Manchester United laboured to a 1-0 home win over Brighton and Hove and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, Accra, Ghana, underlines the main talking points from the encounter .
Whether it was a hangover from the Champions League match at Basel or it was the fact that there was a record to be broken (39 games unbeaten at home since losing 2-1 to Man City in 2016), the team did not look menacing for large parts of the game.
After winning against Newcastle United last weekend, the general expectation was that the players would use the match to get the loss in Switzerland out of their system and go for the kill.
But that did not happen. Rather, uncertainty and the absence of a spark was the theme through the game. If it was not a counter attack that failed to catch fire, it was Juan Mata failing to hold the ball and not being available for a pass and a breakthrough.
The team just looked paces off their usual feel and Brighton really enjoyed it and even dared to attack through Anthony Knockaert and had his crosses been met, the Red Devils would have been a lot of trouble.
When Manchester United turn up at Old Trafford, they must remind teams of their superiority and stature. Opponents should not be made to feel good at the Theatre of Dreams. They must feel the heat and they must be made to suffer.
The outing like was what seen against Brighton only gives teams more confidence and they will dare to flex their muscles in future.
The Red Devils were rather saintly
With the team playing slowly and cautiously, it only meant one thing: there would be no guts and arrogance.
That translated into long minutes of sideways passing and constant probing down the flanks for cracks and leakages which were virtually absent.
The only time the tempo was increased and there were attempts from distance, Young’s luck was rewarded with the goal.
It has been very puzzling to see that Man United as a team is not buying into forcing the issue from distance especially when players like Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have the ability to shoot at goal.
While many will argue that teams that are set in their defensive ways have no spaces to shoot through, the winner against Brighton proves that when you make an attempt, the breakthrough may come.
Man United need to be braver and more daring. The quality of players and coaching is good enough to try a mix of methods for victory. That is what will give the team a better look and keep opponents guessing and that only works in Man United’s advantage.
Left-back needed urgently
Ashley Young is putting in a good shift in that role but the more he plays, the clearer it becomes that he lacks the needed quality for the job at hand.
His proponents will give him votes for his ethic and his delivery from crosses but he scores almost zero on the bolts and nuts of a left-back’s first and basic job: defending.
His decision-making especially when it comes to preventing the opponent from getting an advantage is very, very questionable.
Against Newcastle, his inability to track backwards led to Smalling’s eagerness to stop DeAndre Yedlin and Man United eventually conceded.
Against Brighton, he was always too far from Anthony Knockaert and when he got close to the Brighton winger, he was turned. Of course, Smalling later became a regular victim but Young just lacked the defensive awareness to see the threat and stop it completely.
It is a huge shame that Daley Blind, whose career has seen him play in the role, is physically unable to stop his man and bust a gut to get to the opposing end to deliver quality service for the forwards.
Luke Shaw, who should have been the number one option for the spot, has failed to find a good run of games due to injury.
Jose Mourinho needs to address the challenge quickly. If Brighton and Anthony Knockaert can spot this, the bigger teams and players have already noticed and they are waiting to punish hand out retribution.
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