Last Sunday Manchester United faced what can only be described as a humiliating 3-0 defeat at the hands of Roberto Martinez’s Everton. If there was ever a reality check for supporters and players alike then this was it.
Thankfully Liverpool suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Hull City on Tuesday night to maintain the 7 point gap between the two North West clubs and it now appears United should just about be able to drag themselves across the line and secure Champions League football once again.
After a few weeks of sublime performances and a unfortunate 1-0 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge also included in that statement, many Red’s were already talking up United’s title chances next season. Of course there is still every chance Louis Van Gaal’s side will be in contention next season, Sunday’s events have evoked however that there still are a number of underlying issues that need tending to first.
Louis Van Gaal expressed his concerns post match about the squads attitude in what he described as a “poor warm-up”. This United current squad still seem extremely fickle when it comes to digging in and winning games. When things are going well it seems then performances and attitudes are great. An early goal conceded however and a few rough challenges and all of a sudden we don’t quite see the same United side that has been hyped up in the media the last couple of weeks. Where was the backbone, where was the fight, where were our Roy Keane’s and Bryan Robson’s on Sunday?
The other big concern was again the extremely noticeable absence of Michael Carrick. The ex-Spurs man is 34, quite simply the Red’s cannot rely this heavily on him again next season. Daley Blind was given the chance to impersonate the number 16 on Sunday and he failed rather miserably. The passes were sideways and in no way penetrating and his general ability to shield a weakened defence was exposed as being very poor. The Dutchman has been a great asset to the side this season and he is a fantastic squad player to have in the ranks, but Van Gaal must dip into the market for another defensively minded midfield player this summer.
Maroune Fellaini’s performance was also another negative. Although some may argue he was treated rather harshly by the referee in the early stages his general all round footballing ability was once again uncovered as being simply average. A useful player to have about the place, a guy that offers something different, but again he should not be starting in a team challenging for titles. His appalling side footed effort in which he blazed over the bar in the early stages followed by his complete exclusion from the game having picked up an early booking convey this.
This is an immensely negative portrayal of the current situation but Van Gaal must almost certainly delve into the market for a striker again this summer. Wayne Rooney is still a world class striker with no shadow of a doubt, but United cannot rely solely on the 29-year-old and with a few below-par performances in the last few weeks an alternative option would have been handy on Sunday. This alternative option is not Radamel Falcao. A lot has been written about the Columbian, but four goals is simply not good enough. The bottom line is that he’s not currently worth any transfer fee Monaco may demand.
Robin Van Persie put in a respectable shift in the U21’s 4-1 victory over Fulham on Tuesday night, bagging two goals in the process. The number 20’s return may be a much welcomed presence for the remainder of the season but lets not kid ourselves, there is no way United can rely on the striker to get the sufficient goals needed to mount a title challenge next season. That ship has sailed. That just leaves young James Wilson. An exciting prospect, but he is just that. A season out on loan in required for the player next season and not another campaign with less game time than a 50-year-old pub footballer gets in a week.
The final negative to touch upon at Goodison Park was the performance of United’s back line which in fairness have done a great impersonation of a good defence in recent weeks. Antonio Valencia displayed for the third and final goal that he has no idea about the offside rule and in truth is not the long term answer in that right-back position. David De Gea is also not blameless and he might as well leave for Madrid now if his concentration is anywhere near that of a guy sipping on San Miguel’s on a beach in Spain. On a number of occasions he was left rooted to the spot when the ball was in and around his 6-yard-box, and his overall communication with the players in front of him was disgraceful for a player named in the PFA Team of the Year.
The defeat at Goodison Park on Sunday should not be taken out of context, United have played some brilliant football as of late. It was however the worst league performance under Van Gaal and has perhaps made a few supporters remove their rose tinted glasses and remember that there still is a big job to be done to get United back to the summit of English football. United will challenge for the league next season, but these issues need to be addressed. Sunday’s warnings may well be a blessing in disguise.