Manchester United’s Corner: No Foot For Dead Ball?

When it comes to defining the United way of playing football, it would always be fast counter attacking moves with fabulous wing play that make the highlight reel. The Devils pride themselves on playing the beautiful game beautifully. However its not only the eye catching, but also the jaw dropping football that wins you championships. There are times when things don’t click on a match-day as one would have expected and the opposition defense has your number. The English league is a 38 game long marathon and during the course of the season there are bound to be stiff challenges that lie in wake for each and every team in the division. Days like those require moments of class, inspiration and at times pure mental fortitude.

At Old Trafford faithful have always had a potent dead ball artist in their side, they have been rather spoilt with expectations. Since the inception of the Premier league, Man Utd have utilized the exploits of Dennis Irwin, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo with deadly effect. With just a swing of their foot these men have changed course of football matches and at times championships. Their dead ball exploits have become part of United folklore; the air of expectancy surrounding OT when a Beckham or a Ronaldo lined up free kicks around the opposition goal was beyond belief. How can one ever forget the UCL Final ’99 when all seemed lost, United accomplished the impossible through composure and perseverance on a couple of set-pieces.

Mar. 19, 2010 - Bildnummer: 00153518 Datum: 26.05.1999 Copyright: imago/Kolvenbach..David Beckham (ManU) bei der offiziellen Pokal- bergabe; Sieg, Sieger, Siegerehrung, Pott, Troph e, Medaillen, Medaille, Gewinner, close, Lachen, L cheln, Champions League 1998/1999, Finale, Endspiel, Manchester United (England) Barcelona Nou Camp Gl ck, Freude, Fu ball EC 1 Herren Mannschaft Spanien Einzelbild optimistisch Randmotiv Personen Objekte.David Beckham swung the 99 UCL final United’s way
with couple of swings of his right boot

However for more than a season now the buzz has deserted the hallowed turf. Ever since CR7 and United parted ways, United have missed a proficient dead ball expert. Ronaldo’s expertise at Free kicks is extra ordinary and well known to all, however his heading ability is probably on par with some of the greats of the game. Along with Vidic, the duo was a real threat on corners. It helped matters even more that the Portuguese was the Club’s assigned Penalty expert.

Season 2009-10 saw the Old Trafford outfit struggling at this less glamorous aspect of the beautiful game. After facing defeat at the hands of Chelsea in the Community Shield on Penalties, United dropped crucial points at Burnley when Michael Carrick missed from the spot. Since then Wayne Rooney has taken up the responsibility and to be fair to him performed admirably. Other than the miss against Liverpool which too he converted on the rebound, Rooney has done all that could be asked of him. However in the absence of the England striker, there seems to be no apparent order in place. After scoring twice from the spot last season against Spurs, Giggs inexplicably didn’t step up to take the crucial penalty at the Cottage. Nani did and missed; problem however wasn’t the miss but the apparent lack of communication between the management and the players as Sir Alex later claimed he expected Giggs to offer his services.

Fulham FC vs Manchester United FC Premier League 21/03/09 Photo Nicky Hayes/Fotosports International Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo lines up a free-kick.Ronaldo lining up a rocket!

But the major dead ball frailties aren’t really from the spot. It’s quite a shame to think that a club which aspires for top honors in all competitions doesn’t even have a single dead ball expert of world acclaim. A glance at United’s current squad would find Owen Hargreaves as their best bet. The Curley haired England international could bend a few in as he displayed in his first year at the club with stunning goals against Arsenal and Fulham. However Hargreaves can’t be relied upon to even stand, let alone take match winning free kicks. United fans would be pressed hard to remember the look of him; it would be a folly to await his return with bated breath.

Nani and Giggs took the majority of set pieces last season and infuriatingly for United supporters kept crashing them off the wall or in the formers case blowing them high and handsome into row Z. Giggs to his credit scored a couple, one against Tottenham and the other against Portsmouth; while Nani managed one against Wigan.  However the depreciating quality is evident for all and sundry. While it would be mad to question Sir Alex’s judgment and tactical know how; has this discipline of the game gone unnoticed?

The situation at corners is even more alarming, there is no real threat other than Vidic. In the entire league campaign United found the back of net once directly via a corner kick. Berbatov doesn’t provide enough aerial threat for a forward of his pedigree, while Johnny Evans is yet to score. Also the delivery from corner kicks has been rather poor with Nani, Giggs, Valencia and Carrick all guilty of failing to beat the first defender. At times like these a short cleverly worked corner looks the best bet because invariably there seems to be no end product otherwise.

