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I’ve heard talk in various places about how Manchester United’s performance last night was ‘encouraging’. All I can say is if conceding three goals to a frankly miserable Newcastle side is reason to be encouraged, then United are in even deeper sh*t than we first thought.
Playing better and still not losing = trouble
Better performances or not, this United team have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Players are still out of position. They defend too deep when they feel the pressure of maybe getting a win. They are always too slow in deciding whether to go in for a 50/50 challenge in case they make a late foul (except Fellaini, who doesn’t have the brain to make footballing decisions). This often leads to the other team’s players getting first run on ours. My God, we asked for all three of those goals last night. I actually called the last two goals less than a minute before each. It was so obvious it was going to happen.
The above is how we tend to play when we try a more open style of play. I don’t need to go on about how we play the other side of the game (high-line possession-based football) because we all know how awful we are that.
Do I blame the players here? Partly. But surely it’s down to coaching methods. Newcastle were 100% there for the taking last night, we could have played them off the park with more organisation. I’m livid. This is worse than losing 2-0 to Stoke because this shows how scr*wed we really are. Playing better and still not winning = trouble.
PS. I am not having this “Give Newcastle credit” malarky…they looked like a struggling team last night scrambling to make a game of it. And they got it because of Man United.
…Hmmm. After fans calling for a change back to the fabled ‘United Way’, the entertainment value increased ten fold, but the discouraging results stay the same. One has to wonder how much of the blame actually lies with LvG or if the buck actually stops with the players.
It was a harsh penalty that put them ahead, and a throwback to the counter-attacking prowess of the Fergie era for Lingard’s well-taken goal, but it was a collective series of individual clusterf*cks that brought the hosts back into the game. Smalling in particular was culpable, giving away a penalty with a shirt pull not even Martin Skrtel would be brazened to attempt, while he rather tamely turned his back to the ball which led to Dummett’s late, deflected equalisier. It’s brain farts like this which give me reservations about whether he is top bracket. Seems to be more of a player that plays well when the team as a whole is solid, and is maybe not capable of single-handedly leading from the back (was also off colour when they conceded three against Wolfsburg. More than a coincidence).
However, while Louis can’t legislate for individual mistakes, he can be held accountable for substituting Lingard for what looked like punishment for missing a chance that Young scoffs over on a regular basis. He showed commendable discipline in tracking back on the left flank all night, an attribute that seems total alien to his replacement Memphis. And while he provided the cross for the chance that Fellaini should have scored to make it 4-2, it’s noticeable the damage Newcastle done in the final 15 minutes in the open space created by Memphis’ lack of defensive cover down the left.
So I guess what I am trying to say is, it’s clear that a change of gameplan won’t be enough to stop the malaise in Old Trafford. The rot had set in to such an extent that the players are devoid of confidence, even when 2-0 to the good against a team in the bottom three. And only LvG and his soul-destroying brand of football to date is to blame. This should represent the high water mark in terms of alarm bells ringing at Executive level, and Sunday’s game against Liverpool has taken on a helluva lot more of importance.
But I bet Adidas were a lot happier with the entertainment on show last night. So Ed Woodward is no doubt delighted too at his corporate genius.
Brian (can’t remember the last time Utd scored a counter-attack goal before last night), Wexford
…I know we’ve a) had people bemoaning the amount of Man United mail and b) will have a load more today about how great it was to see a much-improved and entertaining performance versus Newcastle. But I’m going add to problem a) by disagreeing with point b). I think it was more of the same and a familiar pattern for a MUFC match.
It was entertaining for once, but that’s the nature of football fortunately. Even the most uninspiring sides are occasionally accidentally involved in a thriller. Remember a turgidly effective Liverpool side boring their way through the Champions League in 2005 before winning a classic final?
Man Utd have rightly got a kicking for being boring but most critics seem to do so for aesthetics own sake. While I would like to see entertaining football my criticism is more practical than that. If a side can’t create chances they’re going to struggle to win games.
Faced with a side who have a draw or lead to protect, who inevitably won’t chase the game so much, United goals almost always need some context. Be it a set-piece, bad refereeing decision, defensive howler or lucky ricochet, these percentages are roughly as likely to go against you as for you.
Earlier in the season victories against Spurs, Villa, Southampton even Everton (where we then went on to play well) and several others saw this go for us. We were at the top of the league but as pointed out here it was never sustainable, the luck would turn. It did and the likes of Bournemouth and Norwich deservedly beat us – but in pretty much the same way. Sometimes the context doesn’t happen for either side and it’s 0-0. In short most games were a bit of a coin toss that United couldn’t keep winning.
