Friday, July 19, 2019

Last minute United at the top to stay

Exciting day in the Premier League yesterday. 90th minute winner for Manchester United, 88th minute equaliser and 90th minute winner for Chelsea. 80th minute winner for Aston Villa and goals in the 82nd and 86th minutes for Arsenal. That’s four of the top five all winning with goals in the last ten minutes.

Easy wins

Look at the opposition they were against. Bolton, Stoke, Sunderland and Hull. Surely that should be four easy wins. As it turned out the wins were anything but easy, but wins they still were.

That is exactly why these teams are at the top. They never stop coming at the opposition. In all four of these games the opposition played heroically against superior players and teams. It still wasn’t enough because you have to keep your concentration for the entire ninety minutes and it is very difficult to do that. One mistake, one loss of concentration as you get tired and these top teams punish you.

Top of the table

So Dimitar Berbatov’s last minute header has put Manchester United to the top of the table for the first time this season. If Liverpool beat Everton by more than two goals on Monday they will return to the top, but in all likelihood, United will be top of the Premier League at the end of this round of matches.

The question is, will anyone knock them off of top spot between now and the end of the season?

Everyone knows that good teams are built on sound defences. Manchester United have been finding the goals a little hard to come by but yesterday was their tenth game in a row without conceding a goal. With a defence as good as that and players like Berbatov, Tevez, Rooney and Ronaldo, who even if they are not being prolific, may easily take one chance at some stage, it is difficult to see who is going to stop them.

Conceding

Why are United not conceding goals? Van der Sar has been good, but he is not at his very best. The right back spot has been shared between a young and inexperienced Rafael and a vastly experienced but surely past his best Gary Neville. The left back spot has been shared between the excellent Patrice Evra who keeps being injured or suspended and the reliable if unspectacular John O’Shea.

At centre-half we come to Rio Ferdinand. A great player but probably not at his very best this season and currently injured. His replacement, Jonny Evans, is a great prospect but a long way from being the finished article.

Protection

The midfield and front players at United work very hard to defend from the front and they provide great protection to their back four. It all helps and everyone has played their part, but the one person who is more responsible for this phenomenal run than any other is the twenty-seven year old Serbian centre-half Nemanja Vidic.

His first few games for United left people wondering just why Sir Alex Ferguson had paid £7 million to bring the player to Old Trafford. Now, we can all see that he is turning out to be one of the best signings the United boss has ever made.

Replace

Since the treble season of 1999, United fans have said that Fergie has never managed to replace the great Peter Schmeichel in goal or the monstrous Jaap Stam at centre-half. Now, ten years on, he has managed to do just that in Van Der Sar and Vidic.

It is difficult to find fault with Vidic. He is strong in the air and strong in the tackle. He is quick and he reads the game exceptionally well. He is as strong as an ox and as brave as a lion. He puts his head in where others fear to do so and he puts his body on the line. On top of that, he is a real threat at attacking set pieces as well. In fact, he is just about the perfect centre-half package at this time in his career.

Clean sheets

United have got a long way to go yet this season and injuries to Ferdinand, Evra and Rooney will not help their cause. They need to find some goal scoring form at some stage as the defence cannot continue to keep clean sheets for ever, although in all competitions this season United have played thirty-four games and only failed to find the net in five. Of those five games, four have been drawn 0-0.

With the attacking talent they have at their disposal, the goals are sure to start flowing at some point. With Ferdinand and Evra to return to support Vidic at the back, their defensive record will surely go from strength to strength.

Theirs to lose

It is very early to say this, but I can’t see anyone knocking United off the top of the table. The title is theirs to lose now, and I just don’t see them doing it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Graham Fisher


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