Manchester United 2 – 1 Villareal

Thumbs up to Ole for shuffling the pack for this game. The defence, of course, apart from Varane entirely changed thanks to injuries and unavailable players. But the midfield duo was most striking.
United started slow and safe. The United players have to learn to play with each other.

The set play for the equalizing goal was fantastic. Throwing in great players in the last 20 minutes won us the game. De Gea is the man of the match to keep us alive to win it in Fergie time. Greenwood should not have started this game. He is out of form now, his tracking back is abysmal, and he left Dalot to the dogs.

So there was no momentum to push that team forward. Villareal was literally keeping the ball dead in defence and then looking to play on the break. I felt I was watching a FIFA game. Many players I encounter play in this manner. Try to draw players out of position and then attack on the counter. Either way, I am ecstatic with the result!

Manchester United in a gist

I strained my back early morning yesterday during a HIIT routine. So after a 9 hour work shift, I just decided to stretch my back after dinner. I managed to wake up mid way through the second half of the game to see United trailing 2-0.

I was not surprised. The quality of the opposition, in their home turf, it was always going to be very hard.

But once the game ended, I went through analyses on different channels, I understood we started with a team to defend with pace on the counter.

Despite going down pretty early, the stubborn reluctance of Ole to change his plan A despite knowing it is wrong is what is consistently costing us. Learning to adapt to a botched plan is the main thing especially in Europe, decider group games. From a team that was cruising to win the group, to one needing ONLY a point in the last two games, United succumbed to two big defeats. The CV of both the teams going through this group clearly outshines us in form and recent seasons.

So how do we fix this? I doubt there is any way out. The club has lost its identity thanks to the hierarchy and is in a weird limbo. As a united fan, I am more than happy to just watch highlights rather than sit through 90 min of torture anymore. I have never seen a team consistently be so shit in starting games.

There is no hiding. Maguire is not captain material. He doesn’t evoke responsibility even in defence. De Gea is done. He no longer commands the box. Aaron with his unique skills has been keeping this line intact. Lindelof is more patchy than Smalling or Jones has ever been for United.

There is no consistent midfield setup. Too many squad players, too many different formations and configurations each game. Players unable to even settle into a playing routine.

Main attackers including Bruno and Rashford undergoing fatigue and injuries. Martial off color all season. Pogba making plans to move to next club. It is a disaster. I feel sorry for fellow United fans. I feel sorry for myself. But I will absolve from my pain by watching less and reading more about what this team is doing.

Resilient Atletico and a disjointed Liverpool

Being a United fan, it is no surprise that I am happy to see the Liverpool team tiring. One of the disadvantages of being so ahead in the English Premier League is that, there is a rush of confident blood flowing which ends up in a harsher reality in Europe. The uselessness of the likes of Henderson in the team is obvious when harried and stifled by a team like Atletico.

Set piece disaster in the early minutes of a game is not surprising. Liverpool never really got off the blocks and as a result, they had to pay the price.

The return leg at Anfield of course is going to be excruciating, but there’s lots for Klopp to ponder whilst Simeone enjoys the laugh for now.

Taming City

Fortunate to have had time to watch the double blockbuster Manchester City Spurs clash this week both in the Champions League and in the Premier League. I don’t think any team has given City a run for their money like Spurs did this week.

Edge of the seat blast of an entertainer in the Champions league as two teams went hammer and tong in an out and out attacking game. The intensity and quality of play was simply breathtaking, something unimaginable from the current outfit of Manchester United. In fact, the Manchester Derby on wednesday might just decide if City or Liverpool will win the league. That leaves United in quite a conundrum. Liverpool with already one leg close to European glory, and a breath away from Premier League. The stakes are awfully high.

I believe the derby will be a heartache for United fans like me, as we surely don’t have the fitness, or the form to deal with a wounded City. To imagine City were holding to the last thread in the dying minutes today to keep their lead on the pack intact, shows how much Poch has managed to get under Pep’s skin.

Spurs losing means, 3rd place viability is likely for Manchester United and we really need to get our sprint going in the last lap! Bring the Derby on! Can’t wait.

First defeat strikes in Champions League

I have not been up and blogging since the last couple of days since I am down with a bit of a cold and flare up of my sinusitis. The undulating diurnal variation in climate is not helping my cause.

Nevertheless I have stuck to my routine modus operandi of tackling cold. Day 0: quiet observation.
Day 1: levocetrizine SOS and Azithral 500 mg OD.
Day 2: levocetrizine SOS and Azithral 500 mg OD.

Just when I was trying to figure out how to have access to watching the champions league game, I realized Ten Sports is available on the SonyLiv app.

I slept through the first 15 minutes as I wasn’t feeling great. Then propped myself up on my bean bag and started watching the game on my phone.

A tetch of nervousness was seen by both teams as both pressed quickly resulting in many misdirected passes on both sides. In the attacking vein that United was, pace, pace and more pace was the approach, however there was a bit of conservativeness in runs in behind as PSG opted to sit and defend and exploit on the counter.

Sadly to demolish his plans completely both Anthony and Jesse pulled up with muscle injuries, groin and calf. All of a sudden, plan A went out of the window.

Bench replacements were diametrically opposite, Sanchez and Mata. This is where I would have opted to differ with Ole’s approach. No matter how bad a form Lukaku was in, he would have been better off bringing Lukaku on, putting Rashford wide and allowing only one flank to be pulled down on pace. What it then did was allow PSG to play their game in midfield and we were being stretched with ease.

As always is in Champions League fixtures, refereeing with or without VAR involves really awful international referees like the one officiating this one. He was throwing around yellow cards for fun in the first leg of a two legged game, thereby being accomplice to manipulating the outcome. Of course if it was consistent, it would have been of merit. What seemed like an obvious tug back on Rashford by a player already on a yellow card was completely dismissed whilst Pogba was penalized with two yellow cards.

This is the harsh reality of Champions League football. Ole calls it experience. Genuine youthful enthusiasm was drubbed last night as players felt, they were not able to get the best out of it thanks to some shoddy refereeing.

What it does expose though is the fragility of the existing squad and how much of a rehaul is required for us to restore glory back again. One thing that also played against us was the fact that we were considered favorities against a team that was not here with full potential.

Ole will realize by now that he has to operate plan B with immediate effect as his potent winning run team with a couple of injuries is not going to be able to provide the ice and slice that they did so far.

Two away goals are making things unlikely for us to progress. But there is never shortage for optimism in this team ably led by Ole.

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