Tuesday, 4 August 2009

SO WHAT IS FERGIE'S STRONGEST XI?




Manchester United have played at least six times already in pre-season but Sir Alex has succeeded in keeping his strongest XI anonymous to us. We've seen all sorts of pairings and so many different teams that we United fans must have conflicting views as regards what our first choice team is.

I'll make the task a little easier. I think we all agree that EVDS is the undisputed first choice goalkeeper at OT. Tomaz and Ben will just have to endure another season of filling in.

The first major problem however is right-back. When fit, I'll always go for Wes Brown in that position. I thought he made that position his own in 2008. However, given that he is more or less likely to be out of the team due to injury, there is John O'Shea and Rafael da Silva along with club captain Gary Neville. Now Gary is not the player he was a few years ago so you'd think that Sir Alex will only give him the odd game here and there.
That leaves us with a talented young Brazilian and and an experienced but largely ineffective Irishman. Don't get me wrong. O'Shea is not the worst right-back in the world, but we are less likely to benefit from him as far as attack is concerned. The only reasons as to why I support Fergie's stance on him are that he has good height--which is an asset in defence, and he has a knack of getting the odd important goal for us when least expected. Rafael is more athletic and can actually make more of a contribution going forward with assists as well as goals as we saw at the Emirates last season. His problem however is his lack of physique and the occasional failure to keep in position as far as defending is concerned. He also lacks the height bit that one would consider vital in defence. Sometimes it's a bit embarrassing watching him and his brother standing behind strikers trying to win the ball.
That, reader, is the first point of debate. Some fans will go for Rafael whilst others will go for John. The good news is that when fit, we all agree that Wes Brown should play right-back.

The other good news is that the central defence pair of Rio and Vida has never generated debate as far as incompetence is concerned. We all agree with it as well. Patrice Evra should have been worried by the performance of Fabio in pre-season. If the young Brazilian adds age to whatever he's got, then he'll be a clone of Evra.

The next major point of debate is the central midfield pairing. Again I have to say, when fit, Owen Hargreaves is our number 6! I mean who else in the team can win the ball better? Hargo can also be a winger if he's got an able deputy like Fletcher in the middle. Carrick is surely in Fergie's first team for the mere fact that he's got the vision of Scholes. If only he could score more....
Anyway the debate here should be what about Anderson? Should he play ahead of the likes of Fletcher and Scholes and Giggs?
Without a doubt, this will be the most rotated area in Fergie's team. The veteran duo of Scholes and Giggs will only play once a week when fit so that leaves the holding role to Anderson and Fletcher. What I'm also sure of here is that we cannot agree as to what our best pairing in the absence of Hargo is, quite simply because they've all got different qualities that complement each other. We'll leave Fergie to work that bit out.

Before we leave the middle, let me just point out that whilst Antonio Valencia is a sure starter on the right, Nani is also better on the right. I've noted that he gets the ball in better and can easily beat opponents when on the right compared to the left. I however expect Sir Alex to start the season with him on the left. Park can also do a job on the left but he doesn't do much as far as whipping in balls is concerned. Some even suggest that he's not a natural winger and that he can do well in the middle. I must say that even at PSV, Park was sometimes used behind the main strikers.
Zoran Tosic will have to add more meat before he can handle the rigours of the Premier League. Sir Alex has a job to do there, but you feel that if Nani does 'step-up' as people are calling it, then the job will be done for him.

The final and probably most vital issue to solve lies in attack where many will go for a Berbatov-Rooney partnership. On paper it seems like a no-problem partnership but those who watched pre-season closely will agree with me that it was the Owen-Berbatov partnership that had anything close to working. Having said that, Owen will not be a regular for us next season as Sir Alex has already said he need 25 games from him, 15 goals. That means Berba and Rooney will have to work something out that is better than last season. However, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt as Ronaldo was still around last season and everything was channeled through him.

So there you have it, but as I conclude this rather long post, I'd like to acknowledge that I've rally done nothing as far as solving the topical question--but don't blame me, blame Fergie! He's the boss!

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