Thursday, 19 August 2010

A Tale of Two Teams... In One City

Manchester is a city of two greatly contrasting teams. United have had a quiet and understated summer whereas City have spent almost as much as the other nineteen Premiership teams put together in the current transfer window.

The Sky Blues continue to spend money while the Red Devils continue to rely on their ageing maestros. The make-up of the two teams is extremely different.

Ferguson has squad comprising largely of a core of familiar faces, bolstered by a few new signings. It is a not an eye catching squad but is one of vast experience and talent, nevertheless.

Individuals like of Darren Fletcher, Park Ji Sung and John O'Shea may not grab headlines but they are greatly under-appreciated by many. They are ideal team players. They work tirelessly for the team and are happy to leave the glory for others.

Fergie also still has the pleasure of having Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs at his disposal, quite possibly the two best players the Premiership has ever seen. Even though their games may have changed from the mid-nineties, they are still top level performers.

After the match against Newcastle, Scholes has been lavished with praise from the footballing world. It is hard to add any more compliments to the man. An extraordinary passing range, superb vision and unparalleled ability to dictate a game make him an essential element of United's plans for the season.

Giggs, meanwhile, extended his run of scoring in consecutive seasons to a phenomenal 21 in the 3-0 defeat of Newcastle. He, like Scholes, seems to radiate confidence and assurance through the rest of the team.

In their respective twenty year careers there has seldom been a bad word to say about either. Scholes and Giggs' passion and hunger for the game even at the ages of 35 and 36 respectively is sensational. The experience they bring, as I have commented in a couple of previous posts, is invaluable in a Premiership campaign. Pages could be dedicated to the praising of either of these two players but that it not the point of this post so I will move on.

The new signings of Hernandez, Smalling and Bebe (although I, like Fergie, am yet to see him play) should help add some much needed depth to the squad too. It is the combination of experience, modest hard working players and some exciting youngsters that gives United such great balance.

The balance of a team or squad is key. Look at Spain. A variety of different players, doing different things but forming a cohesive team. It is this balance that City seem to lack. On paper, their squad would be envied by all teams in the Premiership.

Mancini has, however, seemed to favour buying big name personnel over purchasing players to fit a specific system. Paying over the top for Milner and losing Ireland and letting Bellamy leave both seem like unwise decisions. Fergie called it 'kamikaze spending'. It is not, but, just buying great players in not enough.

Their tricky opening game against Tottenham revealed two key problems for me. Having three defensive midfielders was overly negative and playing Tevez upfront by himself wasted his great strength of being a perfect secondary striker, doing the donkey work for another front-man to thrive off.

The new signings of Milner and Balotelli will have solved their search for a third striker and a creative midfielder.They have also addressed some problems at the back with the signings of Boateng and Kolarov. The task is now to somehow to fit these players into a cohesive team.

How can Barry, De Jong, Yaya Toure, Milner, Wright-Phillips, Johnson, Tevez, Adebayor, Silva and Balotelli, not to mention Jo, Santa Cruz and Vieira, best be played together? Who will be left on the bench? How will big players react to being left out?

These have not been 'kamikaze signings'. Quality players have arrived at Eastlands. Now, although they may not like it, the 'noisy neighbours' need to learn something from the example Fergie has set over the last two decades - great players don't win titles, great teams do.

United probably do not have as strong a squad as City. What they do have however, is a set of players picked to fit a particular system and style of football, one that has been proven to win championships.

Few would argue that if the City squad can gel and be put into a formation that brings the best out of them then they will challenge in all competitions. Whether this happens is yet to be seen. Pre-season and the season opener would suggest there is still a long way to go.

The battle between the Blue and Red halves of Manchester has become increasingly interesting over the last few years and this season may well be the most fascinating one yet. Two vastly contrasting squads with the same aim. Who will prevail?

Personally, I think this is still one season too soon for City. They have added so many new players to the squad that they will need time to come together as a team. With the league being more competitive than ever, they can ill-afford such a time for their new signings to gel.

United, as they showed in their opener, are as formidable as ever. Defensive frailties and perhaps too great a reliance on their ageing stars could hamper their chances but will always be there or thereabouts come May.

Thoughts, comments and opinions please...

1 comment:

  1. good post, very unbiased and calls it as it is


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