying notlob on the break in this game. course, the longer it goes with united not in the lead then the nervier it could become with sturridge's threat on the break for notlob. looking forward to the game, which i rarely do with this fixture. must win for united, going into the game at least.

  • Comment number 31.

    Smalling is a good young player, like him a lot from what I've seen, but it's a lot to ask to cover Rio and Vidic at his age, in games of such magnitude. I would worry about mistakes cos of inexperience. Brown has lost it now, the injuries and time spent as just a back up seem to have taken their toll. At home to Bolton though I think United will be alright. They'll cause some threats but on the whole I would expect United to come through.

    Agree with what has been said earlier though, I would be more worried about the midfield than the defence. They don't provide enough cover for the centre backs. It just puts Brown and smalling under more pressure than necessary. Scholes has never been great defencively, neither has carrick. fletcher is the best they have and even he isn't a traditional holding midfielder.

    I think United will probably get the title this year though, they can make up for deficiencies at the back their attack. Rooney getting better, Hernandez scoring, Nani and Valencia on the wings, they'll generally create and score more than the opposition. Add that with Arsenal's inabaility to perform under pressure and despite not having a great team, United's very good squad will get the job done.

  • Comment number 32.

    Dont like Scots or Toons...


    Word is they don't think much of you either!

  • Comment number 33.

    Some good points made in this blog but, as far as this season is concerned, the issue is not so much whether Smalling and Brown are a good partnership but whether they are better than Koscielny and Squillaci, who are both in their first Premier League season and had never played together until 6 months ago. As a Gooner, I'm afraid to say that it's Arsenal's central defence that looks more likely to drop points before the end of the season.

  • Comment number 34.

    Bolton are not Marseille but, yet again, Bolton's attackers could be more accurate than Marseille's. Brown and Smalling, when playing in central defence, both need Vidic or Ferdinand to guide them, as we've seen to our worry against Marseille.

    On the other hand, the game is at Old Trafford and, perhaps, SAF might field both Nani and Valencia on the wings. Lets home that they will provide too many worries to Bolton's defence for letting them attack a lot. Yet, it's still worrying. There is no more room for losing points.

  • Comment number 35.

    A few people have picked up already the issue with midfield defensively! Other than Hargreaves (yes, who?), United have no quality defensive midfielder and I agree with #15 that this article wouldn't even exist if they did!

    The centre back partnership is a problem though! I for one cant understand why SAF plays Brown in CB and O'Shea in right back?! Wes has more pace and I think is better on the ball whereas O'Shea is bigger and less prone to idiotic defensive play (which in CB costs you goals far more than at right back; such as Rafael's naivety all season!)

    If Vidic is fit GREAT, if not and O'Shea is then put him in CB and Brown in RB.. Even a half fit Evans would be better in CB than Brown! Though I wouldn't go as far to say Brown Jr. or Gill against an in-form Bolton, think that would be too much for a sub-standard and inexperianced CB..

    Last point would be to buy a quality DM next year; Rodwell would be brilliant, Huddlestone would be alright also..

  • Comment number 36.

    I think the dam is about to burst at Utd, they are getting too old for my liking and not being replaced soon enough.
    I dont rate Wes Brown as a Premiership player at all, he is a player that hides.
    I think Smalling looks an uncut diamond though.
    Ferguson is starting to lose touch. Hurrah.

  • Comment number 37.

    This weekend is massive in the title race even though the respective fixtures for both Man Utd and Arsenal aren't the toughest on paper.

    United injury worries and arsenals recent dip in form and confidence make for interesting games this weekend.

    The key for me though, and as a united fan, If we can get three points on saturday then hopefully we'll come out of the international break with some key players returning to the squad, although arsenal will be close to full strength themselves by then.

    Can help but feel, allegiances aside, that a full strength United squad (minus Rio and Hargo) will be good enough to win the league this year

    Massive game for the Brown Smalling combo or indeed the Evans Smalling combo this weekend, heads up lads!

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm a Man U fan in Nigeria, once lived in the UK. I have been reading blogs on this site for a couple of years and I have never been moved to make a comment until now. Our internet over here is a bit slow so it took me a while to register. Someone as already commented on it, but I thought the second comment ' I don't like Man Utd' was one of the funniest I have ever read. Short, sweet and totally irrelevant to the article.

