October 25th, 2011
05:27 PM ET

Has tinkerman Fergie tinkered too far?

Was Alex Ferguson's squad rotation behind Manchester United's humiliating defeat to archrivals City?
Was Alex Ferguson's squad rotation behind Manchester United's humiliating defeat to archrivals City?

Have you been able to digest Manchester City’s shocking 6-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford? I haven’t.

As far as I’m concerned, United’s biggest home defeat since 1955 was one of the most unexpected scores in recent English Premier League history.

How did this happen? I have my theory and it involves Alex Ferguson tinkering with his line-up too often and the simple fact that some of United’s players are overrated.

Let’s start with point number one. There is no doubt that Fergie is one of the best managers of all time. I won’t dispute that.

His record speaks for itself and he has been able to keep United at the top for over two decades with his phenomenal ability to motivate and rejuvenate teams year after year.

However, he is human and humans make mistakes. I already thought that leaving Wayne Rooney and Nani out of the starting line-up for the previous week’s game against Liverpool was a mistake, and his continuing tinkering for the game against City backfired in a major way.

In my opinion, there is no way Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck should have started on Sunday.

Evans is a mediocre player and, despite showing some signs of promise earlier in his career, hasn’t developed as I thought he would.

Phil Jones should have taken his spot in the center of defence. As far as Welbeck is concerned, he is a talented youngster but still hasn’t done enough to earn a starting place in a crucial derby against City. Javier Hernandez could and should have played up front.

Tactically Fergie also could have done better. He went with Anderson and Darren Fletcher in center of the park and they lost the midfield battle to Yaya Toure, Gareth Barry; Nani and Young were outplayed by the exceptional David Silva and James Milner.

United were eaten up by Barcelona in the Champions League final by playing only two men in the center, and it happened again on Sunday.

Tottenham had tried the same philosophy earlier this season and they were also thrashed at home by Roberto Mancini’s side.

A fluid 4-3-3 formation, which turns into 4-5-1 in defense, would have worked better for United and at least Ferguson would have had more numbers to combat City's industry in midfield.

Onto my thoughts on the players. I already told you what I think of Evans, but he is not the only United player who is overrated.

Darren Fletcher is a solid midfielder, but nothing more and nothing less. He is not a player that should still be at Old Trafford and in my view he wouldn’t get into the starting line-up of any of the top 10 teams in the world.

Why Ferguson insists on the likes of Fletcher and Michael Carrick baffles me. He will never win the Champions League again with either of those men in the side.

So, what’s next for United? Fergie has to go back to Plan A. Play your best players in your most important games. Rotate in the domestic cup competitions, but don’t experiment in crucial matches.

Oh, and while I’m at it, I would also suggest for the Red Devils to buy a top midfielder as soon as possible.

Wesley Sneijder has been linked and he would be a fantastic acquisition, but they also need someone strong and tough who can become a leader in the center of the park.

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soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Yemi

    Nice article, I couldn't agree more on all the players mentioned. I'll like to add Patrice Evra too though, He has over time become too comfortable in his position and consequently never really does any defending maybe its time he moves on too.

    October 25, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  2. Milton Nyakundi

    I'd never agree with you more, just to add that Fergie should have realized his mistake after the red card and make the tactical changes at the back and in the middle to help the United course but again he failed. Why he decided to hang on to Welbeck in the game and take ages to bring on Phil Jones baffled me. A three man defense with Fletcher and Anderson cannot cope with an opponent with Ballotelli, Segio Aguero and tormentor David Silva, add Milner; Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry and you see why SAF's side was lucky the final whistle came, it could have been worse.
    Get Sneijder in January and probably, add Kevin Prince Boateng or any player in that class and Manchester United will be back to European title-winning form but for now it maybe another season of seeing mirages.

    October 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  3. Okhae

    Spot on,in my opinion! I was amazed as well when I saw Johnny Evans in the starting IX.

    October 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  4. Steven Babo

    I agree and disagree with your assessment here, Pedro.

    I agree that Jones should have started in place of Evans. The only reason Evans started was to combat the pace of Aguero. However, he was exposed for pace when Balotelli linked with Aguero in a deadly 1-2, which most inexperienced defenders would not have stopped.

