Rio Ferdinand, in the spotlight following his omission from the England squad, turned in an excellent performance that brings into question the wisdom of his continued absence from the national side. The 33-year-old was superb at Anfield in United’s recent victory over rivals Liverpool, and was impressive once again in another difficult away fixture. England travel to Warsaw next week to take on a dangerous Poland side, a game in which Ferdinand’s experience could have proved useful.
Ferguson will be delighted however that his centre-back does not have to contend with the added rigours of international duty, and now has a two week break to ready himself for a run of league games that includes a trip to Stamford Bridge and a home clash against Arsenal. The manager will also be delighted with the performance of opening goal scorer Jonny Evans alongside Ferdinand, with both players providing real presence at the back.
Additionally, Patrice Evra and Rafael da Silva were much improved from the previous league outing against Spurs, having both completed 90 minutes of Champions League action against CFR Cluj during midweek. The midfield unit was narrower thanks to a lack of starting wingers, which could have adversely affected the full-backs who are used to having wide players in front of them. The change in formation was effectively adapted to however, and United benefitted from packing the middle of the pitch and dictating play for much of the game.
Ferguson successfully deployed a diamond in midfield against Cluj, and decided to do so again at the Sports Direct Arena. The danger against the Magpies lay in the threat represented by Demba Ba and Papiss Ciss