Why does it seem like every time Manchester United seems to be picking up a bit of momentum, an international break comes around?
Take it as a blessing or as a curse, but the international break does provide a distraction from club football that makes a tangible difference. Granted, while some clubs use the break to shore up their flailing tactics, others worry whether they will come out swinging with the same force with which they entered the break.
One thing is for sure - smaller clubs always come out of international breaks better off than larger clubs. Why? Well the reasoning behind this one is pretty simple. Bigger clubs produce more world class player, which means the frequency with which those players break into the squad is exponentially higher than that of a mid-table or bottom-table team. So should United be worried coming into their next match-up against Cardiff City? The answer is yes and no.
In terms of squad strength, United will surely come up against tougher squads than Cardiff City. Sitting in 14th place, and quite honestly playing like a bottom three team, Cardiff are hardly a team to be worried by. However, an away game after an international break is never an easy feat. Teams like Manchester United, who field at least one full squad worth of internationals every break will inevitably get back some players exhausted, and others injured.
Now the United squad doesn't look in great shape. Sure, Rooney seems to once again be in the form of his life (as he generally is intermittently) and Januzaj has been a bright spot in a questionable start to the season. However, injuries to players like Michael Carrick mean that the United squad will be lacking in some crucial areas.
Robin van Persie could also be a doubt for this weekend and, while one can be relatively confident that Chicharito will not prove an awful replacement for Van Persie, the midfield looks a bit more suspect.
Fellaini has been atrocious since transferring, recently accumulating a red card in the champions league. Cleverley has looked up to United level once, in one game he played again Manchester City ages ago. Since then he's just been a liability to the team. Anderson is beyond consideration. Phil Jones, while competent in midfield, doesn't have the passing range to take the maestro spot. I find it particularly ironic that this type of midfield crisis seems to occur every year at United but steps are never taken to fix it. Fellaini was a good idea, but isn't enough to cover that gap. United's midfield looks to be lacking.
With a tired team as is, and a squad ravaged by injury, United should be warned against complacency in their match against Swansea. While they did beat an Arsenal that has been reborn this year, they still looked lethargic and discombobulated. United got on a bit of a hot streak before the break. While they can't exactly count of the key performers that engendered the run in the first place, they must look to the squad as a whole. The next Paul Scholes could be born from the resolution of this crisis.
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