Southampton 1-2 Manchester United Talking Points

Hernandez scored for United

In the past six years, United have now traveled to St Mary’s three times to face Southampton in the FA Cup. On the two previous occasions (in 04/05, 08/09) United won handsomely; 4-0 and 3-0 respectively. However, last night United made it hard work for themselves in booking their place in the 5th round. A second string side, a rare tactical blunder by Fergie and the inclusion of some players that are getting a little bit of stick a the moment all contributed to the poor showing in the first half. The second half, after the inclusion of Giggs and Nani, was much better – with Michael Owen and Javier Hernandez getting on the scoresheet.

Talking Points

Darron Gibson

Not since the 03/04 season has a player come under so much scrutiny at Old Trafford. Darren Fletcher, Kieran Richardson and Diego Forlan were just some of then names that United fans weren’t too keen on when comparing to the Robsons, Keanes and Cantonas of days gone by. Darren Fletcher went on to become a key member of United’s squad, Richardson was sold to Sunderland and Diego Forlan proved many doubters wrong twice winning the European Golden boot, in 2004/05 and 2008/09. Darron Gibson made has first team debut in the League Cup back in 2005 against Barnet – has the Irishman done enough in the past six years to warrant a place in United’s first Xi or squad?

There is no doubt that Gibson has a fierce shot on him, that is obvious. However, there has been much criticism against him for his all round game – but is it justified? Gibson has been substituted in his last two games for United, both away games to Blackpool and Southampton. You could argue that Gibson was indeed a casualty of Ferguson getting his system wrong on both occasions. Gibson was replaced both times by Ryan Giggs as Ferguson changed the system. Giggs is clearly much more at home in wider areas that Gibson will ever be. So should we be so harsh on Gibson considering he has had to try and adapt to a position or a system alien to him? His best position is clearly in a midfield three where he can get forward and get strikes on goal.

Regular readers of will know that we store stats and present all appearances, goals, assists in our Manchester United statistics section. You can view Darron Gibson’s profile also and examine his appearances and goals for the 2010/11 campaign:

Darron Gibson 2010/11 stats from January 28th 2011

We can’t assess his passing/shooting stats in the cup games his has played in (3 in domestic cup and 1 Champions League appearance against), however we can do for the Premier League:

Darron Gibson Passing Stats 2010/11

Ok, hands up – who is a little surprised with his passing ratio? Forget the Liverpool game as he was only on the field of play for two minutes with United leading 3-2 through a superb Dimitar Berbatov hat-trick. What this table tells is that Gibson’s passing and ball retention is no where near as bad as some Reds make out. He has not yet completed a full 90 minutes for United in the Premier League so far, which is a huge factor for a player trying to establish himself in the first Xi. When he has come on as a substitute there is no doubt he has specific instructions from the coaching staff, which will impact his natural game. Every game that Gibson has come on in the Premier League, United have been winning and have gone onto win – with the exception of WBA, which saw Edwin Van Der Sar gift the Baggies a second goal.

His one assist has came in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham City, which United led until the 90th minute before a Lee Bowyer strike. So if we look at the games Gibson started in: Birmingham away, Stoke City home and Blackpool away – the result when Gibson was on the pitch is – 1-0 United, 1-1 and 2-0 Blackpool. United went on to draw the first game after a controversial goal, beat Stoke City 2-1 (after a Nani goal a minute after Gibson was substituted) and beat Blackpool 3-2 after a superb second half come back. So after reading all of this, seeing the stats and the fact that Gibson hasn’t yet completed 90 mins, aren’t we being a little harsh on him? Surely, Ferguson is to blame for the two starting formations in the recent games – which saw Gibson’s arguably worst performances. Is he United class? For me the jury is still out, but I think many fans are being far too critical of a player who is still trying to establish himself in the first Xi. Fergie obviously still has doubts, considering he can’t trust the Irishman for a whole Premier League fixture. What do you think?

Michael Owen’s deep role

Michael Owen has only started four games this season for United (with one of the games being in the Community Shield), however his performance yesterday highlighted that the former England striker still has a lot to offer, even if as a bit part player. When Michael Owen was being offered around Europe after his indifferent season at Real Madrid, it was quite strange that not one top European Club (i.e. of Champions League pedigree) went in for Owen. Could it have been that more was required from a forward than the artillery in Michael Owen arsenal? Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Dimitar Berbatov all made big money moves over the past decade as the shift towards a powerful dynamic centre forward surpassed the need for the ‘goal poacher’ of modern fay football.

In the past year and half, Owen has worked on his link up play a lot more and yesterday was an example of what he still has to offer to Manchester United, albeit against lesser opposition. As defences reduced the space in between the goal keeper and the backline, there is far less room for the Inzaghi’s of this world to work in. Owen will get you goals, as was demonstrated with his excellent header yesterday. He has all the natural instincts still in front of goal – even if he pace has declined somewhat over the years due to his injury woes. I was impressed with him yesterday and I think it is a credit to him that he has worked on his game to adapt to the demands of what a modern day forward now needs to offer as well as provide an alternative option in a deeper role behind the traditional striker’s position.

You can view Michael Owen’s 2010/11 stats here.

