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Posted by Daniel Harris on 04/17/2010

There was a time when people thought that the Earth was at the centre of our universe, orbited by all the other objects. Even when this was disproved by Copernicus and Galileo, it was some time before anyone paid attention - entrenched beliefs are hard to shift. But eventually, it became impossible for people to query what they could see with their own telescopically-enhanced eyes, and theory became fact.

So when United, first against Chelsea and then Bayern Munich, supplied incontrovertible evidence that zest and pace are essential components of any cohesive football team, it was fair to assume that even stubborn old geocentric Fergie would accept what he once knew, but of course he did not. Though in the press conference prior to the Blackburn game we were warned of his likely selection, there remained the hope that it was yet another lie, but sadly it was not; the oldies were back, and unsurprisingly, they soiled themselves.

Still, at least Fletcher will be well refreshed for his summer holiday and O’Shea closer to what passes for match-fitness in time for his. Meanwhile Rafael - so outstanding in Europe - was once again left out, enabling the return of Gary Neville and the ball flipped aimlessly around the corner. It’s not even as though his youthfulness gives him the monopoly on stupidity, Neville’s needless handball ceding the free kick from which Munich scored their first-leg equaliser, but he was recalled nonetheless, no doubt on account of his “experience”. Or in other words, Fergie was worried about Blackburn. Yes, Blackburn.

Blackburn really is a horrible place, cold even when it’s warm, dark even when it’s light. Walking towards the ground, a carload of fat goths in football shirts momentarily distracted from the team selection, but 20 minutes later we’d all remembered again, watching Nani and Macheda perform the worst shooting practice in living memory whilst Berbatov wandered around artistically, understandably reticent to bother himself with such piffling trifles.

At least this time he was given a striking partner, though very much the wrong one. For now at least, Macheda’s limited all-round game makes him no more than a handy sub; stationing him on the shoulder of the last man to use the pace he doesn’t have was never likely to work, and the ball wasn’t in the box enough for him to exploit his knack for finding space.

Thus what ensued was a dull half, United dominating possession but with less edge than a velvet-covered circle. Fortunately events were livened up by a midget in a Blackburn away shirt, posturing in front of the United end for reasons best known to himself. And the thrills continued through the break, during which we enjoyed Blackburn’s goal of the season competition, the shortlist comprised largely of tap-ins, headers and scuffs.

The second 45 brought little improvement. It did, however, provide a vehicle for Sam Allardyce to prove once and for all that he can coach more than the traditional English stereotype - not only are his team remarkably well-schooled in the art of time wasting, but his ball boys too, continental sophisticates all. And how unfeasibly apt that a personality of such divine magnitude and humility be sponsored by a company called Zeus, the man himself no doubt flattered by the association.

As the half sputtered on, it became increasingly obvious that no one was going to score, the flow broken both by the concession of needless free kicks and fools in the away end hilariously hanging on to the ball after yet another crap shot. Chasing a game, even on the occasions that the required goals don’t arrive, you expect United to make it look like they might, but bereft of ideas and enthusiasm, the anticipated onslaught never materialised.

A sizeable contingent of United’s following seemed to blame this stolidity on Berbatov, though he stood out as the first half’s sole piece of sweetcorn before succumbing to his surroundings in the second. As with Tevez last season, it’s been painful watching Fergie slowly eviscerate his confidence, and if there was a chance of getting in a replacement anywhere near as good, then it’d probably be time to let him flourish elsewhere.

Again, the absence of Rooney didn’t help; if Cantona was the footballing equivalent of Lebowski’s rug that tied the room together, then Rooney is the room itself, without whom furniture is irrelevant. This is the direct consequence of a squad replete with complementary players, men able to facilitate but not instigate, the lack of individual inspiration leading to dropped points when the collective underperforms.

Thus the players were reduced to appealing for imaginary penalties, the support waiting for the inevitable and depressing defiance of “we’ll never die”. At least we’re almost out of our misery, though the lameness with which the title has been surrendered will annoy for evermore.

