Lessons learnt

Rachel Griffiths takes a breather from the commotion at Liverpool to examine Manchester United's uninspiring start to the season.

Last updated: 19th October 2010  

Man Utd v West Brom Edwin van der Sar fumble

Van der Sar: Crucial blunder

Javier Hernandez

Hernandez: Reason to be cheerful

Man Utd v West Brom Wayne Rooney woe

Rooney: Yet to rediscover form

Sir Alex Ferguson Manchester United Premier League

Ferguson: Has admitted frustration

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On Saturday afternoon, the Old Trafford stands fell uncharacteristically quiet as West Brom new boy Somen Tchoyi capitalised on a just as uncharacteristic Edwin van der Sar blunder to slip an equaliser into the Manchester United goal.

Quiet, that is, save for a pocket of blue and white tucked away in the corner of the ground, that erupted in euphoria and possibly disbelief as the prospect of snatching a point from the Premier League giants seemed suddenly more than a distant fancy.

The home faithful soon found their voice, however, with the first chants of 'Roon-ey, Roon-ey' reverberating from the Stretford End, and their calls were answered not long after when the striker began to warm up in the corner, prompting an entirely different response from the watching Baggies fans ('Couldn't score in a brothel!').

But if the United crowd, and Sir Alex Ferguson, thought Wayne Rooney was going to single-handedly transform the 2-2 draw into victory they were mistaken, with the fallen star still without a goal in open play this season when the final whistle blew on the stalemate.

The fact Rooney was on the bench in the first place spoke volumes for how United are faring this term, with an out-of-form star striker providing some explanation for a distinctly mediocre start to the campaign.

United are no doubt relishing the apparent decline of fierce rivals Liverpool for more reasons than one, with the chaos at Anfield stealing the majority of media attention as football fans the country over attempt to come to terms with a 'Big Four' side languishing in the relegation zone.

But while United have by no means suffered the same dramatic plummet from grace as the Merseyside strugglers, it cannot be overlooked that they have managed just three wins and a distinctly average five draws this season.

Stalemate

The latest stalemate at home to promoted Albion was preceded by one-point outings to Bolton, Sunderland, Everton and Fulham, with United yet to take on any notable opposition this term - floundering Liverpool excepted.

Perhaps it isn't quite time to panic. Widely known as slow starters, United can often take until Christmas to really fire on all cylinders. But that said, this time last year the Red Devils had already secured six three-point hauls, with a home triumph over Arsenal reassuringly in the bag. This leaves us to wonder what exactly is going wrong in the Old Trafford camp. The Red Devils have not been blessed with much good fortunate lately, demonstrated most recently by Van der Sar's unexpected gaffe. Rooney might well be essentially missing in action, but could his dearth of form really have shaken the foundations of the entire squad to explain their uninspiring start?

The striker, who has scored just one competitive goal for United, a penalty against West Ham, since March, has already been linked with a January exit from Old Trafford as speculation rages that his relationship with Ferguson has broken down.

But while Rooney might not be echoing his goal-scoring heroics of last season after suffering an apparent mental collapse to rival that of Tiger Woods, it would still seem complete madness to let him go. After all, if Fergie is the brain of United, Rooney is, or at least was, the heart. With him out of sorts, it perhaps is not really any surprise the rest of the team are looking a little disjointed.

Turfing out the fans' favourite might also serve as confirmation that the club is in decline. United are already battling symptoms of decay, most notably their failure to bring in new talent amid concerns that Ferguson's funds are being crippled by owners struggling with debt.

Which leads us to whether the problem lies within the existing squad. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes might have been lauded for proving their class time and time again last season, but the inevitable questions have now surfaced over whether they are past their best.

Angry

Defender Patrice Evra meanwhile, who scored an unfortunate own goal against the Baggies to pave the way for their spirited comeback on Saturday, feels his side's recent bad habit of relinquishing their lead is a result of them not being 'angry' enough to maintain the advantage.

And the stopper might just have a point. After Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez and Nani put United ahead on Saturday it seemed the home side was at an apparent loss what to do with their comfortable position. Without Rooney's driving firepower, they appeared content to drift along in possession of a notoriously vulnerable 2-0 advantage until the inevitable happened and the opposition snatched one back.

All teams go through rough patches. And it is probably key to remember that if United had effectively defended their lead on Saturday there might have been headlines of 'Rooney who?', with Chicharito being hailed as the Red Devils' new star.