  • Comment number 39.

    We have the Da Silva twins, Vidic, Rio, Evra, Evans and Smalling who are all very good defenders. Wes and O'Shea are around as good back-ups at right or left back. This should be enuf but let's get a back-up all purpose central man. What we really need are midfield players to replace the longtooths like Scholes, Giggs, Fletcher and the continually disppointing Carrick. Not convinced that Gibson is the one. As for the attack if Rooney stays on board and Sur Fergie gives Berba a match or two we are still very healthy with the Little Pea and the wondrous Nani.

  • Comment number 40.

    Yeh of course you can look at the injury list, and it does look like a shakey backline, but smalling is a good player and brown is a solid defender, i think it will still work,and i can't see united shipping many goals which is worrying but i still think that they will drop points along the way, arsenal just need to keep their concentration and keep working on our game and stop caring about what united are doing. If we do that then we will win the premier league, it is all about the results now at this stage of the season, i don't want us to change our style, but we need to become really aggressive especially at the start of games and dominate the matches and most importantly score goals early, once we go beyond 60 minutes without scoring then it becomes a mental game and we tend to miss loads of chances. We really need our top players who are playing to step up, like tomorrow, we need nasri and van persie to perform and get the goals.

  • Comment number 41.

    For tomorrow, it's quite simple : we can only play Fabio, Smalling, Brown and Evra in defence. Unless Evans makes a miraculous recovery, which he probably won't.

    There's talk about Carrick going back in defence but honestly if he doesn't know who to pass the ball when he's in midfield, he isn't going to illuminate the world switching to right-back. Scholes is suspended, which may see Rooney dropping in the middle, Nani and Valencia will occupy the wings and Berbatov and Hernandez will be the pairing upfront.

    The main advantage here is that we're playing at home, so we will have opportunities to attack. The point will be whether Sir decides to let Rooney roam in midfield and leave the attack to Hernandez and co. I think it's unlikely that he'll risk Park or Fletcher (they probably won't even feature).

    It's very difficult to know which Brown is going to show up : the solid one, or the accident waiting to happen ala Marseille.

  • Comment number 42.

    I can see if being a close game with Bolton, but then the international break comes in, which might be a life saver for them.

  • Comment number 43.

    Why are there so many calf and other type injuries to players lately??. Is it a lack of preparation or hard surfaces There has to be an answer, it is affecting a lot of teams Manchester United especially

  • Comment number 44.

    Scottish_in_the_toon......i would have thought being scottish and living in newcastle would give you more to whinge about then Man U.......oh, and malibay is in pasay city, philippines. say no more!

  • Comment number 45.

    I have had no faith in Hansen's 'football knowledge' since his infamous kids remark. Crap about need needing 6 months to gell reveals he hasn't moved on...

  • Comment number 46.

    I can see this game being a 1-1 draw, with Bolton scoring first...

  • Comment number 47.

    hope im wrong but think SAF will put out a weak team,injuries arnt as bad as he says,he,s a sheep in wolfs clothing,and before you have a go at me,man u supporter from about 58 yrs ago,just mad that we carnt put our point over thanks to BBC cutting out 606

  • Comment number 48.

    The combination of Davis, Elmander and Sturrage has proved to be difficult to contain especially when weconsider that our defence is not so strong at the moment. It's going to be difficult to stop them.

    However, with the present form of our attackers which will probably include Valencia, Rooney, Hernandez and Nani and the home advantage we'll definately be able to thwart away their attacking threats. May be we also have added adverntage of Scholes being out of the team today. IMO whoever is going to play in place of Scholes will definately assist more by giving enough cover to the defence including closing down of opponents, wining balls in the middle of the pitch and moving the ball much faster to strickers.

    Don't worry mates we are at home the theater of dreams let's support our team and have that usual confidence.

  • Comment number 49.

