This has been the story of Manchester United this season – A defense that doesn’t do a bit to help the team and a very talented attack that needs to mount an impressive comeback time after time. This time, it was Javier Hernandez playing the hero, scoring twice as Alex Ferguson’s lads came back from an early 0-2 against Braga, only to win 3-2.
If there’s one team in the world that doesn’t surprise you when it mounts an impressive comeback, it has to be Manchester United. There’s something about the confidence on this side that is never really hurt or damaged, no matter who’s on the pitch. The van Persie – Rooney magic wasn’t there as it was in recent weeks, while making some changes in the defensive lineup didn’t really help.
Michael Carrick was just as bad as you would expect a player out of position to be, while Rio Ferdinand got rested (or punished for not doing Ferguson’s bidding) and some time on the bench. Ferguson actually admitted he has no idea on how to fix his team’s defensive woes, finding themselves falling behind for the 8th time in 12 matches this season.
I can’t get to the bottom of it I am afraid. If you analyse the goals we are losing, they have come from throw-ins, crosses, cut-backs, all sorts, and they are finding players free in the box. It is difficult to put your finger on it, and it is a concern because it is making it difficult for us.
It’s pretty simple to me – Speed, speed and speed again. The midfield was Tom Cleverly and Darren Fletcher. While Cleverly is the fastest of the midfielders unit Ferguson has, his defending has never been noteworthy, while you can’t expect too much from Fletcher. They did nothing to help United slow down Braga’s counter attacking, and only when the Unite steamroller got working did their offensive merits start showing. Cleverly knows how to push and was very mobile in advancing the team and helping set the pace for Rooney, Kagawa, Hernandez and van Persie.
And then there’s Hernandez, finally getting a chance to play and show his scoring ability, netting the first goal and the third, with Jonny Evans coming in between. He’s definitely less talented than RVP or Rooney and can’t contribute anything beyond goals, but he always seems to me like a much more dangerous player than Welbeck is, despite not being as versatile, with the ability to play on the wing.
Ferguson admitted that Hernandez scoring gives him a bit of a headache when it comes to his lineup, with the matches against Chelsea and Arsenal coming up: He has got me thinking – he and Van Persie and Rooney and Welbeck. I don’t know what to do with them, to be honest with you.
Feruson has problems. The diamond is not working for him, and fails to give him any kind of offensive advantage or help his failing defense, no matter the personnel. The 4-4-2 deployed in the second half, which plays to United’s strength much more, did much better. Against Braga, limited in their options to reach to change, it worked. Against a much more heavily equipped Chelsea side, falling behind so early might be a bit too much to overcome.