The young Mexican certainly provides United a reason to be cheerful, with Fergie's decision to start him ahead of Rooney on Saturday proving a shrewd one as the 'Little Pea' repaid his faith with a fourth-minute goal.

Indeed, players such as Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and Nani have shown this term they are more than capable of putting the ball in the back of the net, but what United seem to be lacking is the passion to finish off the opposition. With the aforementioned heart of the team having gone walkabouts, this revelation is hardly surprising, but perhaps Ferguson's side are reaching the point where they can no longer rely on the possibility that Rooney might suddenly, miraculously, rediscover his form.

Maybe United are simply having one of their slow starts and Rooney will come storming back with a hat-trick at Stoke on Sunday before running into the open arms of Ferguson on the touchline to be embraced like a long-lost son.

But on the off-chance that doesn't happen, the Red Devils need to find a way of working without the absent striker to avoid leaving the Britannia Stadium with yet another solitary point, or worse, nothing at all.

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Comments (17)

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Rami Alashkar says...

i cant belve wat im gonna say but i think PL can be won only 18 titles,,and im afraid if united end up like livepool,,, i hope sir alex can make some changes in jan we need more attacks and mid since valancia is injured and Rooney wants out,,so we should move on to look for the future and i hope changes happen as soon as possible .

Posted 02:47 20th October 2010

Hilary Musyoki says...

Pliz glazers leave our club alone,NO player is bigger than the club,we''''ve had the best out of Rooney so what else do we expect from him?Let him go wherever he wishes to go.this is the weakest squad i have ever seen for over 15 years.Anderson,Carrick,Oshea,Gibson etc are poor,Giggs,scholes,Neville and Van der sar are too old,Barbertov,Nani,owen,park etc are not worldclass.Sir Alex,pliz if ur thinking plus vision is not the same pliz retire honourably.I love u all red devils.

Posted 16:19 19th October 2010

Kevin Taylor says...

I personally believe Mr Rooney and his agent should be booted out of Old Trafford at the earliest oppurtunity. He has never acheived the greatness of our previous heroes and has the same level of loyalty as Teves. He may have had class on the pitch but money will never buy him class and integrity of the pitch. You are the weakest link Wayne goodbye

Posted 16:11 19th October 2010

Dee Mulgrew says...

Dont get me wrong this whole rooney thing is annoying but blown well out of proportion.... ppl should be wise enough to hear wat gergie has to say before jumping to conclusions!! i agree with some of the points made... Our main concern is the $%*ing glazers, get them out... we have been selling our best players in recent times but seeing none of the revenue made being invested in new players of world class standard.... i no fergie doesnt believe in spending for the sake of it but our team needs a revamp...in my eyes scholes has been great this season so far but neveille m8 hang ur boots up... giggs still great but he cant compete with the likes of barca etc... we need world class players if we want to keep filling our trophy cabinet.... as for carrick and anderson, they''''ve had too long to prove themselves... not up to scratch.... van der sar...great keeper...bad mistake but already hinted in retirement.... shay given a world class keeper is currently sitting on the bench... dnt no why fergie didnt go for him years ago!!! rio ferdinand isnt the same and evans not at the standard we expect... as with rooney... tbh he hasnt scored in soo long how can he not expect to be on the bench!

Posted 12:37 19th October 2010

Angel Heath (Manchester United fan) says...

i know that we can do it man utd just belive in urself common we can prov everyone wrong. LOVE YOU MAN UTD XXXXXXXXX

Posted 12:30 19th October 2010

Gilbert Cheruyiot says...

MAN U will perform well.Just wait and see their results be the end of the year.

Posted 11:44 19th October 2010

Chris G (Manchester United fan) says...

People need to remember that this is United, no player will ever be bigger than the club. I am intrigued as to how this will play out with Rooney and I have an inkling that this will eventually blow over.

Posted 10:04 19th October 2010

Paul Kumpukwe (Manchester United fan) says...

I think we are in deep trouble but i have faith in saf and hope againts hope

Posted 08:37 19th October 2010

Tony S (Manchester United fan) says...

maybe we r missing ...cant belive wat i''''m saying...quieroz...atlest wen he was around we won the whole lot..and we had more ideas on the pitch..here we lack a natural leader on the pitch and no one to terrorize teams like ronny...get bak quieroz i say..wat do we hav to lose?

Posted 19:29 18th October 2010

Lyndon Adade (Manchester United fan) says...

