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The bright side
I don’t think United did too badly, all things considered.
I thought we were right in it…well, right in it until the kick-off.
On Lukaku, Jose and reality
First things first, I don’t think if United had ‘gone for it’ against City, it would have worked out any better. There is no doubt in my mind that City would’ve ripped us apart if we had tried playing expansive football. I thought Jose got his tactics spot on, as City genuinely looked out of ideas in the first half. On another note, it was mildly pleasing to see even City weren’t immune to panic during the derby. But the irony of conceding two set-piece goals to a team whose biggest weakness was supposedly their weakness during set-pieces, is not lost on Utd fans I’m sure. But that being said …
Lukaku is not the answer. After the rage subsides, once you replay that awful, awful miss in our minds again and again, by our 75 mil turd (sorry, had to take one cheap-shot at least, coz venting), you’re able to make a better assessment of the big Belgian. He reminds me of that kid in school that probably tries harder than anyone else to be good at something, but despite all the effort will never quite be the teacher’s pet. One can never criticize Lukaku for lack of effort. Lack of quality, oh yes. We have to admit this team isn’t exactly playing to his strengths. Instead of being the guy, for whom his teammates try to create space, his role is now to create space as well as be the primary goalscorer. He is a fair-weather player, he will be immense when his team is dominating the game. But once the game becomes a toughly contested affair, he starts looking far less impressive.
Missing that one good chance against L’pool, skying that early effort against Chelsea and of course his most recent screw-up proves one thing, the man’s a bottler. And I know he keeps yacking on and on about being a student of the game and he is not the finished article and all that, but a bottler at 24 years old doesn’t go on and become a big-game player. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Marcus Rashford provides the perfect contrast. Although nowhere as effective as Lukaku in the opponent half, you could at least see him being a big player for us in the big games going forward. And when Pogba says he will improve a lot more, you believe him. But when Lukaku says it, and even when you admit he will give his absolute all, you don’t really see him adding many sides to his current game. He displays a complete lack of composure for his improbable improvements to be a factor in big games.
Mourinho is not the answer. I believe him when he says that there will be no repeat of the SAF era. The competition is too intense for any one team to dominate for a long period (God I hope City doesn’t prove me wrong). But for the ultimate reactive coach, he has become the worst possible kind of coach. Utterly predictable. The derby hit all the beats that every Utd fan feared going in to the derby, though admittedly not the way we expected it to play out. Sitting back and playing passively till we concede. A bit of intent followed by an equalizer to gives us hope. And then playing passively again till they scored again and then watching them slowly run the clock down while we struggled to be anything more than annoying to them (except that glorious glorious chance ofc). Yes we missed Pogba, but they weren’t exactly at full strength either. And to be this dependent on one player who will most likely leave for PSG or Madrid in 2-3 years will never work out well for us. Coupled with the fact that the manager himself is a stop-gap choice, doesn’t make the future any brighter. He doesn’t have a feasible plan B and admittedly not the greatest squad to work with. Once Chelsea add depth to their current squad by the start of the next season we will be third best in terms of quality, at best. In England.
I have almost no doubt in my mind that once we draw a half-decent opponent in Europe, our lack of any real quality will be exposed, probably painfully. But even more terrifying is the fact that we probably couldn’t think of another manager who could take this squad to winning trophies regularly again. Although if he stays for two more seasons, I would still expect him to nick the league at least once. But as a Utd fan who was lucky enough to watch the second half of the SAF era, I fear if we will be a major contender for the big trophies as we head to a new decade. A new decade where maybe we have more in common with Arsenal and Liverpool than whichever club in blue is THE dominant side in England.
Aditya, MUFC, India
1. That was very disappointing. I was encouraged when I saw the line-up, it was refreshing to see quite an attacking team selection and actually going for the win. As it turned out, it was basically the same game plan as normal but the dots just didn’t join up in the final third to make it work.
2. Rashford had probably his best game playing on the right-hand side. He has struggled there previously but this was actually pretty encouraging. He took his goal well too, nice to see one of our attackers know how to beat the ‘keeper.
3. Lukaku. Enough is enough. He plays almost every minute of every game and he is not even close to looking like fulfilling his transfer fee. I understand that he was largely feeding off scraps, but if you are starving and someone hands you food then you eat it. He is missing far too many good chances and costing us points in the big games. That chance late in the second half was glorious and I’m confident that any one of our other strikers or even Lingard would have gleefully ticked that away. Yet Lukaku put it in literally the only place that it wouldn’t go in. He needs an extended spell on the bench.
4. The defence was poor at pivotal moments too. All too often the ball was cleared to an opposition player or straight into touch, ensuring that the pressure was constant. Smalling was the biggest culprit, as usual. If he had gone off instead of Rojo then maybe we could have stood a chance of keeping it at 1-1 in the second.
