Manchester United 0 – 5 Liverpool


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. 

Defensive line 

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. 

Mid field

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. 

Wingers/striker

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. 

Substitutes

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. 

Way forward

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.

Watford 3 – 1 Manchester United


Two defeats in a row. After an exciting derby match that broke a 3 point gap between the city rivals, the Dutch Europa league game was as tepid and directionless we had seen United all season. So the bounce backability of Mourinho team was due.

After a scintillating thrashing of Bournemouth by Man City previous night, the pressure was on. But the performance was far from what was expected.

The team reverted back to a more solid premier league line up with pace on the wings with Martial and Rashford and solidity in the full backs through Shaw and Valencia. Smalling replaced Blind clearly to obviate the aerial and physical challenge of a double center forward system of Watford.

Despite their two defeats so far, Watford has had a solid start to the season, and it was evident with the confidence on the ball. As the media likes to highlight everytime that Manchester United is a huge outfit with the team average height more than most in the league, it was ironic that they were being hurried and harried on and off the ball.

Most of the players got frustrated with the physicality. And thanks to Michael Oliver opting for a pro home side stand throughout the match, there was not much protection for the players.

They never really got going and there was not sufficient impact of the bench.

De Gea while having a relatively quiet game apart from a misunderstanding in the first half with Smalling, was clearly beaten in both the open play goals by quality strikes by Capoue and Zuniga.

Shaw was hesitant to stride forward, Smalling grappling players all the while and having poorer distribution compared to Blind.

Bailly’s performance seems always below par compared to his outstanding start to the season. He was clearly unable to bully Deeney and Ighalo up front.

Young brought more solidity and versatility when he came on and is likely to stake a much higher claim to the starting XI than the rest. Mata probably needs to start as Rashford was fairly nullified starting for the first time this season.

Zlatan’s finishing has been below par today and many quality chances we expected him to take were missed. Rooney having been rested looked totally off radar with his long range passing and short on speed as usual.

cso0bnawcaayxqjTactically Mourinho never really got a grip even in the second half even though things did improve. But it means 3 defeats in a row, 6 points behind the top of the table and more worries than joy into the next week. #GGMU

Manchester United 1 – 0 Southampton


First home game. Mourinho is yet to know a loss. Pogba was back and starting. Henrikh still didn’t find a place in the starting XI. But there was this sense of anticipation. Proven manager, electrifying characters on the pitch. In came a team that managed to beat United twice in the last three trips here. They claimed they are in for a good game.

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And it indeed was a good game. It just happened that United were much more clinical. Direct forward play. With Zlatan in the box, wingers no longer play intricate small passes to build in the final third. The 4-4-1-1 switching to 4-4-2 during a rampant attack, back to a 4-5-1 when defending. The top three – Zlatan, Wayne and Anthony swapping positions in the front line; the bustling pace of Valencia and Shaw on the wings; the solidity of defence by Marouane in the center protecting a well marshalled partnership of Bailly and Blind.

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Pogba’s first touch resulted in a swift counter attack that almost lead to a goal in the first minute for the Saints. But as the game grew on, his nerves settled and he started enjoying, gliding across the pitch and beyond players. Strong, fending off position, brilliant ball control and a number of times the ref offered an advantage as he was fouled. He was solid in partnership with Marouane, but at the same time making leaping forays box to box.

 

Tough to keep the limelight away from Zlatan. A seemingly innocuous cross from Wayne, with no pressure on him as he crossed. Fonte was ready to clear it off, but in a split second, Zlatan towered over him, hindering Fonte’s leap. He generated pace, purely from his neck muscles as the ball flashed across the flailing hands of Fraiser F. #DaretoZlatan.

 

Welcome to the theatre of dreams. #GGMU. The fortress is back.

Community Shield 2016-17 Manchester United 2-1 Leicester City


I was looking forward to a football match after the Euros. Watching the ‘International Cup’ , ‘Champions Cup’ and all that nonsense was just a waste of time with players just getting game time and managers and players (new and old) learning the trade and exchanging ideas.

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Zlatan with Rooney behind looked good on paper. But it was the back 7 that was shining in the first 30 odd minutes. Rooney was awful on the ball, while Ibra was not getting enough balls to feet. Valencia was definitely the performer at full back with probing darts forward as well as solid defence. The darting Lingard run which seemed to take Leicester by surprise considering the monotony that was ongoing prior to it. The subtle change of pace, accompanied by composure from the young lad meant he etched his name into history books having scored in consecutive FA cup winning and community shield winning sides.

Shaw was happy to be bit more conservative moving forward. Martial hardly ever got into the game and the link up between those two haven’t been great. Shaw did get caught out twice and fortunately got away with it.

The lack of pace will be a big factor when the season begins. With the squad available to him, now that Pogba is confirmed, Henrikh will be a strong creative force. Mata being subbed in and then out is probably an indication to him of how little play time he is going to get under Jose. The presence of one left footer in the midfield is more than enough. The dynamism of Henrikh will be always preferred over Mata. Mata deserves full play time and needs to move to another club for his own career.

Zlatan was quiet for most of the game primarily due to lack of service. His defending of corners were awful to begin with, but he settled in well towards the latter half of the game.

And of course he did get the most important touch in the end, as he rose early to a well crafted Valencia cross to outmuscle Morgan in central defence.

Can’t wait for one more week to see the battle begin. Bring it on premier league

Welcome Jose


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The change was imminent, demanding. The targets weren’t met. The football was sleep inducing. The manager defensive and unapologetic. We had to move on. For all the charisma in the press and off the field with his tongue in cheek English, van Gaal failed abysmally in two years.

 

The numerous injuries that were part of the regimen packed with embalming a uniquely boring defensive possession football with absolute nothing in counter attacking, a season which saw many fans like me around the world tune in to the most boring first 45’s ever this season. Burst of energy in the first ten minutes followed by tepid side and backwards passing.

 

Records were broken. None went in favor of united. Records of decades, teams who never even had a sniff in the Theatre walked away with first time glory. Midway through the season as Christmas approached, the form was so awful that tolerating van Gaal was turning out to be out of good will and club tradition more than anything.

 

As Jose walked in today officially realizing a much desired role of his, he brings in a charismatic persona that thrives on victory. Apart from his off field cameos, his endless desire to enjoy success will bring back life into a club of such tradition that seems to be spiralling into an abyss in the last three years. As he rightly quoted, let’s rather not remember the last three years. Let’s remember the Manchester United we know.
GGMU.

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