Man United 1-2 Man City: Fergie too reactive and Phil fills in well

A dejected Alex Ferguson walks off
Sir Alex Ferguson walks off after Manchester United lose 2-1 to Manchester City

Author: Doron

Follow Doron on Twitter

City at home. The last hurrah of an increasingly forgettable season (yes, I know that seems an odd thing to say). With the gap at 15 points before kick off, it was a chance to finish the title race once and for all as well as put the boot into the neighbours and win with some style and confidence. For City, a dream had to be kept alive and they too had pride and bragging rights to play for, particularly after how the game at their place ended. As ever, we welcome comments from both sets of fans.

Giggs in the middle

Having not played started a game for three and a half weeks, Giggs’ inclusion was an obvious one. How and where he’d be used was a bit more of a mystery but the most likely place seemed to be in the middle as part of a three man midfield and with license to drift left. Surprisingly, Fergie opted for four rather than five in the midfield with Giggs partnering Carrick in the centre.

Giggs’ resurgence since mid-winter has coincided with him playing a role that has either seen him play as a winger or drift wide with minimal central responsibilities. His form had been age-defying as his 39 year old legs took him up and down the left hand side of the pitch, beating men and even scoring a couple of goals. There has though been question marks about him as a central player and those doubts were proved correct again last night.

Somehow he played the entire game, left on the pitch when Cleverley’s energy could have been used or Kagawa’s delicacy; Anderson hadn’t even made the bench. Quite simply, Giggs was wasteful – he tried a few classic Gerrard ‘Hollywood passes’, was seldom on the same wavelength as his team-mates, and most memorably he started the move from which City scored their opener. Of all the places on the pitch to try a flicked no-look pass, he picked the wrong one – as he so often does – but this time it was fatal and he gifted City the ball in space and in an area that if he’d have looked, he’d have seen he had few team-mates in.

Had Giggs been a younger player and made that error, it’s one of those that Fergie wouldn’t forget and maybe he’d have made an early substitution, like he did with Rafael at Reading. The boss is excellent at protecting his youngsters particularly when they’re playing badly but with Giggs, despite having an absolute stinker, he stayed on.

Ferguson must take some of the stick for this as he’s the one who selected the team and tactics. There will be games where we can get away with playing Giggs there but in our toughest home league game of the season it was the wrong decision and one that was not addressed during the game.

Reactive Fergie

In truth, expecting Giggs to be substituted was a little optimistic. When Fergie retires and people look back over his highs and lows, the one area that may not read as well as it should is substitutions. Sure, after such a long time in charge he’s got it right on some occasions, his memorable introductions from the bench will stand out and be remembered fondly whereas games like this one will be forgotten. For whatever reason, he’s increasingly reactive rather than proactive with his changes.

Oddly, everyone’s favourite example for this was the Real Madrid game, yet I maintain he actually got that one right. Last night was infuriating though. Rooney looked tired and unfit (he’s only just back in training); Welbeck had done well but once again the team had looked lopsided because there was only one natural winger on the pitch; Young had done his job in terms of shape and balance of the side but United needed a spark; Giggs had been awful. On the bench there were players who can change games – Nani’s trickery, Kagawa’s calmness, Hernandez’s instincts – and yet they remained there.

It took City to score a 79th minute goal for Fergie to decide to do anything. You can argue that United had been relatively comfortable in that City hadn’t really threatened de Gea’s goal but you can also argue that United themselves hadn’t been a threat. Just under ten minutes before Aguero (urgh, that man!) scored, Mancini had taken a gamble to try and win the game. He’d brought Aguero on for Nasri, adding a second striker even if Tevez dropped deeper. If it had backfired, at least City fans could be content that their manager had been positive and gone for all three points. It turned out to be the match winner and by the time Fergie made a change (Valencia of all people on) and another one five minutes later, it was simply too late for the players to have any influence. Even Kagawa only came on because Young picked up an injury.