    Fletcher being a mediocre player is a bad assessment. If Fletcher did not get sent off after destroying Fabregas in the 08/09 UCL Semi Final, they would have stood a much better chance that year. Fletcher is a holding midfielder, however when he has pushed forward he has got onto the end of some crucial goals. His goal on the weekend shows what type of ability he has to score. You will notice that Fletcher is always by used in the 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 formation. However, with Cleverley out and Carrick covering plenty of miles during the week as a midfielder/CB, Fletcher was the man.

    I agree that United need another midfielder in the mould of Sneijder or Modric, someone that can put their foot on the ball. Anderson does it to an extent but his execution is lacking.

    Ferguson hardly plays with a defensive mindset at OT, and so he shouldn't. United's record at OT speaks for itself. For the first half hour it was all United.

    The 6-1 scoreline flatters City, who assumed complete control after the sending off. Mancini played it perfect after the send off, but credit to United for pushing on. There was still belief when Fletcher's ball flew in, and if it wasn't for some good defending, it could have almost been 3-2 going into Fergie time.

    City's last 3 goals came in injury time. The first triggered the rest, and the way it was scored was from an errant backpass from Ferdinand that stupidly went out for a corner.

    Harsh assessment on United, and I think this scoreline needs to be read into more than simply saying that City were a 5-goal better side.

    Masters of the long haul, we will see how much United will care about this result come seasons end.

    October 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Reply
  5. Lynne

    Am I the only one that was not surprised that United lost this match? In matches leading up to it, United were looking weak. Especially in defense. I'm not saying that I expected the scoreline. But I wouldn't have been surprised at a 2-0 loss. I say this as a United fan.
    Jonny Evans is overrated? By who? Certainly not by fans and critics. Most United fans don't like Evans at all whether he's playing well or not. He plays too emotionally, and makes too many mistakes that lead to red cards like it did on Sunday or like the tackle against Stu Holden last season.
    What makes Ferguson a great manager is that he learns from these mistakes. Back to Plan A is, most likely, exactly what will happen.

    October 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Reply
  6. u don't know sweet all

    people like u make me laugh, "he should have done this he should have done that". east to say now. think you no it all. hes the expert, ur just a writer. . . . cop on and stop kidding yourself by thinking people take ur opinion seriously, or care even..
    pedro pinto for next united manager haha please

    October 25, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Reply

    expertly said...cannot be put any better. Thank you for your candid analysis Pedro.

    October 25, 2011 at 7:03 pm | Reply
  8. laraujo

    Agreed. For a long time Utd has really been driven by the force of Fergie and the team. Even the most die-hard of Man U fans have to admit that the individuals in the team are mostly workhorses with very few world-class players. This has worked in the past because the team has been able to rally against most foes. It is now very clear, though, that the rallying, never-say-die spirit needs to be backed up with real talent and grit from defence to forwards.

    Man U's defeat was painful but I've seen a stat that showed that they allowed more shots on their goal this season than last year. They simply couldn't afford to keep riding their luck. Man U's defence has been woeful this season – and that includes their approach to defence which, as you point out, starts in the midfield.

    I'm a Man U fan but I'm not being drawn into the "their next opponents better watch out" talk. The deficiencies in the team will take a lot longer than that to work out.

    October 25, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Reply
  9. Subash Chandran

    As far as I could understand, Welbeck is the better option, considering the supply from the wings; though he may lack the maturity to flourish in a big match. Anderson may be the most talented central midfielder United may have got; but Fletcher is the best one suited for Ferguson's style. And havent you guys noticed that attacks through the central midfield are something like "strictly prohibited"... It aint that United lack attacking flair in the midfield... It is simply not allowed... Linking United to Snijder is again stupidity... Arent you guys done with Snijder??? United would most probably go for a defensive midfielder rather than an attacking midfielder.

    October 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  10. Killian Donnellan

    Some good points there pedro, I think fergie should get rid of carrick and evans, but keep flecther as a squad player and bring in shawcross, gourcoff and snejder. You are right about the team selection, jones nd hernadez should have played, but I also think that park should have played instead of nani or young as he is a work horse and would have stopped sliva having so much time on the ball.

    October 25, 2011 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  11. Pedro Pintsize

    I love it when people like you question Sir Alex's tactics. Fair enough, the city game wasn't his or the team's finest hour; but to question the tactics of somebody who has won everything there is to win in the game? You truly are worth of the term 'hack'.

