After the shocking result in mid-week, this was a chance to get back to winning ways. It was against an Arsenal team on the up and who are hard to break down. They have conceded the least goals in the league behind Man City. These teams have often been our bane in recent years and it proved so again today. On this occasion, we were able to keep a clean sheet. Not for the want of trying however. Either side could, and maybe should have, at least notched one goal on the scoreboard. Lacazette hitting the post and Cavani’s missed sitter perhaps the closest either side got to putting the ball in the net. As Martin Tyler and Gary Neville adjudged on commentary, it was a game that both teams were neither deserving to win nor deserving to lose.
It is one of the biggest things holding back this United side – when is the right time to do something and when it isn’t. For a while, it was a characteristic put down to the fact that they were plenty of young players in the XI. It would be something that the fans would just have to contend with until these players matured and these mistakes were ironed out. The problem begins where there are players at an age where they have already matured and the silly mistakes are still there. The inconsistency in execution is constant and it is made worse by the decision in the first place being the wrong one. Today, Fred summed this up perfectly. For all intents and purposes, Fred is a centre midfielder that tries to do the things you want. Tries being the operative word. He is a trier but often, you see things go awry. On occasion, it goes wrong quite stupendously. The passes that are often not completed are so poor that you begin to question why he is playing. Then, there will be occasions, like the one where a dangerous break away was occurring and Arsenal were about to steal away, via Willian. Fortunately, Fred intelligently stepped in to stem that flow. He has his uses and even if he is incredibly frustrating, it can be seen in these tight big games today.
There is another problem though. That is with the players who are getting to an age that you are beginning to want to see better decision making. Rashford is one of them. Today, you saw that he still has a very long way to go for him to become the bonafide world class forward that his ability and skill-set deserves. But, there is no other way to describe his decision making but calling it juvenile. More so in recent weeks. You see him get into a flow and his head is down. He blocks out the full picture and gets a tunnel vision that by the time he looks up, so much has closed that he has to play passes or dribble in ways that won’t hurt the opposition. The chance where he is running at the defence and he waits until the last moment to play a poor pass to Bruno where Cavani was back post springs to mind. The occasion where he takes an extra touch, one that is so heavy it goes back to the opposition. The decision to shoot, in his last action of the game, when there were other options in the box just seemed to sum up his game. The 23 year old has a wonderful array of talent. Like a sculptor creates art by taking away pieces of clay from a clump, Rashford needs to learn the parts of his game to accentuate in the right moments. It is the only road block on his way to being elite.
Call in the Clinician
There is lots to marvel about the central striker play of Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan is a walking textbook in movement for a centre forward. It is so good that it can create chances on his own. The issue is that in what he gives you in movement, he takes away in his clinical nature. It is actually quite poor for a player of his standing. Today, it came to the fore with a glorious chance that he put wide. He skewed so that Leno, who was past the post, inadvertently got a hand on it to make it a corner. It reminded me of the chance Yakubu missed for Nigeria at the 2010 World Cup, if Cavani was running onto it rather than being in a standing position. This becomes even more of a problem when he is hardly getting the good chances that he thrives on. Solskjaer spoke about the fact he gets a little annoyed by the running that Cavani does which takes him away from the central positions that gets him the goals. The ex-Napoli player works incredibly hard off the ball when his team is out of possession. Unfortunately, you saw Cavani move out of these positions while United were in possession because he looked to fetch the ball as he hardly got a kick. It is an indictment on United’s ball progression and ability to probe opponents. It is something that has stalked Solskjaer’s United since he has come in. The lateral movement is far too slow so teams get back into shape. The balls that need to be forced through the lines are mostly denied and when they are tried, you see why because they are rarely completed. In essence, we are reducing a master in movement to using his energy in all the wrong places.