United faced League 2 minnows in the form of Cambridge United on Friday night, slumping to a bore 0-0 draw. Despite the scoreline it certainly was a trip out of the ordinary for many of the Red’s younger generation of support, a brisk walk through a field to access the away end not exactly the facilities we have become used to in recent years!
The performance itself was again highly disappointing, what started initially as a very vocal away end slowly turned into grunts of frustration as United continually seemed happy to maintain pointless possession before the ball eventually fizzled out of play. The pressure is very slowly starting to build on Louis Van Gaal with the football currently on display largely underwhelming, in credit to the Dutchman he has taken a very poor defence and made it the third best in the Premier League, making United difficult to beat in the process. This is not enough for United’s high standards, but it’s a start.
The stand out performer down at Cambridge was Phil Jones. He played a big role in keeping out a determined opposition and his late defensive header showed great composure and bravery to save United’s blushes. Jones and Rojo actually look like they could forge a half decent partnership.
A final word on Cambridge should be saved for ex-red Luke Chadwick. The 34-year-old was given a great reception from the United fans when he came off the bench, chants of “Chadwick 1, Gerrard 0” echoed around the ground. United will now face the League 2 side at Old Trafford on Tuesday night and a tasty away trip to either Preston or Sheffield United is on the cards. Surely a bigger pitch and another ninety minutes will be too much for Cambridge?
The U21’s put in the performance of the week with an impressive 2-1 victory over the scousers on Monday night. Saidy Janko and Paddy Mcnair with a beautifully taken goal were on target for the Red’s who played a strong side also including Victor Valdes, Jesse Lingard, Anderson and Tyler Blackett. Valdes was rarely untroubled for most of the game although was perhaps too easily beaten at his near post by Sinclair which tied the game 1-1 at the time. Nethertheless, it was great to see the former Barcelona man back in action after a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
It was also great to see Jesse Lingard put in an influential performance, the Englishman has been knocking on the door the past couple of seasons for a regular place in the first team squad and this will have done his chance no harm. Finally, youngster Joe Rothwell has left the u21 side to join Championship outfit Blackpool on loan for the rest of the season. The box-to-box midfielder who has captained the U18’s side on occasions will hopefully start his first loan spell with an appearance against Brighton on Saturday.
Moving on to transfer news, it looks almost certain that Darren Fletcher is set to leave the club this week with West Ham looking the most likely destination. It’s rumoured that the Red’s are prepared to let the midfielder go on a free transfer as a goodwill gesture and it’s good to see that Fletcher still has that fight and desire to play first team football still whilst the likes of Anderson still seems happy to take a wage for nothing and remain on the books.
I’m sure that I don’t speak only for myself when I wish Darren Fletcher all the best. Before his illness he was one of the first names on the teamsheet for a couple of years, who can forget his brace against Manchester City in that famous 4-3 derby victory back in 2009 or his brilliant looping header back in 2005 to end Chelsea’s 40-match unbeaten run at Old Trafford. Fletcher’s work rate and attitude during his time at the club sum up everything that is asked of a United player by the fans.
David De Gea still continually seems to be linked away from the club, time will tell just how strong Real Madrid’s interest is but if the Old Trafford board has any sense a contact will already be on the table for him. As for incoming transfers, United look set to save any real business until the summer although strong reports emerged on Monday night that they may be willing to meet Athletic Bilbao’s £31.5million release clause for the 20-year-old centre-back Aymeric Laporte. I personally will believe that when I see it, but the youngster is definitely an exciting prospect.
The first team are back in action on Saturday against Leicester City as they look to avenge the 5-3 defeat earlier in the season and continue the push for a top four position. The fans will be looking for more from the team going forward and with Louis Van Gaal apparently requesting for the U21’s to play a 4-4-2 diamond formation on Tuesday night then hopefully we will see a similar approach at Old Trafford come 3pm this Saturday. Hopefully by this time next week the Red’s will have another three league points under their belt, a place in the FA Cup Fourth Round and perhaps a new centre-back? Maybe that’s a step too far!