Club Focus – Manchester United – Stuttering United likely to be without key personnel

There seems to be somewhat of a recurring theme running throughout this writer’s Manchester United Club Focus’s in recent weeks due to the performance of one player – Ryan Giggs. Enough has been said concerning his contribution to the side this season but he again deserves a mention for his performance against Bolton over the weekend. In what was a United side missing Wayne Rooney and desperate for a performance after the blip against Sunderland two weeks previous, Giggs delivered some glimmer of hope. In what was another shaky performance – especially after the Trotters goal – Giggs at least gave the Old Trafford faithful something to shout about and left his manager purring:“He surpasses all the accolades that have been given to him because he seems to get better, and that’s incredible to say about a 35-year-old”. remarked Sir Alex Ferguson.

The accolades keep coming for Giggs as he was nominated in the shortlist for the 2009 Ballon d’Or this week along with Rooney, but one thing that does not seem to be getting that much better for this United side is the performance with another stuttering home encounter being witnessed. Ferguson was quick to defend his side, stating that the Premier League is a very tough league with all sides capable of taking points off each other. This may be so, but with recent performances many sides will head to Old Trafford truly believing that they can get something. This may of course play into United’s hands as teams may become more open as they try to attack which will enable the Red Devils to expose them at the back. However, in order to do this the attacking football will need to improve somewhat. It may seem strange to criticise United so early in the season as they are sitting top of the league after this weekend’s fixtures but in truth it has not been a good start to the season for any of the top sides with too many points being dropped. United is not sitting pretty at the top of the league as it seems simply at this stage to be down to other teams failings being greater than their own.

The performance against Bolton was, however, good at times with some crisp football played to achieve the two goal lead and also immediately after this with Dimitar Berbatov again putting in the kind of shift which is quickly turning those United fans who had their doubts about the Bulgarian. In the absence of Rooney the attacking mantle has clearly passes to Berbatov who seems to be taking it on in his stride. He will again have to be the focal point of the United attack when they travel to Moscow to face CSKA for this week’s Champions League tie. United have good memories of the Luzhniki stadium, winning the 2008 Champions League on that ground and they will need to be at their very best to get something from the game. Russian football is certainly on the up after UEFA Cup triumphs for both CSKA and Zenit St. Petersburg in recent seasons and United face the added test of travelling without five first team regulars. Rooney, Giggs, Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji Sung have not travelled to Moscow but both Nemanja Vidic and Berbatov have and are both expected to play.

Both Berbatov and Vidic will be key to any success that United can bring away from Moscow. In truth Sir Alex will be happy to come away with a draw and without the loss of anymore players with next weekend’s tantalizing trip to Anfield looming on the horizon. It is likely that Rooney will be back for this game – one which neither himself nor Michael Owen would miss for the world.

It is likely that Sir Alex himself may be missing from the touchline for some upcoming matches after the FA yesterday confirmed that they will be charging him with improper conduct regarding the comments made about referee Alan Wiley in his post match interview following the Sunderland game. The FA statement simply states that he has been charged but an earlier statement from the head of the officials’ union prospect, Alan Leighton shows the kind of pressure the FA are being put under. Leighton had the following to say: “We think that the attack on Alan Wiley was an attack on his professionalism, struck at the heart of his professionalism and was totally unwarranted.”

The FA should obviously not bow to outside influence but with so much being said from the referee’s side and coupled with the FA’s Respect program trying in their earnest to protect referees it may be likely that Ferguson will receive a rather hefty touchline ban. He has until November 3 to appeal but United fans will fear the worst for their wily boss.

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
Back to the matter at hand – October 16
Stuttering United likely to be without key personnel – October 20

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