Sunday, September 02, 2007

Manchester United's Early Struggle

So the 2007/2008 season of the English Premier League has finally started. Being here in the United States though, I haven't been able to watch much of the early season action due to the fact that the coverage here sucks ass. They show mid table clashes that no one is really interested in and the times they do show the big matches, it's always at a time that I'm unavailable.

Anyway, Manchester United have been struggling to find their form early this season. After all that spending, you'd expect them to go flying off blocks, but that hasn't been the case.

I finally watched them labor to a 1-0 against Sunderland on Sunday and immediately it became apparent to me why they've been struggling.

1) Loss of key players

The loss of key players is bound to hurt any team at any level. The experience of Gary Neville at the back and the attacking edge given by Park Ji-Sung, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney have been sorely missed by the team. On Sunday, Park's hard running, Ronaldo's cutting runs and Rooney's strength up front would certainly have helped against an organized and hard working team like Sunderland.

The oldest form of defending: Putting men behind the ball.

2) Changing a winning team

One of the oldest sayings when it comes to sports is, "Never change a winning team". And history has proven that to be true. Just look at famous "tinkermen" like Claudio Ranieri, Rafael Benitez and Sven-Goran Eriksson. In this case though, Sir Alex Ferguson has been forced to make numerous changes to his team due to the loss of key players so early in the season. He would have wanted to bring new signings Nani, Anderson and Tevez slowly into the team by putting them on as substitutes as the season progressed. Instead, he's been forced to throw them right into the thick of the action much earlier than expected.

If you can't score, you can't win.

This was probably a key factor behind their derby loss to Manchester City. 3 players in the starting 11 had never played in a Manchester derby before. When it comes to derbies, this plays a role because players who have never experienced an English derby are usually either overwhelmed by the occasion and play badly or don't play with enough passion and tenacity as those who have.

3) New signings

Sir Alex Ferguson's 4 new signings haven't impressed at all despite their hefty price tags. The reason? They're still adapting to the English game. Traditionally, players from other leagues always take time before they adapt to the English league. The English league is much quicker, more physical and aerial in style compared to the other leagues in Europe. The league's legendary players like Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp took a while before their real talent showed. Cristiano Ronaldo finally shone last season after learning that doing 2000 stepovers a minute doesn't get you past defenders. And just look at Michael Ballack, who still hasn't justified his £121,000 a week salary.

The adaptability of the new signings will be crucial.

Nani and Anderson were signed from the Portuguese league and let's be honest here, the Portuguese league is full of diving, useless flair and play acting. Just look at FC Porto, their national team and how Ronaldo played when he first signed for Man Utd. Against Sunderland, watching Nani and Anderson struggle with a defender clipping at their heels before they got the ball was a clear indication of that. Not given time to hold on to the ball and do their fancy party tricks, they simply faded as the game progressed. Carlos Tevez may have played for West Ham last season, but after watching him on Saturday, I feel that he still hasn't adapted as well. On top of that, this season he has to adapt to Manchester United's style of play which differs very much from West Ham's. The English game's aerial nature and Tevez's 5'7, 1.7M stature, may be the stumbling block to overcome before he finally adapts.

It's still early in the season and while there may be still more twists and turns to come, falling behind this early is not an option a team going for the Championship can afford. Manchester United will be boosted with the return of Ronaldo from suspension and the international break coming up, Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping his players will come through the matches unscathed.

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Anonymous pattax said...

is the coverage in the US that bad? Somehow i notice America is quite slow to change in many aspects, sports codes, music and movie charts, politics.

10:39 PM  
Anonymous Glory said...

Can't wait to see lich bane kassadins in solo queue... Game of Thrones

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Game of Thrones said...

It's encouraging to witness this. then we'll really have something

1:01 AM  
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8:58 AM  

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