Spector 22 37, Cole 56 66
MANCHESTER UNITED 0
Sir Alex Ferguson was visibly disappointed with his Manchester United side in an encounter which saw his team lose for the first time this season in any competition.
United started the game brightly and were unlucky not to go one up following Gabriel Obertan’s neat turn and shot. Following this, however, they created little and were thoroughly deserving of the score line. In making 10 changes from the side which was so convincing at the weekend it may be understandable the team may need a little time to find their feet, but at no stage in this encounter did United gel.
The back four were poor throughout with Jonny Evans doing little to regain the form shown in previous seasons. For both of Carlton Cole’s goals, Evans was guilty of being on his heels in the penalty area. A centre-half playing at this level of football simply cannot afford to have a lapse in concentration when the opposition is in and around the box. The ease with which Cole, struggling for form himself, was able to out manoeuvre Evans cost his team dear when looking to get back in the game in the second half. It was no surprise when Evans was withdrawn and replaced with Wes Brown.
When switched to right-back, Fabio da Silva was given a torrid time by both Luis Boa Morte and Victor Obinna, culminating in his twin brother, Rafael da Silva, replacing him. Rafael was clearly put on with the sole direction to tighten up the right flank, a task he immediately failed at when beaten easily by Obinna before the Nigerian forward played in Cole for his second. The fact Ferguson was required to use two of his three substitutions to replace members of the back four when chasing a lead speaks volumes of the lack of cohesion in defence.
In sending out a team with experienced Premier League players such as Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher, Ferguson will have believed the elder statesmen would have guided his younger charges through a difficult encounter. However, both Giggs and Fletcher were poor, with Fletcher putting in one of his worst performances of the season. At no point did he boss the West Ham midfield which during the first half ran United ragged.
When referee Mark Clattenburg chalked off Obinna’s deflected shot United were given a warning to stop Jonathan Spector surging from midfield with the ball. This is something they did not head as for the Hammers’ second Spector was able to carry the ball over a distance, hurting United. It may have been Bebe who was initially weak in the tackle but it should have been the likes of Fletcher stamping his authority on the midfield ensuring this did not happen. It was a weak showing from the Scot when much of the emphasis for United’s performance was resting on his shoulders.
Looking at Ferguson’s selection, it is clear where his priorities this season lie. However, a loss in this manner in any game will hurt a manager who has built his reputation on winning. Judging on this performance there are many who have work to do to force their way back into the side for the coming Premier League matches.
22 O’Shea – 12 Smalling – 23 Evans – 20 Fabio
33 Bebe – 8 Anderson – 24 Fletcher – 26 Obertan
46 – 27 Macheda on for 33 Bebe
65 – 21 Rafael on for 20 Fabio
72 – 6 Brown on for 23 Evans