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Man Utd Club Focus – Fine margins contributing to United downfall

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By Oli Coates

Thursday 03 May 2012

A series of fine details have conspired against Manchester United, who have taken just four points from their last four league games. In doing so they have surrendered an eight point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Defeat at the Etihad meant that United have dropped points three times in these four matches, which is not the form of champions as the season reaches its climax. The game was decided through a defensive mistake from Chris Smalling, who allowed Vincent Kompany to slip behind and away from him to score from a corner in first half injury time.

City were the more threatening side, but in truth didn’t trouble David de Gea too much throughout the game. Had Sir Alex Ferguson got his players in at half time with the scores level, it would have given him the opportunity to gather his players and relay a second half plan.

In the first game of United’s poor run at Wigan, they underperformed throughout. However, United were denied a late penalty when Maynor Figueroa clearly handled a Phil Jones cross. Also, the corner from which Wigan scored should have seen a goal kick awarded.

In the draw against Everton at Old Trafford, United threw away a two goal lead and all three points. At 4-2, Patrice Evra struck the post with United playing some excellent football. Minutes later Everton were back on level terms. If the score had gone to 5-2, there is little doubt the defending champions would have seen the game out.

Had United gone to City knowing that a defeat would have still left the title race firmly in their own hands, perhaps a more attacking mentality would have prevailed in Ferguson’s team selection. It would have been foolish to go to the Etihad with all guns blazing, as City hold the best home record in the league and United could have left themselves open to City’s attacking talents. However, the way the team was set up with Park in the centre of midfield and Giggs further up the pitch as part of an attacking trident with Rooney and Nani, took away some of the explosive pace with which United can counter and strike fear in their opposition.

It was also surprising to see United’s outstanding performer, Antonio Valencia, restricted to the substitute’s bench. It is true that Nani has given Gael Clichy a torrid time in previous encounters with the former Arsenal left back, but Valencia’s form has been outstanding since Christmas. Nani meanwhile has missed games through an ankle injury, and was reported to have aggravated the problem in training in the run up to the derby. Valencia’s one footedness, and seeming inability to operate on the left flank, cost him a starting berth.

In truth, however, United have contributed to their own downfall through the defeat at Wigan and the draw against Everton. City lead at the top on the fine margin of goal difference, and it is hard to see them losing it now.

See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Man Utd v Swansea

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