Old Trafford Manchester United v Stoke City (4-0) Premier League 09/05/10 Nani (Manchester United) Photo Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via NewscomCan he emulate his compatriot?

So what’s Sir Alex’s and Mike Phelan’s plan to sort this rather neglected aspect of United’s game? Surely the apparent chink in the amour wouldn’t have gone unobserved by the two wise men. Anderson, Nani, Gibson all have the ability as they have shown on their day, but the days have been few and far between. Old Trafford awaits a new artist to once again create brilliant and vivid pictures on the horizon, someone to once again send the pulse racing, somebody to once again Bend it like Beckham.

22 Responses to “Manchester United’s Corner: No Foot For Dead Ball?”

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  1. A Blaugrana says:

    Rooney should step up, just like DD does for Chelsea…

  2. Nipun says:

    @ A Blaugrana : Rooney on his debut against Fenerbache scored off a Free kick, thereby raising hopes, since then he has flattered to decieve. :( . Also the depriciating quality of corners is a matter of grave concern. Furthermore we have looked uncharacteristcally shaky while defending them even in the preseason.

  3. Nishant says:

    This is need for Manchester United to shine and rule with Glory.

  4. Sirsendu says:

    We Love U Man Utd….
    Nice Work n Research NipuN….keep it up…

  5. Kushagra says:

    @Nipun: What you have highlighted is a serious concern for MANU, hope it will rise up with new stars:)
    You are real admirer of MANU, cheers!!!

  6. Rahul Kondekar says:

    Good research, I think Nani can be the answer to United’s problems.

  7. Sonika says:

    Nice Article & Great Thought!!!!!!!

  8. Stretford End Arising says:

    great article, Giggs can still work some magic, Berba needs to be more proactive i think.

  9. Nitin says:

    Great Analysis..!!!

  10. Varun says:

    Great article i must say..

  11. vikram singh negi says:

    United need to utilize their 2 main and most experienced men i.e. Scholes and Giggs. Giggs scored at Spurs last season and should hit the target more often. Also, rather than taking direct free-kicks, they can be tee-ed up for Scholes, who as we all know, has a brilliant shot in him.

    One of the wide players should be working on the training ground on corners. Valencia would be my pick as Nani is too inconsistent. As far as threat inside the box is concerned, United dont have too many apart from Vidic and maybe Evans/Rio.

    Penalties, well Giggs should have taken the one at the Cottage.

  12. Rishi says:

    I Remember Berba taking good direct freekicks for Spurs..
    what happened to his heading and kicking abilities..
    is he under some jinx here??

    otherwise, point taken, there is a need to replace the Legacy of Giggs,Scholes,Ronaldo :)

  13. Nipun says:

    @Rishi: Berba did take a few at Spurs, i remmember him scoring against WHU via a direct free kick. it i think he should be an option from close range.

    @Vikram:I just think we need a threat at least from these situations otherwise it gives a license to the opposition to concede free kicks and corners. Some innovative idea from training may be, even the delivery from corners rarely beats the first man and that’s basic :(:(

  14. King Eric says:

    I do think Nani has it in him, we should persist with him, fair analysis btw.

  15. AON says:

    Just one word to describe the set pieces at the moment– “Infuriating”!! .. ok shite comes to mind too.

  16. Stamford Blue says:

    Rooney should do something, hang on he just did. Does off the field scoring count?

  17. Eric the King says:

    @ Stamford Blue: You must be knowing better….after all ur captain has done a lot in this regards…Hasn’t he??

  18. Stamford Blue says:

    Of course, he could come to Chelsea and learn from the masters, we have a few. We beat you on and off the field 😉

  19. Soccerfan says:

    Off the field scoring – yes; but on the field – hmmmm you guys are quite far from achieving that, dig up stats and you would know… United rules :)

    Keep dreaming!

  20. Stamford Blue says:

    Like livin in the past.. do we? Future’s Blue!! Double last year.. 3 games,9 points, 14 goals scored, 0 conceeded,.hmmm enuf said :)

  21. Naveen Kashyap says:

    @Stamford Blue: why are all the chelsea supporters like this…livin in the past…phew, gimme a break!!

    dont forget devils won 3 consecutive league titles before last season…and about this season it is still a long way to go…but why am i telling a chelski all this…they are thick-skinned, they don’t understand logical discussion…so yes, future’s BLUE…\m/

  22. Soccerfan says:

    Naveen +1. And someone forgot the drubbing in community shield not so long ago. 😛