Young team suffers a positive loss

Posted by musaokwonga

No - it won't work. It is initially difficult to look at the selection of midfielders that Sir Alex Ferguson used for the Norwich City game, and then those he employed against Galatasaray, and see why he chose not to start any one of Anderson, Darren Fletcher, or Tom Cleverley ahead of Ryan Giggs.

Particularly since the loss at Norwich cost Manchester United their lead at the top of the Premier League, whereas his team had already qualified for the next stage of the UEFA Champions League and could therefore afford to lose in Turkey.

The logic becomes clearer, though, if we consider that Ferguson was using this as an opportunity to find out something new about his players. He would have learned little from starting Giggs in the maelstrom of the Ali Sami Yen: the veteran had long since proven his mettle in several such arenas.

This was instead a night when Nick Powell was chosen to earn his spurs. The midfielder, at Crewe Alexandra only a year ago, began at the leading edge of a midfield diamond, and played with a notable composure. More impressive in the first half, when he bruised the home side’s crossbar with a powerful header, his quick feet and swifter decision-making will be regular and exciting features of Manchester United’s midfield in future.

Powell looked good, but still the Giggs decision was difficult to square. Anderson could have played against Norwich. After all, he has proven his mental strength at European level, having for example scored coolly in the shootout of the 2008 UEFA Champions League final. Sadly, his fitness has long since progressed beyond a concern to a laughing-stock, which is his and United’s loss.

It is increasingly looking as though his robust defensive presence alongside Michael Carrick will be most needed when Manchester United meet stronger opposition. Galatasaray, of course, were tenacious opponents.

They still had much to gain from this game, active as they were in a qualification battle with Braga and CFR Cluj, and their fans obliged with an intense atmosphere, having filled the stadium some six hours before kick-off. That Manchester United’s mostly young team should succumb to only a 1-0 defeat in this environment is cause for positivity. For much of the match, driven forward by the pace and enterprise of Danny Welbeck and Alexander Buttner, they were in control of proceedings.

Given that they did lose, though, it is perhaps best to close on a note of caution. Manchester United’s support do not lightly lose faith in their players, but once lost it is not easily regained, and there are indications that it is being lost in Ashley Young. The forward, who had a tough Euro 2012 tournament, has already upset several outside Old Trafford with the sense that he goes too easily to ground. After a disappointing run of recent matches, his substitute appearance here – all 15 minutes of it – was treated with exasperation by many.

The England international is not the only Manchester United winger to be enduring an inconsistent season – Nani and Antonio Valencia are others, perhaps explaining why Ferguson has often opted for the diamond – but he is the one most firmly under the critical cosh. Thankfully for him, then, there is still plenty of the season to go, and thus much room for redemption.

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