In the aftermath of this weekend’s fixtures there have been some very unhappy managers venting their frustration towards match officials and decisions made. Among those was Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson – comments which the FA have deemed worthy to examine with a view to some form of punishment. In front of the Sky Sports camera’s Sir Alex berated the referee Alan Wiley for his level of fitness stating the following: “The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He was not fit. You see referee’s abroad who are as fit as butcher’s dogs. He was taking 30 seconds to book a player. He was needing a rest. It was ridiculous”. Wiley certainly does not seem to be in the best shape but it may be a little too far for Ferguson to issue these comments in the press. Indeed Fergie’s harsh rant at Riley was only a cover-up for his side’s shortcomings, as the Red Devils dropped two vital points at Old Trafford. Deflecting criticism from his players to that of the official is an obvious trait of Sir Alex, but something that is not so much associated with the Scot is his current rotation policy as he made an astonishing seven changes from the midweek win over Wolfsburg.
But as Sir Alex rages at the officials, it is clear where his anger should lie. It was lacklustre all day with the standard of passing extremely poor. Seeing Paul Scholes – a man who was holding on the highest pass percentage in the Premier League – substituted at half-time for one of his worst performances in years was extremely disappointing. Wayne Rooney was below par, as were both Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic, whilst Nani was simply awful. But one player who cannot hide from any criticism was stand in keeper Ben Foster. Following a shaky start to the season and a terrible performance in the derby Foster had started to put this behind him with some strong performances. He is excellent at times with a key save against Arsenal at Old Trafford and away to Spurs testament to this but it is the way he is often bullied by strikers which is most worrying. The scorer of Sunderland’s second goal, Kenwyne Jones, simply used his strength and height when beating Foster in the air to bundle home. Foster in truth never looked like winning the ball and it is not the first time he has been beaten in this manner. Didier Drogba bullied him in a similar way to get Chelsea back into the Community Shield at the start of the season.
Although not a really important game against Chelsea it dented his confidence which has made him look uneasy at times throughout this season. The Sunderland game was an important one, especially as United had just got a foot hold back in the game and looked the most likely to go on to get the winner. Many United fans after the game reminisced about the great Peter Schmeichel and his ability to take the ball, attackers and defenders and still hold on to it. It is unfair to compare Foster to the great Dane but it is something he should be looking to emulate himself. United first choice Edwin van der Sar is close to full recovery and when fit will be immediately back in the side. But with his age and uncertainty as to whether this will be his last season at the club it is likely United will look for another keeper in the January transfer window.
As was previously said, all the blame cannot be heaped simply on Foster as it was a very poor performance by United and despite the points tally seeing them second – two points behind Chelsea – it has not been a great start to the season performance wise. Sir Alex will have to use the time over the international break in tandem with those players not involved for their respective countries to work hard to improve the level and cut out the mistakes. No-one doubts it can be done and come the turn of the year it is likely United will be in touching distance of top spot – just where they like to be.
Manchester United Club Focus
Welcome to Manchester, Michael – July 29
Goals from midfield the order of the day – August 5
Respect the consistency – August 12
Injury plague piles pressure on forwards – August 18
Usual slow starters living up to their reputation but is there cause for concern? – August 22
Enter the Champions – August 25
Anderson and Vidic pledge their allegiance – August 28
Win fails to hide Rooney’s need for a wingman – September 1
Ferguson sticking to his guns – September 4
Fingers pointed towards Old Trafford – September 8
Legal issues and a tough trip to north London – September 11
The two sides of Paul Scholes – September 15
A win in Turkey and a derby day to come – September 18
Fletcher revels in the “best derby of all time” – September 22
Tough trip to Stoke after lacklustre cup performance – September 25
Giggs leads by example – September 29
Giggs hits another milestone – October 2
Wiley bears brunt as Red Devils falter – October 6