As Andrew Flintoff is finding out, some times you just come up against better teams whose form means that you can’t get anywhere near the standard required to challenge them. There’s no pretending this game was any different it was the footballing equivalent of Shane Warne against Matthew Hoggard and Latics made it clear from the off that their plan of attack was to straight bat United into submission, but just as Warne saves his unplayable balls for when he needs them these days, Alex Ferguson went into this one with his form player on the bench. After a first half were Latics frustrated but little more, Fergie chucked in his equivalent of the flipper and it was all over within 5 minutes of the restart.
In truth it should have been game over well before then, the first half had seen United, and Wayne Rooney in particular, frustrated by a combination of Chris Kirkland and the woodwork. The England striker should have had been taking the match ball home.
Jewell was rightly disappointed with the way Latics conceded the goals, another free header from a corner and a stupid tackle for a penalty gifted United their first two goals. Solskjaer’s tidy finish completed the scoring for the Reds with Leighton Baines’ late penalty provided little consolation for a well beaten Latics. There’s little point going over this one too much, the fact is Latics did ok at times, but when the united bench contained both Ronaldo and Saha there was little chance for the beleaguered Latics. It was the winger who did the damage getting both the first two goals.
The one thing worth noting from a Latics perspective is the formation. Again Jewell started with a variation of 4-5-1 but it was only when he switched to a 4-4-2 in the second half that Latics looked anything like. With games against Watford, Blackburn and Portsmouth next up, let’s hope that’s the end of the experiments for a while and it will back to what we know best.
The overriding feeling about this result has to be one of relief. Latics have played the top four sides in the country in their last seven games, they may have only taken 4 points from those 21 but at least they can now get back to the real job of surviving in this league. Whilst you’d be more than happy to steal the odd point against Liverpool or Chelsea, there’s little point crying when it doesn’t happen. The thing is though that playing those teams so close together have created a downwards momentum that may be difficult to get out of.
If that’s going to happen then it will have to be quickly, there’s only two league games before we visit Chelsea, then three more until the trip to the Emirates Stadium. Latics will have to pick points up between those games to get the season going again. If they struggle with that then they will be approaching March in the thick of a relegation battle. With confidence levels already low, you wouldn’t want to bet on us pulling out of it at that late stage.
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