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From my seat: Man Utd (A)

By Ken Buckley :  23/04/2011 :  Comments (19) :

Dogged Blues fail the forward test

On a lovely sunny day in a giant of a stadium, we wondered if we could improve on the last 19 years of results and turn them over. Sadly, it was more of the same: plenty of endeavour and doggedness in defence but, going forward, craft, guile and class were non-existent ? and this against a side put out, with a lucrative Champions League game looming, that fell well short of their best.

I don?t like losing at anytime but, against Utd away, you do get the chance to see how far off a league title our team may be and I have to say at the moment we are well short. This is not the best Utd squad by any means but the big difference for me is that they have two adequate players for each position where we have just the one adequate player for some positions and ?do the best you can? players for other positions. They don?t need versatile players where we do and that is one big difference.

We had somewhat of a subdued start to the game and in truth it took 25 mins for it to start. We did have the first shot on target after some 6 mins but Osman?s shot was weak. Jags then sat off Rooney, who was roundly booed for the first 15mins, and then the faithful got fed up with that; luckily that came to nought. Then Coleman switched off and left his man to run and make things difficult for Hibbert but he did well to divert the ball for a corner and then point out the error of Coleman?s aberration with some force. Luckily nothing came of the corner.

The Blues then entered a ragged period that saw Bilyaletdinov and Beckford exposed cruelly. Utd put on the pressure and Howard made a great save from Hernandez after a great through ball from Anderson. Rooney supplied Hernandez and again Howard saved, Hibbert took up some intelligent positions and headed away many a threatening ball. Beckford went down in the box in a rare foray foreword but it was a touch embarrassing.

Just before half-time, Valencia out-muscled and outstripped Baines and crossed only for Nani to hit his own man and the ball deflect behind for a goal kick. Utd were now cutting through us as we came up to the whistle and, but for the excellent Hibbert seeing off Nani yet again, we may have gone in one down.

The half-time chat centred on how we could have been a couple down and the non-contribution of Bilyaletdinov and Beckford who were both just not in the zone. In Bilyaletdinov?s case, he seemed in a world of his own that was far removed from the requirements of the EPL... and in Beckford?s case it had nothing to with service but had everything to do with him just not being up to the standard required when playing top sides. The manager seemed to agree as both were left behind and replaced by Cahill and Anichebe respectively.

The half started with the Blues looking the livelier, Jags took a smart free-kick to the feet of Osman who shimmied and found Coleman only for the Irishman to fire left footed very, very, wide. In truth, we were, if we were honest, hoping we could hang on for a draw. Utd pressed and pressed, Jags made a great tackle on Rooney, Hibbert looked the coolest under pressure no-matter who came down his side; Big Vic runs into the box and goes down under a tackle from Ferdinand. "Penalty!!!" we yell, and I have seen them given... but he did collapse a little bit on the easy side; in a light hearted moment just shortly after, the Ref Mr Walton showed him how to fall with no-one in attendance.

Near the 70-minute mark, we had our chance of the match after a spell of joined-up stuff directed by Neville and Osman which forced our first corner. The ball found its way to Rodwell on the edge, he took a couple of paces forward and put in a daisy cutter that brought a super body-stretching save from the keeper; he might be 40 but s one class keeper.

The clock ticks down, Owen comes on for them, Gueye for Coleman for us. Utd hit our post ? phew! Cahill little more than a passenger as we almost pray for a ?backs against the wall? point.... Hernandez gets in a good header which brought a great save from Howard who would shortly be booked for time wasting.

Ferdinand brings Big Vic down and we get a free kick which came to nought but Utd broke from it; we mopped up yet again via the redoubtable Hibbert and the ball went to Distin who seemed not to see Valencia rapidly closing him down. In panic he wellied clear but only to a red shirt who fed Valencia who again eluded Baines and put in a cross that found both our centre-backs missing and Hernandez rose above the covering Hibbert and headed home. 6 mins to go for an unlikely point and we throw it away.

Gutted sums up the collective feeling of Blues assembled. We had 5mins of injury time to add but we just knew we didn?t have the firepower available to score 2 in injury time ? as we had at Goodison earlier in the season. Final whistle, disappointed but realistic enough to know it could have been worse.

MotM ? Hibbert; followed very closely by Jags and Howard. Distin may well have featured but for that crucial lapse of concentration.

This is a game I always look forward to. Away against a team who are going for a record number of league titles and are always there or thereabouts season on season. Many may not like them for various reasons but for me they are always a benchmark regarding our own progress. Today showed we have some way to go but not that far if the club could one way or another allow the manager to sign players for positions that cry out each time we encounter real contenders ? namely striker, right and left wide men, and one in midfield who can get a game by the throat and drive it forward, i.e. make a difference.

