Where is the fight?

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

The Red Devils des­per­ately need play­ers who can lift the team in times of trou­ble.

Manch­ester United fans must have been hugely dis­ap­pointed los­ing the derby match 1-6 to arch ri­vals Manch­ester city last week­end.

to be fair, even roberto Mancini didn’t ex­pect this re­sult. a draw was what the Ital­ian man­ager was go­ing for. But when op­por­tu­ni­ties were pre­sented, his team grabbed them.

nat­u­rally, he took a wary ap­proach go­ing into a dif­fi­cult game at Old traf­ford. Un­like last sea­son, where he was dis­ci­plined and care­ful, he changed his style this year ac­cord­ing to his op­po­nents, rang­ing from be­ing ad­ven­tur­ous to pru­dent.

If win­ning the Fa cup gave the cit­i­zens con­fi­dence, beat­ing their ri­vals at Old traf­ford made them be­lieve in each other.

this is where the likes of Mario Balotelli, and edin Dzeko, the so called “bad boys” of the team, learn the im­por­tance of team work.

It builds con­fi­dence and trust within the team. those are traits es­sen­tial in build­ing a suc­cess­ful squad that has char­ac­ter. While the cit­i­zens dis­played a new found re­silience, I can­not say the same for their Manch­ester coun­ter­parts.

has the man­age­ment at Old traf­ford de­cided to re­fund tick­ets to their fans yet?

On a se­ri­ous note, the jury is out on a bunch of Man United play­ers. I have de­cided to nick­name Jonny evans, “Jit­tery Jonny”. he def­i­nitely did not show the class that is re­quired of a United player. With the send­ing off, city took the chance to put the nail in the cof­fin.

even when Manch­ester United was down to 10 men, it was ridicu­lous that they didn’t prac­tise cau­tion to keep the score at 1-0 for as long as pos­si­ble, and try to hit on the counter at­tack to get a goal.

But we saw United fall­ing apart, des­per­ately look­ing for the equaliser. Be­fore they knew it, the score was 0-2. I hon­estly think los­ing by two goals with 10 men is not a dis­grace, but what re­ally ag­i­tated me was the lack of lead­er­ship!

no­body took charge on the pitch or from the side­lines and they were lit­er­ally crum­bling like a deck of cards. that lapse should never have hap­pened, and it was shock­ing that sir alex Ferguson just al­lowed this tragedy to un­fold.

In the mid­dle of the park, an­der­son and Dar­ren Fletcher prac­ti­cally gave the Man city play­ers the keys to Old traf­ford.

to be hon­est, I am very crit­i­cal of rio Fer­di­nand. Where was his lead­er­ship? he was just like any other nor­mal player in the team. he just seems to have lost his mo­ti­va­tion, and I think that is a big prob­lem that Fergie has yet to re­alise.

the back­line pair­ing that looks bet­ter to me would be the younger chris smalling and Phil Jones. Jonny evans is a good re­serve player, but he is not the one that you can build your de­fence around.

as for part time cap­tain Pa­trice evra, I per­son­ally don’t think he can han­dle re­spon­si­bil­ity. What is the point of putting on the arm band when you can’t lift the team? evra sim­ply isn’t cut out as Man United cap­tain ma­te­rial - he’s hardly in the same league as Bryan rob­son or roy Keane. For me, I be­lieve that some play­ers have over­stayed their wel­come. Or are they start­ing to be­lieve their own hype?

cer­tain ar­eas in the red Devils team have to be strength­ened straight away. When the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow comes, there will be no doubt that United have to in­vest in play­ers. Be­fore the start of the sea­son, United had a lot of in­ter­est look­ing for a creative mid­fielder, and they were al­most there with Wes­ley snei­jder. that is one player I think they sorely missed out on.

I’ve also been asked many times on Mon­day Night Ver­dict if Man United have found a player to re­place roy Keane, where in fact, the ques­tion should have been whether have they found a player like David silva? that kind of player has been ab­sent in the United team for so many years – an in­tel­li­gent mid­fielder who can make things hap­pen in both the mid­dle and at­tack­ing zones.

how Paul sc­holes has been missed! at the mo­ment, the young tom clev­er­ley is still a work in progress.

But it may be too early to say that this re­sult at Old traf­ford de­ter­mines which is the best team in the BPL.

come next May, how­ever, it might be a dif­fer­ent story.

a thrash­ing like this would have been a wake up for the se­niors and added char­ac­ter­build­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for the younger play­ers like Danny Wel­beck, smalling and Jones. they wouldn’t want to feel that level of pain and hu­mil­i­a­tion again.

With a fully changed line-up, the red Devils did re­cover from their Man city dis­as­ter to progress to the car­ling cup quar­ter­fi­nals at the ex­pense of League two alder­shot ear­lier this week.

But Good­i­son Park to­mor­row will be a stern test for Man United. an un­pre­dictable ever­ton will al­ways be a tough team to beat (re­mem­ber the 3-3 come­back hero­ics from the tof­fees last sea­son?) but I fully ex­pect the en­tire Man United team to turn up with a bet­ter at­ti­tude and pro­duce a pos­i­tive team per­for­mance.

I hope that Fergie will put his arms around one or two play­ers, and try to lift their spir­its for the im­pend­ing game, be­cause that is what man­agers do. From my ex­pe­ri­ence, you have your say dur­ing train­ing, and then you move on to the next game. You can’t let that anger and frus­tra­tion linger, be­cause that would af­fect the play­ers’ per­for­mances.

a tougher mind­set and a quick re­sponse from his lads is what Fergie is ex­pect­ing now. next sum­mer, the weaker ones will be shipped off, and Fergie’s strength is not only about spot­ting the best play­ers, but also the ones that can give United its unique char­ac­ter.

talk­ing about char­ac­ter, I thought chelsea showed plenty of it (for nine men) in the match they lost against QPR.

the penalty de­ci­sion in my opinion was too harsh, although the two red cards were war­ranted. Quite hon­estly, I thought that the ref­eree for­got that this was a derby, and a big game in that part of Lon­don.

When der­bies are con­cerned, you get 1020% more ag­gres­sion, more fights and tougher tack­les. as the ref­eree, chris Foy should have gone into the game with that men­tal­ity. he clamped down on ev­ery lit­tle thing, made in­con­sis­tent calls and pretty much lost con­trol of the game.

now that Man city is at the top of the league, the pres­sure will be on chelsea, United and the rest to catch up, and mean­while, cer­tain teams can learn to get their char­ac­ter back in the game as well. 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

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