Now, I don’t agree with everything in this article by Neil Ashton but he’s certainly on the right path: Just think how much United could’ve won if Fergie had Jose’s timing from the bench

Phil Jones fills in

He pulls some seriously odd and funny faces and that no doubt delights the masses of non-United supporters but Jones, who for some reason is seen as something of a circus act, was very good last night.

Credit where it’s due, his header that hit Kompany and went in was an extraordinary miss. It only adds to the character that’s been built up around him but it seemed so perfectly suited to him that he could miss from less than a yard out but still manage to head it against an opponent for an own goal.

On a slightly more serious note, many were probably expecting to see him line up centrally as part of a three man midfield. It’s a role that he’s done well in this season, particularly when tasked with nullifying a specific opposition player and maybe Silva was going to get that treatment. Instead, Fergie’s hand was forced and with Vidic, Evans and Smalling all injured, Jones was played at centre back with Ferdinand. It’s not an often seen combination but actually it had the ingredients to work. When he played at centre back last season, he looked too eager and flustered but this season on the occasions he’s played there he’s done well and in particular shown a real talent for attacking the ball aerially. Thus, if he were to play in a style similar to Vidic’s, his pairing with Ferdinand should be nicely complimentary.

It worked too. City, were generally kept at bay – Milner’s shot was lucky to have deflected off Jones and de Gea with his line-of-sight impeded couldn’t keep it out. Jones made various vital interceptions, tackles and blocks – he threw himself at the ball producing the kind of morphed faces only he can. It’s easy to see why long-term he’ll be a centre back and when other players return to fitness his versatility will no doubt see him used in other roles as often as one at the heart of the defence but it was a very encouraging performance.

Although the goal we scored (well, they scored) wasn’t credited to Jones, he clearly thought it was his when he went off and celebrated. Like at the derby earlier in the season, it was nice to see some raw emotion from him – he’s taken a lot of stick off City fans and clearly has had some pent up anger to release.

The goals have dried up and we’re limping

Two wins from our last six games; two defeats in a row; three goals in our last four games… it’s not how the season was meant to finish. After the heart-threatening comebacks and attacking football that dominated our first half of the season, the finale has been a big come down. So much so that football fans question us and ask if we’re good enough, they suggest our position is a false one. Swap the two halves of the season round and people would be salivating over us – football is a funny game.

It’s certainly a concern that the players seem exhausted physically and mentally – that there is little spark to anything we do on the pitch. It’s over six hours (366 minutes) since Rooney’s deflected shot against Reading and since then United players have failed to score (two own goals).

Van Persie, despite what Fergie says, needs a break as he’s now played nearly 55 hours of football this season. Rooney needs to try and stay injury-free and get some rhythm going in his game again – even he’s played 11 hours fewer than Robin. Welbeck’s played 37 hours but the majority have been out wide and Hernandez has played just 33 hours of football, less than two thirds of Robin’s time. Maybe now is a good opportunity to give the latter two a proper chance?

Behind the strikers Carrick needs help and Fergie, who doesn’t seem to know his best team or system, needs to find a place for Kagawa. We discussed the wingers and their own issues after the Chelsea game – like Rooney, none of them have really been able to get any kind of momentum going this season. It’s not all doom and gloom though, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just been a very disappointing last month. Some will no doubt use this period to pick holes at our team that don’t already exist and the shackle-free swashbuckling football of the first few months of the season will be long forgotten. It’s finding the balance that would be nice.


So it was City who took all the points thanks to a moment of brilliance and poor defending in equal measure from Aguero and United’s defence respectively. What was a 15 point gap has been reduced to 12 and United bottoms may well be twitching a bit now.

From City’s point of view they played a perfect away game – defended well (a doff of the cap once again to the highly impressive Nastasic) and were clinical when they had chances. Although I’m sure their fans would disagree, I’m not sure they were that much better than United on the night although that probably says a lot about how United failed to reach the standard expected in home games.