    The Bolton attack could present some problems for United's CB pairing, in particular the 'auld headed' experience and the 'bustling style' that comes with Kevin Davies. Much will depend on how 'sharp' United are up front and how much pressure can be applied to ensure defensive duties are paramount for the Bolton midfield, to prevent them serving up ammunition to their front men. SAF may also want to (at least) start with a mid field formation that offers some cover infront of the back four, something that was distinctly lacking against Liverpool. Its also perceivable Rooney will again play mostly as an attacking CM, rather than up front. Overall with the home advantage United should prevail.

  • Comment number 50.

    The score today answers the questions.
    While Vidic/Ferdinand is Man U's best option, that doesn't stop us winning amtches

  • Comment number 51.

    Red card aside, I didn't think Evans-Smalling made that many mistakes considering the lack of control we had in midfield. Though obviously, they haven't got the same composed feeling about them as Vidic-Rio as illustrated today.

    I thought Carrick had a solid game, impressive considering the poor performances from the other players. Giggsy is just too much of a free spirit these days to be playing in a 4-4-2.

  • Comment number 52.

    United defence is weaker without Rio and Vidic. The defenders now playing in place for them must be at their best form for the rest of season. Any silly mistakes by them will cost United goals and valuable points. Silly mistakes at the back has been the reason why United have dropped loads of points away from home this season. Defence was good today against Bolton.

  • Comment number 53.

    massive result for United under the circumstances

  • Comment number 54.

    This team this year is struggling and chugging tru this season with overpaid Rooney not helping much as expected with all his circus plus childish antics; and Ferdinand back problem and running slower than the young attackers.Paul needs to retire, Giggs maybe can hang on for next season as a sub. Smalling has a great future. O-Shea is loosing his stride,Vidic is doing ok. Give more exposures to the young up coming guards. Fletcher(great warrior) and Carrick is just doing fine. The Twin Jet Fighters D'Silva's has the MU blood, use them. Van Der Sar is always a good custodian but age is catching up. Owen is not a necessity. Praise to Nani(Alex needs to pay him more now). Bebatov is finally doing his job well(maintain him). Evera is doing fine.Chicharito(best buy 2010) is unselfish and a hard working soldier with better attitude compare to Teves and has produced instant results.Valencia needs more games. My salute to Sir Alex for creating and maintaining the standard in MU and stay focus(fit to be a King). My findings and proposal is even if MU tops the table this season they should find a way to off load Ferdinand and Rooney where they will be be able to cash in on younger,energetic non circus players. The old timers can only be used as substitutes in won games because MU has a great way to squeeze the best of all new youngsters to world class. Don't buy expensive players because they could be at their best before buying unless it is Andy Cole.

  • Comment number 55.

    MU has always entertain us under Fergie since his first day there ...and will always make our wish come tru...

  • Comment number 56.

    brown is past it. he has the same problems of neville but has had them all through his career, smalling who is next in line to ferdinand is a quality player but will need guidance but that would have to be from vidic. But it isn't the defence that is a huge worry, it is the midfield.

    fletcher is a good squad player but i have never seen him as anything more. we have needed two quality midfielders for a couple of seasons now. we could have had sneijder and for which my friends always raised eyebrows but now agree schweinsteiger. we are desperately lacking the authority in midfield and also the type of play scholes use to bring which i think sneijder would have provided.

    winning anything this year wont have as much shine to it, as it has been a very poor season. we have lost 3 but drawn far too many while the other teams have all lost 6-7 which in days gone by never would have won you the premiership but is looking likely this year. we have been lacking in midfield all season and it has been painful watching teams hold possession against us while for some strange reason we have started to play more like bolton under sam bowlofrice very direct and a bit long ball-ish

  • Comment number 57.

    Our depleted defence have done it again !

    They have proved that the team can defend strongly even without the much fencied Rio and Vidic. IMO we may be missing very much Vidic but not Rio at the moment is just an average player just like Scholes and Giggs, even if they are not available the team can still do well provided that SAF makes a good combination of the team.

    It has once again been proved that our problem is in the midfield not the defence. However, with the absence of Scholes the team played much better. Definately the return of Valencia in tne team has added speed and power in the team because unlike Nani he is a more direct player.

  • Comment number 58.

    Maybe start up on here?

  • Comment number 59.

    Now then


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