Nicky Butt defends Alex Ferguson tactics in Manchester United defeat

 

Former Manchester United midfielder Nicky Butt has launched a passionate defence of Sir Alex Ferguson's team selection at the Etihad Stadium last night.

Butt won six Premier League titles during his time at Old Trafford, leaving for Newcastle in 2003 where he went on to become skipper during a six-year stay on Tyneside.

Now 37, Butt is forging his own media career and was working for MUTV last night as an analyst on the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City that cost United their position at the top of the Premier League.

However, rather than joining the chorus of condemnation for Ferguson's decision to use Wayne Rooney as a lone front man and pack his midfield, Butt said the move made sense and without it, United could have suffered a heavier beating.

"We had to go there not to get beaten and the system was to stop City from dictating the play in midfield," said Butt.

"Manchester City dominate midfield in 90% of the games. We have seen how well they move the ball.

"If United had played two up front we would have been wide open and they could have scored three or four.

"Let's not underestimate Manchester City. They are a quality team, who have spent millions of pounds on world class stars.

"It was bad defending by Chris Smalling but apart from that, United did the job. The plan worked for 46 minutes.

"We were trying to stop them creating chances, which Silva, Tevez, Aguero, Nasri can do. If we had got to half-time, who knows what would have happened.

"But I am convinced if we had played two up front we would have conceded more than one goal."

The clear flaw in United's game plan was their complete inability to support Wayne Rooney.

Far too often, the England forward was isolated, with no support from midfield.

Indeed, confirmation that United failed to register a single shot on target for the first time in a Premier League game since the 2009 encounter with Arsenal - when they only required a draw to win the title - told its own epitaph on a sorry night when they surrendered the initiative to their fiercest rivals.

Whilst the mood amongst most Red Devils supporters is one of resignation, a minority have actually welcomed last night's result, believing it will force Ferguson to confront weaknesses in his squad which many feel have existed for some time.

If Tom Cleverley is to really provide an alternative to Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick in central midfield, he should have been capable of making an impact in a game like yesterday's.

As it turned out, Cleverley did not even make the bench, with Ryan Giggs preferred and Park Ji-sung asked to track Yaya Toure even though he had not started a Premier League game since January.

Whilst Chris Smalling's mistake in allowing Vincent Kompany a free run onto David Silva's first-half corner was obvious enough, yet again, David de Gea failed to exert his presence in a packed penalty area in the way either Peter Schmeichel or Edwin van der Sar might have done.

United have denied rumours suggesting Darren Fletcher has opted to retire from the game due to his chronic bowel complaint.

However, the Scot's absence was also keenly felt, as was that of skipper Nemanja Vidic.

And Danny Welbeck's exit from the stadium wearing a plastic cover to protect his ankle means United could be without the most potent foil for Rooney for the final two matches.

"If they were there and available, the manager would have bought these players by now," said Butt.

"He has money to buy players but he won't spend it on someone who can't improve the team.

"You do need to look at replacing people like Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs but I can't see who is going to do it."

And Butt is not as downbeat as many United followers, knowing enough of life on Tyneside to be aware what a threat Newcastle could be to City's Premier League dream.

"I am still baffled," he said.

"It is far from over. I still don't think City will win the league.

"I remember playing West Ham in 1995. People said we would tear them apart and win the league.

"But football is not like that. People have pride. City have got two tough games, as have United."

PA

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
Football Vine shows Suarez writhing in pain before launching counter attack
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Lukas Podolski celebrates one of his two goals in Arsenal's win over Hull

Arsenal strengthened their grip on a top-four finish with a straightforward 3-0 win over Hull City.

Arts & Entertainment
Quentin Tarantino, director
arts + ents Samuel L Jackson and Michael Madsen have taken part in a reading of Quentin Tarantino’s axed follow-up to Django Unchained.
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit