There’s a space between us
August 23, 2010 § 6 Comments
Well, from a United perspective, it was better than last year. But while Nani’s (desperately poor) penalty miss was probably the decisive act, Fulham’s performance regularly exposed United’s weakness in tracking runners from midfield.
Prior to his goal, Simon Davies had a decent chance to work van der Sar. Danny Murphy chipped a pass toward Bobby Zamora, who beat Evans and Evra in the air, and nodded the ball to Davies, who shot just over. Here’s the play as the ball is flicked on. Park is letting Davies go, and Vidic is only just able to make it across to force Davies into a first-time snap-shot, which flies just over.
Also at 0-1, Etuhu had a golden chance to equalise, only thwarted by a ridiculous double save from van der Sar. Here he breaks from Berbatov into open space …
… and is able to proceed entirely unchallenged through the midfield and into the gap between O’Shea and Vidic.
Now here’s the pass for the goal. Zamora – who absolutely ruined Evans over the course of the afternoon – is the provider. Both Vidic and O’Shea are drawn to Dempsey’s run, leaving Davies to emerge unaccompanied from the midfield. Valencia, like Park before, hasn’t followed the run (though does manage to arrive in the box in time to point accusingly at somebody else).
Fulham also had a penalty shout wrongly turned down. But again, as you can see below, United’s defence has once again failed to track the runner. In this screengrab, Vidic is about to pull Dembele’s shirt, but Zamora, on this occasion coming from deep, is entirely alone on the edge of the penalty-box.
It’s this vulnerability that lends credence to the frequent suggestions that United are perhaps a defensively-minded central midfielder light (this week’s random target chosen with blindfold-and-pin from the Bumper Book Of Defensive Midfielders: Raul Meireles). And while United could have won this game, better teams will exploit this space more often, and to greater effect. From a United perspective, this should not only be treated as two points dropped. It should be treated as a warning.