Manchester United suffered their first hiccup under Ole Gunnar Solkjaer after drawing 2-2 at Old Trafford on Tuesday night with the goals coming from Ashley Barnes and Chris Wood for the visitors while Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof scored for the Red Devils.
Unsure start cost top value
In this highly competitive league, not starting well will give any team problems and for Man United, the problems turned out to be a huge body blow even though they did not result in a knockout.
The team could not find the required creativity to unlock Burnley who were expected to come to Old Trafford snd stay compact. They had every reason to be. They were given a pasting at Man City over the weekend in the FA Cup. Man United were playing well. The chances of losing were going to be high. They had to stay solid and they did.
But had Man United taken their chances like the one Rashford missed early in the game, the story could have been different.
By the time the Red Devils got into the needed groove, Burnley had become accustomed to their surroundings and they felt at home leading to their goals and even their defending. Add Tom Heaton and you have a wall in between the sticks for them.
The poor habit of the old days came back and it shook the house. It was very worrying.
Poor decisions all round
The thing that lay at the heart of the draw was a very simple thing: a compendium of bad choices from either the manager or the players.
You look at the manager and the decision to haul off Romelu Lukaku in the second half as the hunt for redemption was on was surprising because eventually, the team’s tendency to go wide and send in crosses meant that a target was needed and there was none around to challenge the Burnley defence.
Granted, Phil Jones, Nemanja Matic, Victor Lindelof and even Paul Pogba were all there to make something happen but the more the crosses went in, the more Lukaku’s absence was palpable.
Surely, the manager will look at the game again and admit that maybe he got that wrong.
On the side of the players, their errors were grave too. The biggest one was the one done by Andreas Pereira for Burnley’s first goal. He had time to do something meaningful with the pass from Phil Jones and yet, he wasted precious seconds and was punished. Would Herrera have made such an error? No one knows.
But while Pereira gets the stick, Jones could have spotted any potential danger by giving the ball to Pereira. Perhaps, another option could have helped.
Juan Mata was also another sub-par performer on the night. He failed to connect simple passes in the Burnley penalty area and he lost the physical battles he put himself into. He did not have any major impact on the encounter and there needs to a serious look at his usefulness to the team in the long term.
He seems very incapable of playing against the physical opponents but then, these types of opponents are the ones present in the league.
Something needs to be done.
Learning through adversity
Aside from the negatives, the team fought hard and fought well to get a point from a losing and hopeless situation and credit must be given to them.
Imagine playing at a good tempo with a good spirit and the opposition goes 2-0 up. Many would fold up. Many would wilt but the players gave everything and the manager shuffled his cards to see what he could come up with.
That was a good show of the old Man United spirit that never downed tools until there was a reason to do so.
But then, the game should be seen as a mix of lessons:
-No opposing team loses a game before it starts. Scoring and putting away chances are things that kill teams off.
-Very good contributions from all players will lead almost always lead to a great result.
-The manager must pick his strongest team possible at all times. Opportunities for fringe players should be made available but never at the expense of the team.
The final word? The team is still unbeaten under the new boss. The hunt for top four places should continue with renewed strength and seriousness because the others can pull away very easily.
On to the next one.