This hurts me so much to read this! It seriously pains me to think the club is in such disarray. Two years ago I was in Moscow when we lifted the CL and looked like conquering Europe for years to come with a crop that looked as good as the current Barca side. Two years on and we look a shell of that - with the form of Carrick and Ando nosediving plus injuries to Rio and notably Hargreaves meaning we just haven''''t got what we once had. This is all without mentioning Tevez and Cristiano leaving! Bad times ahead!!!

Posted 18:06 18th October 2010

Pedro Venncio (Manchester United fan) says...

Where is the Man U of old gone? We have killed teams off when 2 up in the past, but this term that fire power or arrongance has vanished, I remember my beloved team winning big teams like the Arsenals of this world with high scores and we never bleaked.I think SIR Fergie has to remind these crop of players what this club is all about, this is including Mr. Wayne of all people Rooney.

Posted 17:21 18th October 2010

Mike Dowds (Manchester United fan) says...

What''''s interesting about United this season is that it''''s been defensive lapses that have cost us, not so much a failure to score (except for the Sunderland and Rangers games) so it doesn''''t seem that Rooney''''s form should be THAT big of an issue. I''''m glad Evra came out and said that they need to be more angry because there have been too many occasions where they have seemed content to let the opposition get back and compose themselves instead of just going for it. However Evra himself hasn''''t looked like himself this year and has often neglected his defensive duties. Hopefully Fergie can get them fired up again; they''''ve gone through a few rough spells while he''''s been in charge, but they''''ve come through them which is the most important thing. Only undefeated team in the league isn''''t so bad though...

Posted 15:20 18th October 2010

Robert Scarfe says...

To Peter Holloway. The reason no united fan has responded is because how can we argue against the truth? We are in deep trouble of falling out of the title race before its really began. However, what we need to look at is that we are still unbeaten, and are not a million miles off the top, where we possibly should be. Barring the result against the baggies on the weekend, the other games we drew, are games that we have drawn or even lost in past seasons. So i feel people are getting a little excited. But we need to find a bit of magic, because without Rooney (our only world class talent) we have little options. Is Rooney leaving, only time will tell, but as Beckham, Keane, Van Nistelrooy, Stam, Ince or McGrath will testify - you dont cross the boss!!!!

Posted 14:49 18th October 2010

Jamie Smart says...

Man Utd as much as i hate to admit it are in crisis! ordinary teams we would hammer can now give us two goals start and get something,the likes of Scholes, Giggs, Neville and Van der sar all on the brink of retirement. Rooney maybe on his way out? in the team are several players simply not good enough for United, our worst team in many years and with the ever increasing dept things are serious, we are looking like we have a balttle on to be certain of a top four place with our neighbours City looking a bigger threat, messrs Ferguson and Gill need to sort things or this could be another Liverpool

Posted 14:43 18th October 2010

Peter Holloway (Liverpool fan) says...

I like the way not one United fan has commented on this yet, and also the way United fans are failing to believe that they are also in decline, much the same as liverpool are... Fergie is going to retire soon along with his 3 proteges, neville giggs and scholes, no one has come in that is adequate enough to replace these players... Rooney looks like he is on his way out also... See manutd are in a decline as are liverpool but liverpool''''s seems to be happening at a quicker rate... Also who is going to replace Edwin when he hangs up his boots?.. Remove the cloud from your eyes United fans and realise that all is not so rosy as it once was... Nothing lasts forever and football is no exception.. 2decades without a league trophy preceded by an adundance of silverware you could line the UK with for liverpool... You cant win everything, so now its time to see who the real United fans are and whether they will be singing glory glory when their team is on the backfoot for once.. will they still be as loud as the voice of anfield has been for the last 20 years without the precious league trophy?

Posted 13:18 18th October 2010

Hoosain Ismail (Manchester United fan) says...

The bottom line is they have the worst squad in 25years.Even Big Ron in the 80''''s had a more inspiring team then this current crop.Oshea,evans,da silva gibbson,nani,carrick,anderson all rubbish. Berba good in spells,Scholes,giggs neville are on pension.Owen was never given a chance.Rooney needs to join becks in America,he loves papparazi when the going is good.Get rid of the Glaziers with their debt and time for Alex to rebuild.SAF the Best manager!!!If Fletcher is currently Uniteds BEST player that says alot about the team!!!

Posted 12:58 18th October 2010

Ged Garvey says...

for liverpool read (man utd) it could be us very soon if alex does''''nt get the team play properly we need a regular team going out instead of changes all the time get the mid field working and we''''ll be ok so come on reds lets go stop being negative see you all on wednsday night

Posted 12:47 18th October 2010

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