5. While I think that we probably just about deserved to lose on balance, I don’t think a draw would have been wholly undeserved. All three goals came from defensive errors, and while both sides worked the ‘keepers, it could feasibly have been a 0-0. The most frustrating part of losing was that it was mostly self inflicted. A bit more composure in defence and those two goals don’t go in.
6. Herrera just doesn’t work in a two-man midfield. Matic played well but looked so overworked, spending too much of his time covering for Herrera being out of position or not making the tackle. He might be ok in a three, but when Pogba isn’t there we are short of quality in the middle.
7. Speaking of Pogba, I don’t think his absence had a great deal of influence on the result. The errors in defence wouldn’t have been eradicated by his presence, and him being there wouldn’t make Lukaku able to beat the ‘keeper. Maybe we would have created a few more chances but the defeat definitely can’t be blamed on his absence.
8. I had made my peace with the defeat before kick-off so I’m not surprised, but I did hope for better. Now, that is effectively game, set and match in the title race. Unless City start dropping serious points regularly and soon then they are literally going to have it sewn up before the end of 2017. And fair play, 14 wins on the bounce is bloody impressive.
The difference is Pep
To expand on a point hinted at by Daniel Storey in 16 Conclusions, spend two minutes of your morning comparing Man City’s players to their direct rivals…
Otamendi/Stones/Mangala vs Alderweireld/Vertonghen, Chelsea’s back three, or Bailly/Smalling/Jones. Fernandinho vs Matic, Kante, Dembele. Jesus vs Kane, Lukaku, Morata, Lacazette. Sane/Sterling vs Martial/Rashford, Hazard, Alli/Eriksen/Son or Sanchez/Ozil. Edersen vs De Gea, Courtois, Lloris. Delph vs anyone’s left back.
Sure, Silva and De Bruyne would get in nearly anyone’s team, but the same cannot be said for the rest of Man City’s squad. Make no mistake it is Pep Guardiola that is responsible for what we are witnessing. Conte’s intensity reaped instant rewards last year and delivered the title. Man City have had to be a little more patient but now Pep is winning a title having had a year to imprint his intelligence, philosophy and tactics on a group of players. Furthermore he’s doing it playing one of the most beautiful, and dominant brands of football we have ever seen on these shores.
Man City don’t have 11 points superior players, they have an 11 points superior manager. Pep is the difference here and managers are everything in this league. Everything.
Dan C, Greenwich
Don’t treat us like idiots, Jose
I am a United fan – have been for more than 50 years, and have watched a lot of football. I do not expect to be treated as an idiot by the Manchester United manager. His post-match comments were crass and unworthy of a United manager. We lost because we were beaten. Not because we didn’t get given a penalty that would have been a travesty. We were beaten because at no stage did his tactics involve trying to win. We lost because he sends out his team telling them that he does not think they are good enough to win, by planning to stop City rather than beating them. The players he has at his disposal are better than he is at the moment. With a manager who treats them as adults who can take responsibility they will perform with confidence and show their skill. When Rashford and Martial are played in their own half, what is the point of football? Stop blaming Lukaku, he’s a striker who was asked to defend. Start blaming a manager who needed a win to keep our hopes alive, and didn’t even try to achieve that.
Jose got it so wrong
The minute I saw the team sheet today I knew United didn’t have a chance. Even with Pogba playing, United has too often lost the midfield battle with the midfield completely disappearing for long stretches in games as in the game agains Arsenal. Herrera was the sensible option but his poor form has been poor this season and Matic’s performance levels have dipped from whenyan behind Lukaku might have given more balance to the team as this hold up play is better. I think this has also been Mourinho’s biggest mistake in the summer which is targeting a winger instead of a midfielder. United still lack good options in midfield without which they are rightfully out of the title contention. Really hope they land Ozil in January as without it they might slide further down the table specially if Pogba is unavailable for more games.
Adeel from Pakistan
Lukaku technique is abysmal
I’d like to talk, once again, about the biggest mistake Mourinho has made this season… Spending £75m+ on Romelu Lukaku. I am sick and tired of the apologists, F365 chief amongst them, that keep absolving him of blame for continued poor performances. Yesterday, missing our best player in Pogba, we set up to counter with an obvious plan of hitting it long to Lukaku and having Rashford, Martial and Lingard running off him. Is it too much to expect of the seveth most expensive player in the history of the game, who is 6’3″ and built, to win one of those headers? Would it be possible for him to do something with one of his limited amount of touches? Do I “feel sorry for Lukaku” as posited in 16 conclusions? Yes, though not because we played long to him, but because he looks so woefully out of his depth at the top level of the game. His technique is, frankly, abysmal; the worst I’ve seen in a United shirt since Obertan.