Ferguson getting tactics wrong

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday admitted that he got his tactics wrong at St Mary’s, which could probably have been said for the poor first half last Tuesday against a high tempo Blackpool side. United have always been renowned for their width and have had some fine wingers over the years including – Cristiano Ronaldo, Andrei Kanchelskis, George Best, Steve Coppell, Gordon Hill, Lee Sharpe and of course Ryan Giggs – however, United’s diamond formation was a shift away from United’s usual setup. Ferguson was quoted as saying:

“Sometimes we make it difficult for ourselves but, in fairness, I maybe meddled with the system too much We tried a diamond in the middle of the pitch and, of course, Manchester United are used to playing with width all the time and I think that was a problem for us. It wasn’t working at all. We had some possession of the ball but we never threatened. The goal we lost right on half-time motivated us to do better.”

Although the setup wasn’t a raging success yesterday, can you see the diamond formation working sometime in the future?

Match Conclusion

Manchester United fought back for the second time in the space of a week to beat Southampton at St Mary’s at march on to the 5th round of the FA Cup. Southampton went 1-0 up just on the stroke of half time after an impressive strike from Chaplow. Chaplow burst into the area to smash a right footed shot past United’s debutant Anders Lindegaard and round of a miserable first half for a toothless United. Ferguson changed the formation and brought on three experienced players in Brown, Nani and Giggs – which made a massive difference to United’s play. Michael Owen scored a superb header to equalise in the 65th minutes after a deflected cross from Gabriel Obertan. Ten minutes later Giggs intercepted a Dickson pass and fed in Hernandez, who struck a right footed shot past the trailing Bialkowski. Hernandez scored his 11th goal of the season and 2nd in two games – which proved to be the winner for United.

Next up are Aston Villa on Tuesday, who appear to be coming into a bit of form of late. Villa beat Blackburn Rovers 3-1 in the FA Cup on Saturday.

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7 Comments on Southampton 1-2 Manchester United Talking Points

  1. It was strange seeing the diamond but it doesn’t have a place with our current set-up. We’d need more talent in the middle to pull it off. Besides, wing-play has always had a part for United.

    Michael Owen was decent in his role off the strikers but, while his general link-up play is very good, he can’t spot that killer pass that the likes of Ozil, Sneijder and Iniesta could. He was better as one of the front two, but he remains fourth choice.

    Darron Gibson’s time at the club needs to be coming to an end. His passing isn’t good enough for one of our midfielders, while defensively he is suspect. Sure, he’s scored some spectacular goals, but that’s not enough when the rest of your game is lacking. Time to wish him all the best and hope he can make it at lower Premier League side.

  2. OK, stats can’t lie, but I saw on another blog that all the passes were pretty short, and he barely held onto the ball at all. He was running less than Berb used to. You can’t blame the formation for his cock ups – he’s a professional footballer after all. It’s his job to pass shoot and tackle. Sorry Gibbo, your days at United are surely numbered

  3. Good article – Gibson certainly splits opinion but even his strongest supporters will agree he has been poor for the last month. The problem is that form can be temporary but class is definitely permanent and I am not sure there is enough there for him to make a career at United.

    Owen had a good game and has clearly changed his game to adapt to his advancing years. He is now clearly fourth in the pecking order and with Welbeck and Macheda out on loan, it could mean an exit in the summer unless he is happy to be a bit part player.

    3 points essential for Tuesday – tough game but with all big guns back i can see us nicking it.

  4. Gibson – stats only tell so much. His passing isn’t of the penetrative, risk taking kind, and 10 yard passes in the middle of the pitch while under no pressure will not win many games. His tackling is not good enough to protect the back 4 and he doesn’t offer enough vision, pace, dribbling or creative passing for a more attacking role.
    In short, he’s a (very) poor man’s Clayton Blackmore (without the sunbed). I don’t see much of a future for him at United and I certainly expect Cleverley to get a lot of time ahead of him next season.

  5. It’s fair to ask q’s over Gibson. Using passing stats doesn’t tell the truth. Ir would be interesting to know how many of those passes was ahort, sideways and even backwards. Add that he’s as bad as Anderson covering our defenders, he’s got no tactical aware in positioning and he’s often shooting when he should have passes, it should add up to a conclusion that he’s not good enough. Another player that we maybe should have a similar look at is Anderson who’s after a couple of good games (gibbo have had good games as well to be fair) has played woefully bad and has by no sigb showed that he’s got what it takes to become an impact player in out midfield.

  6. It has been said that Owen is fourth choice striker. I am sorry but on current form Rooney should be fourth choice as he is the odd one out. Berbatov, Hernandez and Owen are all in good form Rooney on the other hand is not. The question is do we want players to be picked on form or reputation. Also is this not just what our national team’s managers have been criticised for picking on reputation rather than form. On current form and there is a saying in football that you are only as good as your last game please tell me how Rooney is still considered first choice striker. for me that is wrong.

  7. My issue with Gibson is more his decisions than his ability. In our half he’s a competent mover of the ball. Get him within 30 yards of goal, however, and he too often looks interested only in getting a shot off. I think a few early (very good) goals have gone to his head. I like that he’s willing to pick up the slack but he needs to channel it toward occupying defenders and better ball distribution in the top third of the pitch, not just trying to do by mashing the ball.

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