Manchester United Analysis – Defensive problems continue as United waste opportunity

Knight 6, Petrov 67

Nani 23, Owen 74

Manchester United’s defensive problems were once again exposed as they failed to take advantage of a rare opportunity to close the gap behind Chelsea. Sir Alex Ferguson will be disappointed with an away performance which again saw United unable to keep a clean sheet.

Jonny Evans continues to look the weak link at the back with the 22-year-old struggling for form leading to him being continually targeted by the opposition. Bolton Wanderers had this at the heart of their game plan with both Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander looking to upset Evans at every opportunity. The young centre-half was also charged with the task of marking Zat Knight at set pieces which was a job Evans failed, to do leading to the opening goal. Allowing Knight to get in front of him to steer the ball into the net at the height at which the Bolton man met the ball was an extremely poor piece of defending and one which will have incensed his manager.

There is no doubt Evans is a huge talent but he seems to be suffering from a lack of concentration at vital moments in matches – something which a team looking to challenge for the Premier League title cannot afford to have. In order for United to get their season on track and improve their defensive record it is imperative Rio Ferdinand is restored to full fitness in partnership with Nemanja Vidic. When this will become a reality is a serious issue around Old Trafford with the England captain unable to make the bench for this encounter following his outing at Scunthorpe United last Wednesday.

Going forward, United at times looked the class outfit their fans expect them to be, however, the current inconsistency surrounding the team was again evident. Nani’s goal again illustrated the growing maturity of the Portuguese and was another great example of an end product to his formidable talent. The same unfortunately cannot be said of Wayne Rooney, with the England man looking out of sorts for the 61 minutes which he was present on the pitch. The spark which was present in Rooney’s game last season seems to be missing as he continually cut a frustrated figure. For Ferguson to withdraw his most talented player with United pushing for a winner at 1-1 is clear evidence of the lack of form of his main man. Whether Rooney can regain his form with the current weight being carried on his shoulders looked far from a certainty during this encounter.

Much was also expected from Dimitar Berbatov following last weeks’ hat-trick but the Bulgarian was quiet for much of this match. The usual criticisms of the United No 9 -revolving around his supposed lack of work rate – cannot be levelled at him here. It was more a case of United struggling to bring him into the match with Paul Scholes having his quietest game this season and a lack of creativity from wide areas. Nani may have shown his talent at times but following the loss of Ryan Giggs early in the second-half the introduction of Ji-Sung Park had little impact. This will be another worrying sign for Ferguson following the long lay-off of Antonio Valencia.

With three draws from the opening three away games of the season the problems suffered by United are clearly apparent. While able to find the net despite not always being in top gear the inability to keep the opposition at bay is hurting their season. Seven goals conceded in three matches is not title winning form and must be rectified come Sunday’s visit to Sunderland.

1 Van der Sar

22 O’Shea – 15 Vidic – 23 Evans – 3 Evra

17 Nani – 18 Scholes – 24 Fletcher – 11 Giggs

10 Rooney – 9 Berbatov

53 – 13 Ji-Sung Park on for 11 Giggs
61 – 27 Macheda on for 10 Rooney
71 – 7 Owen on for 24 Fletcher

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