Paul Parker

Lack of quality has cost United

Paul Parker

View photo


How did Manchester United get into a position where they will likely lose the title? Well, you can state the obvious and say the 4-4 draw at home to Everton when they let slip a two-goal lead late on, but there have been other glaring disappointments as well. Losing to Blackburn at home and away to Wigan were both terrible results while the 6-1 derby defeat to Manchester City certainly didn't help the goal difference.

There is still a chance that Manchester City will mess things up by failing to win at home to QPR on the final day, but only a very, very slim one. United have paid the price for a campaign in which they have not looked their usual selves.

The Manchester United of old would not be succumbing to results like those against Everton, Blackburn and Wigan. They wouldn't go lose to teams threatened by relegation, concede twice in the final minutes at Old Trafford or be hammered at home by five goals by their local rivals.

United haven't been killing off lesser teams because they don't have the players to do that, they don't have a Cristiano Ronaldo steamrollering teams any more. But their problems do not just lie in attack.

The last time United paid good money for a midfielder was Anderson a few years ago and that is the area of the pitch in which they have been most notably lacking. You are looking for a change of pace in midfield, some dynamism. Someone like Bryan Robson or Roy Keane. Now they have Michael Carrick, who is very laboured and will never go down as a Manchester United midfield great. Manchester City do have a player of this ilk in Yaya Toure and it's no coincidence he has stepped up in the past week.

United are not even as good as they were last season. They have been reliant on Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs in flashes, and they couldn't afford any injuries. However, unlike City's their medical staff have been overworked and the loss of Nemanja Vidic in particular has been critical. If he had been fit all season then United wouldn't have conceded anywhere near as many goals as they have. They wouldn't have capitulated against Everton because he would have taken command.

The double- and treble-winning sides were always built on the back of a great back four and United haven't had that this season. Vidic has been a major loss and without him there is no presence there, but you can't rely on Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans has been injured recently. Look at Patrice Evra, how many times have people run behind him? At right-back there is a void as well. In both full-back positions United have problems. Gone are the days of players like Denis Irwin and Gary Neville.

These structural issues in the squad are something United will need to look at during the summer as they haven't been the Manchester United of old. I think money will be made available to buy in three or perhaps four people who can add something different to the squad.

City, of course, deserve plenty of praise for the way they have overtaken United heading into the final day. When you play in the fashion they did against United last Monday and then go to Newcastle with everything to play for and never look in real danger, you have to say that is very impressive indeed.

QPR won't have much of a chance against them at the Etihad Stadium. This is a side, managed by Mark Hughes, who can't win a game of football away at the moment, while City have dropped only two points at home all season.

Ferguson has tried to goad Sparky into a reaction by helpfully pointing out that the way City disposed of his services in 2009 was pretty brutal, but you can fire him up all you want, he will not be playing on the pitch. Sir Alex might hope that any desire for revenge on Sparky's part will transmit to his players but you certainly can't pin your hopes on that.

The only thing you can rely on is that QPR will get 100 per cent backing from their supporters - I can tell you that from my time at the club.

As for the players, who knows? We don't know how they will handle a big occasion like this. If Mark Hughes could play it might be a bit different, but he will be sat in the dugout.

View Comments