For a club so used to breaking records it is with some surprise that we see another lost this season for Manchester United.
Having lost for the first time in the third round of the FA Cup during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford, it is with little surprise that the Scot has been left fuming with his players. He promises to wield the axe for Wednesday’s Carling Cup semi-final against local rivals Manchester City. City will be regarding the League Cup as their best chance of silverware under the new regime, especially concerning the calamitous defending by United seen against Leeds at the weekend. The injury problems in defence have been well documented, but United were again able to field a back four consisting of four natural defenders all with vast first team experience with the possible exception of Fabio da Silva. All four are recently back from injury but should still be expected to cope reasonably well against a League One outfit. Following Sir Alex’s promise for changes, it is likely that Neville and Fabio will lose out, enabling United to play the same back four that kept a clean sheet at home to Wigan minus Nemanja Vidic.
With the Serbian is where the real worry must lie. Both Sir Alex and his assistant Mike Phelan were extremely vague concerning the injury to Vidic suffered in the warm up prior to the Leeds match. Phelan stated that he could not say what was the issue with the Serbian and the only clarification given by Phelan is that he felt something wrong with his body. This is certainly worrying for all Manchester United fans considering the speculation surrounding Vidic that he wishes a move away from a city which he’s been unable to settle in. Ferguson has been known to become very frustrated with players pulling themselves out of games, thus being one of the reasons Louis Saha was finished at Old Trafford. The post match comments seem to suggest a certain amount of anger form the Scotsman but this could easily be attributed to the shocking performance he was just witness to. It would not be prudent to read too much into the situation with Vidic but one thing which was clear for all to see is how much he is missed when not on the pitch which is the real worry for the Red Devils.
The defensive injury problems have proved costly of late with the main reason the loss of Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. So much of the success seen over the last three seasons has been down to those two players and without them United look constantly at sea. With the current uncertainty surrounding Vidic and the lack of a return date for Ferdinand there must still a huge doubt concerning silverware arriving come the end of the season. Sir Alex has since described the performance against Leeds as shocking, as he clearly expected the side selected to do something in a competition which he still holds dear to his heart, despite some claims to the contrary. It was this competition which brought him his first piece of silverware at United and in truth saved his job. It must be with some regret that he views his side’s fortunes in the most famous of competitions over the last ten years.During the highly successful spell in the 90’s the FA Cup was always part of the trophy cabinet with double wins in 1994, 1996 and a treble win in 1999. Add the win in 1990 to this and we can see how much enjoyment the Scot gained from this competition. Since the turn of the century United lifted the FA Cup on one occasion in 2004 and despite making the final twice since then this remains the last FA Cup triumph for Sir Alex.
For a team having won the competition on the most occasions in the history, this remains an embarrassing statistic. It was further compounded by the worst FA Cup performance in Ferguson’s time in charge as manager. Whether United can channel this embarrassment in the upcoming League Cup semi remains to be seen as the inconsistency surrounding this season’s form is likely to continue. Players such as Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher must be welcomed back and must give the type of performance seen on many occasions this season if United are to come away from Eastlands with a chance of making the final. Considering City’s recent form under the new management team and the way they took the game to the United defence in the earlier season , there is much doubt surrounding the capability of United to be present in the final come March.