    Everybody is waxing lyrical in somewhat of a kneejerk reaction to sunday's game of how amazing City are. The sending off was massive and in all honesty the team should have defended more, but it seemed the passion to attack was equal to fierceness of the derby and the emotions entwined with that forced ridiculous errors. When the game should have stayed at a respectable loss, to be expected with a 10 man team you could add; cool, calmness and composure was lost amidst the team. However the blame cannot be laid at Sir Alex's door. Evra and Ferdinand should know better, they're the most experienced and senior players with one holding the mantle as captain and the other bearing that honour in previous games.

    October 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  12. mandela

    Nothing much 2 add or remove,guez 4 d 1st time i hav 2 hail Mr blogger 4 dis write up dat Fergie did wrong in d derby n also going bck 2 d UCL final!!!

    October 25, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Reply
  13. maurice

    pedro you are right,sir alex should go to the market and bring in a well established midfielder who is also a hard tackler so as the team can be stable.

    October 26, 2011 at 2:56 am | Reply
  14. kentsailer

    Was soooo glad to see The great Man U get eaten alive by Man City
    it should have happened with Liverpool the previous week. I said once and I'll say it again Mr. Ferguson is overated as a manager. Yes he has won champoinships in the past but because he had very good teams, not because of his "genius". Evra – wayyyy overated he has become a cry baby as soon as a call goes against him. (Don't be surprised if he is dropped from the French National very soon). Ferdinand (one of my favorites) was completly asleep, but in all fairness the whole team (except for Rooney) was on vacation. The thing is a good manager would have corrected this when it was 3-1, at the most when it became 4-1. Change your formation for Christ's sake. Play your best players end of story. Nani is in the same category as Evra. Nobody wanted to defend – hell nobody wanted to play and it seems that nobody wanted to manage either. Never mind saying that you have never lost by such a humiliating score. Take some of the blame for once. There were players on the bench that some pride and that should have started. UEFA championship?? good luck with that.

    October 26, 2011 at 8:11 am | Reply
  15. Arthur

    Pedro,I totally agree with you. Our midfield lacks the speed and defence when they face opponents like Barcelona Messi and City Silva.Histroy repeats itself and we havent learnt our lesson, and now we were punished again

    October 26, 2011 at 11:00 am | Reply
  16. Premier League Rules

    How stupid, to undermine an excellent Man City side. They won on their merits, not on a lineup gaffe by Fergie.

    October 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Reply
  17. Chad Njitap

    I must oblige to you Pinto. ManU needs a world-class midfielder, a playmaker like Snjider or Modric. We were outplayed in the midfield. The talents of Giggs will be missed greatly. Evans should never play in the Premiership unless in Carling Cup. He said himself he did not expect to be in ManU this season and Sunday justified this. The experiences of Rio, Evra, Vidic,Fletcher are still needed for the fragile young stars Rafael,Cleverly,Wellbeck. But one defeat is not the ultimate judgement, but I bet with this kind of squad, second round of the Champions League will be the ultimate JUDGEMENT. The services of Snjider are desperately needed.

    October 26, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  18. Horacio

    Pedro has touched on an important point. Fergie has put too much faith in mediocre players in important games. He needs another quality midfielder, unquestionably.

    October 26, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Reply
  19. alehandro

    United are clearly lacking a midfield general, preferably someone who can defend and attack like Roy Keane used to. Anderson, Carrick and Fletcher are journeyman in my view and Nani plays too wide and with too much self-interest to command the situation. Didn't find it curious to see Wellbeck in the starting line-up as he's a workhorse who might have unsettled Kompany and Lescott on another day while Chicarito is an impact player who excels at coming off the bench but doesn't have the physical presence for the full 90. I am curious as to why Evans started ahead of Vidic, who was on the bench so presumably fit. I think they really missed his experience and he would never have been caught wrong side hence would not have had to foul for the red card. I agree that the result merits the kind of inquest this article attempted, but while the scoreline was embarrassing I don't see it as indicative of anything more than an aberration by United. City didn't play exceptionally well they just benefitted from an abject showing by the Reds Devils, which I doubt will be repeated any time soon whatever the line-up.

