Talking Points: Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United

United may not be able to attack their way out of this season

At the risk of jumping on the club’s back after a bad day at the office, last weekend’s encouraging victory was more misleading than most were willing to admit, given how easily QPR played into United’s hands. This afternoon, against a side that was stronger, faster and far more committed, the visitors simply wilted when the pressure was increased. That makeshift back four and a less-than imposing central midfield couldn’t contain Leicester’s counters for love nor money, and in truth, the result could have been worse.

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Going forward, for the first hour at least, things looked positive. Angel Di Maria will be the club’s Player of the Year without doubt if he continues this form, Radamel Falcao’s contribution was an excellent cross for Robin van Persie’s headed goal and a thud of the woodwork with a glorious long-range effort whilst Ander Herrera is doing himself no harm in becoming increasingly effective when pushing forward after bagging his second in a red shirt. As well and good as that is, it means little if you can’t defend a lead, or defend at all. The Spaniard was one of many who struggled to slow the game down after David Nugent’s penalty and was swept away by the Leicester tide. The loss of Jonny Evans (he left the King Power Stadium on crutches) highlighted yet again how much United need a commanding, experienced presence at the back, which is doubly frustrating when considering how the club has upgraded at the other end of the pitch.

Rooney quick to criticise, but he’s one of several underperformers

One of the afternoon’s overriding images was the sight of Wayne Rooney lambasting Daley Blind amongst others for the manner in which United conceded the third goal to Esteban Cambiasso. He had a point; they looked shapeless and no one offered up much resistance when or before the Argentinian shaped up to shoot, but of course, the reason they were in that position in the first place was the captain’s poor clearance, which went sideways to David Nugent as opposed to up and out of danger.

It needs noting that Van Persie had an intensely quiet afternoon up front apart from his early headed contribution, and United’s left side of defence struggled against Jamie Vardy from the opening minute, but Rooney’s blasts of the hairdryer when United concede badly (as he did against Swansea at Old Trafford) are making it exceptionally easy to shine a negative spotlight on the club’s captain. There’s every chance that we’re missing significant moments of encouragement away from the cameras, but by airing his grievances so vehemently after contributing so little, Rooney comes across as a poor leader. That in itself is something United simply do not need at this point.

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Jamie Vardy exposes an unconvincing backline

The Leicester forward was a pain in United’s backside all afternoon, and the repercussions of failing to deal with him were pretty severe. Three times in the first twenty minutes he attacked the visitor’s left flank, specifically Tyler Blackett and Marcos Rojo and they simply couldn’t contain him. Having supplied the cross that led to Leonardo Ulloa’s first goal and (somewhat illegally) out-muscled Rafael on his way to earning his side’s first penalty, the hope was that they would become wise to Vardy’s tricks and attempt to double-up on him, but he was afforded too much space too often, and proceeded to punish Van Gaal’s side. It wasn’t just him; former United defender Ritchie De Laet had a field day down the right flank and made a mockery of Di Maria in the build-up to the fourth goal with a strong run before feeding Vardy for a simple finish with United’s back four nowhere to be seen. Chris Smalling, on as a first half substitute for Jonny Evans added little composure to a back four that looked suspect in the first hour, and they struggled all afternoon against a side that was playing Championship football last season. Worrying.

Rafael’s penalty was a poor decision but it shouldn’t have killed the game

At the time, it appeared unfathomable that Mark Clattenburg refused to punish Jamie Vardy for a clear push on Rafael but was happy to point to the spot when the Brazilian got to his feet to defend and Vardy fell to the floor. It didn’t appear to warrant a penalty at first glance, for sure, but even after Nugent converted it and halved Leicester’s deficit, United played like a side that had their minds elsewhere. That was the point at which a calming presence was needed to slow the game down and help the visitors to regain some composure, but instead, they gave the ball away far too easily, were ripped to shreds on multiple occasions on the break and looked about as sturdy as a bag filled with wet paper.

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It’s very easy to point to Clattenburg’s decision and send bucketloads of anger towards it, but that was one goal, and United still had the lead even after Nugent scored. Van Gaal will surely question the mental strength of his side far more than the Brazilian’s reaction, as that will be a far greater cause for concern given the fact that sterner tests against greater opposition are surely still to come this season.

