Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Aldershot vs Manchester United Post Match Post Mortem

Manchester United sauntered to a 3-0 win against Aldershot at The Recreation Ground to advance to the quarter finals of the Carling Cup and remain on course for a third final appearance in four years.  The scoreline was the same as the previous round and the game overall bore similarities too. We played a team in white at their place, controlled the first half, scored the goals to make it comfortable and played out the second half without much incident.  Michael Owen was once again on the scoresheet, making it three goals in two Carling Cup appearances this season. His goal was sandwiched between a Dimitar Berbatov strike and an Antonio Valencia thunderbolt.

The Reds fielded a second string XI, making three changes from the game against Leeds. In came Vidic, Cleverley and Jones with Giggs, Carrick and Macheda dropping out.  It meant a second start for Zeki Fryers who was deployed at left back with Fabio switching to right back and Valencia moving further up the field.  Paul Pogba had to make do with a place on the bench along with his fellow Reserve team mates.  He did enter the fray on the hour mark to make his second appearance for United.  Ravel Morrison, a 70th minute substitute, also made his second senior appearance almost a year to the day after he made his first against Wolves in the Carling Cup last season.  Michael Keane’s introduction along with Morrison made him the fourth United debutant in this year’s competition.

While it was pleasing to see the younger lads get their opportunity, this game was all about giving squad players minutes on the pitch.  As Sir Alex stated before the match, with the games starting to come thick and fast as we enter the winter months, it is imperative everyone is match fit and ready to go when called upon.  It is for that reason it was essential for Berbatov, Owen, Valencia, Park and Vidic to get 90 minutes.  Most pleasing of all though was the return of Tom Cleverley from injury.  He managed 60 minutes before being replaced by Pogba and will have played his way in to contention for a starting spot against Everton on Saturday.  He was involved heavily in the move which led to the first goal and also teed up Valencia to make it three just after half time.  He has become a greater player in his absence in many supporters’ eyes which places a heavy burden on the boy’s shoulders but we have missed his spark in midfield. Ferguson will see his return as a welcome boost after Sunday’s shambolic display and will be pleased overall at the result and the performance of the team. 

Post Match Analysis

Goals – Easy as 1,2,3
Aldershot were far from disgraced in this match and can hold their heads up high but they will be disappointed at the manner in which they lost the goals.  The first came in the fifteenth minute and it was like someone had rewound the tape back to the start of the season. Park played the ball in to Cleverley and continued his run in to the box before being found with a neat pass from the latter. The South Korean then slid the ball to Berbatov who took a touch before slotting home in to the far corner. The passing and movement in and around the box was excellent to watch. It’s exactly what has been missing from the Reds play since the Chelsea match and it was no coincidence that Cleverley was at the forefront of the move.  It does have to be taken in to context though, it was against a League Two defence but it was still pleasing to see that type of goal return to our play.

Picture courtesy of The Guardian
There wasn’t much the Shots could have done about the first goal to be fair but they will be desperately disappointed by the second goal which came five minutes before half time.  Owen dropped off to in to midfield to collect the ball, he turned and sent a raking 50 yard pass in behind the defence to Berbatov who ambled his way in to the box. He laid the ball on a plate to Owen who timed his run to perfection and made no mistake with the finish.  Owen’s run wasn’t picked up and the keeper could have done better with the shot but full credit to the ex-Liverpool man who started the move and showed the desire to get in the box and finish it.

The third goal came two minutes after the half time and killed off any faint hope Aldershot had of staging a miraculous comeback.  Cleverley collected the ball 25 yards from goal and spotted Valencia in acres of room to his right hand side. He laid the ball in to his path before the Ecuadorian took a touch and drilled an unstoppable shot past the helpless Warner.  The ball curled, swerved and dipped leaving the ‘keeper no chance.  It was a surprise to see Valencia take the shot on but it does show what he is capable of. 

Dimitar Berbatov – He’s still here
The enigmatic Bulgarian made only his third start of the season, his sixth appearance overall, and comfortably his best.  The sight of last season’s top scorer and a man who has more skill in his big toe than most have in their whole body appearing at The Recreation Ground against a mid table League Two side is akin to Mario Balotelli fronting a fireworks safety campaign – total madness... oh wait...right, anyway, never mind.  It’s testament to the man’s character that he didn’t grumble or moan but simply got on with the game and helped his team to victory.  Against Leeds he might as well have not been on the pitch but on Tuesday night he was involved in everything.  Touch, composure, vision, skill is what you come to expect from Berbatov and this game was no different.  But there was also a passion, a fighting spirit that saw him race back to win the ball or help out the midfield.  In truth it was just good to see him back out there.