For this the fault lies mainly with Fergie, making nowhere near the best use of the squad afforded - or not afforded him , and reduced to desperately and transparently challenge to Bolton to prove they’re not “an easy game”. And now that’s failed, we’re relying on flaky Tottenham and plain useless Liverpool to help us out, on the basis that United can be relied upon to also help themselves, which of course they cannot.

So it was that by late Sunday afternoon, United’s official website bore the headline: “Boss rues poor decisions”. “I should jolly well think so,” is a broad and less profane approximation of what I thought, but it turned out that Fergie was criticising his players, rather than admitting culpability for the errors that have made such a mess of everything. The earth may be at the centre of our universe, but for Fergie there’ll only ever be one thing at the centre of his.


Posted by Raza Ali on 04/17/2010

So, turns out you're a bit of a drama queen, Harris. We're within one point, and could be league leaders come next Saturday.

Posted by femi O on 04/17/2010

I'm with you on this one. It's so annoying when Fergie does things like this. Why rest Fletcher? Why use an unused John OShea? All this in an away game which we knew would be tricky? We beat City today and Spurs beat Chelsea so it becomes more obvious the Blackburn gamble may have cost us the league. Painful! I doubt if liverpool can do anything against Chelsea or if they will want to help us. Silly Rafa is focusing on Europa and will field a 2nd team. I'm banking on Delap and his long throws to get a draw at Stamford bridge next week.....and I'm also hoping fergie does not produce any of his crazy selections before the end of the season. We are Man Utd, we'll fight till the end!

Posted by BD on 04/17/2010

Dan, while I generally like your column as it is something different to the other rubbish United blogs, I think you go a step too far in your Fergie-bashing.
Of late, all you seem to include as a major part of your article is criticism of Fergie and how he is screwing up all that is good about our club.

Yes, there have been a lot of depressing things happening around United for some time now, and the tonic that is on-field performances has not been effective. But blaming the gaffer for all that is ridiculous and amounts to no more than slander. If you choose to pursue a personal vendetta against him, please carry on, but not in the garb of a true United supporter.

He has made curious and unexpected decisions regarding the squad recently, but when has he not done that? He has been doing that for more than a decade now. You should have realised by now that it is pointless to double-guess everything he does. He just knows better than you, me and all others. Get on with it.

Posted by Nutty Natty on 04/18/2010

If man utd won that night or if macheda or berbatov scored people would be on about what a genius move it was blah blah blah tactical masterstroke. Anyway there is nothing wrong with not playing fletcher. He is not a regular goal scorer nor playmaker and we did not concede that game either so his destructive and hard running was not sorely missed ! But just cause we did not win that night they go all out and critise the gaffers decisions . . . There is a reason why it is called a gamble because sometimes it pays off and at times it don't . . . learn to understand that and live with it !!!

Posted by Tushar on 04/18/2010

Well Daniel , first of all an enjoyable article (it was pretty funny ) ... but i strongly diagree with you on many fronts . First of all plz stop doubting SAF after all he has done . Yes , he took gambles .. and they didn't come off , tough luck . It happens .. Someday you praise giggs for the awesome performances he gives ( 4-3 manchester derby ) and the other days ppl criticize SAF for picking an old ageing squad . Scholes just scored the winning goal at the CoM stadium . Someday the same squad is called slow and lethargic and on other days it is called experienced . Thats hypocritic .
P.S. : The Trotters beat Chelsea .. JT is suspended n drobga injured . Liverpool is coming back in form . Maybe the title race is not yet over for the devils . RED FOREVER .

Posted by Yusuf on 04/18/2010

Oh, wish I can explain united delima and unusual performance of recent. This had cost me some worries and concern on how we can compete for major competition come next season. Thus, the gaffer is doing what he knows best to keep the team going rather than melting, he could make mistake because he is human. As united faithfuls we don,t have to blame but to pray for their performance improvement in closet.

Posted by twocents on 04/18/2010

Great article. I think u have a good point about SAF though, like many said, we have been proven wrong by him time and time again.

