Following Man United’s 1-0 loss at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, Accra, notes some of the themes from the encounter.
Hunger and drive make the difference once again
Talk about tactics and game plans and you will be justified but Chelsea’s victory over the Red Devils was built on the will to win and get a response to the UEFA Champions League loss to AS Roma.
They were quicker to everything and they were willing to run and make things happen. Man United matched them for the first 45 minutes and that was that at least until ten or so minutes to the end.
The period preceding Chelsea’s goal underlined the force behind the two teams.
While Chelsea kept picking up the loose balls and having secondary attempts at trying to get the breakthrough, United looked sloppy and unwilling to push upwards and get possession.
Eventually, the goal came and the game was up. A goal that was made easy to score by Chris Smalling’s failure to pick up Alvaro Morata.
The season is long but it will become short for the Red Devils if the needed ambition and willingness is absent. Talent is great but you need spirit, hunger and the winning attitude to get huge results.
At the moment, the team still lacks in that department and something must be done.
Man United misses Pogba and it was very evident
It is unbelievable to notice how flat and uninspiring Man United look without the arrogance of Paul Pogba.
The Frenchman’s abilities were beginning to come to the fore until a hamstring injury kept him out since the first Champions League match in September.
And now, the team is struggling.
Pogba may not have the skills of Henrikh Mkhitaryan as a proper play-maker but he has the arrogance and guts to try something when the team is still very afraid.
He will try a pass, a long range shot, a free kick, and a run to set the pulses racing.
The Red Devils lack that at the moment and they are paying the price dearly.
Of course, Mkhitaryan has been off the boil in recent weeks and he must get better.
It is difficult to tell if Jose Mourinho is shackling him or he is struggling with the physical nature of the league. But it is clear that without Pogba, Mkhitaryan has no one making runs from midfield to take a pass.
The Armenian is very much a rhythm player and there is none at the moment. Maybe he needs sometime on the bench to get him going again.
It is also clear that no one is feeding Romelu Lukaku well these days. His only chance at Chelsea came because a forward pass found him in a good place.
He cannot drop deep and make things happen like Alvraro Morata and that should prompt Jose Mourinho to get to the doctor and ask when Pogba is returning. He can cover the yards and set Lukaku on his merry way to the goal.
The spiral effect of Paul Pogba’s absence is punching Man United hard in the gut and they must find a way to stop the rot before it gets more complicated.
To park or not to park the bus?
Which approach would have made more sense? Staying compact and playing for a point and trying to win and open up?
It is always a difficult question especially if you manage a big side like Man United. Jose Mourinho’s record against the big teams especially on the road has been questioned in the past and it will come under heavy scrutiny again.
But what is the best thing to do?
How about having a good defensive base and the ability to break with deadly precision?
That looks like an approach that can work because the manager will not be overly excited on the road except against very beatable opposition.
This season, Man City’s win at Chelsea, Spurs’ demolition on Liverpool, and this loss at Chelsea are three examples of great counter-attacking play.
Even Man United’s 3-2 win at Chelsea and at Man City in the 2012/2013 season were hinged on playing counter attacking football.
Maybe the manager will say that he needs a fuller team to do it but he must starting averting his mind to being compact away from home and still playing dangerous attacking football.
He must begin to look at his team and use the players who can provide what is needed quickly.
The season is moving on and the Red Devils must keep the fight going. The war to win the Premier League title is mostly won by grabbing home points but some away points are needed even if they need to be picked at the home of tough teams.
No one said the road to greatness was an easy one and Mourinho knows it too well. He must start showing us that he is to ready to be smart but deadly on the road.