It had actually been quite an entertaining first half – end to end frantic football with few chances but an open game and two good sides cancelling each other out albeit neither playing to their potential. By the time Aguero scored with ten minutes to go it felt about right although on the balance of play and with expectations removed, maybe a draw would have been hard to argue against too. City can now look ahead to an FA Cup semi final at the weekend and a nice looking run-in whereas United now need to start to pick up wins again to quell any blue hope, starting with a tough looking away game at Stoke this weekend.

25 Comments on Man United 1-2 Man City: Fergie too reactive and Phil fills in well

  1. Perhaps the most balanced and unbiased (abusive/petty whatever) report I ever read on a fan website. Well done, and much as it pains me to say it, congrats on the Title.

  2. The truth of the matter is that Ferguson buys cheap players, not quality players. Phil Jones, was watching the ball last night until Aguero put it in the United net, De Gea is too place to ever become a great keeper, and Welbeck, the less said the better. This is why Ferguson still has to rely on his pensioner brigade. But he has to realize that age catches up with everyone. Let us hope now that he does not do a double of City Title steals.

  3. Only a few days ago, an article by Hergo’s Child spoke on the perils of a reactive set up. Yesterday proved it right. More painful is that it justified Mancini’s claims of how beatable we are if attacked. Cuz we invite attacks and depend on counters from average wingers and a 39yr old winger in midfield. EVRA was also TERRIBLE, standing still and letting Aguero run past him without putting a tackle; leaving defensive duty to Young. Results have flattered us this year, cuz we have never set up to go for the kill. Its terribly disappointing

  4. To realist.

    I think it truly ignorant to not have a personal opinion as to why things have gone wrong. Your comment falls in that category. Fergie clearly got it wrong. To oppose his decision is not to derail him as a manager, but simply to say “you got it wrong”. 3 games running, team set up and subs have limited us to only 2 goals and both were OGs. So you either lack an opinion or you fail to read games properly

  5. Chris nicholls

    Jones was our best defender last night. You didn’t notice Evra standing still and allowing Aguero run past him? Or Young and Jones always having to cover for Evra? To slander DDG and Welbeck is disgusting. Welbeck covers for our decaying wingers n DDG is ever improving. Giggs had no biz wit dat match. How do u watch football???

  6. @max – merely because of the language in it. If you had a more eloquent way of saying some things it wouldn’t have been. And, as you’ve been told before, anything personal will be removed.

  7. Fergies losing the plot it has to be said. His tactics, team selection and even his interviews are getting more and more ridiculous to be honest. Giggs and Carrick never works…unless we playing against a team like Reading for example. Way too slow in the middle of the park. Leaving Kagawa out time and time again. A proper footballer who knows how to play the game! Why can’t we find a bloody position for the lad already! He should start every game there’s no question about that! SAF’s continuess need to start Young in big games just does my head in! He’s not good enough and just continues to disappoint game after game. He’s an embarassment! I’d sell him to spurs + offer 30 mill or so for Bale! 1 time!

    SAF’s substitutions are just so poor. He only woke up after City scored their second! Why didn’t he do anything efore that. He could see we were struggling to get a grip on the game!

    His comments after the game are just laughable to be fair! Ridiculous! Tell it like it is ffs!

    How we’re 12 points ahead is just laughable!
    Season can’t end quick enough!

    United are starting to take the piss! Disappointment after disappointment! Been a horrific couple of weeks for us! We just don’t play very good football do we?!

    A change needs to happen asap and I for one wouldn’t be gutted if a Mourinho or some1 of that callibre could come in next season. We’re just simply not moving forward with Fergie and Phelan and Meulensteen! Its that’s simple. Obviously Fergie is United and all it represents! Words can’t describe what he’s done for our club but he’s getting old now and I reckon its time to move on! We’re going backwards it has to be said.