    October 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Reply
  20. Ram

    Well said indeed Pedro!
    Yes, my sentiments EXACTLY!!. I think he got a bit too enamoured of the young Welbeck at a time when quite frankly he should've started with Chicharito and Rooney, and then if anything brought on Berbatov. What is his problem with Berbatov. Yes I know he has let the team down at crucial times, like when he could've scored easily against Man City in the FA Cup Semi's last year, which would've put an end to City's sudden revival for a while at least, and other games where he should have clearly scored but missed with a baloon kick or otherwise. Still, his head and feel for passes are very good, and he should've been used. And Giggs and Park? Where were they? They should've been lining up as well. Quite frankly Nani is NOT a solid game changer for me. Yes he pounced on a defensive mistake against City in the Community Shield, and every now and then he rockets one in, but the jury is still out on him. Valencia would've been MUCH better and stronger. I like Young though, and he kept fighting. But Pedro, you're right about the very odd tinkering for both Liverpool and the City games. I just hope that Fergie will now just keep going with his strongest, wisest team. And I agree with Fletcher and Carrick as well. I'm sorry but Carrick MUST go in January, along with Evans. Please, just sell them. Evans always looks he's going to do something stupid, and then he looks dumbfounded and perplexed when he does. Out. And Barca, Bayern, Real Madrid and the rest must be licking their lips at the prospect of ripping United apart, if they keep putting out inexperienced and disheveled teams out like the recent ones. It also didn't help that Vidic has been out of sorts. I like Cleverley very much though, and he has a good head on him. But Rio should really start being put out to pasture, and put Smalling in there, or Jones gradually. The DaSilva brothers also need to get back in there. All in all, a disastrous game for United, but it was ALL in the stupid choices for a team by Fergie. He knows perhaps that undefeated up till then, he might be able to just tinker a bit, just to see how things work out. Well now he must surely know. Everton up next away, and he needs to have all guns blazing like a gattling gun for that game. No poncing around, prissy footing with experiments. Just a full on in your face red faced raging game. 1-6 was very hard to take, just by looking at the lineup and the total lack of steel and gumption showed by the players. Never again.
    Thank you.

    October 27, 2011 at 2:17 am | Reply
  21. Popcorn Analyzers

    so, suddenly you are the one who teaches everyone aftermath the game...
    do you know the value of players like fletcher for utd, busquets/mascherano for barca, song for arsenal, makalele for chelsea and madrid during his years... and that of deschamps for france and dunga for brazil... ?

    these are the guys that shoulder all the dirty work for the team and leave their playmakers play the game...

    yes, man city were the better team on the day and deserved to win... writing an article critizing players and managers is never a difficult thing to do...

    and yes, i am an arsenal fan...

    October 27, 2011 at 6:56 am | Reply
  22. Paul from Kenya

    I am Man u fan,actually i have been a Man u fan since 1994.I totally agree with everything you have written in this article.Fergie should have started with Jones and Vidic....

    October 27, 2011 at 7:48 pm | Reply
  23. Nnoruka Udechukwu

    I am not a fan of Manchester United but I have immense respect for Fagie as a manager. You cannot win them all. You win some and lose some. This idea of shopping for players to buy so as to win games and carry trophies is not good for the sport. Let us stop commercializing soccer. Teams should be known for their playing culture. When I watch a particular team play, I want to be reminded of what that team stands for. That is why I will always watch USA, Brazil, or Germany. That is why I watch Arsenal. ManCity is just an assemblage of star players and I am not impressed when they win. Mancini is even looking for more players to poach from other teams. I hear he wants the Arsenal captain now!

    October 28, 2011 at 5:57 am | Reply
  24. Roby

    Agree with u Pedro, but some other articles from the media are
    writing united off, especially writing off Fergie! i know he'll be 70 at the end of the year but still has one or two seasons left in has bag. It was torture watching united lose by that score, but it doesnt mean we dnt have a good enough team. I'd like to remind everyone that we started the season coming back from a champions league FINAL thrashing of 3-1, and look at how good our reaction was with such a hard fixture list. (Tottenham, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal,City, Stoke away). I aint worried at all abt United. Come December we would hv reduced the point difference and back to regain our 20th title. Come on UNITED!

