Derby defeat leaves title hopes uncertain

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Wayne Rooney: United's stand-out performer in derby defeat

Wayne Rooney: United's stand-out performer in derby defeat

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Manchester United FanZoner Craig Malpas questions the legitimacy of the Red Devil's title challenge, and blasts three players in particular.

Shakespeare, in all his wisdom, once asked through the character Juliet "What's in a name?" Romeo's missus then explained that "that which we call a rose, by any other, name would smell as sweet". Now, second only to Juliet Ferrington, Juliet Capulet has become my favourite female football pundit.

The reason I am opening this blog with such nonsense isn't as a result of an afternoon spent drowning my sorrows, nor have the heavy blows inflicted by City sent me delirious and jelly headed. No, I ask the question because I think that United are relying on the title as multiple Premier League Champions, more than they are relying on their players.

When Manchester United have previously crossed the city to take on our long suffering neighbours, it's usually struck fear and panic in to the souls of my City supporting friends. It didn't matter which 11 would be listed on the team sheet, the fact is that United were rolling in. Following United, the dread, anger, shame and disappointment rolled in too. Before United inevitably sped off with 3 points, such was our dominance up until recently.

The name of Manchester United carried the power. The titles we won previously carried the fear. And most importantly, the players and manager carried the talent and skill. Manchester United, the rose, smelt as sweet and seemed as powerful because they were exactly that. In seasons gone by, we were the most elegant, most attractive and most desired side. As powerful off the pitch as we were on it. At that point, the players and the manager we had, by any other other name, would have smelt as sweet.

Fast forward to September 2013 and certain players making up United's 11 neither smell nor look sweet. Simply put, in a team of eleven men, there are three players who are no longer, and perhaps never have been, fit to wear the shirt. With the jury out on another two, that's almost half the team open for questioning. It's not that they are hopeless players or even that they shouldn't be playing in the Premier League. It's just that it's all about levels.

Boxers constanly refer to levels. Some go pro and hope for British level, others Commonwealth. And then there are those who rightfully aim for world level. It's much the same in football, only it seems that one man's world class is another one's Commonwealth. And how is it that players falling terribly short of world level are earning a living at Old Trafford?

Antonio Valencia. Danny Welbeck. Last, and most certainly least, Ashley Young. Who are you? These men are not Manchester United quality. Antonio Valencia could have been made for the phrase 'on his day'. Pace to burn, until he runs out of grass. The odd good cross and a half decent right back. One good season has drifted deeply to the back of my mind.

Danny Welbeck. For me he is another John O'Shea. Useful, moderately talented and most of all, versatile. He can play as a number 10 off the striker, a number 11 on the wing or as the number 9. I say he can play them because he has the ability to stand in those areas of the pitch. Not because he can actually 'play' them. Truth is, he isn't a top class winger, he isnt a top class forward and he is tragically short of ever being a top class number 10. Yet he leads the line in front of Mexican Javier Hernandez and, even worse, keeps Kagawa out of the team.

And then we get to Ashley Young. Just what can be said about him? Was he so outstanding at Villa to warrant United taking a chance on him? Not in my opinion but then he had that most powerful of things, potential. With potential comes hope and, as they say, it's the hope that kills you. And he genuinely does kill me, piece by piece, performance by performance, he strips away all hope I have of United ever regaining their period of dominance from the mid-nineties to the early years of the noughties. I am sitting here now actually shaking my head about him.

And so back to Shakespeare and his rose who, incidentally, I heard Ed Woodward tried to sign. A starting 11 with the players mentioned, known by any other team name, would not sound so sweet. If the starting 11 at United on Sunday turned out for Swansea, for instance, would we be title challengers? Would we be surprised to see City's 11 beat United's 11 had we not known the players and club's identities? I thought not, yet Manchester United persist.

I apologise for the rosiness of the blog, but I think there was method in my madness. A shame David Moyes can't say the same about his team selection. How long until Wayne Rooney, a rose between many thorns on Sunday, questions the direction of the club.....again.

You can follow Craig on Twitter @SeventhRed - and don't forget to follow @FanZone for links to all the latest blogs.

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