A 12:30 away to West Ham seems like a prime time for this Man Utd team to lose and they did not disappoint. Quite frankly, the game was poor but a spark of quality from Paqueta put Bowen in and Bowen managed to bundle it in off the goalkeeper. Kudus capitalised off a Mainoo mistake to put the game beyond doubt. A 4th game without a goal and averaging 1 goal a game in the league. This is slipping into LvG territory and that’s somewhere everyone does not want to go to.
Steady in the Build
A big complaint for United for several years now is that the build up in the team has been severely lacking. The back five or six have usually been a combination of players uncomfortable under pressure as a collectively, through the overall technical ability and the cohesion that comes from the coach.
Today was a day where it was that was the least of our concerns. Willy Kambwala came in for his first game since his £3.5m move from Sochaux in 2020. He was out of action for the first year he was in Manchester and may have gotten into the team quicker if not for that long layoff. However, you can see why Ten Hag entrusted him to start with Dalot and Varane being unavailable through suspension and illness respectively.
Bowen got the better of him one time but Evans helped him out with a crucial intervention. In the second half, the Englishman did it again by slotting it through Kambwala’s legs and the Frenchman lept, missing a header. Outside of that, there was not much he done wrong at all. He was comfortable in possession without being progressive. That was much of the back six to be honest. Evans, Shaw, Wan Bissaka, Onana and Mainoo were all comfortable without much way of making in roads into the other part of the pitch.
The problem with a pass is that there has to be a player to receive it. While there were plenty of players who could pass into the second and third phase. The recipients were players without the requisite quality to do anything. McTominay and Bruno Fernandes were playing in the roles that they usually were, up the pitch waiting to receive the ball in the pockets but quite frankly, they just aren’t good at receiving on their back foot to turn midfields and run onto defenders. The times where Bruno tries, he lets the ball run across him but he does not have the physicality to withstand pressure when he does it or the sharpness to get it when he does it into space.
Antony and Garnacho are not good enough, the former because he is simply of absolute shocking quality and the latter because for a young player he is good but in the grand scheme of things, he is simply average. The Argentine youngster had an excellent chance but his weaknesses were all on show as his touch to take it onto his right foot was not good enough and the strike was as tame and scuffed as he usually does. When he has to open his body up, the connection he gets on the ball is never true and through the ball, much like his Brazilian counterpart on the other wing.
Hojlund is having a huge problem where he needs help but he really needs to help himself. He has a penchant to play up against the centre back. This gives them the advantage of knowing where he is but he does not have the physical advantage where he can overpower them. That means he is taking himself out of the game. He does not position himself well between centre back when he peels off them so he is often a touch back when crosses or passes are played into the box. His movement isn’t particularly clever where he diversifies by going across or back post.
One of the key areas he needed to work on before coming here was aerial duels and that has not changed. The only saving grace for Hojlund is that Rashford came on where he went through the same problems as the Dane however he has to be much better because no matter the patience, 14 games without a goal in the league is not acceptable. Time will be running out for him even if he was put into a precarious position by Man Utd’s poor recruitment strategy.
There is simply no substitute for quality once you get into the final third. As bad as United have been for the past 10 years, we went through a period where individual quality was often our saving grace. Be it through a combination of Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford in his pomp, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes, when he was getting a penalty every week. The other team, in their combination of Lucas Paqueta, Mohamed Kudus and Jarrod Bowen, played the same game but had the quality in the final third to take the three points. Through them, we can see the life we used to lead while it wasn’t pretty, it is better than this. It is just another complaint to add to our lack of build up.
Carrington Carrying The Can
It is harsh that Mainoo made the mistake that consigned us to defeat when he was one of our only players who put in a performance. He let the ball roll under his foot and Kudus took the ball to go onto score. He was offering himself in positions where others were not and playing the ball under pressure as he should do but he did not have the players in front of him to give him the platform to play the ball into them. The only thing that will be remembered is the mistake but there are more concerns than him and it is important that he continues to play in spite of his mistake.