It is the end of a season that started with great promise. The Reds hit the ground running in August with goals galore against Bolton, Arsenal and Chelsea. But some unfortunate injuries and a morale sapping defeat to City saw them slip behind their neighbors in the League table. Come April, United were firmly on the way to their 20th League title with an 8-point advantage over City. And then, inexplicably, they let the lead slip through their fingers and City stole the crown on goal difference on the last day of the season.
Now, many blame the 4-4 draw against Everton for United’s predicament. Maybe because they assume that City were better than United and would have beaten them in the derby any ways. But I disagree. I say it was all down to that one tactical blunder made by Ferguson. He played a defensive 4-5-1 against city and lost. A match that United could have easily won if not eked out a draw.
History, they say, is a great teacher. If we analyze the season gone by we can see that on the previous two occasions that Ferguson had played the 4-5-1, United played pathetic football and were bested on all fronts. Both matches were at Liverpool. The 1-1 away draw and the FA Cup defeat.
This has been Ferguson’s fallacy for some time now. Against teams that he deems to be better than United, he tends to choose a defensive formation, playing for a draw. The fact of the matter is that United are an attacking team. They thrive on attacking the opponent’s goal and setting camp in their half. The United centre-backs hardly have to sit back and repel attacks. They usually just take care of the opposition’s counter-attacks. That is the way United play. To expect them to sit back and soak attack after attack is being unfair to them. That is what went wrong.
Take the FA Cup match against City that United won 3-2. In the first half United went all out and played some scintillating football. They scored thrice. In the second half, they tried to sit back on the 3 goal lead and it all went horribly wrong for them. City kept attacking and scored twice, leading to a very nervous finish to the game. Offense is the best defense, some wise man said.
Cut to the present. United have just completed the signing of the Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund. This is good news. Great news actually. Kagawa is a goal-scoring mid-fielder. A position in the United squad that is in desperate need of reinforcement. He will add the creative spark to the United mid-field that seems to be missing when Scholes is not on the field. Anderson has flattered to deceive in that role for some years now. He had his chances. But it seems like he is on his way out of the Theatre of Dreams.
Shinji Kagawa has set the Bundesliga alight in the last two seasons, leading the charge at Borussia Dortmund. He was an integral part of Jurgen Klopp’s team and weighed in with goals and assists alike. Robert Lewandowski will attest to his abilities. The diminutive Japanese had a big hand in his 30-goal haul last season. Kagawa revels in the advanced midfield role, playing just behind the striker. But he can move to the left wing with ease, as he does regularly with the Japanese national team.
At United, he will most probably partner Michael Carrick or Tom Cleverley in the midfield. And with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia ahead of him, the attacking prospects are frightening indeed. But most important of all, for those times when Ferguson in all his tactical brilliance decides to play 4-5-1, United will have Shinji Kagawa playing behind Rooney or Welbeck instead of Park Ji Sung.
With additional reinforcements like Leighton Baines and Luka Modric reportedly on the way, United will look to see off the Noisy Neighbors like they did with the Petro-dollars of Abramovic a few years ago. It will be an interesting season that is for sure.