Far from a classic yet it was marked with a special goal. Casemiro contorted himself 9 mins in to get onto the Eriksen dink, that had been deflected kindly into his path by Marco Sensei, to overhead kick it past Neto. United started well and faded as has so often happened after the international break. They managed to hold out with that one goal and with that being the last away game of the season, it meant that United only lost 1 of 10 games against teams in the bottom half on the road. It didn’t quite secure Champions League football officially but it took us to within one win of making sure we finish in the top four.
Even New Habits Die Hard
Habits are easy to pick up but hard to break. Once you are in the pattern of doing something, it can be so hard to break and it takes a big change in mentality in order to really set yourself on the way to glory.
As the season edges to the end, United have gotten into the habit of starting games well and then gradually fading as the game goes on. Today on the South Coast was no different. In the first 20-25 minutes of the game, United were firmly in control of the game and Bournemouth hardly saw the opportunity to break into the United half, sporting a lime green shirt that hasn’t been seen the debacle of Brentford. With Rashford succumbing to an illness on the day before the game, it meant that Sancho and Antony would once again play on the wings. With the game the way it was, they were comfortable in helping United maintain control without doing anything particularly outstanding. As they play on the opposite side to their foot, it meant they came inside a lot to congest the space. Whilst that might be a bad thing in some occasions, the both of them do like to play in tighter places, as does Martial, who was starting up top today. The goal came from great work in those congested areas as Eriksen played a lovely lofted pass in behind Bournemouth that, of all people, Casemiro was on the edge of with a incredible acrobatic effort that came in off the post. That was within the first 9 mins and there were occasions afterwards where United made their way into similar positions without making much of a dent of dangerous goal scoring action.
The problem is that when Bournemouth stepped it up, as it was more of a case of them being poor than United being imposing, the game became much more even. Essentially, these performances in recent weeks have been a combination of that aforementioned new habit along with a old one in that United find themselves uncomfortable on and off the ball when teams step onto them. Our players begin to play first time and swing balls around the corner when it isn’t on. When it is time to win the 50/50s to keep the ball, they go into them half hearted. They start to leave who they are marking and give their team mate more ground to cover. Those attackers named earlier begin to go further and further to the periphery of the game. With Sancho, he starts on the periphery and rarely does anything to work himself back into the full picture. Antony was much more fleeting than he was the previous week. At least against Wolves, he was making the bad decisions but getting into a position in order to make that bad decision. Against the Cherries, he didn’t do anything. Martial done some nice combination at times, one noticeably that resulted for a corner. Ironically enough, it was his last action in the game because outside of that, he did a dreadful amount of little things. Those three lack the intensity and physicality to worry defenders and it showed today. Particularly with the introduction of Garnacho, it was chalk and cheese in comparison to the rest of them. If they were able to keep up some sort of consistency in that regard, the presence of Marcus Rashford would not be so sorely missed any time he is out of action.
If there were any player out on the pitch today who could have been the man to secure us Champions League, it fits the narrative that it is the man who saw us play in this lime green kit against Brentford and told his agent “I will come to fix it”. Casemiro came into a club in absolute disarray and with his help, he managed to help steady the ship. In keeping with the fact it is his first season in the Premier League, he has had some difficult periods, particularly recently. But his presence at the club has been one of the key factors in getting us into the top four. The goal today topped it off and here’s to hoping that he is able to continue and sustain this for as many years as his body can.
Two starts for Varane since he came back in and two clean sheets. De Gea was confirmed today as the sole recipient of the Golden Glove, with it being his 17th of the season, but it has been the work in front of him that has majorly contributed to that record. Along with Martinez, Varane has helped sure up United at the back, even with the numerous amounts of games that a lot of goals have been shipped. The Frenchman is perhaps more key in terms of helping us defensively as he adds a leadership factor that the Argentine is yet to display yet. With his penchant to get injured, getting him some adequate back up will be imperative.