Two moments in the game summed him up (no, not both his assists for the City goals); firstly, where he got played in on the right hand side of the area. If Martial, Rashford, Pogba, Mata, even Lingard had received the ball there, I’d have leant forward in my seat, even if just in hope more than expectation. Not with Rom; I stayed exactly where I was. The ball was on his right foot and two defenders were back with him, so he’d either shank a shot with his weaker foot or try and fail to beat a man. He took the former option. The other incident was in the last 10 minutes when we were chasing the game and the ball was played to him on the left flank. With his first touch he rolled the defender (which he actually did really nicely) and set off haring down the open space on the wing. Then he took his second touch, which involved smacking the ball about eight yards further ahead of him than he should have, straight to a covering City defender. Just to reiterate: this is the seventh most expensive player in the history of football.
He needs benching now and in the summer replacing with someone fit for purpose. Preferably one that can actually control a football.
Lewis, Busby Way
…I’ve tremendous respect for Rom but going by his contribution to United this season over the last few games, it’s evident that Lukaku needs a place on the bench. He has been wasteful in possession and breaks down forward play. Goals have been hard to come by either.
Romelu’s goals for United have been useless to say the least. He has always scored when United have a comfortable lead except at Southampton.
Benching Big Rom will be a wake up call and will make him fight for his place in the first team. So far, he has been next to indispensable.
If United are to mount any serious title challenge, Jose must make the painful decision of benching Big Rom.
Emmanuel Amunala, MUFC
Done with Jose
God, what a disappointing performance from Manchester United. The first 40 mins were like a training session where the defending team was ordered to thump it back as soon as they recovered the ball. After we decided to play some football after finally falling behind, Lo and behold a goal arrived within four mins. Granted it was an error by Otamendi and Delph but that’s exactly the point. A little bit of pressure and they caved.
The second half was a better one but that’s not saying much at all. There is no where to go but up when you’re rock bottom. Their second goal was a travesty however. How on earth Lukaku manages to smash his own player from a clearance is a mystery Sherlock Holmes couldn’t solve? You’re a professional footballer for Christ’s sake. Are you really that inept on your weaker foot? That’s a rhetorical question. We all know he is. He then proceeds to smash the goalkeeper in the face from six yards out instead of you know, smashing the back of the net. It wasn’t a great save at all. Ederson just made himself as big as possible which is what any competent goalkeeper would do.
However you just can’t but the entire blame on Lukaku. There was so little service to him it was criminal. Reminder this was United at Old Trafford. God knows what we’ll do at the Etihad.
I am so done with Jose using these negative tactics in the big games. Use these footballers that cost millions of pounds to actually play some football would you Jose? The fact that City didn’t even have to be near their best just tells you how easy they found it last night. I’ll repeat this again, the game was held at Old Trafford. How can the crowd be up for it when your team doesn’t touch the ball for literally minutes at a time. And then when they do they lump it up aimlessly. Way to kill the atmosphere.
As for the Herrera penalty claims it wasn’t one. If he weren’t a player for my own team I’d find him incredibly annoying and despicable. We got what we deserved from the game based on our approach. Wonder what Fergie was making of all that from the stands.
The thing that scares me the most however, isn’t that City are 11 points ahead in December, it is that as a club City look to have a coherent plan instead of just hiring a mercenary manager and throwing money at expensive but somehow still not good enough recruits.
I’m done with this manager. Hopefully the hierarchy understand that just hiring big names is not going to cut it if we want the biggest prizes. Get someone to manage us who has a vision and philosophy and then back him. Until then prepare yourself for more nights like the last one.
Doc, Los Angeles
16 short conclusions
2. City are very good
3. Where did 16/17 Ander Herrera go ?
4. De Bruyne was reasonably controlled by United (thank God)
5. I thought Sane was man of the match
6. Citys overall game control is really bloody good
7. Oh Rom…that miss could define your season
8. It looked a tad chilly at the ground
9. Ref got both ‘dives’ correct, but should have booked Jesus too
10. We now have ‘Milkgate’
11. First murmurings of ‘attack ,attack, attack’ under Jose
12. Pogba was badly missed
13. United need more creativity than just Pogba in midfield
14. Jesssie is fast and runs around a lot
15. Ederson’s nose would have hurt a bit
Ged (MUFC Biglin)
Herrera: Not a dive, not a penalty
There are plenty of things to write about, and I’m sure the dives/penalty decisions will be the most popular. However, the Herrera one was neither a dive nor a penalty.
Look at how the ball is won. Herrera ‘dinks’ it beyond the City defender (I think Otamendi). By chipping it in such fashion is foot is planted completely. There’s nowhere for Otamendi to go, and Herrera was running at him at speed. Momentum does its job and Herrera’s along with the contact send shim over. It was not a dive, though a penalty would’ve been harsh.
The referee bottled a few decisions yesterday. The first goal saw Lukaku being fouled. City could’ve had a penalty themselves at one point. Silva is seemingly allowed to foul with impunity. Bernardo Silva and Jesus both went down in the box looking for penalties yet they are waved off.
