Paul Parker

Complacent United got what they deserved

Paul Parker

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Wayne Rooney and Manchester United after conceding to Wigan

I was as surprised as anyone that Wigan managed to pull off a win against Manchester United during the week.

But I have to say that United got what they deserved. You realised how bad United were when you saw how much possession Wigan had.

For Wigan to get that much of the ball against anyone is a result for them, but against United must have surprised even Roberto Martinez.

Maybe it's what United needed — they've been grinding results out and maybe complacency set in. Now they must realise that they must play their best - and put out their best team - in every match until the end of the season.

Paul Scholes has proved vital to United this season and, frankly, it's incredible. He was rested against Wigan and it showed - Michael Carrick looked poor without his team-mate's touch, vision and positioning, while Ryan Giggs showed that he can only function successfully in a good United side.

Why were Wigan able to beat United? They had no cutting edge, for a start, which has been a problem at times this season, particularly through the middle. United's threat has almost always been from wide and, without Scholes, they can't cut through the centre as well, at all even; teams are realising this now and sitting deep and narrowing the field.

Wayne Rooney, who has been better this season than last time out, has not been the influence he should be in the latter part of the campaign; Scholes is the influence driving Manchester United to win games at the moment.

Rooney has to start grabbing games by the scruff of the neck; Danny Welbeck has to play up front as well, so his pace can stretch teams, which Javier Hernandez cannot do. The Mexican has been awful the past few games, but not because he lacks ability — his game is not suited to 'doing it all', he's a poacher who feeds off the work of others. He's been unable to link-up, and he's not got the kind of energetic running game needed to create the space Welbeck can.


There's always a chance for Manchester City as there are still points to play for; that result, that performance in the 4-0 win against West Brom, gives them hope.

But can United lose two on the bounce this season again? The new City fans think so, but the old City fans can't see them dropping points to Everton and Aston Villa at home, teams who don't really win at Old Trafford. Their best chance is that Villa, the draw specialists thanks to Alex McLeish, hold United to a grinding goalless shut-out.

I ask whether United can lose two in quick succession because City need them to drop points in at least one of their games before the derby on April 30.

Ideally City need to be better than five points behind United after the derby; ideally they need to be level pegging or a point behind with two games to go. I don't think Swansea - who United have after City - can do something at this stage, they've lost momentum, although Sunderland away is a potential season-ending banana skin. But, if United need to win that to hold on to the title, they have the mental strength and personnel to do so.

City need to win at Eastlands, and for that win to put them level on points with United. They need this because two of their last five matches are away at the surprise packages of the season, Norwich and Newcastle.

Norwich have somehow kept it up, with Grant Holt a real handful still despite not being international quality, while Newcastle - who have been one of the teams of the season - could well be playing their game for a place in the Champions League.

Wolves are dead and buried but QPR - with the Mark Hughes animosity and their current form helping them in the battle to stay up - will be a very interesting game to end the season. So City winning their remaining games is by no means a given.


Of course there's the FA Cup this weekend, with semi-final derbies between Liverpool and Everton, and Tottenham and Chelsea.

Even if they win the FA Cup as well as the Carling Cup, it will have been an embarassingly bad season by Liverpool's standards. They should be competing for the Premier League, not picking up scraps in the Cups, and they know it.

Damien Comolli has been made the scapegoat for it, but the final decision on signings fell with Kenny Dalglish; Comolli's sin was overpaying for them.

One positive has been their performances in the big matches - but they are on a terrible run (they celebrated that dreadful performance against Blackburn like they'd won something) while Everton, as is often the way, have picked up late-season and the 4-0 win over Sunderland was ominous.

I'm backing Everton to win this, just as I am backing Spurs against Chelsea. Both sides have had their ups and downs, and I think for both the priority is holding on to fourth or sneaking into the Champions League respectively.

Spurs will be disappointed at how the season has ended, but I think they are a better team than Chelsea these days, and will be more motivated; the Blues have another fish to fry in the Champions League, so they could ease off slightly.

I can see an Everton-Spurs final.

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