I dont like SAF fascination of older players, although times where we need the xperience, that will be all good - take for example while holding on to a lead or keeping things tight. But the idea of fielding all THREE (giggs, scholesy and neville) just signals we will only be shifting into 2nd gear. Sure the team still can play a fast tempo game, problem is, we are prone to getting caught on the counter or lose the ball because good pressing from the opposing side (think carrick, scholes and giggs!).

We didnt get the points in Blackburn purely because the team never started playing with tempo whilst the derby win, a wonderful experience it may be, could have been attributed to City surprisngly rather uninterested low-tempo game.

Scholes proved his doubters wrong ystdy and as much as I doubt SAF now, I hope he proves me wrong yet again.

Posted by Panda on 04/18/2010

When this article was written, man utd had not yet played man city and tottenham hadnt yet thrashed chelsea so cut daniel some slack... but i have to agree that while daniel is a fantastic writer and has mass amounts of knowledge about man utd and english football history, he doesn't provide great analysis of games or football in general. I think his coloumn is so popular because like I said his writing is phenomenal but his analysis is pretty poor in my opinion. I like reading this blog also because he is a die hard man utd fan and so am I...

Posted by Peter brennan on 04/18/2010

Daniel, i do not know how old you are but i will guess you are like myself no spring chicken. I grew up in an era were Liverpool fans gloated, roared and even laugh at Utd fans,the most you can hope for was win an FA cup they use to shout. Now for me is pay back time all they can say now is we have 5 european cups and i answer if it was not for a Utd managers vision {Busby} you would have none. So along came another Scotsman Fergie and he has now put us in a position were by we can overtake the great Liverpools league record. If you had said that to me 25 years ago i would have taken that. So to say any wrong words in my eyes about Fergie it like slagging of God. He might have ageing players, players i might add who could have joined any club in the world when they were younger, but chose to stay at UTD and help them become one of the biggest clubs in the world, so instead of slating Fergie for picking these guys maybe he just being loyal like they are. Go on UTD for the 19th time.

Posted by Ryan T on 04/19/2010

I think perhaps the biggest mistake was not keeping Tevez in the squad. However, to still be in title contention without CR and Tevez, and the string of injuries we have sustained in the earlier part of the season, it's a remarkable feat by the gaffer already. We'll fight on!

Posted by Paddy on 04/19/2010

At the start of the season, as a fan i surrendered the league as it became obvious there would not be like for like replacement of CR7 and Tev. If you had told me with three games to go we would be just a point behind with a chance of winning the league, i would have probaly taken it. In a way, this is a rebuilding season. For me, the worst such was after Becks left, it was painful watching our team then, but it was already the construction of the era that ended last year with CR7 leaving. So the new cycle begins.. Doubting SAF is like doubting your father's ability to fertilise your mother's egg - well after the event. There is a definite pattern to SAF thinking and no one can move him, so we also wait to see where it takes us. Usually its to a happy place.

Posted by alvan23 on 04/19/2010

GARY NEVILLE HAS GOT TO GO! Every team in the world plays a winger that is fast. How is Neville going to catch up with the wingers with his ageing legs? He is not creative and neither does he have any flair to play on the wing. His crosses are mostly off and he commits handballs far too often. So i simply do not understand why Sir Alex always chooses to play Neville in the big matches. Neville may be very passionate but how much is 'passion' worth when what you need is quality football?

Posted by Zaid on 04/20/2010

I want to place a different slant on things. I think there is no money at OT. We all know that we need 1 or 2 more quality players, specifically in the striking department. What does Fergie do, brings in youngsters like Diouf and aome little known Mexican. Add Macheda, Wallbeck, etc to the mix and hopefully the sum of the lot will equal 1 quality player. I think the boss is fedup and has finally reached that point in his life where playing with the grand kids and his horses is more appealing than dealing with the Shenanigans at OT.

Even he wants to change the composition of the team, he just does not have that luxuary. In the past an injured striker (like Rooney) would have been replaced with an equally competent striker. Fergie does not have that anymore. I don't buy the fact that David Villa is too old for the price wanted. Such a classy player would have already been given the grand tour of OT.

We simply dont have the money.

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