Having managed to finally catch up with their local rivals in the race for the Premier League title, Manchester United yesterday committed the cardinal sin of throwing away cheap points at home. The fact that their opponents Blackburn Rovers were best priced at around 28/1 to win the game says it all really, and there is no doubt that the now 70 year-old Sir Alex Ferguson will be fuming at his sides miserable display.
One very minor consolation for Sir Alex and the United fans will be that their former main title challengers Chelsea also fell to a miserable home defeat to end 2011. The performances of both sides were equally disappointing and given their superiority over the past few seasons it was alarming to see their major weaknesses laid bare.
If they weren’t already intending to spend this month then these performances were indicative of a dire need for both sides to do so. Chelsea it seemed were always likely to go shopping this January due to various planned departures and an ongoing battle for consistency, but Manchester United’s need for signings was being made less obvious by some very encouraging recent performances.
Back-to-back 5-0 wins and a run of 8 wins in 9 league games had seemingly quelled the need for drastic transfer movements this month, but their ongoing injury crisis was for the first time yesterday truly exposed. Michael Carrick looked uncertain at centre back, their scraped together centre midfield partnership of Park and Rafael looked horribly lacking in every department, and David De Gea’s woes continued in goal. Couple these shortcomings with the recent dip from stand-in captain Patrice Evra and one of Nani’s notorious off-days and it is clear to see why United succumbed to defeat. Put simply; they were there for the taking and Blackburn knew it.
Chelsea’s performance was similarly shoddy and highlighted some fairly comparable shortcomings to United. They too were looking disorganised at the back, weak and creatively lacking in midfield and short of goals and confidence in attack.
Admittedly the performances of United and Chelsea yesterday were uncharacteristic, but the worry for Chelsea in particular will be the increasing frequency of such flat displays.
For United, this showing will rank fairly closely up there with their humiliating 6-1 thumping at home to City, but it was only their second defeat of the season so it is hardly panic stations just yet. Nevertheless, they are looking uncharacteristically lacking in depth at the moment and they might just need a couple more high-class performers if they are to keep up with the blue side of Manchester over the remainder of this season.
Below is my breakdown of potential signings and departures for both clubs this transfer window and how it could affect the look of their line-ups.
Potential Outs: Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda (loan)
What they need: Desperately need a centre back, could do with two midfielders (one in the holding role and another more creative option)
Rumoured Signings: Wesley Sneijder, Luka Modric, Daniele De Rossi, Mats Hummels, Mario Goetze, Eden Hazard, Jack Rodwell
Recommended Signings: Gary Cahill (worth a pop if Chelsea haven’t yet made it an entirely done deal), Daniele De Rossi, Mario Goetze
What the team could look like with those signings: (4-1-3-2)
David De Gea
Gary Cahill/Rio Ferdinand
Daniele De Rossi
Ashley Young/Antonio Valencia
Javier Hernandez/Danny Wellbeck/Dimitar Berbatov
Potential Outs: Endless… Nicolas Anelka (confirmed), Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Fernando Torres, Salomon Kalou, Frank Lampard, Paulo Ferreira, Alex, Romelu Lukaku (loan), Josh McEachran (loan)
What they need: Arguably a goalkeeper if Petr Cech continues to slip up, a central defender, a right back, a box-to-box midfielder (Frank Lampard with a new set of legs), and at least one striker (if not three!)
Rumoured Signings: Hulk, Gonzalo Higuain, Kaka, Luka Modric, Alvaro Perreira, Gary Cahill, Jack Rodwell
Recommended signings: Gonzalo Higuain (£25m), Neymar (£40m), Mario Goetze (£20m), Jack Rodwell (£10-15m), Gary Cahill (£6m), Gregory Van Der Wiel (£15m)
What their team could look like after these suggested signings and the potentially huge amount of departures: (4-1-2-1-2)
Gregory Van Der Wiel