By Andrew Robinson | Manchester Derby
Deep in the bowels of Old Trafford Sir Alex Ferguson has a dilemma on his hands. Imagine him with Sunday’s teamsheet in hand, what do you see? We see a great big blank at the top of it where a goalkeeper’s name should be for Manchester United.
Does he go with his big-money signing from Atletico Madrid who has struggled in big games in the past or stick with the solid if less than impressive Dane Lindegaard?
With a crucial game coming up against United’s cross city rivals at the weekend time is quickly running out for the Scot to make his choice.
Lindegaard had been enjoying a run in the first team in the Premier League with four games in a row guarding the United net against Norwich, QPR, West Ham and Reading.
Although the side slumped to a loss at Carrow Road, he conceded just two goals in the first three of these games, but then came the unbelievable events at the Madjeski Stadium last weekend.
Seven goals in just 34 minutes saw United run out 4-3 winners, but it seems Fergie was disappointed in his defence’s performance, for which the Dane shoulders some of the blame.
This led to a recall for de Gea in midweek against CFR Cluj, after he was dropped when conceding two at Villa in a 3-2 United win in November. The Spaniard has had a tough time in England, most notably the 6-1 home defeat by this weekend’s opponents, Manchester City.
But, playing behind a weakened Red Devils side on Wednesday, he managed to keep, ahem, a marauding Romanian side down to just one goal.
To compare them directly, they are very similar, with Lindegaard playing eight games this season, one more than his rival for the No1 jersey. The Dane has two clean sheets to the Spaniards one, but has conceded one more goal, 11 compared to de Gea’s 10.
It looks like Fergie will pick de Gea
It really is a million dollar question this weekend, but no matter which keeper is picked for the game on Sunday, Sir Alex will be hoping his side can halt a poor run of defensive performances.
United have conceded 33 goals so far in this season which is the second-worst ever after 2002 in which they conceded more than 40 goals before Christmas.
It looks likely that de Gea will get the nod this weekend, as he has done in a number of high-pressure games.
Lindegaard will be gutted, but even his own countryman Peter Schmeichel, The Great Dane himself has backed the Spaniard.
“Very slowly he is working his way away from what people thought of him 18 months ago. You haven’t seen him defend himself in the media or shifting the blame elsewhere. He just gets on with it. He is young. At 22 he has things to learn but, mentally, there is definitely material there,” said Schmeichel.
But is it just the hapless keepers to blame? Well no, not really. United’s attempt to regain the Premier League has been held back by a run of defensive injuries.
Who will win the Manchester Derby?
Fergie never knows how Rio Ferdinand will be from one week to the next, the Serbian Nemanja Vidic is no longer the rock of the side, and Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are just coming back from long layoffs.
This has meant the often-derided Jonny Evans has been playing alongside an ageing Ferdinand. Who can forget him being destroyed by Gareth Bale at Old Trafford? When he’s struggling Michael Carrick has stepped in. Not exactly a solid foundation to build a title challenge is it?
When you compare United’s musical chairs goalkeeping situation to the solidity Manchester City can rely on in the shape of Joe Hart, you can’t help but feel the performance of the number ones this weekend will have a huge impact.
City’s attack will be looking to exploit any frailties in the air at corners, which United have been struggling with. Mancini’s side have a history in this area against their rivals. Vincent Kompany sealed a 1-0 win for City last season with a well-worked corner routine.
With Joleon Lescott, Yaya Toure, Matija Nastasic, Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli all queuing to hammer home a header this weekend United could be facing a big aerial threats.
Man City are 5/4 with Paddy Power to pick up their third league win in a row against United, while Fergie’s boys are 21/10 and the draw is at 12/5.
With two leaky defences going against each other, both teams to score at 1/2 looks a good bet. Oh, and City are 325/1 to win 6-1, we couldn’t resist throwing that in there.
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