Tonight versus Newcastle it was a similar pattern, it’s just football is a beautiful game that sometimes intervenes against the teams that play it. We needed a fortunate – legitimate but needless – penalty to get ahead, scored a nice goal when the opponents chased the game, then went ahead again when a fortunate ricochet paved the way for Rooney’s admittedly excellent finish.
If anything last night was more worrying as having had the breaks and context we still couldn’t win. I probably come across as one of those self-entitled whiners mentioned in the Mailbox recently, and I am. But that’s football fans, it’s just past performance levels set the bar of expectation and therefore the point when whining begins.
Bit of lengthy one this (sorry), I guess the short version is it’s hard to score when you only create chances if you’re already winning.
Ronnie Buzzard, Manchester
Some people enjoyed it…
First of all to start with, I must say as a Man Utd fan I am over the moon that we have finally managed to score goals and also create opportunities to score (actual chances and not the imaginary ones that LVG constantly talks about). Though it ended in a draw, it was lot better game rather entertaining game to watch. Of course what more can we expect from two scrappy teams having a go at each other.
To start with the general conclusions, Man Utd just shaded the first half with little help from Mike Dean and Newcastle United came back into it in the second. Second half was an certainly more entertaining due to some glaring misses, horrible defending and primitive passing. Credit where it is due, Newcastle definitely came into the game more in the second half.
This was probably Rooney’s best performance so far this season. Herrera and Lingard were quite effective and played well in first half. This brings me the main point of this mail.
What in God’s name was LVG trying to do with his substitutions? Memphis did have some decent impact in second half but did he really have to take Lingard off? But more than Lingard substitution, what really riled me up most was how on earth did that buffoon headed hairy man mountain Fellaini managed to stay on the pitch for 90 mins. He didnt do one positive thing that I can remember during the entire game. Herrera certainly had a better game than Fellaini. He constantly gave away possession, cheap fre- kicks, couldn’t win the aerial duels in midfield which is supposedly the only thing he can do properly, indisciplined positioning constantly leaving Schneiderlin and defence exposed. When presented with the easiest goalscoring opportunity in the entire game he headed straight into Rob Elliot, given that Rob Elliot was scrambling across his goal.
But instead the tactical genius, LVG, brought on Mata for Herrera? Couldn’t he have brought on Mata for Fellaini and moved Herrera to midfield and still put Martial up front and Rooney behind Martial? Ofcourse hindsight is a wonderful thing. But am convinced it was there for everyone to see that there is no justification for Fellaini to be playing the entire 90 mins. Forget the fact that he played 90 mins, there is certainly no justification for him to start the game for Man Utd in midfield!
Like the rules of Fight Club:
Rule 1: You do not start a game with Fellaini in the midfield.
Rule 2: You do not start a game with Fellaini in the midfield.
Rule 3: Even if you do, you substitute him right after the kick off whistle!! Maybe the tactical genius LVG should write that down in his dairy with big bold letters and triple underline it.
Santa Klaus, Stuttgart
Newcastle v Man United conclusions
– Despite not winning I really enjoyed the game. Both sides had plenty of chances. Both sides looked like a shambles at the back.
– Smalling was poor. His performance level has dropped slightly in recent weeks, let’s hope it’s a blip.
– Unfortunately Utd won’t play like that every week, because they frequently play with two midfielders in the back four, it needs extra protection. Investment needed urgently.
– That was much closer to the first 11 I’d like to see. Depay for Fellaini. Drop Herrera back beside Schneiderlin, play Rooney at 10 and Depay through the middle. Reason for Depay through the middle is that he is has decent technique and looks to shoot a lot, that’s bound to create a chane or two. His work rate is poor so he can’t be trusted out wide. Martial can. I’m not saying it would work, but it’s worth a look. Depay’s best game came against Watford where he played through the middle.
– Jesse Lingard was good last night but he really needs work on his finishing. He has missed big chances in two or three games now. Having said that, the team is more balanced with him instead of Mata.
– Mata’s place should be under threat, his constant vacating of his position affects the shape. Lingard and Martial at least stay where they are told.
– I really hope Milan make a bid for Fellaini. That was a shocking miss.
– I’m just gonna say it…I like Ashley Young. I know he isn’t very good and he dives but he always covers a lot of ground and generally seems to try his best. It’s endearing.
Dan, Ireland MUFC (that performance had Giggs written all over it)
…1. I said back in early December that the theme of our season appeared to be missed opportunities; this game perfectly epitomised that. At 2-0 and 3-2 we had plenty of really good chances to kill of the game, yet were unable to take any of them. At 3-3, all we had to do was see the game out – something a team infamous for its sterile domination of possession should easily be able to manage.