    October 28, 2011 at 8:54 am | Reply
  25. DANNY

    Smalling should have started in central defence alongside Ferdinand. valencia should have played right back. Chicharito should have been up front. His moves easily amongst defenders and should have been good for Ashley young who did a great job but was often barred by Mikel Richards after toiling with the ball too long because Welbeck could not open up himself.
    I have been a MU supporter since 1995 and no defeat has been more than this one

    October 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Reply
  26. Michael

    I don't want to disturb anyone, but at some point SAF will get too old. It happens mentally and physically at different ages, and at different ages for everyone. If Fergie is making as obvious errors as all you writers are saying, then maybe he is just not as sharp as he used to be. He can't go on forever.

    October 29, 2011 at 10:01 am | Reply

    I agree with you.i still dont understand where Ferguson is benching Berbatov.recall the crucial games he delivered us last season.who can do that in his using frontline currently.ferdinand time is gone and should have been left out wit Evans for Jones and Vidic or Smalling with the twins in right back.ASHLEY, BERBATOV D, ROONEY, HERNANDEZ,NANI,anderson,jones,smalling,vidic,evra,valencia or fabio for RB,with De Gea would have been able to topple City very well.we need berba

    October 31, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Reply

    fergie cost us the match with Fletcher, Evans, ferdinand,welbeck, the same way he cost us the champs league and FA CUP last season with Carrick and silent Chicharito.Fletcher,Carrick,Ferdinand needs to follow Brown and co.Evans cn b loaned for a year.the has not been the united we started the season with.we need Cleverly and Berba back,

    October 31, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Reply
  29. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Manchester City has too many very good players in the squad. In every game the playing eleven appear to be of world class. Not so is the case with the rest of the teams. If City keeps winning with huge margins that should not be a surprise to any one. But defeats and even draws should shock one and all.

    October 31, 2011 at 8:20 pm | Reply
  30. Genti

    As a real United fan this time I completely agree with you. Nothing more to add

    November 1, 2011 at 10:10 am | Reply
  31. Steven Downton

    I think Sir Alex knows what he is doing, the defeat to City was bad yes but he's been doing this long enough to have a plan in place. These young players need the experience of playing in big games and while the severity of the loss will hurt they will be able to learn a lot from it. While he tinkers with his team now, when it comes to the business end of the season, he usually puts a more stable, experienced side out. Let's not forget that no trophies are won in October, we will only know how bad a defeat it was by April/May.

    November 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  32. Kingsley

    Fergie please explain to us. Evans?????? Why why why why why???? Why do you ever play Evans???? The boy is the worst United player to ever done the Red Shirt since the Masimo Taibi era....

    November 5, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  33. mwax

    i have stumbled on this article late but i have to comment being a united fan for +15 years. Pinto is spot on this time,evans carrick and fletcher are simply too mediocre for united. infact fletcher is totally over hyped as a big game player , in a whole season he will score at most 3 goals but in each game he will give away 4 to 5 balls when he is totally under no pressure . the one goal in the 6 -1 camouflaged his ppor game but
    surely AF cant remain blind about this forever . the mid field needs an overhaul soonest . cleverly is promising may be he should experiment with pogba also after all he is already tinkered with the defence so much, but more tinkering is needed Pinto this time in the mid field

    November 7, 2011 at 6:32 am | Reply
  34. Prakash Moktan

    City has now world class players while United is stuck with same average players. Rooney ,a striker is playing a mid field role while United lacks true midfield power and losing the game with top teams like city & Barca.

    If the Man Utd. does not bring in quality payers, it could cost not only the title race but the job of Sir Alex !

    November 8, 2011 at 1:45 am | Reply
  35. In Off The Post

    What a load of deluded biased reds you all are, making up exscuses, it had nothing to do with having a man sent off or they way United were set up. You were out thought and out played a better football and what made it even more laughable it was on your home ground, 73000 United fans went to the Theatre of dreams and 73000 left the Theatre of Nightmares (not at the same time as they started leaving after 70 minutes – there's loyalty for you, you couldn't watch 25 minutes of pain, real fans stay to watch 34 years without any reward other than loyalty)

    Keep the faith, and preapre for some barren years

    November 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
  36. Kevin T

    As Pep Guardiaola put it a couple of weeks ago, other teams are also allowed to score goals and win matches. For Man U, it just happened that they lost by such a big margin.

    This is a competition. There will be winners and losers. For the record, Sir Alex still tinkered with the team and they managed to win a record premier league championship last season as well as get to the finals of a Champion's League. It was just bad luck.

    This from a Barcelona fan.

    November 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Reply

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