5 Things We Learned: West Ham United 2-2 Manchester United


By Jason Freeman

1. Rooney’s wide-ranging performances

When he plays well, he’s world class but when he has a bad game, as he did against West Ham on Wednesday night, he can be really awful. I can’t think of any other player of his quality and reputation whose performances vary from such a wide range. It’s not as if this is the first time this type of performance has happened either, in fact it happens too often. Why it happens could be down to a number of things, I don’t think anyone can really explain it though. A common explanation or excuse for it seems to be a lack of fitness or match sharpness, with Fergie often saying he needs a few games to get into form. This explanation would seem a little odd here though given he was man of the match only a few days before Wednesday’s game at Stoke. A game in which there was a lot of talk afterwards that it may be the start of a permanent move to midfield, yet the game against West Ham seemed to prove otherwise. The overuse of long ’hollywood’ passes and the failure to track his opponent’s runs were the biggest problems on Wednesday as they have been when he’s played in midfield in the past, it’s also probably why he will never make a permanent move into midfield, he’ll need to learn pretty quickly if it is to become permanent. For me, the role is not for him, it would be a waste of his strengths if he was to make the move into midfield, we need to get some proper central midfielders in and stop playing players from other positions there.

2. Kagawa settling

Many United fans and neutrals will probably consider Kagawa’s debut season to be a disappointment but there have certainly been signs of huge promise in a difficult start to his United career. As well as having to settle in a new country and adapt to a different league, he has also had to deal with injury and playing out of position for most of the season. Despite this he’s shown his potential from day 1, in the last 2 games though I think he’s made a step up from showing signs. Earlier in the season he was often bullied by physical opponents and yet playing away against 2 of the more physical sides in the league, he coped fine. Against West Ham, he showed his ability to create something from nothing in the build up to both goals. Had he stayed on the pitch for the full 90 we may have won but with him having not played a lot this season it would have been a lot to ask for him to play 2 full games in just a few days, the fact he even started was a positive for me because of this. We’re now beginning to see Kagawa settle into the side and his team mates are beginning to understand him better. It’d be nice to see him given a run of games now in his favoured central position until the end of the season, with Rooney struggling it seems like a possibility. With a full pre-season, we could see him become a key player next season.

3. Confident Carrick

Having been a Carrick fan for a number of seasons, it’s been great to see him finally get some acknowledgement from fans and media. He’s not been doing too much different to previous seasons, he’s looked more confident recently though, a confidence which seems to have appeared since the fans started singing a song about him. He’s now playing with such confidence and freedom that he’s taking more risks and being more creative on the ball, making 5 key passes vs. West Ham. However it is a worry that we are so reliant on one player to keep us ticking in midfield, when Carrick isn’t present we struggle. It’s something that will need to be addressed in the summer as I’m not sure we can continue to play Carrick so often and be able to compete in more than one competition.

4. Don’t write Valencia off quite yet

Still not at his best but in recent weeks he has shown glimpses of the Valencia of old, the one who would actually run down the wing at defenders and put a good delivery in to the box, we saw this last night and it was his best performance in a while, probably his best of the season. While his goal was just a tap in, he gained a lot of confidence from it as he looked an improved player afterwards and looked a threat, delivering a brilliant cross at 2-1 for van Persie who was denied with a good save by Jääskeläinen. He provided a few other good chances too. There seem to be many things affecting Valencia this season, given his performance after he scored it would seem confidence is one. Other likely factors are fatigue with him having to travel to Ecuador to play international games during the season and the summer, which also means he doesn’t get a rest, and maybe he’s even suffering from pressure to perform having bagged a few awards last season and receiving the iconic number 7 jersey at the beginning of the season. He has been extremely poor for most of this season but I think his performance, especially in the 2nd half was cause for optimism.

5. One Step Closer

Despite only drawing with West Ham on Wednesday night, we now need just 6 points from our last 5 games, maybe less if City drop points in their remaining 6 games. Some may be getting a little worried now with us not playing too well since we exited the Champions League, but I don’t think there is need to panic, not yet anyway, it’s still firmly in our own hands. While it would obviously have been better to win at West Ham on Wednesday, I think we have to be content with 4 points from two tough away games against Stoke and West Ham, and with a home game vs. Aston Villa to come on Monday night we shouldn’t be alarmed. With Aston Villa battling relegation, it could be a tricky game but you’d expect us to win at home. City travel to Spurs on Sunday, we will know before our game on Monday whether a win will be enough to secure title number 20.
Man of the Match Poll & Player Ratings: West Ham United vs. Manchester United HERE.
Latest Manchester United 2012-13 statistics HERE.
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  1. Samadhi Fisher on

    Agreed on all points. It’s about time someone else noticed Rooney’s inconsistency and said something about it. Up until now, he’s been getting a pass. I think Kagawa will continue showing his talents as he gets more time. He seems to combine best with RvP in front of him and players like Carrick and Cleverley behind him. Over the years, the biggest improvement I’ve seen in Carrick’s game came from becoming a facilitator instead of trying to get forward, a role he isn’t really equipped to assume. Now, when you watch him distribute, “it’s hard to believe it’s not Scholes.” Having Valencia out wide stretches defenses horizontally. This creates space for everyone else and as you mentioned, his service is excellent. It’s amazing how a player so vital to a team’s production is treated when his name isn’t Rooney.

