Mills & Boom: Fergie's Anfield errors

17 October 2011 12:47
Danny Mills believes Sir Alex Ferguson got a lot wrong at Anfield, discusses the Evra-Suarez feud and feels Steve Kean is on borrowed time.

In this week's Mills & Boom column I give my thoughts on Sir Alex Ferguson's strange team selection for Saturday's clash with Liverpool.

I was at Anfield for the game so witnessed the running feud between Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez which started on the pitch but has carried on off it.

I take a look at the Champions League action coming up in midweek, with United and Manchester City facing must-win games.

The likes of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko could return for City but I think Mario Balotelli deserves to keep his starting place having impressed in recent weeks, and particularly against Aston Villa.

I outline how vital Robin van Persie is to Arsenal, discuss how Ferguson is having to carefully manage Rio Ferdinand - and give my thoughts on which Premier League manager is most likely to be sacked first.

Give my latest offering a read and let me know your thoughts in the comments box below - Danny.

Strange selection

I was at Anfield on Saturday and was surprised when I saw United's starting line-up as it was a very strange selection.

Sir Alex Ferguson is one of the greatest managers in world and club football - but for me, on Saturday he got his selection wrong, he got his formation wrong, and the tactics were wrong.

Having said that, Liverpool had plenty of possession but didn't create too many chances - and once again United came up with an equaliser.

Nani, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez were all on the bench, and Ferguson went with a very conservative team.

I also found it strange that Phil Jones did a man-to-man job on Charlie Adam and followed him everywhere. They even walked off the pitch together at half-time, almost holding hands, and that was very unusual for Manchester United.

United were well below par by their standards and were very poor - but to win titles and championships, you need to pick up points when you play badly, and that's what they do.

The only disappointing thing for Liverpool is that they played very well and still couldn't beat Manchester United.

Race row

Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez were at each other all afternoon and there were several occasions where there was handbags. Evra got booked and him and Suarez were nibbling each other all afternoon.

As we all know Suarez backs into people, he's strong, he twists and turns - and he also goes down rather too easily.

In his defence, Evra went down from a tackle from Suarez when I think a stud was caught in his knee. He went down like his leg had been blown off - and two minutes later he was sprinting around.

It was that sort of game. There was no real bad tackle - it was niggly, and whether something was said remains to be seen.

Obviously there was a lot of tension in the game, and it's fair to say those two didn't get on.

Rio rested

Rio Ferdinand started at Anfield but has been left out of United's squad for their Champions League trip to play Otelul Galati.

I think it's very difficult for Rio as being in and out of the team is not easy. Undoubtedly he's a magnificent player and has been fantastic for England and United.

But when you're not playing week in week out, when you're not training every day, sometimes it's difficult to keep your sharpness and focus.

Obviously he is such a good player that United will play him from time to time - but he has to be managed carefully, and obviously Sir Alex has decided that the travelling is not good for his back and thinks this is a trip that he doesn't need Rio for. He could also be resting him ahead of the Manchester derby.

Must-win game

United are massive favourites to win in Romania, and they need to as the draw in the last game with FC Basel was a huge shock. Going 2-0 up and drawing 3-3 was a big surprise. I don't think anyone expected that - but again it was a team that Sir Alex tinkered with.

Suddenly now, they have to go away and win - and their form of late hasn't been brilliant. They started the season unbelievably well, playing free-flowing football that blew away Tottenham, beat Chelsea and destroyed Arsenal.

But they weren't so great against Stoke or Norwich, and managed to scrape a point against Liverpool, so they go into this game in not the greatest form, and if they're going to qualify as winners of the group, which is vitally important, this is a game they simply have to win.

Mancini right to tinker

Roberto Mancini tinkered with his team for the Aston Villa game and I think it was a good decision.

He decided to play most of those players who hadn't been involved too much in international football and left those that had had a couple of tough games on the bench.

That's what he has the ability to do with such a big, talented squad.

I was a little bit surprised by Villa as I thought they'd provide a tougher test.

But Mario Balotelli, who will continue to divide opinion, looked very sharp again and without doubt is a fantastic player.

At home, when City start to attack teams, they are formidable.

It has been a difficult start for them in Europe. They were expected to go and win the game with Napoli, they were poor out in Munich and really got torn apart by Bayern. So suddenly these two games against Villarreal are must-win games if they are going to qualify into the latter stages of the competition.

It won't be easy but this first game being at home is a massive bonus.

I presume Mancini will tinker with the side, and the likes of Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko could come back in. But I think Balotelli deserves a place in the starting line-up; he has looked sharp and bright and is always likely to do something a little bit different, whether that be score an overhead kick, a strange celebration or rile the opposition fans. At the moment he is in the team on merit.

First-class van Persie

Robin van Persie got a brace against Sunderland and he really is a fantastic player - his goalscoring ability and his technique are first-class. He has had injuries in the past but hopefully he'll stay fit for the season.

Arsenal have made a good start in the Champions League - but their league form has been pretty much disastrous up until now.

Their Champions League trip is not an easy game as Marseille is a tough place to go - but Arsene Wenger will probably know the set-up and players as well as anybody, and the way Arsenal are set up, they are possibly more suited to playing in a European style. They're a bit more patient, not as robust, and that's probably why they've had such a good start in the Champions League.

If Arsenal go to Marseille and get a draw it puts them in pole position in the group.

No Chelsea problems

I think Chelsea have a relatively easy group and I don't see them having any sort of problems - certainly at home against Genk.

Juan Mata is really coming into his own now and is filling that little playmaker role that Chelsea have lacked in recent seasons.

They've got pace, they've got power - and a strong squad. At the weekend Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda were left on the bench.

There'll probably be a little bit of rotation in the team from Andre Villas-Boas but I'd be very surprised if they don't beat Genk.

Under pressure

There are several top-flight managers under pressure but for me Steve Kean is still the favourite to go at Blackburn. They picked up a point at QPR, with captain Samba getting them out of a hole - but I can't see any progress from Blackburn or them going on a winning run of three or four games to get them up the table.

As for Wigan, I really like Roberto Martinez as he sticks to his principles and wants to play free-flowing, attacking football. But defensively they came undone at the weekend and need to be a lot stronger.

Bolton's win took a bit of pressure off Owen Coyle, while Wolves and Sunderland seem to be plummeting.

Steve Bruce's men have struggled since losing Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan - and I think scoring goals is going to be Sunderland's biggest problem.

But I think Steve Kean will be the first Premier League manager to be sacked this season.

Have Your Say on Danny's opinions by using the Comments facility below. You can also listen to Danny on Sky Sports News Radio every Monday and Friday.

Source: Team_Talk