Premier League contenders? Erm…

News outlets were quick to suggest that Manchester United were suddenly ‘back’ after that 4-0 thrashing of QPR last Sunday, and talk of the club being genuine title contenders duly followed, but a return of five points from fifteen proves that it was overly optimistic thinking, at least at this point. One victory, regardless of who it was against at this stage of the season proves little, and title talk should now rightly sit on the back-burner for the foreseeable future. Finishing in the top four was the goal when the season began, and despite those fancy attacking additions, however talented they are, this new team still needs to walk before it can run.

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In the short term, Van Gaal now needs to decide if he can afford to leave his back four and central midfield so unprotected in order to allow all of his riches in attack game time. 3-5-2 was swiftly dumped after four games, and 4-3-3, whilst solving many problems up front doesn’t offer too much strength or protection for a weakened back four if Ander Herrera and Daley Blind are in central midfield. Good as they are, commanding they are not. With Evans set for a spell on the sidelines and Tyler Blackett suspended for next weekend’s visit of West Ham, United have left Van Gaal with another problem to solve as he tries to push the club up the Premier League table.

8 Comments

  1. inspire of all your observations, I still believed the ref murdered the game. Leicester’s first goal was wrong on the basis that the cross was made outside while even a blind man could spot a foul against Leicester player culminating the dubious penalty awarded against utd. when you’re denied your rights, some other trivial things would definitely befall you.

  2. Last week, QPR had three very good chances to score but couldn’t take them. If they had we would have clearly seen a precursor to yesterday’s game. Champagne football is brilliant to watch but we all know that successful sides have steel in the heart of their defence and a will to win that overcomes adversities such as bad luck and bad refereeing.

    In a one-off game any team in the Premier League is capable of beating any other team. That’s something which the newbies, players and staff, need to be aware of. If they weren’t before the Leicester game, they are now. The learning curve just got a whole lot steeper.

    What does Luke Shaw have to do to get a game?

  3. 5 goals to LC and 4 goals to MK Dons… Wow. Perhaps the worst defense in the EPL. Man U is nowhere near Champions League with the schoolyard defense. No discipline and awful judgement under a little pressure.

    They need to spend a 100M on centre backs. Smalling and Evans are a joke.

  4. Your thoughts on Rooney makes an interesting read. Whilst he was no where near at his best, i think blasting him for his hair dryer antics are a bit unfair. If he had not lambasted his players, people would jump on his back for not caring or showing any passion. the boy cant win.

  5. 3 poor refereeing decisions with Jamie Vardy at the center of it and he gets called a hero. A cross when the ball was out, a blatant push on Rafael and a 2 handed push on Blackett. Give any team a 3 goal head start and you are likely to loose. Whilst i agree that we didn’t do ourselves any favours if those decisions were correct we would have won 3-2 and we wouldn’t be attacking our defence. If SAF was in charge the ref would have got a roasting and he would be on a disrepute charge today. Clattenberg allowed Vardy a free reign and he made the most of it. As for Rooney you know what you get with him so leave him alone as there is no one else to lead the team.

  6. We could sign Ronaldo and Messi but if the team as a whole are mentally fragile and not properly motivated to fight for the cause we are not going to win. Just look how we collapsed under a bit of pressure yesterday.

    Sorry to harp back to Sir Alex but look what he won with some very average players at times but players who would run through the proverbial brick wall for him.

  7. As someone mentioned earlier….if for nothing Rooney’s effort thru the entire game warrants him not to be targeted for our failures yesterday…..I agree with the writer that RvP didn’t need full 90 mins….while we were 3 – 1….we should have brought Fletcher in to give some support to Blind and let Falcao some time alone up front….. there will be too many ifs and buts like I just posted but fact of the matter is Rooney did a pretty good job in the hole and there are more areas of concerns with the back and midfield that can’t be on him

  8. Defending the third goal against Leicester,United looked lost,trying small passes instead of booting the ball out of touch but is that allowed in LVG,s rule book.Talking of rules,namely FA football rules,one can observe that barging,diving and hanging on and obstruction in the box with corner taking is ALLOWED.Unless they are all blind and think it,s rugby.Why did Di Maria get pulled off,why did,nt Shaw at least help shaw up,ha ha the defence.Things are still too slow in midfield,still all the side passing. Oh well another game against West Ham lets see what damage they can do.

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