Having witnessed the most embarassing game as a Manchester United supporter, it is only befitting that I chronicle this moment here.
A rousing comeback midweek in the Champions League. Having been outplayed at ease with a team that has 5 players injured, it was shocking to see Ole play the exactly same line-up today. Paul Scholes on BT sport called it out. I was surprised to see Liverpool’s line-up to be honest. So many key changes. United with the mood of mid-week and the way Atletico took apart Liverpool, seemed to have a chance to win this game. Odds did favor United at home with the home supporters rallying in a rivalry of epic history. And yet this match culminated with Liverpool out of respect for the legacy of both clubs, refused to hammer 10-12 past us.
This time around I am definitely going to dissect everything that went wrong in this game.
Starting line-up and Ole’s tactics
United should in no way have played the same line-up. I will dissect how he got things wrong at each level. Playing at home in a big fixture against a superior team, what was United setting out to do? Ole said, ‘high tempo, stamping authority at home performance’. Leading the line with Ronaldo and two supporting strikers who would not track back. A Bruno that does whatever he wants and is roaming all around the attacking half. A pair of Fred and McTominay in midfield with zero available passes nor any skill under pressure to beat the press. An unfit captain and centre back pairing with a low confidence Lindelof. A totally out of form Luke Shaw with no energy or desire.
Luke Shaw and Aaron wan Bissaka were left to the dogs. Zero support from the wingers Greenwood and Rashford. They both were made to look pathetic as Robertson and Jota on the left and Salah and Arnold on the right went two-on-one for the entire game.
Maguire no longer exudes confidence. Neither does his centre back partner. When you play week in week out tiki taka slow pace useless backward passes amongst each other, it was not surprising that players had no out balls in the back. With time, Liverpool’s midfield was shedding through and each defender was always two on one. Wan Bissaka as usual was at his worst when it comes to decisions on the ball when in possession. Over the years, Ole has not been able to improve him in any facet of his game.
Fred and McTominay has touted the most controversy this season. Why? The system we play is supposed to afford compactness to the centre back pairing while allowing the attackers to express. But with McTominay getting injured early in the season, he has never been the same since his return. Fred has always been at one particular level and teams have learnt to bounce through these two like they do not exist. For 10 odd minutes in the first half, we had good possession, but the ball was in the middle of the park with Fred and McTominay. Both have absolutely nothing to offer in the form of creativity to crack open Liverpool.
Bruno has been awful quite often since Ronaldo arrived. Ronaldo’s arrival would clearly mean he has to be more in shape, controlling midfield and allowing the front three to express. Instead he is constantly floating around in 10, quite often a second 9 and mostly never in position. He initiates some totally out of sync presses that ends up distorting and exposing the midfield right from up top.
Greenwood has had a great start to the season. He has been scoring wonder goals before Ronaldo arrived. There was a pattern of team play when he was playing centre forward. Once Ronaldo arrived, the kid has been forced to play right wing. He does not enjoy playing there. He does not want to track back. Since Ronaldo’s arrival, the kid has lost his head. He does not respect Ronaldo. He does not play passes or try to develop any form of chemistry with Ronaldo. At least play two passes in the game to show you are willing to play for the team. While he continues to pop up with his usual wonder goals, his metrics as a team player is one of the worst in a United shirt. There is no rhyme or reason to start him for the next 3 games.
Rashford has just got back and is settling. So it is hard to judge his performance in any way. He has to develop a chemistry with Ronaldo and begin to link up play
Ronaldo is Ronaldo. He is consistent and always has goals on him. I would never endorse any criticism thrown at him.
The way we capitulated was embarassing for even players sitting on the bench. Pogba, Sancho, van de Beek and Lingard are not players to leave on the bench. What is wrong with Ole? The biggest game of the season at home and he benches some of the best players. Good players always turn up in big games. Some get a hiding. If you do not play them, you do not give them the opportunity to have a go at it. The likes of Bailly, Dalot and Telles are desperate to get game time.
Ego always brings humans down. Ole’s ego is clouding his thinking. Everybody is seeing the grave he is digging. Board is not stupid. They would love to see him work himself out of this mess. But at what expense?
The longer this drags, the higher the possibility of losing out on Champions League and even top 4. Players have ego too. Ineptitude of management trickles down to some very good players looking really awful. These sort of performances will end up with national team coaches even questioning the commitment of players. Something has to give.
The post-match pressers from Ole reveal he is not walking away. He said he is too close to success to walk away. Truth is, no self-respecting person would quit. He has been a successful player, a legend of the club. He was fortunate to get this job. He has built an atmosphere that is healthy for growth and performance. He has brought in players this season that are serial-winners. Accountability matters now.
The killer instinct to finish teams off and winning trophies is lacking at the moment. His lack of confidence or rather inability to get players into confidence to step up when his first team is unable to play is costing him. He has a certain number of players whom he favors and he expects only them to deliver day in and day out. When they are injured or out of form, they will only be able to perform to limits that are just not good enough for this club.
His comments about fans who booed him off mid week has been appalling to say the least. Giving United fans the most embarrassing defeat in a very long time and asking them to endure the entire second half in humiliation needs accountability.
So who is accountable? It is not just the management up top in the club. Ex-players turned pundits like Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville, Roy Keane and Paul Scholes have time and time again refused to call out their mate, knowing which way this could end. It is disrespectful to the club and to legends like Sir Alex to be up there in the stands, enduring this pain.
Fans are exasperated. Numbers are fuming but most are resigned. Mark from the United Stand has been on and on about standards, oh how we have fallen! We want our club to do well, to be respected, and to play a brand of football that makes us love the club.
Liverpool exuded class. They refused to disrespect us after going down to ten. I applaud them for that. We are in tatters. Sooner we fix it, the better for all. If he gets a couple of results over the next month and manages to stay, it is likely that he will end up destroying all that he has built. I expect most players to hand-in a transfer request. If we drop out of Champions League and are unable to manage a top 4, we won’t be attracting any top players. Ole has to swallow his pride, get out of playing his favorites and change his style of play. That is the only way. Shut shop. Get some draws. Keep clean sheets. Otherwise the only hope of revival is to sack him, and get the most out of a top top squad that we got. Only time will tell.
Players that I won’t be starting for a while – Maguire, Shaw, wan Bissaka, Mc Tominay and Greenwood. Players I will play to revive this team – Pogba, Matic, Telles, Dalot, Bailly, Varane, van de Beek, Sancho, Cavani, Lingard.