You have got to give credit to Man Utd. Even in the midst of victory, they can still somehow shame you. It started swimmingly. Bruno struck into the net from an Antony assist (I know). Mainoo swept in from a Dalot assist. Then we imploded. As we have done this season. Bryn Morris got lucky with a deflection off Martinez that got the minnows back into it and straight after half time, Will Evans was able to level for Newport. The next 20 minutes, it was an even contest. Literally. Man Utd evenly matched by Newport for much of the game. Antony scored (I know) as he was able to strike in as Shaw’s shot came off the post to put us back ahead and then Hojlund rubber stamped it. United could have been out of sight before the comeback if not for some poor decisions, mainly courtesy of Garnacho. Even with that, United really underwhelmed and worse, it is not surprising that they did.
Running Out of Excuses
This is a stinker of a season as much as many can remember for Man Utd. One of the things that has really fed into that situation is the fact that the Red Devils’ injury list has been incomprehensibly long and plenty of those injuries have been long lay offs. It is not just the usual suspects of Varane, Martial and Shaw but pretty much everyone outside of Dalot and Bruno, remarkably. Must be something in the the Portuguese waters. Even worse, it has beset the new outfield signings so their embedding period has been curtailed as well.
That injury list is finally starting to clear, with Mount, Martial and Malacia the only notable absentees outside of those at AFCON. Ten Hag has made much of the fact that the injuries is the number one reason why we have struggled to resemble a team capable of playing in a random park on a Saturday. Today, if there was anyone that could agree with that, put that idea to bed or should have.
The quality between the teams is obvious. This is a team on the cusp of a relegation scrap in League 2 against a mid table Premier League team. The magic of the cup can do strange things but the way United started, it looked like that wouldn’t be the case. But there is something about this team where they just cannot withstand any type of pressure, physically, technically, mentally and I’m pretty sure socially as well. 2-0 up against a League 2 team and a deflected strike goes in off Martinez, past the debutant Bayindir. It can happen.
For the next 32 minutes of this game, all the players suddenly became scared of their own shadow. The passes weren’t as crisp as they were (wasn’t crisp in the first place), mistakes bellowed in and it look like a story was building with United again. It is a big reason as to why I believe that this squad needs to be gutted. In terms of playing the game of football, we can say collectively, the talent level is low. But assessing the team just based on their capability to come through adverse situations, it is embarrassingly poor. Who am I to talk about mentality of a football some might say but I look to compare across the leagues, against their counterparts, and it is scarily low.
The manager hangs them out to dry. Again, just for reiteration sake, this is a 16th placed League Two side. Even as United were cruising, the yo-yo nature of the game was there from the onset, even if the severity of it was more in different parts of the game. Mainoo was the one who was pushed on today in a position that is probably his best. I say that but for some reason, he was the highest midfielder. Concessions were made when injuries were afoot but as aforementioned, they have cleared up. Bruno being the link midfielder because he was more technically able than the other options makes sense. Him still doing that role despite the fact Mainoo has effectively been freed is showing that Ten Hag’s thinking is disjointed beyond repair.
Again, this shape literally has us so easy to play through. Casemiro is getting on and on his returns from lay offs, he can look below what he is. Today was not any different but that is beside the point. Seeing a man sit on an island in front of the two CBs is getting tiresome, if I wasn’t tired enough already. Shaw and Martinez back in the team really helped in our progression of play but being that reliant on individual quality on such a fundamental aspect of the team is absolutely scary. This time last year, we had just come through a monster week where we beat City, drew to Palace and lost to Arsenal. Even in spite of the mixed bag of results, plenty of fans saw the building blocks of something. Little did they know it was the building blocks of something that is the worst of what we have seen. If they haven’t already, the manager and players are simply running out of excuses.
If Antony has to put us through his quite trialling interpretation of what he calls a footballing performance, then the least he could do is show some production. He got an assist today for Bruno’s goal and the 3rd after Shaw’s right footed shot, hit the post. The fact he fell to knees in such dramatic fashion after his first goal of the season probably shows you where he is at. Even with the two bits of good things, it was far from a good performance. Scale it down for Antony, it would probably be his average. It might seem harsh to be speaking so disparagingly about a man who left the game with the opening assist and the winner but watching him play on that right wing for Man Utd is taxing and I have reached breaking point.
Casemiro might just need to have a word with himself and have to play as if he is doing so with Modric and Kroos again. It was fun for a while and his all action nature was gravitating and allowed me to potentially dream of a time we have a player who is able to sustain it all season long but he needs to become more of a water carrier for the team. A 56% pass completion in the first half is just ridiculous. From any footballer, let alone one who plays in a lesser pressurised area of the pitch. Mainoo is here and can help so he shouldn’t need to feel like he has to be the one. There are others and he can bring the other strengths that we do lack if he simply focuses on that.