2. Every time we take a step forward it’s followed by two or more enormous steps back. We manage to arrest the slide by beating Swansea, followed it up with an insipid scraped win against Sheffield United and a Jekyl and Hyde draw against a Newcastle team in the relegation zone. We finally managed to score multiple times in a game yet tempered this with a truly shocking defensive performance in the second half.
3. Don’t get me wrong, Newcastle were well worthy of the draw, and that kind of effort until the end of the season should surely see them start to climb up the table.
4. Wijnaldum is an excellent player and easily the best in Newcastle’s squad. A fantastic finish for his goal and he could have had at least one more. There are more than a few United players I’d swap for him.
5. The first penalty definitely was correct, even though it was a touch fortuitous (in terms of us being lucky that the referee both saw and had the courage to give it). Newcastle should have had one for the Lingard tackle on Janmaat, no way that isn’t a foul. The Newcastle penalty that was given was an interesting one. Mitrovic definitely had as much of Smalling as Smalling did of him, but it was only a matter of time before a penalty was given for shirt pulling and it turned out to be us that gave it away, so I don’t really have any complaints about that one.
6. Van Gaal said after the match that we could have scored six but the sad truth is that no, we really couldn’t – because we didn’t. We had at least three more clear-cut chances and didn’t take them. Maybe the sentiment he should have been spouting was “tonight we could have scored six, if we’d had more players who can regularly finish clinically”.
7. Fellaini was lucky to stay on the pitch. There were plenty of yellow card incidents from him in that game, so I don’t know how he managed to avoid it. The biggest shock was the graphic which popped up saying ‘first booking this season’ – HOW?!
8. I think the most disappointing part of the match was the fact that even at 2-0 and 3-2 it didn’t feel like we were going to go on and win the game, and then this proved to be true. We never really looked like killing off the game and were put to sword because of it.
9. I would make a point about the need for change in both playing and management personnel, but it’s utterly pointless – we’re clearly stuck with van Gaal and this half-baked squad for the long-term.
10. I shudder to think what will happen in the Liverpool game. They’ve been all over the place and are decimated by injuries, so I fully expect them to roll us over with consummate ease.
…1. That was bloody exciting, probably Louis Van Gaal’s nightmare but bloody exciting. Last time United played a game as exciting as this was the 3-2 against Wolfsburg. The option for United these days seems to be three points or exciting football. I’d take a few 3-3 draws, and a couple of 3-2 losses every now and then over the brain-numbing sterile possession domination game United have been playing most weeks.
Hoping Van Gaal goes to Scholes and puts his brass balls on his table and say, “That was exciting, no?”
2. It is not simple as saying if you put Messi, Neymar and Suarez as the front three in this team United will win the treble but if the attacking players were more clinical in front of goal United could see out games much quicker. Newcastle were excellent in the second half, and deserved a point but if Lingard scores to make it 3-1, or if Fellani heads it in to make it 4-2 then it would have been easier to see out the game.
3. For all of the criticism against Van Gaal for putting two defensive midfielders in front of the defence and not allowing players to express themselves, the defence does have a propensity to sh*t itself any time a team attacks them consistently over the past 2.5 years. Newcastle has found goals hard to come by all season but they always seemed a threat against us.
4. There is a good team in there somewhere at Newcastle. They just can’t seem to play well for 90 minutes but there are some really good players. I suspect if you put Ayoze Perez in a better team he looks like a world beater. Same for Mitrovic, Newcastle’s system does not help him in terms of getting service in the box either.
5. Rooney did his best Arsene Wenger impression by claiming that he did not see Smalling manhandling Mitrovic inside the box but that was a definite penalty and watching United all week, Smalling always seems to be pulling shirts inside the box and he is bound to concede some penalties every season. In all fairness, it happens all the time in every match and Smalling just needs to be smarter about it.
6. Nice to see some passion from Louis van Gaal. Waiting for all sports publications to finally accept his credentials as a manager now that he stood on the sideline for a minute.
7. That was Rooney’s best game for quite some time. His confidence is still shot but his instincts are as good as ever. Rooney is at his best when he gets no time to think and he just does what he can naturally do. He is the antithesis of the Van Gaal player but that was an excellently taken goal. His assist for Lingard’s goal was also perfect. He should have had another assist with Lingard missing a gilt edged chance.
8. Lingard has pace to burn, and boy do we need that. Rooney looked better with willing runners on either end. Even in games in which Martial’s constant running at the defenders kept the Newcastle defence on its toes.
