United’s away day blues against the top 9 was fully completed today. The first half was even in terms of chances as Martial, Rashford and Antony all had good opportunities to put the team ahead whilst Brighton also could have gotten ahead, particularly with Mitoma. The second half was Brighton on top for the vast majority as the second half curse for the team struck again. However, it looked as if a point would be enough but Shaw stupidly put his hand in the air to stop the ball being headed by Dunk. VAR spotted it and MacAllister stuck the ball away with aplomb to make it a miserable day for Ten Hag’s men.
The other night, during the Man City game, a graphic appeared of the highest scorers in the top 5 leagues of European Football. A surprising to many was the fact that Man Utd managed to get themselves in 5th place amongst the likes of Man City, PSG and Bayern Munich. However, given the context of the number, and quality in comparison, of games the Reds have played then you see the context as to why it is higher than many expected. Then, you see the fact that United have scored half of their goals in the Premier League and it enshrines that fact even more.
Today was as sharp of a indicator about the lack of cutting edge that United have in their front line, not only in their finishing but in the final decision making as well. In the early minutes, Antony was put through on goal by a good pass from Bruno Fernandes. When another touch to steady himself was actually needed, he decided to take it first time, leading to a snatched effort. He had another chance, from a cleverly worked corner, in which he managed to scuff it. It was more difficult than the former but it was still an effort that was tantamount of the usual we get from Antony. With the amount of times he tries to cut in and shoot, and does, it borders on the ridiculous how shoddy his ball striking is. On the main however, he stayed outside of the game until he caused a flashpoint that probably made Ten Hag take him off.
Martial was another but it was more the fact that he saw more of the ball and done less than he should have. The one point that he looked more like his previous self, the 1-2 with Fred, he fashioned an opening that he perhaps waited a little too long and placed a little too generically to actually threaten going into the Brighton net. Steele had to make sure he got enough behind it but his body duly was. Outside of that, the most disappointing aspect was the fact that the connectivity that he usually provides was nowhere to be seen. When he dropped deep to get the ball, the touches were more laboured than they usually are, the sharpness from the combination he had with Fred was non-existent in other situations. Usually it is his decision making and calmness that juxtaposes that of his compatriots but it slipped from calmness into rigidness. Rashford had a quieter night but he has carried the team for the majority of the season and he isn’t perfect. Others will have to step up.
United aren’t the greatest playing out of pressure in any area of the pitch so it was just unbelievably annoying today when on the occasions that we were able to actually move into areas of low pressure and a man in red had time on the ball, said man would act as if they were under even more intense pressure than the one we had just evaded. In particular, Casemiro was at increasing fault of that on many occasions. One time in the second half beggared belief as it was genuinely the most time any United player had had in the middle of the park. So to play it first time blindly, in the middle third of the pitch, was just astonishingly bad decision making. He wasn’t the only one though. Dalot, Bruno and Antony were all at it and in something that has plagued the season, the sharpness in the pass has lacked the zip to get to its receiver. It slows the game and Lindelof was most culpable in that him doing this caused a 1v1 that De Gea managed to stop with his head.
Just as I was about to write that he had a splendid game, Luke Shaw managed to undo all the good work he done in the AMEX Stadium with an utterly stupid handball that consigned United to defeat.