The defense? Could be better. The midfield? Nothing new about the problems there, each unit offering a different one. The attack? Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney started together for the first time, and made up for all those problems with some fantastic link up playing, including the second goal, bringing in much hope and promise for the rest of the season.
While Alex Ferguson works on handling all the injuries among his centre backs (Jonny Evans picked up a knock) and finding the right kind of combination in the midfield that offers both quality possession, intelligent play and actually enough speed and stamina to help the defense, he can be quite confident he has plenty of talent up front.
The strength of this squad is in attacking positions. If you look at the way they kept going to the end, they’re good crossers of the ball. They kept us under pressure the whole time and kept us on edge. The second goal was fantastic. It was a great ball from Wayne. I thought he had hit it too far in front of him.
But the speed to get to the ball and his deftness of touch were fantastic. We have a pair of really top players who can finish and change a game. There is always going to be an issue because everyone expects it to be a miracle combination. The strength of our team now is definitely in the forward positions.
If there’s one thing to be learned from the loss against Tottenham and the struggles in Romania against a dangerous counter attacking Cluj side, is that all of United’s strengths congest up front. The potential of their wing play is fantastic, and the Wayne Rooney – Robin van Persie combo offers so much in terms of creativity, because they’re both more than just one-dimensional, natural box-type strikers Both can play on the wings, both can create and set up goals. Rooney can even play as a midfielder or behind the striker to free up room.
The experiment with Javier Hernandez didn’t exactly work, as the Mexican, who isn’t someone too involved in the match anyway and usually gets his goals off rebounds or simply reacting quicker in the 5 meter box, didn’t see too much of the ball or do much with it when he did. But Ferguson was about putting the pressure on Cluj all match long, and having as many attacking as option as possible.
There are always defining moments during a season. Last year it was the 1-6 defeat to Manchester City, which taught Ferguson that he isn’t the manager of Barcelona, with United moving to an efficient style and putting the creativity, attractive play plans into a drawer. It almost won him another league title. This season, the first half against Tottenham might have been the moment of reckoning, realizing that he can’t keep playing like he has thus far.
Give up on the midfield in terms of hoping they’ll the main force in both attacking and defending; make Van Persie and Rooney the ones with more touches and possession, and hopefully Antonio Valencia when he comes back. It doesn’t always look stylish and fantastic as it might for other teams, but United need to keep the ball as far away from their goal as possible, especially with a suspect defensive puzzle and midfielders who are each flawed in his own way, and in the different combinations they offer.
Having both Van Persie and Rooney in top form (which Rooney still hasn’t hit) can make up for all of that, and put the defeats to Everton and Tottenham behind them.