Manchester United drew their second straight game in two weeks as they came back from two goals down to get a 2-2 stalemate at Southampton on Saturday. Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera responded for the Red Devils after they had gone down to goals from Stuart Armstrong and Cedric Soares. Contributing writer, Nathan Quao, observed the game and has put down a few notes.
Different match, same old poor start
This column for the Republik of Mancunia has very often spoken about Man United’s limp ways of starting matches and the same things that have been said from previous matches can be repeated here and there will not be a difference.
Because the same old habits emerged.
The Red Devils were shockingly poor at the start of the match and this was against one of the division’s worst teams. Some may say the absence of regular centre-back pairing, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof, played a part but that is not watertight. The pair have not been very outstanding so the team did not miss world class men.
The entire backline of Ashley Young, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay, Phil Jones and Luke Shaw were off the mark from the onset and the Saints got a deserved opener from the inefficiency of the Red Devils who stood off and allowed Nathan Redmond to find time and space to start the sequence that led to Armstrong’s opener.
It is very upsetting watching players of one’s favourite club go about their business in a Premier League match as if there is nothing on the line. Until Lukaku’s goal late in the first half, Southampton looked hungrier, better, and more willing to fight.
Meanwhile, Man United players looked really afraid, nervous and very disinterested. And it was not first time this was happening this season.
The trend has gone beyond worrying. It is sickening. It is annoying. It is very pathetic.
Too many individual errors
In the dissection of Man United’d problems, there is a component that is often neglected and it is the number of mistakes players make during matches and these errors are of the very basic strand.
Against Southampton, mistakes were made at almost every turn and they kept getting in the way of potential breaks or they put Southampton into promising positions.
The first big error came from Marcus Rashford and the price to pay was the foul that led to Soares’ wonderful free kick.
Until about the 40th minute, Paul Pogba lost possession of the ball at every opportunity and later in the second half, he gave the ball away and his first reaction to the situation was a clap. And a shoulder shrug. And nothing more. He watched as the play moved on from him.
Ashley Young added a lot more to his reel of errors from the start of the season and the grandest one was a cross in the second half that evaded everyone and wasted a potential opening.
Add some passes of Scott McTominay into empty spaces with no Man United players and you get an evening of players who scored 5 and below in ratings.
If Man United will ever get back to the glory days, it will require players of better temperament and quality.
It will take players who can make things happen with a single pass. It will take players who will can cross the ball properly to targets. It will take players who can spot problems way before they happen and try to avoid them.
The Belgian finally got a goal for Man United after waiting for 981 minutes and it was an important strike. He is paid to score goals and he must keep doing that.
There is talk of his attitude and his willingness to fight for the cause. These traits need to be praised and if there were more players fighting for the badge and giving it everything, the fortunes of Man United would probably be better.
However, for all of Lukaku’s determination and graft and effort, it is very clear that he is not a good footballer and the lack of skills is hurting the team.
The very obvious failure to handle a pass is a good recipe for destroying a good break and that was displayed again in the match at St. Mary’s.
Late in the second half, Lukaku went in for a pass and he ended up stepping on the ball and almost injured himself.
If you add his passing, which is not good enough, then the situation looks tough because if he drops deep and another player makes a good run, what is the guarantee that the run will be seen and picked out really well?
Of course, Lukaku needs not be blamed for dropping deep to help with the build-up but he should not be placed in the position where he will be left alone to take on huge challenges.
He may not pass those tests and once possession is lost, anything is very possible.
The manager needs to have more creativity in the attacking areas in order to properly feed Lukaku for his goals. That is a major way to keep the Belgian far from tough moments and the ridicule that comes with botched attempts.
A huge mention to Jose Mourinho.
Once again, the team’s display has not made him look any better. Things need to get more positive. The Red Devils need to win such games. They need to. The hunt for the Top 4 is getting tougher by each match week and if a good run is not put together, a return to the Champions League will not be possible.