A tac­ti­cal blitz

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FOOTBALL - SHEBBY SINGH foot­ball@thes­tar.com.my

THE thing that stood out for me in last week­end’s big match be­tween Liver­pool and Manch­ester United was Sir Alex Ferguson’s se­lec­tion of play­ers. I thought the Bat­tle of the Reds was an in­ter­est­ing tac­ti­cal game. Per­haps as a re­sult of last sea­son’s de­feat, Fergie de­cided to be prag­matic and chose to de­fend first and keep his at­tack­ing op­tions on the bench un­til they went down a goal.

Mak­ing im­pro­vi­sa­tions can make or break a game, so I thought Sir Alex’s change in his game plan by putting on Wayne Rooney, Nani, and Javier Her­nan­dez was very good.

On the con­trary, Kenny Dal­glish prac­ti­cally stuck to the same tac­tic through­out the whole 90 min­utes.

The ex­pe­ri­enced man­ager lacked the am­bi­tion and flex­i­bil­ity to have a back-up plan that could have given them a bet­ter chance to win the game, like throw­ing on Andy Car­roll to in­tim­i­date David De Gea in the fi­nal min­utes of the game.

Fight­ing a Liver­pool side that was just start­ing to gel to­gether, I thought it was a case of a point earned for Ferguson, and two points dropped for Dal­glish. Liver­pool huffed and puffed, un­til vet­eran Ryan Giggs de­cided that he was not go­ing to be part of the de­fen­sive wall, and gifted Steven Ger­rard a goal.

In foot­ball, it is con­sid­ered a crime if a de­fen­sive wall breaks up. All the more so, when it is your most ex­pe­ri­enced player who com­mits the mis­take. He should have been the one or­gan­is­ing the wall and yelling at his team mates to keep their fo­cus.

But un­for­tu­nately, Giggs dodged, which is quite un­ex­plain­able. I dare say it will be a long time be­fore Giggs re­turns to United’s de­fen­sive wall. Speak­ing of crimes, Car­los Tevez, as a pro­fes­sional foot­baller, should also know bet­ter.

Be­ing paid to play for the sport you love for one of the best clubs in the world def­i­nitely comes with a price. Three-quar­ters of the world’s pop­u­la­tion would def­i­nitely love to be in his po­si­tion. When he signed on to play in Europe, he should have known that he would have to leave his fam­ily and chil­dren be­hind in Ar­gentina, but it would all be for ex­pect a euro­pean game of chess for the Manch­ester derby. the greater good.

When Fergie got rid of him, I voiced my opinion that Tevez was not worth the amount of money he and his agent asked for, nor is he the world class player that oth­ers say he is. There are sim­ply no ex­cuses for his be­hav­iour.

As for his club, Manch­ester City has qui­etly over­hauled United over the week­end with a two-point lead, which makes this Sun­day’s Manch­ester derby clash at Old Traf­ford a game that I an­tic­i­pate very much. Ex­pect Roberto Mancini to prac­tice cau­tion. Nev­er­the­less, The Cit­i­zens look dan­ger­ous on the counter at­tack, which I think they will be do­ing for the ma­jor­ity of the game.

Their new tal­is­man, Ser­gio Agüero, who re­cently re­turned to the pitch with a gamewin­ning goal in the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League game this week, also poses a dan­ger. His mo­bil­ity, agility, and eye for space make him very dif­fi­cult to pin down.

The Ar­gen­tinean is a very slip­pery char­ac­ter, and hav­ing a low cen­tre of grav­ity makes him hard to track. The Red Devils’ will have to go into this game with all guns blaz­ing with the Old Traf­ford man­ager pick­ing his first choice at­tack­ing play­ers. De­fen­sively, I fore­see Sir Alex pay­ing spe­cial at­ten­tion to David De Silva, and it will not sur­prise me if he puts An­der­son or Park Ji Sung to make sure the Spa­niard does not touch the ball.

Stop­ping him will make Man City less ef­fec­tive, but it doesn’t guar­an­tee an eas­ier win ei­ther.

Also ex­pect Fergie to play his most ex­pe­ri­enced de­fend­ers, Rio Fer­di­nand and Ne­manja Vidic, as ex­pe­ri­ence counts more than youth in such games. With ex­pe­ri­ence, you would be more aware of player move­ments and sit­u­a­tions off the ball, which will be key to deal­ing with play­ers like Aguero. Tac­ti­cally, Fergie would ap­proach this match more like a Euro­pean tie rather than an English Premier League game.

It is not about blood and thun­der, but more of tac­ti­cal war­fare.

I think City will go out look­ing for a draw, and I pre­dict it will prob­a­bly end up a 1-1.

Re­cently, there has also been much talk with for­eign own­ers want­ing to scrap the rel­e­ga­tions of the Bar­clay’s Premier League. My per­sonal opinion is that with­out the rel­e­ga­tion bat­tle, the essence of the game would be gone, and there will be no cut­ting edge.

Rel­e­ga­tion and the fight for pro­mo­tion has al­ways been im­por­tant, and that re­ally adds mean­ing to the whole com­pe­ti­tion.

A fran­chise led sit­u­a­tion is cer­tainly not ad­vis­able, we’ll be watch­ing the same teams year in and out. Wouldn’t that be bor­ing for you? That be­ing said, I def­i­nitely can’t wait for this Sun­day’s match! n Catch Shebby Singh on Mon­day Night Ver­dict ev­ery Mon­day at 8pm on ESPN, and his in­sight and views dur­ing ESPN’s live match pre­sen­ta­tion of the Bar­clays Premier League Modibo Maiga, as ex­pected, sign in Jan­uary, they should have an­other player to put the ball in the back of the net on a reg­u­lar ba­sis along­side Demba Ba, who has notched five in his last three ap­pear­ances.

The squad is small and un­likely to be able to han­dle in­juries and sus­pen­sions, Euro­pean qual­i­fi­ca­tion may well be be­yond them be­cause of it, but that can­not dis­guise the fact Pardew has built a team that plays with en­ter­prise, spirit, speed and skill.

That’s good enough for most who fol­low them – New­cas­tle United’s sup­port­ers are their gift and their curse. They can be too de­mand­ing, too ex­pec­tant. At the mo­ment, they are a gift to Pardew and play­ers who are thriv­ing in the pos­i­tive at­mos­phere they gen­er­ate. – © The Daily Tele­graph UK 2011

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