9. Where does Mata fit into this team? The fact of the matter is that Rooney will play, whether Van Gaal is contractually obliged to put him in the team or not, his team selections show that if Rooney is fit, he will start. Mata simply does not work on the wings and Herrera is a better option in midfield. There was a suggestion that Mata would be dreading Mourinho taking over at United but even if Van Gaal stays, things do not look good for our mancrush.
10. What is Fellani’s best position? Louis Van Gaal has played him everywhere sans goalkeeper and full back. Fellaini does not work in a midfield two, his best performances for United have come playing as the attacking midfielder making late runs into the box. His inclusion in the team last season at the top of the mid field resulted in us getting our best run of victories but Fellaini is definitely another one who needs to be shipped out. He is David Moyes’s legacy to United, if anything Fellaini has helped keep Van Gaal in his job with his contribution but United cannot progress with Fellaini in the team.
11. Depay – Super-sub. Depay running at tired defences looks a lot more dangerous than he does starting games. He is a great option to have from the bench. He is 21 and still settling into the Premier League rather than being berated every week for losing the ball or his lack of tactical nous, it might be a good idea to let him loose for 30 minutes every week letting him play his game to develop his confidence and help him still.
12. Ashley Young is not a full-back but he is still a great crosser of the ball. Ashley Young kept Angel Di Maria, albeit a disinterested one, out of the team last season on the wing. Once Valencia is back, Ashley Young should be given a run on right wing.
There is still time to buy a full back Van Gaal!
13. Martial is a year younger than Depay, it is important to remember he is 20. Lingard is 23. They are bound to make mistakes. There is still potential for Marial, Depay and Lingard to form a great attacking trio for United…all we need is just a little patience!
But obviously United are buying Gareth Bale, Ronaldo and Messi next year so that does not matter.
14. Darmian almost gave away a penalty in the dying second pushing Toney in the box. If that happens earlier in the game, and the Smalling penalty is not given, then that would have been given as a penalty. The Newcastle players were going down in the box every time fully aware that the referee would try to even the odds and give Newcastle a penalty.
15. United’s midfield was non-existent when Newcastle was attacking. Part of the reason for that is the lack of the dying breed of the box to box midfielder. I have finally accepted that we will never have another Roy Keane but we needed a player then to run with the ball to move the entire team up. We were stuck in our box dropping deeper and deeper inviting Newcastle attacks. With the defensive mid field dropping into our box, there was no connection between the attacking trio and the rest of the team. There were a few great chances for counter attacks but we were unable to capitalise due to a lack of Vardy-esque runs. It improved with Depay on.
16. We are not going to win the title this year. We have a great chance of finishing top four. The risk of missing out on the coveted Champions League is so high that it has really shackled the players. I would rather have Van Gaal write off this season and give the young players a chance to express themselves. Use the next six months to build a title-winning team for next year, whether that team is managed by Van Gaal or not. For all of his critics, you have to admire his promotion of youth.
And I have heard Januzaj is back, who is also just 20!
Shehzad Ghias, MUFC, Karachi
Can we have everything all the time, please?
That wasn’t drab! But something inside me wishes that we would have bored our way to a 1-0 victory. Don’t get me wrong, I think we played at a higher tempo without putting too much emphasis on possession (I think this has to be among the lowest possession we’ve had in a game overseen by the ‘philosophy’).
But with this came batsh*t mental (sic) defending from the ‘second best defence in the league’. Smalling was unrecognizable from the contender of beat player for united this season, Fellaini was…let’s just say i don’t like him a lot or even a little bit. The rest of the team did reasonably well but still thought we dropped too deep when we had the lead.
I mean surely we can play fast football and still defend decently, can’t we? Maybe we can’t and that’s why Van Gaal insists on that eye-gorging football. All in all we got interesting but not the three points. Can’t we have both please….or does this where the of- used ‘be careful what you wish for’ comes into play. May the football gods grant us both.
Kanyenje, Nairobi (Can i pray to them before I go to sleep?)
Fellaini: He doesn’t know how to play football
Well that was unexpected wasn’t it? I would rather 10 3-3’s than all the nil-nils any day of the week.
The reason for this missive though is to try and fathom out the enigma that is Fellaini. I decided to specifically watch him last night to try and get the low-down on what he does on the pitch and I have come to the conclusion that he actually doesn’t know how to play football, he seems to have no awareness in what is happening around him, he marks random spaces on the pitch, he is constantly the wrong side of the player he is meant to be marking, he gives away unnecessary fouls all over the pitch, he can’t pass wind and is basically an all-round liability.
On a different note are Newcastle players cheating their fans? Every season they seem to turn up against United yet a week later they get di*ked by the Dog & Duck, why not play with that intensity on a regular basis then maybe you wouldn’t be in the dire straits you are in.
