Overreaction and Realism

Three games. Four points. Disillusioned and detached fans. After the high of Chelsea, reality sits and the reality is United are not good enough but still a work in progress. After a very disappointing performance and result against Crystal Palace it is important not to overreact. It hurts to say it, but United currently are not title challengers and not a Top 4 team, United currently are Top 4 challengers. And this will take some time to improve.

Despite a good win against Chelsea, things could have been very different. Football is a game defined by the finest of margins and a one-nil lead at half time could have easily been a two goal deficit. But it wasn’t, and United were clinical enough to make it count.

Things were all rosy and red after the Chelsea game

On Monday, Wolves provided a sterner test than Chelsea. United toiled and worked hard to create chances against Wolves and Martial took his chance expertly. United’s hard work was undone by a wonder goal from Ruben Neves and their own failure to adapt to the increased tempo and threat that Adama Traore provided at half-time.

Crystal Palace came to Old Trafford set-up in a way that most United fans feared: sitting deep and without a willingness to attack. United were timid and the tempo was slow playing straight into Palace’s hand to slow the game down. A number of tactical fouls also ensured that United could not get their tempo going. On 32 minutes, United gifted the game to Palace. Lindelof was caught aerially by Schlupp, despite his obvious height advantage, whilst Ayew’s run was untracked as he found himself running freely towards De Gea. The rest of the first half was simply one to forget.

Maguire and Lindelof were too far apart to defend the well the situation for the first goal

United tried to up the tempo in the second half but everything they were doing was slow and in front of Palace. Rashford and Lingard were largely ineffective throughout the game. James provided United with a lifeline only for that to be thrown away by some more poor defending and De Gea getting beaten at his near post for the umpteenth time.

Many criticised Daniel James for celebrating after his equaliser

The disappointing result to Palace can be attributed to various factors. Most notably is United’s lack of creativity. Despite United’s high number of attempts, few were quality chances and Guaita was rarely tested. United have a number of players who can run havoc with spaces to run into, but they lack the guile to play in tight spaces. The prime example is Jesse Lingard who really finds it difficult to operate in tight spaces. For some time that type player at United was Mata however his best days are far behind him and he no longer has the ability to impact games in a positive way. The buck stops with the lack of investment in the midfield area. A deep midfielder would have freed up Pogba. Alternatively, a creative midfielder in the Kevin De Bruyne mould would have added so much creativity to this United side whilst allowing Pogba to dominate the midfield as he has been doing in the first 3 games.

Another obvious problem is the lack of balance in attack. Despite being overloaded on the left wing, United bought a player who looks so much more comfortable on the left than on the right. After have a pretty average match for 60 minutes, Daniel James was moved to the left side and Greenwood settled on the right hand side. Whilst Greenwood was kept quiet for pretty much the whole match, James shone on the right side, showing ability to cut inside or go down the outside. He capped a positive performance with a very well taken goal, but United’s lack of right winger will hurt at times this season.

Keeping in mind that this team is a work in progress, one has to remember that there still is a long way to go. This is a Crystal Palace who is known for winning against Top 6 sides away from home. Defensively, the team will get better together. Maguire has already improved the defence and now he has to work with his partnership together with Lindelof. McTominay is started to do well in a holding midfield role, a role he needs time to get accustomed to – he was a number 10 at youth level. Martial has started well enough as Lukaku’s replacement being well involved in build-ups as seen in the Daniel James goal.

McTominay is starting to do well in the holding midfield role

Top 4 is a must this season and still achievable, however lack of summer recruitment has left Solskjaer with a tough task. He must be given time though, after just one transfer window (could not do anything last January). Signs of encouragement are there for all to see, as well as obvious shortcomings. Ole’s in-game management has to improve, but one cannot deny the obvious lack of options left on the bench. Furthermore, 2 players were missing on the bench against Palace: Gomes and Sanchez. After Lingard’s dire performance against Palace, it maybe is time for Gomes to get some minutes in the team. On the other hand, many fans feel that if Sanchez left, United would be left too thin offensively. However, one must remember that this a player with a goal contribution every 198 minutes and an injury for every 8 games played. He certainly won’t be sorely missed.

The next match for United is a trip to Southampton, who will also sit in a deep block waiting to attack on the break. Ole might even start Juan Mata to try to find a way to unlock Southampton, or start Fred so that Pogba can move further forward. However United set-up, they lack the players and playing style to play against these type of teams. A potential injury to Martial will make things even harder for United to be effective in the penalty area. It’s time for the tough to get going though, and this will be a test of United’s metal and desire to get into the Top 4. The top teams always find a way and United have to start doing that as well.

Anthony Martial would be missed against Southampton

My last few words are reserved for the horrible racist insults aimed at Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford. Everybody misses penalties, however that doesn’t give the right to anyone to insult somebody else. Unfortunately footballing emotions always brings out the worst in all of us but that is no excuse. The biggest mistake we can make is say that these are not fans because we would be overlooking the problem. These people could be the sitting next to us in the stands, in the bars or our neighbours. A culture change needs to happen: by twitter, by clubs and most importantly by us, match viewers. This behaviour cannot go unpunished and we must work to get it eradicated. All of us are different, and yet in that difference we are all equal. Time to stand up together and fight this disgusting behaviour.

Racism

My last few words are reserved for the horrible racist insults aimed at Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford. Everybody misses penalties, however that doesn’t give the right to anyone to insult somebody else. Unfortunately footballing emotions always brings out the worst in all of us but that is no excuse. The biggest mistake we can make is say that these are not fans because we would be overlooking the problem. These people could be the sitting next to us in the stands, in the bars or our neighbours. A culture change needs to happen: by twitter, by clubs and most importantly by us, match viewers. This behaviour cannot go unpunished and we must work to get it eradicated. All of us are different, and yet in that difference we are all equal. Time to stand up together and fight this disgusting behaviour.

All Red. All Equal.
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