    Its clearly evident we need a proper CM but SAF still doesn’t seem to think so. Its been a couple years since Hargreaves was bossing that position and we still haven’t replaced the lad! Its ridiculous to be honest! And it has to be said we’ve missed Scholes these last few months no matter what anyone says.

    I’d sell a few players like Young, cleverley, Valencia etc. Simply not quality enough to play in the red shirt of MUFC! How Valencia wears the #7 is a joke to be fair. The lad hasn’t scored a goal the whole season. Wow. Says it all really.

    SAF doesn’t know what to do anymore himself! He’s clueless! He hasn’t an idea what his best 11 is. Every week we see a different team! How does a team expect to gel and improve when every week a different 11 takes to the pitch! Look at teams like mAdrid, Barca, Juve, Bayern etc. They all have a system that they stick to week in and week out. And it works for them! Its not rocket science is it?! How can players get confidence when they only playing every 3 weeks or so?! Having too many options is also no good to be honest. The squad is just too big! 5 forwards?(+ Kagawa) 4 wingers + Zaha to come. 5 centre backs for only 2 places. Not gonna bother about midfield as that’s a whole story on its own. SAF’s just got too greedy! All very well having a mssive squad BUT…….

    Its time for a Mourinho or some1 of his callibre to come in and take this club forward next season! Sorry Fergie but your best days are well and truly over fella!

  8. @ nameonthetrophy – i dont believe i said that fergie could not be criticised?!
    it is just my opinion that his football knowledge is so far ahead of yours and even the great ebi’s that there is not a lot, if anything, that you can tell him that he does not already know on how to continually win trophies.

    @ ebi – i do have an opinion on whats gone wrong of late, a lot of that is down to events that took place against madrid and various other factors. your opinion seems to be that its mainly the managers fault. fair enough, im not going to argue with you, you dont seem like someone you could win an argument with anyway, regardless!
    to say that im ignorant and dont have an opinion, in my opinion, is a bit silly, and you come across as way too arrogant, so my debate with yourself will end here.

  9. I just think it’s such a shame that a player of Kagawas quality, a player who scored against City and Arsenal last season and ran rings round Bayern Munich and the rest of the German League last season is some how behind Young, Valencia, hit and miss Nani and Giggs in the pecking order. Ever since Mike Phelan was appointed assistant manager (I’ll be honest my memory is failing to stretch back any further than the last 2 seasons) I feel United haven’t been as ruthless, if Carlos Quieroz was still assistant perhaps he would have got the best out of Kagawa, United only true world class midfielder.

  10. @realist – I’m not trying to tell him anything, I’m having an opinion. If you don’t want to read other opinions or even want other people to have opinions, don’t read!

  11. @ nameonthetrophy – im just writing what my opinion of yours and ebi’s opinion is. i dont recall saying that i didnt want to read what other peoples opinions are. is telling you what i think not allowed on here?

  12. @realist – all opinions welcomed.

    I’m struggling to work out what the points of any of your comments are though. You seem to take issue with someone thinking Fergie may have got something wrong pointing out quite rightly that his knowledge of football is far superior to anything on the internet – now, with that in mind, what’s the point of reading anything that a fan might write, particularly when said fan doesn’t necessarily agree with the manager on some occasions? Unless of course you just go from blog to blog commenting that Fergie knows more than the various authors, which would be a waste of time.

    Do you believe he got everything right last night?

