Thursday, December 11, 2008

United: Berbatov on song; Vidic in form, Others not

United travel to Tottenham this weekend after a regrettable showing midweek against Aalborg.

Several United players were not paying attention: Nani, Giggs, Tevez, Ferdinand, and even Rooney underperformed quite egregiously.

Let's start with Nani: He may be the worst footballer on the team. His corner-kicks are poor—they rarely beat the first defender. He is strong, fast, and knows tricks, but how to use them and when to use them is what eludes him. Nor does he know when to pass or, generally, how to do it.

Giggs cycles between performing averagely in Carling Cup matches and being outclassed during Premier League cameos. He could not figure out how to unlock a defense that was not complicatedly fastened. Giggs' through ball on three minutes was his best pass of the game, one of the few with any quality.

One thing appears certain: Nemanja Vidic is better than Rio Ferdinand. On form, throughout this year and last, Vidic is the best central-defender in the world. Ferdinand doesn't hesitate to remind the viewing public that he's still susceptible to losing focus and getting beaten. Considered broadly one of the best defenders in the world, Ferdinand benefits from his partnership more than he provides.

Tevez was a bulldog chasing cars. Desperate for a goal, he often leaves the very position he needs to occupy in order to score it. His head might be flustered, which is a shame considering how long he's had on the bench to get focused.

It's hard to suggest a player who recently scored four goals in Carling Cup match is not in form, but only one of his goals suggested good form, the others being opportunistic. Of course, it's far more important how well you are playing, and how capable you are, than how many goals you are actually scoring. Good play invariably results in more goals, over time.

Unfortunately, like Tevez, Rooney rarely dribbles across his body. Defenders surely are catching on that both will usually avoid dribbling with their left foot, or to their left side.

A commentator during one of United's recent games showered praise on Rooney, stating his maturation was underway, that, in fact, this season was the one he'd grow up in. Sadly, though, against Aalborg he showed little composure, flying around the park angrily.

Against a team generally lacking in class, a star player should be able to maintain his countenance. He might pick up a European ban for his troubles, and he might deserve it, too.

One thing Rooney can do is drop his shoulder, feigning left before going right. His best goals are scored in this manner—it may even be his trademark. But he doesn't do it enough, and his attacking play is usually stagnant when dribbling against defenders.

Anderson played well enough against the Danish side. When he dribbles past other midfielders he brings a unique element to United's attack. While both Carrick and Fletcher are playing very well consistently this season, both will pass long before they have to carry the ball.

Scholes ultimately entered to spray some balls around, but overall United weren't worried as Celtic led Villarreal 2-0.

With recent antics, Ronaldo has given himself a lot to prove. After mocking Villa fans, being sent off at Manchester City for handling, and walking off the pitch against Sunderland with an injury he recovered from enough to rightfully receive the Ballon d'Or, he clearly is applying a lot of pressure on himself to repeat the dramatic form he carried throughout all last season.

Dimitar Berbatov returns to White Hart Lane for the first time and the reception he will receive is questionable. While Spurs fans were appreciative of his class, the manner in which he was reported to behave himself, at times, was unbecoming to them.

Overall it should be positive, Spurs fans knowing when business simply became business, and remembering how entertaining the Bulgarian was throughout the spell he cast on them.

After the first couple games, Berbatov has been in fine form for United since arriving in September. The quality of his play is not quantified by goals, but Dimitar is not invisible, not to all, when he links up play, winning headers and passing 30-40 yards from goal as United push forward on the counter.

Unfortunately, simply seeing a lack of goals from a player provides an excuse for critics to critique. Commentators often don't invoke their root either, during Berbatov's little displays of grace, sadly unawares to so many. As their craft cultivates so much public opinion, some should, at least, do better. Five assists in the top flight apparently is not indicative of any significant effect to some.

The Bulgarian had several great ideas against Sunderland, flicking Rooney's shot skillfully, before later gliding through two defenders to feed a shot from Ronaldo, after which the winger walked off injured. Berbatov missed a clear header, but it's mere variance; he's a great header of the ball and he'll convert more of those than most.

His best game this year was against Manchester City in the recent 1-0 victory, despite his name not making many subsequent match reports. He brought the ball down in many situations where a turnover would have been expected, enough so neither it would have been commented upon.

He'll want to score more than ever in his return to London, and for a player of his class on form, against a defense that is decent without being great, his hope could and should be realized.

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