Getting two adequate players for each position may be well away but, if the four I suggest could materialise, then, with the core we already have, maybe going to Old Trafford may mean more than hanging on.

I thought the manager had a difficult job on today considering who we were playing away from home and our paper-thin squad available but I would have thought he would have sussed Bilyaletdinov and Beckford by now and given chances to Gueye and Vellios from the start, all things considered. Cahill looked little more than a passenger today and his introduction only highlighted our paucity of numbers of adequate players at the club.

Still, Wigan next... and I am sure that we will put out a team that will ensure we have an evenly matched game and hope that by the end we will secure three points and hanging on will be redundant. As they say "Thank god you only play the Champions away once a season."

See you there for a pie and a pint and three points from super joined-up stuff (allow me to dream).

Reader Comments

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Derek Thomas
1   Posted 24/04/2011 at 01:51:10

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Quite true, Ken. We were outclassed, man for man, all over the pitch, in both skill and endevour.

In boxing terms, we never won a point in any round and barely laid a glove on them.

We were Chuck Wepner to their Ali. They had to work to beat us and we put up a dogged defence all the way through.

Much has been made of the way we were set out... Sad to say, we were on a loser whichever way we went about it.

We tried to out fight them and failed. We certainly could not, with our missing players, have any chance of out-boxing them.

To our credit, they only managed to put us on the canvas once.

But shit, we took one hell of a pasting.
Steve Carter
2   Posted 24/04/2011 at 02:31:03

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Ken, I always look forward to reading your reports after Sunday brunch down here in Oz. Happily, the time difference being what it is now, the game, televised live on Fox (Sky), commenced here at 9.30pm. I saw the TV game pretty much as you saw it live.

Due allowance perhaps being given for my blue coloured specs, but I'd beg differ on the penalty not given incident involving Beckford in the first half. It should have been given. That was the view of the commentators too. Likewise in the second half with Anichebe: he was in front of and past Ferdinand for pace and there was deliberate leg and arm contact by Rio.

Our problem with United is that we have to play every minute no mistakes Zen. One lapse of concentration by Distin (who had been excellent all day) lost us the game. We just haven't learnt our lesson: the same thing happened a couple of years back when we were at 1-1 (thanks to a superb Cahill header) and Pienaar has a rush of blood and trips Giggs in the box with the latter hardly threatening anything.

I thought the whole back four and Howard were great today, and I think that posters to other reports of this match were very harsh on Rodwell. We are talking about a 19-year-old playing central midfield, and I thought he played fine. But for a blatantly home side favouring ref on the penalties (Moyes must complain to the FA and require the ref to go over the tapes and explain why he did not award penalties on both occasions) and Distin's lapse, whilst they were dominant, we would have at least drawn and possibly won.

Finally, as Anichebe ran out, I expressed to my essentially disinterested rugby playing son, 'Oh no, why? Not Anichebe: he is the shittest player ever'. However, I would have given him a 6: ordinary, but nonetheless the best effort I have ever seen him put in.

Tommy Byrne
3   Posted 24/04/2011 at 07:05:20

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What would have been the gameplan if United had scored after say ten minutes? I say it would have been damage limitation and setttle for a 1-0.

This is the reality of Moyes and EFC. We are light years from United and this is down to the management and tactics. Of course some decent footballing players might help...
Trevor Lynes
4   Posted 24/04/2011 at 08:24:22

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DM said in his after match talk that he did not think that they were pens!! Overall, I fully agree with the article which is accurate and I reckon we are light years short of Man Utd and other really top teams. We play far less games than the successful sides and we do not have a squad big enough to cope with extra games against top opposition in Europe.

Our defenders were heroic but we lack ability and guile throughout the midfield and anyone who can really hurt up front. I think that we are lucky to be safe with the squad we have and I also reckon that some teams below us have far better strikers.

I just hope that we can pick up a few GOOD buys when the transfer window opens and unload some of the deadwood. Our defenders are as good as any in the division.

Jamie Connor
5   Posted 24/04/2011 at 08:27:32

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The top and bottom if it is that we were terrified of Man Utd throughout and the players' mindset meant we'd lost before we kicked off. It's hard playing Man Utd at the best of times with 11 men but we effectively had 8 first half because Bily, Beckford and Rodwell contributed zero. Maybe Rodwell put in a stinker to throw Man Utd off the scent but the game passed him by and he looked lost. In fairness to Beckford, we rarely got that far up the pitch to actually get him the ball and even then they were long diagonals that Man Utd defence just ate up.

