Making the most of bad performances is an Alex Ferguson and Manchester United specialty, and although he does have plenty to be worried about regarding the performances of his team so far, knowing he has someone like Robin van Persie to save them on bad days must be reassuring.
As much as losing Wayne Rooney to an injury must be a big blow, United aren’t losing a beat with Van Persie in the lineup instead of him. It might hurt in terms of versatility and depth but when it’s about the short team, the Dutchman is at the moment a better player, and in much better form.
Not that United are in the clear. The defensive woes brought on by a team like Southampton must be quite worrying. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic had a lot of trouble handling Rickie Lambert on his own, suddenly looking a bit less physical and dominating in the air as you might expect from them. Vidic hasn’t played in a very long time, still coming back. Ferdinand? Maybe it’s just age (33) and wear & tear. Experience can’t make up for everything.
Carrick got to play in his natural position for the first time this season, although that didn’t make United look much better. Along with Tom Cleverley United did present an English midfield duo, something rare these days in the Premier League, but it didn’t look or work rather well. The pressure that Southampton worked in the middle, while United found it hard to work their wings, especially the left with Danny Welbeck in an unfamiliar position, made it even more of an achievement the United somehow came away from St. Mary’s with a win. Antonio Valencia was the only one who was actually playing well.
Hold on. What about Shinji Kagawa? A bad day for him as well, his first as a Manchester United player this season. His passing was off all match long, and couldn’t find anyone to work the 1-2 with and free up space for Van Persie or Danny Welbeck, who looked awkward on the left wing, not really managing to find rhythm and lanes into the middle of the box.
Everyone knows United are made for the final minutes. No matter the players in the squad. It’s Alex Ferguson and his presence, something about it. Nigel Adkins made a huge mistake by replacing the three players that were giving United all of the trouble, and pretty much conceded he was satisfied with the one goal lead, which is hardly ever enough against United, even on a terrible day.
Scholes was thrown in, and so was Javier Hernandez. Scholes made a huge difference in the way United looked a lot more confident on the pitch, with someone responsible moving the ball around and also deep. Nani added nothing, and has yet to put in a meaningful performance this season so far. Scholes, at 37, two months from his 38th birthday, is still Manchester United’s best option in the middle of the park.
This must be the most worrying sign for Alex Ferguson and Manchester United. You can’t ride an entire season on Scholes, but the rest of the group – Cleverley and Anderson just aren’t good enough. If Cleverley is returning from injury, Anderson is simply a walking disappointment every time he steps on the pitch. United’s goals and win had nothing to do with how good the players did – it was about scrambling and Robin van Persie making the most of the gifts given to him.
Entering the two week break might be good for Manchester United, despite the two consecutive wins. Van Persie is firing on all cylinders, but too much about the team isn’t. Ferguson probably needs Paul Scholes in the lineup, in front of Carrick and behind Kagawa, while hoping he’ll have Ashley Young back from injury after the international break.
Regardless of the tactics (which need improvement) and the way United have been playing, which needs improvement, Alex Ferguson has enough to be pleased about – His £24 million were spent wisely on a player playing the best football of his career, and without playing a single good match, United are with six points after three matches.