A team that had no wins in the Premier League, a good performance against relatively good opposition in the previous match and it being played out in the empty Old Trafford pointed to an upset that would be a surprise to all but United fans. The result was good, as usual, a penalty from Bruno Fernandes, after a handball, sealed all three points but it was one of the most painful Red Devils’ performance in recent memory and that should say something. Two big chances fell to Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, both who should have stuck it away, but were saved by United oldboy, Sam Johnstone. Really, it showed where United currently at, which is nowhere better than we looked this time last year
Boring Boring Man Utd
If not for a wrong decision to award a penalty and Demba Ba converting, United would have won 5 PL games in a row by a 1-0 scoreline. This was in 2011/12 and its significance comes from the fact that this was after the 6-1 drubbing at the hand of our closest rivals. It was a conscious decision by the then manager, Alex Ferguson, to tighten up after he employed a shift in pressing higher up the pitch. Almost a decade later, it was a 6-1 drubbing, at home again, this time from the Lilywhites of North London and since, there has been a distinct change in United being carved open. But for every action, there is a reaction yet unlike Newton’s Third Law, it might not be equal. Having two solid players in the base might sure us up in transition but it just makes us succumb even further into the short, backwards and sides passing that already engulfs us as it is. Outside of Fernandes, whose expression and risk is unable to be curbed, it was terribly slow and even when pace was looking to be injected, often it went terribly awry. Matic and Fred did little to help as their passing was stodgy and careless when we needed to offer much more control. Rashford and Mata came inwards and offered little in behind but the lack of movement in behind from Martial, the man up top, was much more troublesome in blunt display. You thought the introduction of Cavani might a bit of life to the attack but it did very little and in fact, he fell into the annoying tropes we see from the Frenchman of pulling wide to be bereft of presence centrally and behind the play if the ball turned the Baggies’ defence. With no disrespect to the visitors, they fielded a team that you would expect of a Championship team and our difficulty in breaking down is extremely concerning, no matter what context is applied. But it has just become a bit boring at Old Trafford. It is boring to see the defence look flaky without the double bolt protection in front of them. It is boring to see the attack lack life and the midfield fail to inject it. It is even becoming boring that the only way we seem to get the ball in the net is when Bruno thumps it into the net from the penalty spot. There’s a predictability about our lack of upward direction and our false dawns.
Tell-es there is more to come
It was a first Premier League start for Alex Telles after his £13.6 million move from Porto. United’s haggling over a fee and his contracting of COVID-19 after his first ever game for United vs PSG in the Champions League. It was clear in the latter that his ability going forward, especially his prowess of whipping the ball into the area. Having been freed a bit more in that game, he deputised for Luke Shaw in the conventional LB role in a back four. All in all, he did not have much to do and didn’t do much in forcing the issue but it would be unfair to place the brunt of that on him given the poor poor displays that were around him. The two shots over the bar from Fernandes’ corner showed a confidence in his ability to strike the ball but they were high and wide.
The Benched Dutchman
The omission of Donny Van der Beek gets stranger and stranger, the more and more you watch this United side. A player who thrives off pass and move to inject pace into play within the dangerous areas, he is being picked over by a Paul Pogba, whom doesn’t seem to know his left from his right in a United shirt over these past few months, and even the former Juventus man is unavailable for whatever reason, Juan Mata has managed to come back from the shadows to be a more viable option than the Dutchman. What’s more, even if Mata is still to be played in the false RW role, surely Van der Beek can be deployed next to one of Matic or Fred. It joins the list of frustrating decisions that continued to be made by Solskjaer