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United’s Cup Loss To Chelsea Highlights The Cracks Within Our Squad

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Losing to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup Quarter final is no disgrace but from 2-0 up at home in the first game, losing 3 goals unanswered is of concern.

In both games the cracks that appeared are the faults that separate the very best from the nearly men, and I saw enough to know we have to fix some faults.

Rio Ferdinand, playing to the left of Chris Smalling was comprehensively beaten by Demba Ba much as he was previously while the athletic target man was at Newcastle. I thought Rio had a poor game, his distribution was bad and his defending was erratic.

Like the opposing former Captain John Terry, he is nearing the end of his career and boy is it showing. Long ago we saw Larry White (Laurent Blanc to me and you) have a terrible season with us because his pace was gone and he no longer stuck his head in where it hurts, I can see echoes of that with the fading Rio.

Otherwise Antonio Valencia fooled us into thinking he was a winger but did ok at right back, Phil Jones fooled us into thinking he was a midfielder but did ok at right back, and Smalling was excellent again alongside Patrice Evra who played as though he knows that Alexander Buttner is a real threat for the first time challenging the Frenchman for his first team place.

To match up with Chelsea 3 v 3 in midfield was a good idea after they crushed us in the second-half at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick, Jones and Tom Cleverley did enough for me to imagine that trio having a lot of games together.

Strangely it was upfront where we struggled with Nani having a very poor game, Danny Welbeck blisteringly fast but with no end product and little supply to Javier Hernandez who laboured to make a chance all alone most of the time.

Losing a goal made Sir Alex Ferguson respond and the withdrawal of Nani, Cleverley and Welbeck for Ashley Young, Ryan Giggs and Robin van Persie made us 4-4-2. Giggs and Carrick became overwhelmed again and Chelsea looked the more likely scores.

The save from Hernandez and the miss by van Perfect, every bit as bad as his miss on Saturday against Sunderland, were all we had to show while Chelsea looked very dangerous.

What I learned is that we are good, but not great. We have several players who have lost form and we don’t want to lose to Manchester City and start to see our lead eroded like last season.

United should have enough to cross the line but the 1-0 wins against Reading and Sunderland were unconvincing as were the draw and defeat to Chelsea. Since we lost to Real Madrid we do seem to be feeling sorry for ourselves and that’s no good.

Help the Aged are required to prop up Giggs and Rio, Paul Scholes is clearly retiring again and that’s for the best now. Wayne Rooney seems to have lost his way at United and I do see him being offloaded in the summer to make way for Robert Lewandowski.

We need another central midfielder to replace Anderson and Scholes and Giggs, who can’t go on aft next year. A big buy is essential in that position as an injury to Carrick would be a scary prospect.

Right now United have shown we are the best squad in England but not the best XI. That might seem an odd statement but on their day City and Chelsea are better than us but our best 22 is much better than theirs.

Unfortunately in the big games we can only field XI and that’s what has hurt us this season.

I’m delighted we will collect our 20th title, Liverpool are well and truly de-perched, and yet we are 2 or 3 star players short of the level of Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.

Open your wallet Malcolm.

By Steve Burrows CBE @ifollowsteve

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