Torture. No need for a preamble to set the seen. It’s Man Utd vs Liverpool. If the U23s turned out today for the Red Devils, they would have played better. Keita set off the rout with a nice slot past De Gea. Jota tapped in from close with a great cross from Alexander-Arnold. Salah added two before half time to continue his hot form. He would go from where he left as he got his hat trick. Pogba had quite the 15 min cameo. Lost the ball for the 5th and final go then got sent off with an absolutely horrible challenge on Keita. Credit to those who stayed in the stadium and still sang for the players. You wonder where we go from here.
Dead Man Walking
It is something that felt like it was coming for a while. And a while is a lot longer than this season. For a long time, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the performances haven’t really warranted the results they have gotten. There is only so long you can continue to walk on the laurels of supremely talented players bailing you out when teams are better tactically. The problem comes when players are low on confidence from a poor run, along with the fact they are facing a team similarly matched in their prowess and propped up by mastery in the tactical edge of the game. That is what happened today. The Norwegian manager went with the exact same set up that was torn to shreds by Leicester and was given a run for their money by a patched up Atalanta side. We all know the quote from Einstein. If he were to unfathomably survive this, then surely a departure from the personnel and system has to be executed.
You heard on commentary about the first goal with the poor decisions from Mason Greenwood and Aaron Wan Bissaka but you have to question why exactly that the press was exactly one second late when the Liverpool seemed to pre-empt the pass that the United player was going to make once they had been able to look up. The lack of ability to shuffle and fill in for each other when someone is pulled out of position is as much a lack of desire to work as it is a lack of tactical coherence throughout the team. Simple things like that are found wanting within this team with such regularity and throughout such a variety of players, then you have to look elsewhere. The players are not without their share of the blame. Either it being through just a bad lack of ability, in the likes of Fred and McTominay, who both continually piled pressure on the team with idiotic giveaways, or horrendous form, in the likes of Maguire and Shaw, with every goal coming down their side. It is ironic that those at fault on the first goal, Greenwood and Wan Bissaka, were probably the most admirable outfield performers out of the bunch. They were both 4 and 3 out of 10 respectively so it just goes to show what the others outfield were doing.
I am not as staunch of a defender of the polarising Frenchman as the incredibly ardent that you can often find but on the spectrum, you’d see me leaning towards the sympathetic. However, even with my allegiances to him, it was clear to see that the substitute to bring him in was one that was going to end in tears. It is even worse that he came off for Greenwood, who was the best attacker on the pitch for us. What it showed is that Solskjaer is fearful of making a big decision because it would mean taking off one of Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo. If he is unable to do that at 4-0 down against a team that was never going to let the advantage go, then what is going to happen when he actually needs to make that decision when the result is still on a knife edge? The fact is that, he won’t and the young Englishman will always fall on the proverbial axe when it comes to who comes off first.
But this is about Paul. For a player of his class, his temperament can be pathetic at the worst of times. When he himself is having a stinker, he will demand the ball as good player should but he will treat it with such angst that you would rather see him refuse to get it. Brighton away in 2018/19 is the clearest example. When the team are in a horrid position, he only seems to make it worse. PSG home leg in 2018/19 and Spurs home 19/20 the shining lights in that. So as much it is on him, he is turning 29 in February not 19, if I was able to know he shouldn’t come on, then surely the manager would have the same idea? The problem is that he doesn’t seem to think in a cohesive way. It is reactive and without any idea to build towards something. It is reactive and waiting for his current idea to be torn to shreds before he tries to find a way out of it. Pogba’s contract is running down and after the quotes on Friday, we seem no closer to knowing if this is the end or not. After today, there will be 3 less PL games for him to do so this season.