By Andy Field.
Another successful season for United seems close… It looks like we are going to win our 20th league title (*touches every possible wooden item within reach*) and the league has to be the main priority at the start of each season. It is the barometer of who is the best team in the country & leads to a lot of bragging rights for all of us at work & in the pub etc. Champions League and, to a much lesser extent the FA Cup, are great to win but the league season is the bread and butter, the reason why we buy our season tickets.
But there is something which is really bothering me about United. I think it’s fair to say our wingers have been poor this season, and I think I’m being kind with that description. There is something severely lacking from their play. The performances of Ashley Young, Tony V & Nani have been the one major disappointment of our season.
Ashley Young is frustratingly inconsistent and I can’t be the only one who wants to throttle him when an over aggressive wind dares to blow near him and sends him falling over!! He also seems to be quite easily readable for a lot of defenders, always seeming to want to cut back on to that right foot when there is a huge gap for him to get it onto his left & whip it in.
Nani, to me, seems like a player who doesn’t really want to be at the club anymore. He is a mere shadow of the player of 18 months ago, and if it was just his form then I could possibly accept it. But his whole body language to me suggests something is drastically wrong between him and the manager/club. The fact that he seemingly tried to manufacturer a move away to a rich Russian club would seem to back this up. He strikes me as a player who very much believed the hype when he was playing at his peak 2 years ago, almost instigating a “we won’t miss Ronaldo too much cos I’m just as good if not better” mentality. That has well and truly fallen away since then. How he seems to still be allocated to taking free kicks and corners for us when I’m sure 85% of them hit the first defender is just well beyond my judgement!!
Then there is Valencia…. Ohhhhhh Tony. He needs to get himself to the doctor as he clearly has Torres-syndrome (forgotten how to play football). If I’m not mistaken didn’t he receive the Fans Player of the Year award last season? What has happened to him? He looks nervous, seems to have lost a yard or two of pace, cannot beat a defender if his life depends on it & his distribution is just awful. His one main flaw is that he is so predominantly right footed, perhaps his opponents have realised this and are exposing his weaknesses. He seems to be getting doubled up against, forcing him inside where he is clearly not comfortable. I don’t feel like he uses Rafael to the extent he should do either.
I know there are going to be people reading this who will be saying “Some United fans are never happy, we are going to win the league & this bloke is slagging off our players”. Well, forgive me for wanting to see United improve. United have accomplished what we have done in the last 20 years through not resting on our laurels and always striving to improve in areas where there are weaknesses. I would be amazed if ALL three of the players mentioned above are still at Old Trafford next season, and clearly Fergie realises there is an issue or he wouldn’t have signed Zaha for next season.
I’m not usually one for statistics but I do have a few for you… Tony V, Nani & Young have started 50 league games between them this season. They have ONE goal amongst them in those games. Let me just reiterate that for you, 3 attacking wingers have scored a joint combination of 1 goal in 50 starts (there are sub appearances on top of that). They also have 13 assists between them. I had to double and triple check these facts as I didn’t believe them first time round, but they are correct. One goal and only 13 assists from 3 attacking wingers, I’ve written it three times in this paragraph and it still makes difficult reading!! If I tell you that Rafael & Evra have a joint combination of 7 goals and 11 assists in the league then I think that puts it into perspective.
To take it a step further, Eden Hazard has 8 goals and 13 assists in 28 starts, and Juan Mata has 10 goals and 13 assists in 27 starts. Now you really do start to see the problem. Wow, if our wingers had of hit anywhere near the form that the rest of the team have then we could have absolutely destroyed this league (more so than we have). Whole season with no losses? Whole season of 38 WINS!! Now that would have been impressive, and achievable in my mind. Let’s be honest here, have we won the league from being unstoppable, playing a brand of football that nobody else could live with? I think all but the most blinkered Reds would say NO. We have been difficult to beat, resolute & (again) never know when we are beaten. Obviously there have been some real touches of class in there too & some of our players have been immense this season (Carrick, Rafael, De Gea, and Evans). But if we had reached our collective potential as a team then this season could have been a record breaking season for us.
To summarise, this isn’t a kicking session (although it may seem like one) for the 3 wingers. If they were just poor players then I wouldn’t mind, but they are just playing so far below their potentials. It’s obviously much worse due to them all pretty much doing it simultaneously, which also makes it more difficult to explain. The other thing I would like to point out is that we have been well and truly spoilt with our wingers over the last 10-15 years…. Giggs, Ronaldo, Kanchelskis, Sharpe, Cruyff, Poborsky (ok ok I’m joking with the last two), but you get my point. United are a team built around an attacking mentality, and most reds expect two dynamic tricky wingers to tear opponents apart. That hasn’t happened this season, but that’s not to say those same players cannot do it next season. I feel that Nani will move on in the summer but Tony V and Young will still be there next season. Hopefully they will get back to the sort of form we know they can produce.
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