Last Saturday’s result at Swansea has left the large majority of the support, including myself, utterly depressed. We visited a side who currently sit 9th in the league table, who have struggled for any sort of consistency since the start of the winter and who have just lost their best player. Any side mounting a serious challenge for the top four would surely have picked up the three points in South Wales on Saturday.
On a positive note our home form has been great on paper, despite not being all that pleasing on the eye. For Manchester United to have only won three away games in the league all season though then the tactics and current mentality has to be questioned, or of course in Louis Van Gaal’s case, the philosophy.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the defeat at The Liberty is that it was probably one of United’s better away performances of the season. United controlled large aspects of the game and a wonderful team move saw Ander Herrera add his fifth goal of the campaign. A lapse in concentration invited Swansea back into proceedings but before Jonjo Shelvey’s deflected strike it looked like only a matter of time before Louis Van Gaal’s side secured the game. For once this season perhaps Van Gaal was right, United were slightly unlucky.
The same issue was again apparent however. Despite the control of possession the Red’s again failed to make the dominance really count. Like most teams this season Swansea were more than chuffed to allow us to pass the ball harmlessly around the park, never really threatening to test Fabianski.
In the Sky bet Championship last night Brentford cruised to a 4-0 victory over Blackpool. Of course it was only Blackpool, but Brentford had forty two shots at the opposition’s goal. United couldn’t even muster more than ten at home to league 2 side Cambridge United.
The attacking mentality just doesn’t seem to be there, nor too the confidence of any of our players to just pick the ball up and test the keeper from range every now and then. This boils down to either a severe lack of individual confidence or perhaps more likely the instructions from the manager to keep hold of the ball and not waste possession. Whatever it is it’s boring anyway.
I hate to use Liverpool as an example but just look at Philippe Coutinho’s goal against Southampton on Sunday. The youngster picked up the ball and drilled it into the top corner from more than 20 yards out. Just close your eyes and imagine any United player taking that shot on at the moment, yet alone our very own so called “promising” youngster, Adnan Januzaj. Goals win games, you need to have shots to score goals, Brentford had 42 shots last night and won 4-0. Simple.
Tuesday night I watched a Barcelona side tear apart Manchester City in great envy. This City side have embarrassed us on countless occasions the past couple of seasons, and they were made to look almost pedestrian. There is no point making any real comparison between United and Barcelona at present, but the two side are completely different worlds apart. There is a long, long way to go. That is the benchmark Manchester United Football Club should be aiming for however.
The encouraging aspect for our fight for Europe is the fact we do in fact sit fourth. Liverpool play Manchester City on the weekend so there is the opportunity to gain points there and we can pray that the distraction of Europe for both Spurs and Liverpool may at least play some part in us dragging ourselves across the line.
Our upcoming fixtures are a huge worry however, games against Tottenham and Manchester City as well as trips to Stamford Bridge and Anfield could make for horrendous viewing. Hopefully the players can raise themselves for these encounters otherwise the current performances would lead to suggest any push for a top four position could be categorically de-railed.
Sunderland at home on Sunday presents a game where three points is a necessity. The Black Cats have drawn 13 league games already this season and will come to Old Trafford fully aware that if they sit behind the ball and frustrate United then they have every chance of walking away with yet another point. If United are serious about finishing in Europe then here is the ideal opportunity to adapt to the circumstances and chance the mentality.
An away trip to St James’s Park then follows. With the fixtures ahead then another three points is a necessity in my eyes. Newcastle look average at best since the departure of Alan Pardew so if the Red’s cannot collect three points here then it will be hard to see where the next away win will come from. Newcastle will raise their game; it’s their cup final of course, but no more excuses.
Some sections of the support would be more than happy to see the back of Louis Van Gaal right now I’m sure of it, but the large majority including myself understand that despite these concerns we have to stick with the 63-year-old. My optimism goes right through to the summer. If he can bring in a ball winning midfielder and a couple of defenders he actually trusts then he might well have the confidence to allow United to play that attacking game we all crave.
For now we have to understand that the Dutchman has made United largely difficult to beat on the whole and has given us have the fourth best defensive record in the league despite possessing defenders who are average at best. Last season don’t forget United were giving goals away for fun.
At present though this is quite simply not Manchester United. The quality of football has to improve or the Red’s will not make the top four. Things need to change this Saturday otherwise Sunderland will drive away from Old Trafford with a point in the bag having watched United pass the ball around in content for ninety minutes.