And You Are Now Grounded

After a thoroughly convincing win in the Barclays Premier League this past weekend, Manchester United crashed back to down to earth following their dismal display at Upton Park.

In a candid interview before the game, former treble-winning United defender, David May, voiced his concerns about the current crop of youth players at the club not being good enough, and, based on the poor performance against West Ham United, he may not be far off.

Because of the echoing result against Blackburn Rovers, the match against West Ham United offered a chance for some of the younger fringe players to give Sir Alex a second-thought for places, but, obviously, their collective and individual performances did not do anything but provoke doubt.

Are these next group of players good enough to play the odd game here and there for Manchester United?

To be quite honest, the answer has to be leaning towards a negative response, because this is the second time in as many Carling Cup matches that the young United players were put to the sword against lesser skill Premier League team.

Granted, United were without most of their first-choice players, because of the youth policy Sir Alex Ferguson has instilled in the earlier rounds of the Carling Cup, but, almost comically, it was a former youngster that came back to haunt him.

Jonathan Spector, who is a natural left-sided defender, was experimentally placed in the Hammers’ midfield, and the young American carved United’s industrial midfield pairing of Anderson and Darren Fletcher right apart to score his first two goals in English football.

In retrospect, not one player had average, let alone game-saving, display against the Hammers, but the three of the substitutions that the Gaffer made, were to prevent certain youngsters from being subjected to even more abuse than they will rightly receive.

Bébé, Fabio and Jonny Evans all face a real shelling of just criticism from the United supporters and press alike after putting in absolute incompetent performances.

To be fair to him, Bébé was withdrawn as a tactical move made by Sir Alex at the interval in a desperate attempt to give United the best chance of digging themselves out of the grave that they were in.

His runs in the first-half were poor, and his two attempts at goal were even more dreadful than his inability to take on a recovering Tal Ben-Haim.

The rags-to-riches winger failed to hit the target on one and his other trickled to Robert Green at the near post, which both were not good enough for a first-team United player.

Now on to the real culprits – Fabio and Evans – who prevented United from a real chance of securing the first piece of silverware that the English season offers.

Fabio was run ragged on both sides of the United defense, which even prompted Sir Alex to shift him from left-back to right-back – and his troubles escalated against the vibrant Victor Obinna.

Fabio was constantly beaten for pace and completely out-muscled by all of his opponents – not just Obinna.

His brief stint on the pitch was warranted of a slap in the face, and that is exactly what he deservedly got when he was replaced by his more capable twin brother, Rafael.

A lot of fingers will justifiably be pointed at Evans for not being up to the United standards for a central defender, because he was severely humiliated by the incompetent West Ham forwards.

Both of Carlton Cole’s goals, which tripled his season’s tally, were because he first outfoxed him to win the ball, and then indefensibly turned Evans inside out for his second.

Even West Ham first two goals can be attributed to the Northern Ireland defender, because he was completely out of position to assist Darren Fletcher for the first and then on the second he failed to close down Spector.

This comes just after Evans admitted this is the first time in his young career that he has been benched due to his performances on the field rather than competition for places, and he should expect a long, long spell on the sidelines after this as well.

If Evans is to feature again for United, it will be because of a growing injury and none of the other four center-backs ahead of him are fit, and even then, Sir Alex would have a hard time selecting him after his woeful time this season.

After their exit, United will have at least two or three less games that they tentatively scheduled at the beginning of the season, so now these young, aspiring players will face either long unwanted spells with the Reserve team, or be forced to ply their trade out on loan.

It is a sad day for all of them, but they have no one to blame but themselves, and it would be interesting to see if the traveling United supporters get an apology from them or the manager.

One person who should avoid blame, or condemnation, is the United boss, because Sir Alex does his best to name a team he feels that compete with the team he is playing against.

Maybe he was not expecting his adversary, Avram Grant, to name such a strong line-up, but, either way, West Ham has only scored 14 goals all season long in 15 Premier League games.

Maybe Ferguson could have placed either Wayne Rooney or Dimitar Berbatov on the bench in case of this type of disastrous display, but even he could not have foreseen what was about to happen at Upton Park tonight.

Now that Manchester United does not have the minute pressure of their unbeaten streak to contend with, they can now go and enjoy their congested festive fixture list – starting with Blackpool on Saturday.

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