Friday, August 08, 2008

Wingers and a prayer?

Time for a quick round-up of our recent pre-season friendly action, but truth be told there's precious little good news to report.

In the wake of the 1-0 defeat to Doncaster Rovers, we slumped to two more carbon-copy losses in Mallorca Summer Cup, the first to Hertha Berlin and the second to the hosts, shorn of key strikers and looking utterly clueless in forward areas. Particularly poor was Alan Smith, who featured in both games but clearly had no idea he may well be in the shop window (see above). At least Jonas Gutierrez made his belated debut against the German side, performing effectively if not spectacularly, before sitting out the contest with his former club.

Wednesday's 2-2 draw at home to Champions League regulars PSV Eindhoven was a marked improvement, with Steven Taylor and Danny Guthrie putting us two up after just eight minutes before our opponents recovered themselves to draw level. While last season Keegan's hand was forced into playing three strikers and no wingers, a formation which was rightly hailed as the key to keeping us safe, against PSV circumstances meant we lined up with no strikers and six midfielders, three of whom were wingers - Damien Duff and a particularly lively James Milner leading the line, with only Gutierrez in his natural position.

Pre-season fixtures are traditionally a time to experiment with players and formations, but trying to guess the line-up for our opening fixture at Old Trafford in just over a week's time - or even for tomorrow's final friendly at home to Valencia - is impossible...


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