The team line ups are as follows:
Manure: Van Der Saar, OShea, Vidic Ferdinand, Evra, Ronaldo, Carrick, Anderson, Fletcher, Rooney, Tevez
Arsenal: Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Silvestre, Gibbs, Walcott, Song, Diaby, Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor
It looks like 4-5-1s times two. It will be interesting to see if Nasri or Fabregas plays deep, personally I hope it is Cesc in the deeper role. The one thing that concerns me is our lack of strength at centre back, compared to United's first choice pairing we can only field a fourth choice player in Mikel Silvestre. Get stuck in boys and let's sock it to them. Come on you Gunners.
First half update:
We are lucky to only be one nil down at half time. Largely thanks to Manuel's heroics we are still in the game. Our freshly concocted back four did not look at home at all early on, large gaps appeared down the right flank and Ronaldo found far too much space several times. The goal saw O'Shea and two other United players left in acres at the back stick as the ball was cut back, even O'Shea couldn't miss. Alumunia had already saved brilliantly from Rooney's header, he then did more of the same for a Ronaldo header. Positively we did come into the game in the second quarter, we seemed to press United a bit better and managed to hold onto the ball a bit better.
Tactically I am distinctly disappointed with the starting line up. If you are to play 4-5-1 then you must have pace on both flanks, we only have Walcott on the right, Diaby did well considering, but he does not give a side width or directness in attack. I also feel that with 4-5-1 you must not only have this pacey support for your striker, but you must have someone from the midfield trio supporting the striker and that player must have a bit of pace.
Cesc is a great player but he is very one paced, so when he breaks onto dangerous passes or knock downs he is much easier to defend against that someone with a bit of pace, a Nasri for example. I am perplexed that Nasri is playing so deep, even if his long term future is in this role, something I do not think for that matter, then to plunge him into this role in such a big game when he has played it so rarely in the past is bizarre, if not stupid. Arsene would do better to stick Diaby in the middle and Nasri on the left if he is to insist on the 4-5-1. I think that Arsene needs to change something fairly early in the second half, otherwise this game may drift out of our reach.
There were some positives from the second half, in particular I think the defense and Alex Song were outstanding. The most obvious negative was the pathetic performance and lack of effort from Adebayor, he lost the ball time and time again, completely unable to hold it up, never working hard to win it back and doing very little when he did retain the ball at his feet. The game was very even, the best effort came from Ronaldo whose thirty yarder smashed off the top of the bar with Almunia beaten, Bendtner had our best chance, his header would have been a goal if he had got a more minimal glancing contact on the ball. Otherwise we huffed and puffed without creating much.
Arsene's tactics make no sense. Our only attacking threat was Walcott, Diaby gave us no width, while the only man who could have given us width on the left, Nasri, was played in a holding midfield role. Fabregas looks completely lost playing behind the striker, he doesn't have the pace for this role and his overall game is suited to a deeper role. Worryingly Adebayor was awful and his lack of effort is inexcusable. The substitutions were strange, Walcott being replaced by Bendtner, although it was good to see Eduardo coming on and looking very sharp.
We really need to get the tactics right in the second match and frankly I'd rather see us go down trying to win the game than playing in such a negative and unthreatening manner. Kolo and Silvestre defended well at centre back for the majority of the game, while Gibbs grew into the game and excelled for such an inexperienced youngster. Song was outstanding, excellent on the ball, winning tackle after tackle in a congested midfield area, his progress this season has been immense. A mention should go to the ref who was brilliant, letting the game flow and ignoring many a Manure dive.
So Arsene, if you are reading which I very much doubt, sort out the tactics, we should at least go down with our guns blazing.