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Ferguson rues lack of finishing touch

20th August 2012

• Sir Alex Ferguson says possession was not used efficiently
• Robin van Persie ‘not used enough’ by rest of team

Sir Alex Ferguson bemoaned Manchester United’s finishing and his side’s inability to harness Robin van Persie as they were beaten by Everton in an early blow to their hopes of reclaiming the Premier League from Manchester City, who began their challenge by beating Southampton on Sunday.

Ferguson chose to start Van Persie on the bench, introducing the striker only after 68 minutes as his team lost 1-0 to Marouane Fellaini’s goal. He said: “It was a pretty good game and there wasn’t anything between the two teams. We were the better football team, they had eight shots on target and David de Gea [the United goalkeeper] did very well for us in that way. But we had the possession and made some great openings without actually finishing it. We were a wee bit [disappointing] in terms of finishing off the approach play we had. Other than that we played good football, good combination play, and on another day we would have won the match.

“There were a couple of moments: Tom [Cleverley’s shot was] blocked by Phil Jagielka on the line. We had these kind of moments but the team worked well and played some great football. It’s difficult here. You have the crowd influencing the referee all the time.”

On Van Persie, who entered the match to play alongside Wayne Rooney in a 4-4-2 formation, Ferguson said: “We played around him too much, we didn’t show enough penetration and, with Robin in your team, you know you want to use his ability against centre-backs in situations he is very good at. But we didn’t use him enough.”

With Rio Ferdinand, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans all injured, Ferguson had only Nemanja Vidic of his recognised central defenders fit and he was making a first senior appearance following injury last December. This forced the manager to field Michael Carrick as an emergency centre-back.

“That is a problem but we coped quite well. I don’t think you can criticise their performance in that respect,” said Ferguson. “It was just difficult to handle him [Fellaini] when they were knocking these balls up to him. He is a handful, a big, tall, gangly lad, and they just lumped the ball forward to him, that’s all they did. They worked from that base all the time and they got a goal from him, so it’s justified. Michael did fine, good on the ball, and he applied himself well; they all applied themselves well.

“I don’t think any [of the defenders] will be fit for Fulham on Saturday. Hopefully Jonny Evans is getting near to be able to start. With a good week’s training it will bring him on a bit and in a couple of weeks he will be okay.”

David Moyes, the Everton manager, said: “I’m really pleased because I thought the team performed ever so well and got a great result. We haven’t started the season very well [in recent seasons] and even tonight’s result doesn’t tell you you’ve started the season well. Just like if we’d lost tonight we would not have said we started the season badly. You probably judge it after about 10 games how you start the season.”

Fellaini said: “It’s a great start to the season for us. We started well and we kept going. It was a good performance from us. For the goal, it was a good corner and I just tried to get my head on it.

“We had a lot of chances in the first half and I felt that, if we kept going, there was a chance we would score.”

A positive omen for United is that they are the only Premier League club to have lost their opening match and gone on to claim the title. They have done it twice.


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