He has kicked his heels on the bench for weeks as we have put in poor performance after poor performance but now might be the time for him to step up to the plate.  His movement, hold up play and intricate passing has been missing from the games were we have been below par.  Many feel the problem lies solely in central midfield but the front players have been substandard too and it might be time for something different.  He brings others in to the game and allows the midfield to get forward before building an attack. Yes, he sometimes slows the play down but we haven’t been playing the high tempo football we did at the start. It’s not clicking just now and a change is needed.  He was comfortably man of the match against Aldershot, and although it’s only Aldershot, it should give Ferguson something to think about. His only Premier League start came after the Leeds game and it may be that his second league starts comes against Everton this weekend. He can’t be ignored for much longer.

Morrison and Pogba – Is the future now?
As highlighted previously, Morrison and Pogba both made their second senior appearances for United tonight; the only disappointment being they were both off the bench rather than from the start.  In their brief cameos they showed glimpses of the undoubted potential they possess and why they are the future of Manchester United.  However, with the central midfield position being heavily criticised, the question remains are they ready now? The simple answer, and the correct one, is no. They still have a long way to go and people need to settle down and lower their expectations. Without raining on the parade or being too downbeat, they haven’t “made it” yet. Realism is needed.  Nevertheless, it would be unjust not to discuss the positives of both their cameos though and highlight the obvious potential that is there. 

Pogba once again showed he is a boy in a man’s body as he strolled around the pitch with ease but he also showed a maturity on the ball that belied his tender years.  He used it efficiently and kept it moving from one side of the pitch to the other.  He always made himself available for the ball and didn’t shirk responsibility in tight situations.  This, more than any other quality, is what makes him stand out.  Wanting the ball is the most important thing for a young kid when he comes in to the team and he always wants it.  There is no fear and that’s the way it should be.  He didn’t try many outlandish passes but switched the ball once beautifully out to Valencia, showcasing his passing repertoire.  He was also defensively disciplined, shielding the back four and not getting caught too high up the pitch. This maturity is why he is closer to the first team than others were at his age.

While Pogba was efficient and mature on the ball, Morrison had a spark about his game.  There was a swagger about his game, showcased with some showboating and a little back flick to Berbatov on the edge of the box which nearly resulted in him getting in on goal.  What makes him so special though is as well as being a match winner, he is equally adept at playing the game simple.  Time and again he got the ball, passed it on and kept moving. He rarely stops moving when he is on the pitch which is excellent to see. Sometimes he can stop moving when he has to track back but against Aldershot he showed a willingness to help out Fabio in defence and bust a gut to chase back his man 50 yards.  If there was one thing that did let him down, it was his positional play. He was brought on for Diouf who was playing wide left but you’d be lucky if Morrison occupied that position for more than two minutes.

This can be viewed as both a good thing and a bad thing.  He wanted to be involved in the game which is why he drifted inside and more or less played central midfield for the 20 minutes he was on.  He wanted to get on the ball and to make things happen.  He thrives playing where he decided to play on Tuesday night so it was refreshing to see a young man take it upon himself to involve himself in the game.  It was also a stark contrast to his first appearance against Wolves when he was also brought on at left midfield and barely moved off the touchline.  However, Ferguson may not have been enamoured by his positional indiscipline.  Although there was rarely a threat from Aldershot down that side, it may not have pleased the boss to see that flank so exposed at times.  Berbatov and Owen both covered him but the latter did gesture to Ravel to get wide and shut down the right back.  It is not a major thing especially against that sort of opposition but left midfield may be where his opportunities come in the future and he will need to show more discipline to impress the boss. 

Overall, they were two exciting cameos from two very promising players and lit up a somewhat dreary night.  They should have cemented their place in the squad for the next round but that may depend on the opposition.  The draw will be made on Saturday at noon with Arsenal, Crystal Palace and Cardiff in the hat along with ourselves.  Another four Premier League teams will join after Wednesday night’s matches.  The quarter final ties will be played on the week commencing 28th November.

Ratings: Amos 7, Fabio 6, Jones 6, Vidic 6, Fryers 6, Valencia 6, Cleverley 7, Park 7, Diouf 5, Owen 6, Berbatov 8
Subs: Pogba 7, Morrison 7, Keane 5

By Mick Higgins (Follow me on Twitter)

What were your thoughts on the game at Aldershot? Were you impressed by the likes of Pogba and Morrison. Please leave your comments below.

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