If there was anything likely to be predicted tonight, then it was that United were to go 1-0 down. It happened when Gerard Moreno went off the back of Lindelof to score off a set piece. If there was a second thing likely to be predicted, it was that United would be able to come back from it. A corner came in from Luke Shaw and as it went out, Rashford backed up the play with a shot, parried by the goalkeeper but Cavani was there to stick it into an empty net. A war of attrition broke out from there and it did not stop until only penalties was going to separate The Yellow Submarine and The Red Devils. In the end, after all outfield players put the ball in the net, Rulli, the former Man City keeper, dispatched his. De Gea did not. The wait for a trophy will tick onto at least half a decade now.
The Battle of Gdansk
The First World War saw that once the original fighting broke out, each side retreated into their own berth and dug into the soil. They wouldn’t know how long they would be there for and in most cases, the soil that they dug into would be their homes for almost 4 years. Of course, these circumstances are neither as dramatic or as fatal but the story told the same in the way that once Villarreal dug their trench and established how they were going to play, a way in which that Solskjaer and his staff would have expected, United had to decide whether they should go and attack all guns blazing, rather than retreat and play this war of attrition. What transpired was something United have done many times this season against teams that have set up in a very low block. They fluffed it.
By moving the ball incredibly slow and moving it amongst the least dangerous players on the pitch. Rather than going with Fred, Solskjaer decided to be ‘brave’ with his midfield selection by going with Pogba alongside McTominay but it did not help with the the ball progression or chance creation. United had 2 shots on target throughout the whole game. Whenthe players were unable to pull something out of the bag, the true United was shown. The players are unable to rely on the intangibles that a coaching staff, competent enough of walking the halls of Carrington, should be able to instil. Tactically and mentally, there is a drought within the players. Mentally, when things are there to win in occasions where it is tough to get, the players will flounder. However, that is a margin lesser than the fact that they are constantly outfoxed by the tactics employed by the opponent’s manager, outweighing Solskjaer tactically. In the end, WWI came down to one side being unable to put its soldiers in the best position to overcome and the other having extra help. The same happened tonight in Gdansk and unfortunately, it was not on the side of Man Utd.
A Sorry Farewell
It all began in a final. Of some sorts. The Madrid born goalkeeper had not helped United get there, being signed after they had qualified. But it began against their city rivals, with a replenished feeling of overcoming the dominance that the red side had established for many years. The first two goals saw weaknesses exposed of David de Gea, conceding from a set piece and a shot from outside the box, two things he desperately needed to work on. Man Utd would go on to win the final, even if it may have been a Community Shield. He would play his hand too, with a great save in the second half. So it is disappointing to see the potential end of this chapter in his career could end with him not only exposing his other weakness we would come to see, in his incredibly poor penalty saving, but he would be the one who would ruin an otherwise flawless penalty shoot-out. In the game, he was largely untroubled, other than picking the ball out of the back of the net from the goal scored by Moreno. However, when it became the time to put himself in history and make sure Man Utd’s name was etched onto the trophy, he fluffed his lines remarkably. Not only did he dive incredibly early on several occasions, the ones he managed to guess the right way, his wrists were too weak to keep the ball out. In 2016, De Gea at the pomp of his powers, was able to forego his penalty saving curse in order to keep us in an FA Cup Semi Final with a quite brilliant save that had the former United striker, Romelu Lukaku, clutching his head in amazement. Since then, the fall from grace has been quite remarkable. The fact a debate about the starting keeper was even in question confirms that. Whatever happens with the keeping situation this summer, this will only serve to sullen more United fans’ memories of De Gea than it should.
Old Trafford’s Crossroads
The incredibly strange season will act as an distorting glass given that practically 99% of coaches were unable to handle the conditions as well as Solskajer has. However, comparing to others with lesser resources and in bad conditions, will not reflect the true nature of whether he is the United coach to finally take the club back to the heady heights that Ferguson had us at. Tactically tonight, he was clearly shown up. Rudimentary tactics are all that is needed from a decent level of coach in order to pose the largest problems for this United side. Furthermore, the lack of flexibility in reacting to those changes is quite poor. Even poorer considering that much of the defence of the Norwegian manager is propagated on the fact that his management style relies on the flexibility between styles and players. You need to not look further than the fact that Solskjaer was afraid to make a change prior to the 98th minute because he did not want to take any of his best players off, who are capable of producing a bit of magic that so often bails us out of trouble. Eventually, Greenwood would make way. In truth, perhaps he was the least deserving of the 3 behind Cavani to be taken off, given that Bruno was virtually a ghost and Rashford was hardly unable to get any change out of either right back he came up against. Of course, Solskjaer was banking on keeping Telles and Mata for changes in case of a penalty shoot out but that still left 3 more changes to be made in the 120 mins before he was able to make those two changes. All of this is to say that we may be lacking in personnel and it is clear where. However, this is not to say we have reached the optimum in management and coaching levels. A truly ambitious club would see a manager under pressure after losing 4 semi finals and a final.