  13. fergusson is finished is as simple as that. on the other hand regarding this manchester united side it has major flaw – lack of strong mobile midfield player (a la vidal for example or even better montolivo who is capable of great passes to) and this bring massive problem for united as it can’t dominate matches against better teams. just look at stats against all top teams in last 3 years united almost there always outplayed. yes sometimes we were getting results like this years wins at chelsea and city, but most time we are simply outplayed in midfield area completely unable dominate games. and of course all this is fergies fault. besides fergies tactics is just baffling recently, difficult to understand

  14. Realist

    Apologies if I came across offensive. I was truly shocked and annoyed at ur comment, as this is a chance to air our views on wut went wrong or IS wrong at d moment. I always reserve comment on players still at d club dat wouldn’t make it at Spurs, but when negative tactics and shocking subs cost us, I think we all as fans know d team enough to even point fingers at Fergie. That’s all

    AND FERGIE IS NOT FINISHED! Although Giggs and Evra should be

  15. Nice article, always nice to read a balanced piece of and a lot of interesting comments.

    I know where United’s weakness lies but, I’m not telling !!!

    I think you will miss Ferguson when he’s gone. He’s turned many of your average teams into Champions. He made them into more than the sum of their parts. There aren’t that many managers around like that.

    That said, nobody lives for ever so you will eventually lose him for sure. Probably in the next 2-3 seasons if not earlier. Not many people working around 75 years of age. He’s looking a bit doddery even now when he runs down the steps to remonstrate with the referee and linesmen.

    I respect the guy to be honest. I respected him when he agreed to the testimonial for Paul Lake many years back. He didn’t have to but played a full-strength team for that game when he had other stuff going on.

    Alright, I’m in a good mood now and full of the glow of victory. I’ll tell you where you are missing out this season.

    You need a mid-field ball-player like a new Scholes or some other satnav. You also need an enforcer or driving force in the mid-field.

    Wingers are fine but they won’t win you the top European trophies. You had more than wingers in 1999.

    You need to be more ruthless with the old guard.

    Football management isn’t about loyalty. Giggs, Scholes and to some extent the likes of Furdinhand and just lately Evra have all passed their sell-by dates. They’ve served you well. They’ve also won themselves accolades, trophies, mucho money and babes at the same time. They did it for themselves. Now they are stopping younger players coming through into the squad. There are only so many squad places. Get rid. Have a clean sweep. You know it makes sense.

    Anyway, thanks for the read guys. Nice site and I will be back.

    Kind regards.


  16. firstly may i say that city totally deserved the result,they outplayed us and attacked with menace,something we didn,t do and havn,t done with much conviction for a while.we are staid and tired,defend to deep ,inviting teams on and putting intolerable pressure on us at times we just cant sustain.fergies tactics and team selection was bewildering,giggsy should have been off a lot earlier,cleverly should have been on and hernandez,s introduction should have been way earlier than the 85 minute,kagawia coming on at that time is just plain ridiculous.tactically he got it completely wrong and for once bobby the wank got it right,aguerro,s introduction was perfectly timed.dont know what to say other than we are predictable at times,and easy for opposing teams to set up for.its all well and getting our title back but at the expense of negative football.

  17. Excellent article! SAF mindset was all wrong as he was content to settle for a draw instead of going for the kill. Old age? Also his conservatism and favourtisms are hurting the team. He chose Giggs for his old head instead of trusting the newer players. Jones choice was a given with the injuries and SAF was lucky Jones put in a good show. In the recent games it’s pretty clear that this team needs creativity from midfield but where was Kagawa when he was needed? The team is also suffering from playing too much UCL…they try to pass the ball around but with very little movements (forward not backward) off the ball. Where are the overlapping runs of late? Do you see the players drible and take on the defenders…bring on Ronaldo!? The team is sooooo predicatable and toothless. Even for RVP where are the balls that he likes to run onto like at the beginning of the season? Iam a United fan but it pains me to see us limping to the line. I hope we do not stumble and fall flat on our faces before we hit the tape! The summer signings will be a defining one for the future of this team…we need to bolster the midfield with at least another strong creative midfielder.

  18. only mitstake was not matching them with numbers in midfield ,the good results weve gained had against them have come when we played with 2 wingers 3 in the middle and 1 up top ,despite everyone saying how poor we were this so called super city made de gea make how many saves and clear cut chances

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.