The natives are getting restless around Old Trafford. Another draw means the feeling of Groundhog Day remains for Manchester United, as disaster ensued when Marouane Fellaini continued his love/hate relationship with both Everton and United fans by giving away a penalty with five minutes left and a 1-0 lead.
Despite Manchester City’s ruthless 3-1 flogging by Chelsea and Liverpool blowing a 3-1 lead to Bournemouth and eventually losing 4-3, United gained only a point on their rivals as another two points were left behind at Goodison Park.
The Fellaini Disaster
Marouane Fellaini cemented his place as one of the worst signings ever made by Manchester United, as the £27.5 million man wrote another tale in his story of woe, giving away a clumsy penalty. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time he’s done it and it seems Everton knew about this flaw. United seemingly, didn’t.
Leon Osman on Fellaini: “He’s always been clumsy like that. We used to keep him as far away from our box as possible.”
— Adam Joseph (@AdamJosephSport) December 4, 2016
The substitution despite complaints actually made sense. Mourinho brought on some defensive protection, or was attempting to. Eric Bailly was available, but Mourinho went with a man he trusted. Unfortunately, he has not learned from the errors of David Moyes or Louis Van Gaal.
Fellaini continues to represent the failures of the club he represents, though fans may hope this is the last time he is seen in the shirt of Manchester United. Or we shall hope, anyway.
Zlatan’s Resurgence Continues
Whilst it was not a complete performance, the Swede bagged his twelfth goal of the season with a clever chip over a stranded Maarten Stekelenburg who was found wanting after some poor decision making. It was his sixth goal in five appearances, and he continues to find himself in positions to score.
Despite poor efficiency, his best asset at thirty-five is seemingly that he always finds chances to score. Whether or not he is converting enough is a fair debate, but no other player in the United squad is doing what he is or would be capable of so if they replaced him as the number nine.
United need to be scoring more, but for the most part Ibrahimovic is doing his part. They need to start turning his goals into points though, before they’ve lost too many to make it matter.
Changing Style? Not Changing Results
Jose Mourinho said midweek changing style at the club was potentially more important than changing results, which is heartening for fans yearning for a return to the old attacking ways of more successful eras. However the question must be asked, if 60-70 minutes of generally attacking football results in the remainder of the game defending that lead, how much of the style has really been changed?
It appears time and again United don’t have the defensive solidarity or reliability ahead of David De Gea to be defending leads and standing behind the ball. Overpowering teams with attacking intent is working, and United simply need to become more efficient at it.
Parking the bus, becoming defensive, getting men behind the ball, however you want to define it – that’s not the way for United to play right now. When they start being more clinical or stronger defenders arrive at the club Mourinho can play more his way, but right now he needs to play more to his personnel. His comments were very defensive post match, as it appears the frustration is getting to him just as much as everyone else.
Mourinho told Sky Sports: “When my teams win matches playing a different style then the style matters, not results. Now [other] teams are playing defensive and getting results and are praised. When my team plays extremely well, results are more important. But I am happy my team is playing really well. We have a position in the table [sixth] that has no relation to our football.”
Speaking at his news conference later, he said: “When my teams are playing pragmatic football and winning matches and winning titles you say that is not nice and not right. Then my team play very well — and it is a huge change to the last two or three years [at United] — and now you say what matters is to get the result no matter what.”
Mkhitaryan and Martial, Others Continue To Improve
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Anthony Martial continued their impressive renaissance, forming the wide combination in attack. Martial appears to have gained the flair he possessed last season, and has the confidence to create and charge at defenders. Mkhitaryan was excellent, at the heart of everything United tried going forward in an incomplete team display. The first half for the record, contained only the one shot; Ibrahimovic’s lovely chip.
The right side of defence was solid, as Antonio Valencia continues to flourish and Phil Jones stays fit and comfortable in defence. With Rojo’s poor display, it could be an opportunity for the Englishman to pair with the returning Bailly. The question also remains whether he can stay fit long enough to take that chance but for now, he’s doing his job.
The reality is most of the players were reasonable enough, they just aren’t finishing enough. It’s been mentioned enough in not only this column, but all season long. It’ll continue to be so until they learn how to reclaim the killer instinct required to climb back up the table.
Michael Oliver Defines The Day
Normally this five thoughts column would never go into detail on officiating, but the shambolic nature of Oliver’s performance merits it’s own section today. His performance was pathetic, and both sides should have lost a man in the first half. Gareth Barry had three yellow card offences alone whilst Marcos Rojo’s tackle on Idrissa Gueye should have been a straight red.
Barry’s thuggish lunge on Ibrahimovic should also have seen yellow minimum, before a handball begged Oliver to bring out a card. He didn’t. This summed up the farcical nature of his display. Good referees should not be spoken about, but it seems Oliver is one of the few who seems to pop up in the headlines.
It is the increasing nature of criticism of referees who are either making poor decisions or are too scared to make decisions because of the pressure on them begs the questions to how much longer the FA and football in general can stand to allow them to continue to let their errors affect league results, standings and the places of clubs.
Video technology needs to be considered, before referee mistakes cost clubs far more than they have before.
Manchester United now head to Zorya for their final Europa League game, before returning to Old Trafford this weekend with the biggest game of the season to date; a game against Tottenham Hotspur that couldn’t possibly be more must win than it is. A draw or worse could spell a potential end of their league campaign before Christmas.