15 Dec 2011

Crisis At United ? What Crisis ?

Following Manchester United's exit from the Carling Cup and Champions League respectively, the media and a number of supporters were quick stating their view that  United were a club in crisis.

It's not the first and will certainty not be last time that word will be associated with United, it's part and parcel of being successful and arguably the biggest club side in the world.

The media love to print stories about United for one main reason, it sells papers. The morning after United crashed out of the Champions League the back pages were awash with the usual "Fergie Past It" headlines, but the word "crisis" was used by the majority of the media to sum up United's cup exits. The definition of the word crisis can be loosely used to describe a "testing time".

I for one do not see this as a testing time, but more as a transitional stage in rebuilding a team that has lost Edwin Van Der Sar, Gary Neville, and Paul Scholes, who have all been great, important players for the club, and are almost individually impossible to replace.

In 2005 United went out of the Champions League at the same stage they did this year. The team that went out at Benfica that evening featured young players like Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Darren Fletcher, John Oshea & Alan Smith. These were all players relatively young and looking to establish themselves at United. Fast forward six years to that defeat in Basle and you would have seen David De Gea, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young all trudging off the pitch with their heads sunk into their chests.

It's a similar situation as 2005 in my opinion, this team is trying to establish itself, and Sir Alex is trying to decide how best to use certain players, like Phil Jones for instance. It will take time for these player to form an understanding between each other.

Also take into account the crippling injuries United have had to deal with this season, currently nine senior players are sidelined, and the fact that they are only two points behind league leaders Manchester City, who effectively won the lottery the day that Sheik Mansour purchased the club, and things don't seem too bad do they? United are currently five points better off than they were at the same stage last season, which just goes to show how impressive City's start to the season has been.

City have been labelled the "Barcelona of English football" by many, following their best ever start to a league campaign, United are only two points behind them. Lets just say that if City had not won the lottery, and we take them out of the equation and assume that they would be lingering around mid-table, currently United would be five points clear of Chelsea in the Premier League title chase, hardly a crisis is it?

United cannot compete with City financially and probably never will be in a position to flex their muscle like City can, but for United to be only two points behind City leading into the busy Christmas period, suggests to me that there is no crisis at Old Trafford.

Traditionally, history suggests United find another gear in the second half of the season, and despite the injuries that threaten to hinder their title chances, you would not bet against them making it a twentieth league title this season. The Premier League, in terms of a race is a marathon, not a sprint. City have set the pace so far, it's up to United to maintain the pace and try and overtake its Mancunian rival.