Any more for the Scapegoat? OK then form an orderly queue and we'll just go once round the highlights and see if the tide is low enough for us to see the wreckage of the 'High Hopes' which sank on Saturday. Someone's got to take the tiller here .There has to be some good reason for not beating the current top three in consecutive matches for the first time in, oh ever. Only 6 points out of 9! what were you guys thinking?
First up: Harry.
He will get some stick because he disobeyed the golden rule of team sports: 'never change a winning team'. Not that I necessarily agree with this old adage. Remember if it's not perfect it can be improved
In order to include Wilson Palacios once compared to 'sliced bread' but now gone a little stale we had to reorganise the defensive set-up. Ekotto went to right back in place of Kaboul who wasn't to be trusted. Two goal Bale went to full back and Modric to the left midfield slot, which many believe is his best position.
Nothing really worked although a lot of this was not Harry's fault but caused by the poor performances by individual players, but the confidence from the previous two matches was wasted.
None of this is major reconstruction or not justified except for Ekotto to right back where he has played before without distinction.
Scapegoat rating: 6/10
Second up is Ekotto himself.
He got the wrong side of Berbatov and despite attempting, and failing, to haul him back was then bamboozled by his neat back-heel to Evra who he floored just because he could. Poor judgment as there were covering players. First goal to United from the spot.
Scapegoat rating 7/10
Third up is iron man Wilson.
He hasn't been injured so would have trained and should not have been so far off the pace as he appeared to be. Poor distribution whilst in his favoured midfield position and poor positional play when asked to replace Ekotto at right back.
He attempted to pull back Nani before he got into the area and then tried to run through him once he did which was unnecessary as once again there were covering players. Third, icing on the cake, goal to United from the spot.
Scapegoat rating: 8/10
Next up Gareth Bale the boy from left field.
Seriously astray for Nani's goal where he appeared to have forgotten that he was the full back.(Note it has been pointed out in the comments that he was not playing Left Back at the timer Ekotto was. But the point is stillvalid because he had dropped back to cover him and Nani was his man.) He allowed Nani to run inside him, didn't backtrack or cover and left it all to Ledley. This is usually a good idea but not on this occasion. Wonderful finish though and a worthy match winner. Second and decisive goal to United.
Scapegoat factor 4/10
Lastly,the rest of the team.
Bentley and Defoe were very poor. Scapegoat rating 4/10
Pavlyuchenko and Huddlestone were just poor. SR 3/10
Modric tried but had no support. SR 1/10
Gomes ,Ledley and Dawson were fine. SR 0/10
We were set up to attack (442) tactically but our attitude was defensive and timid until they scored. We talked a good match but were content to spar with United for the first half and then even though we had our best spell after we equalised we still sat back to admire our handiwork and never really went for it against a United side without Rooney and Ferdinand who were themselves not at their best.
They needed to win this game as much as us. They won the midfield battle, which was really more of a skirmish, controlled the ball better and were less wasteful. They had in Berbatov and Nani two players with the skill to make the difference.
Harry was let down by his players although his lack of trust in Kaboul and the inclusion of Palacios proved disruptive and fatal. This is of course with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight but we had played well without Palacios against Arsenal and especially Chelsea. How was Harry to know that Palacios was going to play so poorly?
In the event Harry got it wrong but he has got more right than wrong over the season. Palacios is not the player he was and his limitations are beginning to show, particularly his passing. Ekotto has not developed much lately and his temperament and judgment are questionable at times. Do feel free to disagree.
However its still ours to lose although the field is bunching up behind us as we approach the final three hurdles. Still 4th with three to go, who would have thought it. City have to play both us and Villa who have been on a good run at just the right time but I make us favourites now to clinch the final Champions' League place having more than coped with our difficult run in.
The reappearance of Lennon to replace the painfully slow Bentley could just be the bonus we need. Bolton's away record is poor, they have lost 11/18 games and conceded 35 goals, and whilst hesitating to call this an 'easy' game if we don't win it we don't deserve anything.