    One step closer: nothing else matters.

  2. I agree with much of the article, I would also add a sixth thing and that is David de Gea is beginning to really fulfill all of his potential. Not much he could have done with the 2 goals but you can see that he has grown into the position and the team generally has a much greater degree of confidence in him. For me DDG and Kagawa will emerge from this season in much better shape for the next, we have 2 class players there to add to the ones we already have.

    • Thanks Gordon. Agree. I nearly scrapped the last point for De Gea but there were a lot of people freaking out on twitter saying we lost the title and I thought a bit of reassurance would be good. Maybe next time.

  3. OleGunnarArchie on

    I have always thought Rooney would end up in midfield but the more I see him playing deeper the less convinced I am.

    Kagawa has certainly improved through the season and look to be top quality. Where he fits into a formation with Rooney is a big question. Both at their best centrally behind a main striker.

    Good article, I always enjoy the column.

    • Thanks OleGunnarArchie. Yeah it is difficult to fit both in. With Kagawa improving and Rooney stuttering, I hope to see Kagawa behind van Persie on Monday vs Villa and maybe Rooney in midfield with Carrick despite my opinion on him playing there above. We’ll see. Kagawa certainly deserves a run in the team in his favoured position.

  4. Good piece… However… Instead of focusing on Rooney’s failings as a striker playing centre mid… Why not focus on why he’s there instead of a fully fit Tom Cleverley. Now I like Tom… But he seems to have gone backwards this season. He was like a rabbit in the headlights against Chelsea recently. So we are playing players out of position because those who should be there can’t be trusted!

  5. OleGunnarArchie on

    Matthew – I like Tom as well. It seemed to me through the middle of the season he was coming on massively and looked really assured. It is in the latter part of the season he’s gone backwards.

    Is it a confidence thing, not knowing whether he’s secured the position?

  6. Big fan of Cleverley. He’s looked tired and a little off the boil in the latter stages of the season. He will benefit from having a proper pre-season after participating in last summer’s Olympics (I think his season started in July so it’s been a long campaign for him). I think he and Kagawa will be top players for us next season.

  7. Matthew(Manc) on

    OleGunnarArchie – “Is it a confidence thing, not knowing whether he’s secured the position?”… if this is the case he should be stepping up. If he can’t raise his game to make sure of a starting spot then maybe he’s not cut out for United!

    SideshowBob – The Olympics was his pre-season he didn’t go on any of our tours and I don’t buy into this tired rubbish… they are supposed to be elite athletes. The preperation now is to ensure they are peaking physically come the second half of the season. Ferguson has been doing this for years!

    However all that said… Cleverley having come through our ranks and only just really got into the first team squad (last season injured) deserves a chance. others such as Anderson, Young and Nani have had their chance(s) and failed… it’s time they went.

    As a regular at OT i fail to see why everyone believes Kagawa will be playing centre mid next season… he’s a liability come the second half when he generally goes missing… I don;t believe for one minute he’s not fit enough, Dortmund are one of the fittest clubs in Europe under Jurgen Klopp. He’s looked at his best (one or twice) coming in off the left wing, finding space having left his full back. His two contributions on Wednesday night (West Ham) were both ghosting in from wide positions.

    As for Rooney… disapointed again with his performance… however more disapointed with the media and fans reactions towards him. This is a lad who’s given us 10 years service and always even if he’s not playing well gives 110% on the pitch. This hasn’t been his best season however through January, February, March and most of April when Van Persie’s touch seemed to have left him, Rooney scored some very important goals for us (again). Give the lad a break… everyone’s defending Cleverley for no pre-season… and you seem to forget Rooney was rushed into a mediocre international tournament (Again!) and came out of it with a fresh knock and even more people on his back!

    • Disagree, Matthew. Firmly believe Cleverley is suffering from tiredness after a long, first full season (at United). He’s played a lot of football for Great Britain, England and United that will have taken its toll. Factor in his past injury issues and it’s understandable why he is tired at this stage of the season. He is being managed perfectly by Fergie and the medical staff.

      Read my posts on SEA’s forum and you will see that I agree with you on Rooney. He is judged harshly compared to others. We haven’t seen vintage Rooney this season, but he is still our second best attacking player behind van Persie. People hark on about his contract episode; I was annoyed at the time, but not now, I’d like to think I am a bit more mature than a teenage girl.

  8. Thoroughly disagree about Cleverley, since he’s been out of the team we’ve played like we did last season. Clearly knackered since the Real Madrid game where he was excellent. This is his first full season for us, having had injuries last season, Fergie knows what is best for Cleverley and if that is rest then so be it. When he has started games he rarely completes because of a lack of stamina, same goes for Kagawa. They’re both high energy players and as they get older they will be able to sustain that energy for longer. There is no point running them into the ground. He’s also apparently on an individual training programme which restricts him from playing so often.

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