Last of all, Bily boy: I'm sorry to say that this lad has had more chances than anyone should be given to come out of himself and show us he can be the player we all want him to be. Sadly, I think it's time he hung up his Everton shirt. Too lightweight, hesitant, clumsy, seems lost in tactics and has all the effect of us having a player sent off. The exit door beckons in the summer and he should be replaced now. Give him a central role and not wide v Wigan to rubber stamp what we all know to be true.

Richard Dodd
6   Posted 24/04/2011 at 10:04:35

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But full marks to Davey for (finally) realising that Becks and Bily are not up to it at this level. However, to suggest that Gueye and Vellios should have started this particular game simply ignores the fact that, at present, they are just raw talent and might well have been the ones hooked at half-time. The manager MUST be given funds to sign a proven striker in the summer or even I shall be joining the doubters!
David Hallwood
7   Posted 24/04/2011 at 10:04:11

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Ken, great report as ever, but a couple of points; I posted on another thread that, if it had been Rooney & Hernandez involved in the penalties, they would've been given. Ferdinand made no attempt to play the ball and pushed Anichebe and Valencia didn't out-muscle Baines, he pushed him; not a shoulder charge just a good old fashioned push.

Secondly, there is the astonishing statistic that Man U have only won 5 away matches all season, in contrast with their home form where they have only dropped two points AND haven?t conceded a goal in the 1st half. Is this because they are the greatest home side of all time or does every Prem manager have a collective cack-in when it comes to playing them? Maybe they?ve got the team talk painted on the visitors? dressing room and the teams come out with a massive inferiority complex and already beaten, but Utd know what to expect and take full advantage, and BTW it isn?t working.

Finally everyone has roundly slagged Beckford off, but a word in his defence, I only watched it on TV but all I saw was Howard hoofing the ball and Beckford wasn?t winning any of them, but he isn?t Duncan Ferguson never will be so what did you expect, I think the old cliché play to your strengths comes to mind. And when it wasn?t working why didn?t we change it? And why did Moyes opt to go with that way of playing with Ossie & Becks up front in the first place? Did we see Van der Sar hoofing the ball to the equally diminutive strikeforce of Rooney and Hernandez?

Regardless of injuries, Moyes ? like every other manger in the league ? goes to OT as the underdog and sets his team out accordingly, and no-one is going to convince me that Darren Gibson and Anderson is a reincarnation of Keane & Scholes in their prime.... but, because of the space afforded to them by a respectful Everton, they controlled the game, especially in the first half.
Mike Gwyer
8   Posted 24/04/2011 at 10:46:39

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Good stuff and unbiased, which is unusual on TW. New players, especially up front and on the left, are quite simply essential for EFC to take any step forward. My guess though is that any incomings will be funded by outgoings.

Derek #1.
"We were outclassed, man for man all over the pitch"...

Think Jags and Distin played themselves into the ground, sure Distin fucked up for the goal, but Ferdinand and Evans both made errors in the second half when Moyes played someone who resembled a striker... Bottom line, I think you are being a bit harsh on our back four especially the CB's.
David Holroyd
9   Posted 24/04/2011 at 12:56:15

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Look at the way Hernandez didn't stay anywhere near Jags and Distin, was always out wide compared to Beckford always near Ferdinand. We have got to find a way to get someone to play out wide; the team has no pace, even after nine years with Moyes in charge.
Trevor Lynes
10   Posted 24/04/2011 at 15:08:09

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David (#7) ? I TOTALLY agree... Beckford is not mobile enough off the ball and the comparison to Hernandez is correct. He is the best £6 million buy of the season... but he does have excellent support.

Jags and the rest of the defence were great, especially the out-and-out defenders in the team, eg: Jags, Hibbo, Neville, Howard and Distin.... the rest unfortunately could not compete against Man Utd.
Strangely enough Anichebe did cause some problems with his physique and strength.... Beckford caused nothing like as much trouble.

Adam Baig
11   Posted 24/04/2011 at 15:56:11

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One of the major problems Beckford had was there wasn't a blue shirt within 40 yards of him, and he was up against 4 defenders each time the ball was hoofed away from our defence. I couldn't believe how deep we were, and the lad had no chance.

We invited Utd on to us all game, which was a shocking tactic in my opinion, as they weren't that good. Newcastle pressed them high up the pitch in midweek and should have beaten them, but they have Shola Ameobi up front.

There seems to be a big push on at the moment for Hibbert to be lauded and Beckford to be slagged off, I don't know why. For me, Jagielka was a mile better than anyone on the pitch.