Consistency is important. You said in 16 Conclusion that it’s more important that Oliver got the decision right (regarding Jesus). But he didn’t, he avoided making a decision and decided to play on and therefore not a dive. He allowed the attitude to fester and players continued to gamble.
Pete F, Eire
Sam deserves no praise for THAT
Long time reader. First time writer. It appears the narrative has already begun but to credit Everton and Big Sam for getting a point yesterday is absolutely nuts, in my opinion.
Let’s take a step back and look at things logically.
Changes or not Liverpool completed dominated proceedings from start to finish. Pickford (who is usually excellent with his accuracy) found touch so often I felt like I was watching a fly half kicking for territory in a rugby match.
Everton were abject. The praise Rooney gets these days is maddening. He really isn’t very good bar the occasional cameo of something decent wedged between large periods or mediocrity.
I try to avoid ifs and buts but heres a big if coming anyway. IF Manė squares that ball when through the game is dead and buried and Liverpool probably go on to win by a comfortable margin.
Yes, Everton got their point but to say that was down to tactical ingenuity or a Big Sam Masterclass is a bit of a stretch. There was almost nothing praiseworthy about their performance apart from sitting deep and working hard, two of the easiest things to implement in football coaching.
Trust me Everton fans, it will all end in tears. Big Sam will have you pulling your hair out with frustrating, eyewatering “football” and lack of ambition.
Briefly onto Liverpool. Klopp’s changes will be scrutinised because it’s a results business but I wouldn’t be too harsh. The team he picked dominated the game and bar a very soft pen (I’m not going to debate if it was one or not, but we can all agree it was soft) were clearly on the way to a comfortable victory. I think this side will be OK. One or two additions in key areas and being a fixture in the top four and challenging for titles is not too far away.
P.S. Keep up the good work and thank you.
Liverpool draw leaves us cold
Well that was just…disappointing.
Strange team selection by Klopp. It’s almost as though he resents he ‘Fab Four’ sobriquet and had to prove he could win without two of them. Or perhaps after another week of Coutinho to Barca rumours he was trying to send a message. Either way, not the game for a gamble like that.
Everton were always going to defend like crazy and so they did. We needed our best players on the pitch to pick the lock and we didn’t have all of them. Bad selection.
All of which is irrelevant of course if Mane bloody passes. 2-0, game over, job done. Selflessness has been a huge factor with us recently up front, so I’m not going to go in too hard. But that was a game-changingly bad decision.
Speaking of which…
I thought it was a soft penalty in truth, he went down incredibly easily. But if you don’t put your hand on him in the penalty box, he doesn’t go down at all. And Lovren, like Moreno, will always guarantee you a moment of stupidity at least once a game.
Not the end of the world yesterday, but far from the best of days either. And watching Fat Sam being smug again didn’t help my mood at all.
James, Liverpool (is Moyes a genius appointment after all? Who’d have thunk it?)
Arsenal: Not losers
It was an early kick-off. Both the players and fans had to contend with the snow and some of our fans didn’t even make the game. We were playing an established Premier League team, who we have a terrible record against.
And yet somehow – Arsenal are early losers. Did you submit your piece before Giroud’s equaliser? Given the timing of the match and the circumstances we were anything but ‘early losers’.
Also Aravind mate – Conte’s title win only bettered by Leicester’s?!! Really are you having a laugh? Leeds’ 92 win after winning the second division title the previous season, Cloughie’s sole title for Forest and Arsenal’s ’89 heroics were all more miraculous.
Even in the Premier League era, Blackburn’s title or either Wenger’s first title or Invincibles season were more miraculous.
Only three clubs seriously think they’re in with a shot of winning the league each season – the Manchester clubs and Chelsea – so any one of the trio winning the league is not miraculous.
Graham Simons, Gooner, Norf London
So the last two matches we have started with five at the back, looked utterly shoddy in defence, then switched to a back four and been quite good.
Here’s a crazy suggestion, why not start with a back four?
On top of that, let’s go all out and play 4-4-2 with Giroud and Lacazette both playing up front and Wilshere and Ramsay in midfield. Xhaka should not be playing for a team with aspirations of winning anything. We are going to let in goals whatever, so let’s do our best to outscore the opposition.
As for the transfer window, I would sell Sanchez if we can get money for him because although he is a great player with the ability to make something from nothing, he doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as anyone else on the team and loses the ball too often.
I would keep Ozil till the end of the season as he’s on the best form he has been on since joining us. I guess he has learnt a thing or two from Theo about upping your performances in a contract year.
Bellerin has also been awful recently so I would be tempted to give Debuchy or one of the youngsters a shot.
Adonis (fixing Arsenal since before the Premier League) Stevenson, AFC