Lots of positives for United last night (missed chances aside) lastly how on earth can Robbie Savage have a job talking about football when the man is clueless, the only person who didn’t think United deserved a penalty saying his arm was in a natural position, he makes me swear at the TV that prat.
Paul Murphy, Manchester
Look who won…
Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.
For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.
And Aston Villa shall win at home, and Joleon Lescott will scoreth the winner.
Neil (well f*** me) Raines AVFC
…Well, that’s a bit better. I have to say that I watched the game on mute on my 7″ tablet via a stream of dubious quality, so my gauge of the actual performance might be a bit distorted/shrunk and grainy, but I thought there was definitely a massive improvement in terms of commitment and ability to actually keep the ball. And 57% possession in Villa’s favour at half time? More of that, please.
I’ve thought for a long while now that Brad Guzan should be dropped and Mark Bunn be given a run. To be honest, I would have given Nigel Spink a run this season, so poor has Guzan’s form been. If nothing else, Bunn seems to have a brain in his bun. Brad’s brain deserted him around six months ago against Man City and he hasn’t found it since. One calamity after another all season. Our old American goalkeeping Brad, he is definitely not.
The man who I have to applaud most though is the one player (arguably two, with Veretout) who there has been a distinctive and noticeable upturn in terms of performance since Garde came in and that is Jordan Ayew. If anyone has come out of these last dozen games with any credit, it’s him. Ayew, not ALAN HUTTON (!) who those buffoons on Soccer Saturday said Villa apparently ‘need 11 of'(!) a few weeks back, is the one Villa player that has showed commitment and drive and a bit of passion and looks the most desperate to try and turn things around for himself, his teammates and his club.
While we’re kind of on the subject though, seriously lads, Alan f***ing Hutton? What in weeping f**k are ye on/on about? They even complimented his ‘quality crossing’!! The man couldn’t cross his legs if his bollock was hanging out of his shorts on a park bench, Jeff. Mathieu Debuchy this month? Yes please, sir.
I’m not going to spend the coming weeks and months staring at the bottom of the league table doing maths and hoping against hope. I just want to watch the matches knowing that there will be maximum effort and at least the minimum standard of quality that should be on show from a team, that at the end of the day, is a team of seasoned top level players. There have been flashes under Garde that this team can be something other than a shambles like his first game in charge against City and last night and I know they only one last night because the opposition keeper shat the ball into his own net, but there’s much more there than what they have shown so far. I just hope now they can keep showing it, starting with a similar performance at home to Leicester on Saturday evening. Here’s hoping, but it’s the hope that kills ya.
Kevin Walsh, Luimneach
Midweek conclusions from the Palace fan
* Jesus of Montreal. I hate football sometimes. It passes quickly, but still.
* Aston Villa scored thanks to a goalkeeping howler, but that wasn’t why they won. They emerged victorious because of Crystal Palace’s inability to play as favourites in any game, while allowing the Villans too much home comfort. As we’re away at Manchester City next, we can at least return to our preferred underdog role. And still lose.
* Palace haven’t scored in the Premier League since Yannick Bolasie got injured. This simply isn’t good enough. There were three strikers on the bench last night – Connor Wickham (on the comeback from injury), Marouane Chamakh and Fraizer Campbell. Three very similar players who resemble a dearth of options. A fit Dwight Gayle would have been a better option last night, putting his pace up against Joleon Lescott might have caused Villa a few problems. If my auntie had balls and all that.
* The Glaziers have done their bit to keep the relegation battle interesting this year, having lost to Sunderland previously, and drawn 0-0 with Swansea and Bournemouth.
* Re-reading the correspondence yesterday, it was surprising how many of those who appear to have given up on football, or on their team, used to be Manchester United fans. The surprise being that a team with a large proportion of fans perceived as “plastic” (not all Manchester United fans are plastic, but a lot of plastic fans support Manchester United) has dissention in the ranks because they used to be successful all the time, and now they’re not. This is a bit like the collection of games my son won’t play anymore because he doesn’t like it when he doesn’t win.
28* years old he is.
The literary Ed Quoththeraven (he’s four, you’re behaving like a pre-schooler)
Loving Rui Costa
The Portrait of an Icon series is just wonderful. Thank you.
He was another magnificent player, completely underrated, always outstanding. That Fiorentina team was always entertaining and so close to winning the league.
My only concern is that I fear I am starting to get Storey levels of Lukaku love for Storey himself – always beautifully written, the right balance of pathos and humour, along with a clear love for his subjects – there’s a frequent lump in my throat as I read them.
Just waiting for the one on Ken Charlery now,