There is very little to talk about from a Man Utd side in this game to be honest. Throughout the season, there have been the torrid performances dotted around that you can chalk up to anomalies. Today, was as insipid I have seen this Man Utd team under Erik Ten Hag. It is something to be incompetent but it look as laboured as we did, it perhaps told us how much the momentum of the heavy fixture schedule carried our legs in the last few weeks. Willock and Wilson gave Newcastle the W, both with a nod of their head. It doesn’t let up but at least we are at home in the week
Scarce Ingredients Makes For A Desperate Cook
When you don’t have a lot to work with, it gives you a smaller margin of error. A couple of months ago, with every change or selection that Ten Hag made, it was working out. You see the changes of Sancho coming on vs Leicester and Antony vs Barcelona as the most marked ones. It was not going to work forever though because simply, the United squad is lacking in quality and perhaps something that is spoken about enough, are actual alternatives.
Casemiro’s suspension is a dire situation because not only is his quality incredibly hard to replace, there is no natural alternative to a defensive midfielder in the team. So it brings problems like today where Ten Hag, without a natural replacement, tries to come up with different ways to deal with the lack of a protective screen. Today, he decided to do it with Sabitzer playing as the deepest man, Bruno next to him and McTominay playing a man marking role on Bruno Guimaraes. If not everyone knows about Sabitzer’s positional history, up until 3 years ago, the Austrian was playing as a RW almost exclusively. He has played all over the place since but mostly central, but that central position has still often time been advanced. So for him to be picked as the deepest player is more than experimentation from Ten Hag. It is just absolutely daft. Even dafter still, the next closest midfielder to him was Bruno Fernandes, a No.10 in all senses of the word. McTominay, the only one who has actually played as a DM, was being dragged up the field. So even when the ball turned over, the least capable of quality in the final third, was the one often tasked with finding that dexterity. It was just an absolute car crash of a decision and really, the Red Devils should have been down at least 2 goals going into the second half.
It changed in the second half and actually, up until the substitutions, whilst United still carried little threat going forward, Newcastle’s attacking threat was quelled. Then Martial and Sancho came on and perhaps those substitutions unsettled them in terms of the changing shape but it discombobulated to a ridiculous amount whereby Newcastle were finally able to take the lead due to Willock. Then it was just head loss from Ten Hag as he brought off both centre backs and McTominay. All our height went and we were barely able to contend with set pieces with them on the pitch. Man Utd, prior to this season, had conceded the second most shots from set pieces and 8th in the league for the highest xG. So what the Dutchman was thinking by doing that was beyond anything. In the end, it cost us as Newcastle scored from a free kick stupidly conceded by Shaw. Ten Hag doesn’t have a lot to work with and the margin for error is smaller for him. But, the decisions that were made today weren’t from a lack of options. It was just pure headassery on a grand scale.
With the return of Martial, hopefully for the rest of the season, it should mean the stopping of seeing Weghorst starting for Manchester United until he leaves. Plenty were tricked with the apparent intangibles he brought as a centre forward but quite frankly, those things aren’t even worthy of talking about. His pressing and associative play was bog standard at best. So when the terrible quality in all the important striking points are added, he is tantamount to lining up with 9 men. He offers nothing to relieve pressure with his height, he has no anticipation of goal scoring opportunities, he doesn’t hassle defenders and of course no pace to keep up with transitional attacks. Seeing him kit out for the team so regularly has been actually quite embarrassing. The centre forward is just begging to be addressed in the summer.
The fall from grace for Dalot has been more than something. The illness of Wan Bissaka meant coming up against Saint Maximan, who gave him a torrid time during the League Cup final. But on the ball, the supposed area he is should provide something, it has fallen off a cliff. His passing isn’t as crisp, his crossing has regularly underwhelmed and he hasn’t carried the ball to any sort of effect. An area where United fans were thinking they could hold on has become one with some concern again.