AS a avid Manchester United supporter, last nights loss to Arsenal was hard to swallow. Although it pains me to say it, Samir Nasri deserved his brace and Arsenal their 3 points, but for some personnel decisions, i think we could have had that game in the bag long before nasri snatched Arsenal the lead.
Sir Alex Ferguson's (SAF) team selection against Arsenal will no doubt come under scrutiny from various "pundits" and past players who think they can predict SAF's thought's from their past dealings with him. I think SAF has one of the hardest jobs in the land, trying to field the right combination of players to defend, attack and keep possession of the ball, in the right proportions so as to win games of football.
Manchester United have experienced many a golden age, and the last vestiges of the club's heroic 1999 treble are now entering the twilight of their careers.Neville, Giggs, Scholes, Solskjaer all entered 2006 at various states of physical disability. I may use the term quite liberally, but in wider terms, slight hamstring strains and a broken bones are hardly crippling, but as a professional footballer, optimal physical condition is a mandatory prerequisite to play competetively. A year passed and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realised that his immediate and long term future did not lie in playing the game at a level that paled in comparison to his former glory days. The mature and wise man that he is realised that preserving his body for his own future, and the future of the club( via his coaching skills) was much more important than pushing himself so hard that he did himself permanent damage.
Neville, Giggs and Scholes all suffered various injuries in that period, ankle, hamstring, knee, foot and eye problems signaling that their bodies may not be responding as their minds wish. With that in mind, Sir Alex Ferguson has had to manage their playing schedule, limiting their appearances so as to keep them fit and fresh. Add to that list Edwin van der Sar, who joined United from Fulham at the peak of his powers, at the ripe old age of 34( once again talking in football years, its not young) has this season seemed out of touch with the sharpness of the league's opposition forwards, and has struggled to remain fit after suffering back, hamstring and leg problems last season.
Sir Alex has the unenviable task of easing out the ageing masters in favour of youthful exuberence, while maintaining their presence around the squad to add vital experience and tactical nouse.The difficult nature of his task was fully exposed by United's defeat at the hands of Arsenal, where 2 of his ageing master's let him and the team down. Gary Neville, captain extraordinaire and heart of the club, needlessly deflected a piledriver past the other master, who could do nothing but wave helplessly as the ball rocketed into the back of the net. He was beaten many a time both on the ground and in the air by opposition wingers and wing-backs. Van der Sar neither looked composed or comfortable in goal at any point of the 95 minute game. True the 1st goal came as a unpleasant surprise, and would have no doubt shocked the system, but he didn't recover well and was hesitant on many occasions when he was forced to clear high quality crosses and shots.SAF's tactical changes were both symptomatic of the problems that plague him and also showed he has a ready made solution. Rafael da Silva, youthful, exuberant, speedy and defensively and offensively sound and contributes to United's attack with foray's forward that leave the opposition defence overwhelmed at the collective talent on show on United's right wing. Wayne Rooney, another of SAF's favourite sons, wasted a handful of chances to put United ahead and laster on, equalise, and was without doubt, having a frustratingly bad day. Carlos "Apache" Tevez, was brought on for Wayne in the 77th minute, giving him just over 15 minutes to weave his magic and salvage something out of the game. Not even the world's best can create/score two goals in 15 minutes, although he created more than Rooney did all game and his efforts lead to Rafael's brilliant consolation goal and it made it clear for all to see what may have been if Tevez had started the game.