Nothing is Lost

I guess it is universally accepted that we were lucky to escape Manchester being only one goal down against the current holders of the European Cup. When the Arsenal players come out and say similar things, it’s hard to disagree. The press certainly have viewed it this way.

It is true that we were blitzed in the first twenty minutes of the game. When they scored the goal, we were either going to collapse or remain firm. Although everybody assumes the entire match was one of domination, after they scored, United never went in for the kill. Due to the delicate nature of the away goal, they remained cautious and tried to break us down through counter attacks. Along with a handful of saves by the now firmly established Manuel Almunia, United never registered the killer goals.

I think more credit should go to Almunia, even though he’s gotten large plaudits already for his near heroic performance on Wednesday. It is not luck that United didn’t score, since Almunia made those saves. Silvestre, even if the ball came off his foot before O’Shea dispatched it into our net, played a smart game, cutting out a lot of their counter attacks and nullifying aerial threats. Kieran Gibbs is becoming increasingly solid, a tremendously promising prospect for the England National Team.

That’s not to say that everybody played well. Diaby covered a lot of ground, but his decision making sometimes lets him down. He always looks to beat his man, and often plays lackadaisical passes. Likewise, Cesc had to limit his offensive influence in order to help contain the United attack.

Tactically speaking, it was an intriguing battle.

Rooney played wide left and was asked to double Theo along with Evra. This largely meant his force on the offensive end went missing. Adebayor was occupying a position on the left hand side, similar to Henry, but he’s not nearly effective in this set up. That led to zero presence in the United’s penalty box. He was also dropping deeper to collect passes, so that also explains the lack of presence there. We missed Robin van Persie’s link up presence in this match; Cesc doesn’t have the pace and menace to thrive off the striker.

Ronaldo flashed moments here and there, but his lack of defensive awareness almost cost them a couple of times. Anderson and Fletcher provided the muscle so they can carry out their offense through Ronaldo and Tevez’s manic work rate.

In short, I didn’t see as much threat from United once they went up by a goal. That was their mistake. They had their chance to kill us off, but they didn’t because they feared the away goal.

On Tuesday, everything is up for grabs. United have an advantage, and truth be told, it’s not just a narrow advantage. But we’ll be there, and we’ll show up.

Against Portsmouth, we will rotate the side just a bit, but the crucial importance lies in getting our the shape of our team back. In Crouch, they have a player who has been known to score goals against us. Bendtner and Arshavin will most likely play, and they will present problems to the South Coast team.

Tomorrow’s priorities are getting some momentum, escaping injuries, and dispatching away Aston Villa’s iron sulfide challenge to the Champions League spot.

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