Bottom of the table who had one win in 19 games. A win would take us back to the top of the table. It was set up for Sheffield United to spoil the party. The Blades certainly did that job. A contentious goal was turned in by Kean Bryan to put the team in their salmon pink away kit ahead. A similar goal for Martial was ruled out in the first half. The Red Devils would equalise, with a thumping header from Harry Maguire. Yet Oliver Burke would come up with the winner, as the ball deflected twice, off Tuanzebe and then the bar. United hardly troubled Ramsdale and a draw would have been a flattering result. It stinks of the United pre-February 2020
Growing New Issue
Much was made of the fact that United had little else to worry about in the offensive third of the pitch. A trio of young to youngish player of Martial, Greenwood and Rashford were one of the most prolific trios in Europe last season. In this though, only Rashford has managed to carry over that form. Solskjaer commented on the second season syndrome often synonymous with young players when asked about Greenwood’s difficulties. It is common and less of a worry so no more needs to be said of the 19 year old. Anthony Martial’s form however, is incredibly worrying. After a season where he seemed to stake a claim to be a United number 9, he has looked anything but since that ill fated game against Sevilla in the Europa League semi final. His movement has returned to the passivity that annoyed United onlookers, he is not shooting with any variety or conviction and even his signature instep finishes have not been coming off. His only two goals this season came with two one touch finishes where it was harder to miss, against tonight’s opponents in the reverse fixture and Aston Villa at the turn of the year. What’s worse is that even the staples you could often rely on him for, like an assured touch, intelligent combination play, mazy dribbles, have completely been lost as well. It is the worst form he has displayed in the 6 years at Old Trafford. As a 25 year old, the only thing that can be said is that it is scary. Scarier that Cavani, who looks a shadow of the best he showed on the continent, is out-scoring him. What makes it ever more frustrating when you watch the Uruguayan is that we do not play to his strengths at all. We hardly ever build play to the point where we are putting in crosses from dangerous positions. We are hardly ever playing decisive balls in behind that ex-PSG centre forward loves to gobble up. So currently, this United outfit has a striker whose form has dropped off a cliff so that it looks like it will never recover and an aging striker who isn’t being catered for. Something that was of little concern is looking like being something that needs to be sorted as soon as the summer window opens.
The Persistent Old Issue
But you don’t lose games by not scoring goals. You lose them by conceding goals. It is an area that has seen circa £150m investment since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been the manager yet we look no more secure. Within 20 games, this side has conceded 27 goals. Sheffield United have only scored more than one goal in two games this season – both have come against the Red Devils. Tonight, Bailly was supposed to come for Lindelof but a bruise meant he would miss out and Tuanzebe would come in. Unfortunately for the young man from Rochdale, he was involved in both goals. Narrowly missing out on the cross that Kean Bryan turned in and deflecting Oliver Burke’s cross into the box meant that ultimately his interventions cost us the game. Along with a yellow courtesy of a rash tackle, it was a night to forget for Tuanzebe. He was not the only culpable party. On another day, De Gea may have had a foul called on him for the first goal but all in all, it is just another occasion in which he has showed weak physicality when coming for the cross from the corner. Had he come and cleared everything like a competent keeper would do, the small push on him would have been immaterial. Yet, we were able to make our way back into the game as the captain, Maguire headed us level. Unfortunately, the second came from poor play down Telles side as he let the ball in behind and failed to close down the shot from Burke. But in the lead up to the goal, De Gea was given a short back pass from Maguire and rather than clearing the ball into the stands, he played a soft pass into space that was picked up by a Sheffield Utd keeper. In the last two and half years, the Spanish keeper has become a keeper who is no longer saving us points with out of this world saves that make up for the other deficiencies, which rarely reared their ugly head. Instead, he has been performing as an average keeper would, shot stopping wise. So when you look at the fact he constantly stays on his line, his passing out is average and his command of the box is incredibly poor, is he really worth the £18m he currently costs us on our wage bill? The more time wears on, the more the answer becomes no.