THE thing that stood out for me in last weekend’s big match between Liverpool and Manchester United was Sir Alex Ferguson’s selection of players. I thought the Battle of the Reds was an interesting tactical game. Perhaps as a result of last season’s defeat, Fergie decided to be pragmatic and chose to defend first and keep his attacking options on the bench until they went down a goal.
Making improvisations can make or break a game, so I thought Sir Alex’s change in his game plan by putting on Wayne Rooney, Nani, and Javier Hernandez was very good.
On the contrary, Kenny Dalglish practically stuck to the same tactic throughout the whole 90 minutes.
The experienced manager lacked the ambition and flexibility to have a back-up plan that could have given them a better chance to win the game, like throwing on Andy Carroll to intimidate David De Gea in the final minutes of the game.
Fighting a Liverpool side that was just starting to gel together, I thought it was a case of a point earned for Ferguson, and two points dropped for Dalglish. Liverpool huffed and puffed, until veteran Ryan Giggs decided that he was not going to be part of the defensive wall, and gifted Steven Gerrard a goal.
In football, it is considered a crime if a defensive wall breaks up. All the more so, when it is your most experienced player who commits the mistake. He should have been the one organising the wall and yelling at his team mates to keep their focus.
But unfortunately, Giggs dodged, which is quite unexplainable. I dare say it will be a long time before Giggs returns to United’s defensive wall. Speaking of crimes, Carlos Tevez, as a professional footballer, should also know better.
Being paid to play for the sport you love for one of the best clubs in the world definitely comes with a price. Three-quarters of the world’s population would definitely love to be in his position. When he signed on to play in Europe, he should have known that he would have to leave his family and children behind in Argentina, but it would all be for the greater good.
When Fergie got rid of him, I voiced my opinion that Tevez was not worth the amount of money he and his agent asked for, nor is he the world class player that others say he is. There are simply no excuses for his behaviour.
As for his club, Manchester City has quietly overhauled United over the weekend with a two-point lead, which makes this Sunday’s Manchester derby clash at Old Trafford a game that I anticipate very much. Expect Roberto Mancini to practice caution. Nevertheless, The Citizens look dangerous on the counter attack, which I think they will be doing for the majority of the game.
Their new talisman, Sergio Agüero, who recently returned to the pitch with a game-winning goal in the Uefa Champions League game this week, also poses a danger. His mobility, agility, and eye for space make him very difficult to pin down.
The Argentinean is a very slippery character, and having a low centre of gravity makes him hard to track. The Red Devils’ will have to go into this game with all guns blazing with the Old Trafford manager picking his first choice attacking players. Defensively, I foresee Sir Alex paying special attention to David De Silva, and it will not surprise me if he puts Anderson or Park Ji Sung to make sure the Spaniard does not touch the ball.
Stopping him will make Man City less effective, but it doesn’t guarantee an easier win either.
Also expect Fergie to play his most experienced defenders, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, as experience counts more than youth in such games. With experience, you would be more aware of player movements and situations off the ball, which will be key to dealing with players like Aguero. Tactically, Fergie would approach this match more like a European tie rather than an English Premier League game.
It is not about blood and thunder, but more of tactical warfare.
I think City will go out looking for a draw, and I predict it will probably end up a 1-1.
Recently, there has also been much talk with foreign owners wanting to scrap the relegations of the Barclay’s Premier League. My personal opinion is that without the relegation battle, the essence of the game would be gone, and there will be no cutting edge.
Relegation and the fight for promotion has always been important, and that really adds meaning to the whole competition.
A franchise led situation is certainly not advisable, we’ll be watching the same teams year in and out. Wouldn’t that be boring for you? That being said, I definitely can’t wait for this Sunday’s match!
* Catch Shebby Singh on Monday Night Verdict every Monday at 8pm on ESPN, and his insight and views during ESPN’s live match presentation of the Barclays Premier League