It was more of the same. Only difference for Man Utd was that it was just 90 minutes of pressure rather than the one half and then the inevitable collapse in the second. Ronaldo and Bruno took it in the turns to get good chances and miss it whenever they got it. Pogba and Elanga got the best chances in the second half. They too would miss the target as well. With the next 3 games against our local rivals and positional rival, it was two points dropped that we really should not have.
After the cameo in mid week where his introduction turned the tide, alongside the other subs that would gain starts today, it was almost a reintroduction into the fact that Matic, for all his wear and tear, still offers up the best option for stability in that defensive midfield role. Fred and Pogba were getting dominated by the Atletico midfield and by taking off the latter for the Serbian, United were able to play a 4-3-3 and gain some semblance of control for the first time.
Matic continued in the same fashion against Watford today. Ahead of him, it was different. Rangnick packed the team with midfielders. Fred Pogba and Bruno all got starts so it was up to Matic to man the barracks as Pogba and Bruno interchanged with their wing position and Fred would go hunt for the ball as he usually does. He was constantly screening well and hardly got caught up the pitch, something we regularly see when McTominay, Fred or even both are the ones protecting the back four.
Probably it is because the ex Chelsea and Benfica midfielder has lost the legs he had in his pomp but also, he has just the game intelligence to know better than to leave massive gaps in front of the defence. If only such knowledge was heeded by the rest of these defensive midfielders. I digress. What was good to see that on the occasions that allowed him to, he would go on the mazy dribbles where he looks as if he is about to lose it, only to keep it under control with one of his telescopic legs.
The second half offered a different, but still vital, aspect of Matic that is missed when he isn’t in the other team. He has never been known as the most progressive passer and usually, he was the one that would be looked at as the one to be pressed. In an odd sort of fashion, with age, his passing has aged like wine. Some of the passes he was able to pick out should have been converted to assists, most notably the chance spurned by Pogba where he was caught in a halfway house between a pass and a shot. But he continued to spray and spread the play when needed and it was needed. Unfortunately, what he was offering was not being put away and it meant his game would be curtailed as United searched for a winner.
If United were in a boxing match, they probably would have been safe in the knowledge that a points win was in the bag by the time the half time whistle was blown. Chance after chance was continually not taken. By the 70th minute, United though, even after their raft of chances, only had 2 shots on target. Embarrassingly, they were continually missing the net. Foster barely had to make saves throughout the match. Only the chance Bruno shot at him at close range was the significant work he made.
Bruno and Ronaldo were the main culprits, as they have been in the games we have failed to put teams away. Annoyingly enough, they are the two most likely source of goals so when their shooting boots aren’t on, we are not relying on the most reputable set of goalscorers. Rashford’s form has fallen off a cliff, Elanga is too young to be relied upon and Sancho has never been a primary goalscorer. What is worse, their function in their team is directly related to how much they affect the game on the scoresheet. Ronaldo, outside of the chances he had today, was extremely poor in his general play.
He has looked more and more his age as each game passes by. It is expected but he is being relied upon and he cannot complain of a lack of chances today, like was the case against Atletico. Bruno as well. It was shocking performance on Wednesday, outside of his assist, and he didn’t cover himself in glory today either. He was his usual self, with the erraticism that plagues his game. When there isn’t a goal or assist to cover that up, it is a plague just blights the game and makes it an eyesore.