And Ken, even if we did have the right players for each position, I doubt Mr Moyes would play them there...
Roger Trenwith
12   Posted 24/04/2011 at 16:52:04

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Great report, as ever. Re your comment that we need "... (a) striker, right and left wide men, and one in midfield who can get a game by the throat and drive it forward" in order to be contenders ? does that not apply to nearly all teams in the Premier League outside of the top 5?
Trevor Lynes
13   Posted 24/04/2011 at 18:39:13

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Roger (#12) ? How is it that the likes of Bolton can get the loan signing of Sturridge?? Why not us??

Just take a considered look at all the teams both above and below us and check their strikers and wide players against ours... there are many good strikers who would occupy and trouble most defences playing for so called lesser teams than us. We are getting through due to the excellence of our DEFENDERS and sporadic decent displays from Osman.

We have the weakest bench in the league apart from maybe Blackpool. If that is not apparent then I give up!!!

I'm really glad that we are not in Europe because our squad has trouble just playing our regular fixtures.

Peter Askins
14   Posted 24/04/2011 at 18:18:41

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I was actually at the match, so I can forgive the contributors who are having a go at Beckford, as you are relying on the TV cameras for your analysis.

I watched Beckford closely, and my seat position running along the penalty area we were attacking in the first half provided an excellent vantage point.

Our midfield had comfortable possession throughout the match at times, but rather than looking up, and hitting a killer diagonal forward, or "in the channel", Neville, Osman and Rodwell were all content to pass it sideways and backwards, until the inevitable hoof forward, once momentum was lost. In the meantime, Beckford was spinning out wide, checking back, making bursts forward, all for nought. I was watching him closely, and his movement, once the ball broke for us, was quick and incisive. The fact that it never came is more an indictment on the providers, than him.

As the run by Anichebe showed in the second half, any half-decent pass forward, on the deck, would have troubled a shaky-looking United defence, but it seldom came.
Dick Fearon
15   Posted 24/04/2011 at 22:56:35

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Thanks, Ken, for another good report that pretty much mirrors my own TV take on the game. The TV commentators stated that United had never had a penalty awarded against them at Old Trafford in the PL in past 11 years. If that is the case, it would speak volumes about their sportsmanship or could it be the referees' lack of backbone.

Regarding our two shouts for a penalty, after multiple replays from all angles, the studio panel of ex-PL players were even more convinced that they should have been given. They also were unanimous of the view that, had the situation been reversed, it was a nailed-on certainty that United would have got the ref's nod.

One of the panel went on to say, "It's hard enough to face a United in full flow but it becomes impossible when the referee wears a red shirt"... end of quote. I don't normally agree with TV pundits yet this time they were on the money.

I have rarely seen a players limitations so fully exposed as were Beckford's. As for Bily, he is a disgusting, lazy arsed, dare I say, Russian bastard.

Derek Thomas
16   Posted 25/04/2011 at 04:38:28

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Mike Gwyer #8 OK, fair play to them... they get the tag least worst.

But as a whole, over the game, as I said, we hardly laid a glove on them.

Some of their supporters give us the backhanded compliment of saying that Untd made heavy weather of it.
Jamie Barlow
17   Posted 25/04/2011 at 10:54:44

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Peter@ 14. It doesn't excuse the fact that he never once challenged for a high ball with Ferdinand. He didn't look arsed yesterday and I hope he isn't sulking. No more excuses for Bily either. We should get what we can for him in the summer, if anyone is daft enough to want him.
Peter Askins
18   Posted 25/04/2011 at 17:34:13

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Jamie @ 17 - Beckford did challenge a few times with Ferdinand, but got clattered from behind on at least 2 occasions, never getting the free kick.

These floated chips forward are practically hospital passes, and Beckford obviously doesn't fancy this physical confrontation. This is unacceptable from Beckford, to wimp out, but what is more unacceptable is that our defenders and midfielders don't pick up on this, and provide the passes he craves.

Beckford is decent in the air, as his goals at Wolves and Chelsea prove, but it's obvious to me, so should be to his team-mates too (not to mention the manager !), that his strength is getting on the end of flick-ons, and measured through-balls.

From watching Beckford closely, he does seem "arsed", but after making his umpteenth sprint forward every match, only for the ball to never come, his head does drop, and he seems reluctant to keep doing it. Had he played in front of Sheedy-Reid-Bracewell-Steven, who could all pick a pass, he could well be the 20 goals-a-season striker that we crave. The disappointment for me is that his team-mates haven't yet figured out how to play to his strengths.

Bily? Well, that's a totally different story!!
Jamie Barlow
19   Posted 25/04/2011 at 18:39:14

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Fair enough. Good call.

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