Nicky Butt defends Alex Ferguson tactics in Manchester United defeat

 

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The Independent Online

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

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