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Sir Alex has made some 'big' mistakes

TEAMtalk tactician Tom McDermott reflects on Manchester United's tactics in the big games and says that Sir Alex Ferguson has got it wrong.

Last Updated: 11/04/13 at 16:28 Post Comment

Sir Alex Ferguson: Has made some big calls

Sir Alex Ferguson: Has made some big calls

Manchester United will soon secure their twentieth league title. It will be quite an achievement for Ferguson's side especially after their disappointment on the final day of last season.

But, last Monday, United lost 2-1 at home to local rivals Manchester City in what was the latest big game where Ferguson got it wrong tactically and United supporters went home disappointed. This season may go down as one of the club's best, but it could have been better.

Below I have outlined the recent games where I think the United manager might have taken a slightly different approach:

Manchester United v Real Madrid. Old Trafford. Agg 2-3.

Ferguson had this one spot on for over a game and a half.

United more than coped during the away leg and could have left the Spanish capital with the lead. That said, a 1-1 draw wasn't a bad result, and when Nani's cross was deflected past his own goalkeeper by Sergio Ramos at Old Trafford in the return, it looked like Ferguson was about to secure a rare victory over a side managed by Jose Mourinho.

Then the wheels fell off. Nani was shown a straight red card for a high challenge on Alvaro Arbeloa, and, since that moment, you could argue that United haven't really recovered.

The referee was instantly accused of making a poor decision, the crowd were shocked into silence, pundits were split on whether Nani should have seen a red card or not, some blamed the Portuguese winger while others thought it was just one of those things.

Few though, if any, chose to blame the United manager. Why?

On 56 minutes Nani was shown a red card. A few minutes late Luca Modric was sent on for Real. It proved decisive. By the time Wayne Rooney was introduced in place of Tom Cleverley on 73 minutes Real had scored twice and the damage had been done.

Now, I am not saying United were certainties to progress, but it is possible to play with a man less (especially when you have a goal advantage) and get the job done. Chelsea last year against Barcelona and Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan at the Nou Camp in 2010 are just two examples that immediately spring to mind.

Ferguson was guilty of letting the emotion of the night and the crowd response to the red card influence his decision making. Mourinho on the other hand didn't and it was Real who progressed.

Sunderland 0 Manchester United 1 / Chelsea 1 Manchester United 0.

Two big games within 48 hours following on from international week and United came up short again.

You could argue, that given what has happened since, the game away at Sunderland wasn't really a 'big' one.

So, why did Robin van Persie need to start alongside Michael Carrick against Sunderland after travelling around Europe earlier in the week? Or, Antonio Valencia? He had made the journey back from South America.

It became even more difficult to understand when the younger and arguably fitter Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and Nani all started on the bench and Javier Hernandez (who could probably have done with a game) didn't even make the squad.

Van Persie was named as a sub for the game versus Chelsea but he probably should have sat out the 1-0 win against Sunderland instead. I am pretty sure another member of Ferguson's squad could have come in and led United to three points at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland that day were awful.

Yes, the victory over the Wearsiders meant that United moved nearer to the title (a title that was already in the bag really) but it also meant that a jaded van Persie (who missed two great chances late on at Stamford Bridge after coming on as a sub), along with the rest of his United team-mates, were left to reflect on being knocked out of a second cup competition inside a month.

Chelsea looked like they were there for the taking on Easter Monday and Ferguson and United could have had an FA Cup semi-final to look forward to this weekend.

Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2

On Monday against United, Roberto Mancini's pre-match team talk was done for him. The red half of Manchester had responded this season, the title was heading back down the road. City didn't need motivation, they were hurting. From a United point of view though, they needed to put out a more solid, robust midfield for City to play against.

Ryan Giggs in his 40th year, is not the man you want in your midfield against the athletic Yaya Toure. It was a mismatch and even Martin Tyler summed Giggs' performance up in his commentary as a 'mixed bag'.

To combat City's motivation, presence (Toure) and creativity (Samir Nasr, David Silva), Ferguson should have chosen three players to play in the centre of the park or use Rooney in a more deeper role. This would have provided more support for Giggs and also shielded the back four.

As we saw from City's opening goal, Giggs was at fault but his error may not have been highlighted so much if on the edge of the box another midfielder or deeper lying midfielder had been picked.

Giggs played well against Real in the Champions League but he did so from a wide position. There probably is still a role for him in the team, just not in the engine room.

Against City, United were left short of quality in the centre of the park and the best way to make up for the lack of quality you have is to add an extra body to simply help out.

Like the majority of home support I was left scratching my head at the decision to put Carrick and Giggs up against Toure, Nasri and Silva and as the final whistle blew it was the champions elect who were again left licking their wounds rather than the opposition.

You can follow Tom on Twitter at @FootballMcD.

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