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What a fantastic win last night! I’m half-asleep at work today, but it was totally worth it. With all of Palace’s injury troubles, it should really have been a straightforward win, but then it wouldn’t have felt half as good as THAT did. And credit to Palace, they played us off the park at times, and I don’t think anyone could have complained had they got something out of it.
A word on Romelu Lukaku – despite the (sometimes warranted) criticism, the man is having a quietly excellent season. That’s now 14 in the league, 23 in all competitions, and a further 7 assists. Any way you slice it, those are very good numbers for your first season at a new club. Someone on Twitter recently posted a breakup of his goals. After last night’s goal, 18 of his goals have now been either United’s first or second in a match, which is significant – he’s not simply putting the gloss on on the scorelines.
The finish yesterday was also superb. There were 4-5 Palace players crowded in the box, but he managed to slot the ball past all of them. He’s clearly growing in confidence, here’s hoping he keeps it going for the rest of the campaign. 20 goals in the league, and his season can safely be considered a success.
DJ, MUFC (still watching the Matic goal on repeat) India
Sanchez simply isn’t justifying his Man United place
1. Well, that was pretty sh*t and rather undeserved but I’ll always take an ugly win. It was pretty heartbreaking, even as a United fan, when the camera cut to Roy Hodgson after Matic’s goal. His team did very little wrong and a whole lot right, and could have quite reasonably have come away with all three points but for a couple of moments out of an otherwise decent 90 minutes. If they play like that for the rest of the season then they will surely stay up.
2. What a time to score your first goal. I thought the game had gone before he hit that, but he certainly picked his moment. Hennessy had no chance with it.
3. Once again, Sanchez put in an absolute turd of a performance. Towards the end we almost seemed to be playing around him, and quite justifiably. Virtually every forward pass of his went either straight to the opposition or completely out of play.
The trouble is that he’s virtually undroppable, given how much we’re paying him; how can you have a £400k-plus earner not starting? But as long as he is there and turning in these kinds of performances then we’re really going to struggle, and he’s causing problems for Lukaku, Lingard, Mata, Rashford and Martial with his presence as well. It’s a problem of our own making and one that could easily have been avoided.
4. Lukaku put in a really good second half performance, and the composure he showed for his goal was excellent. It’s frustrating because the tactics are still hamstringing him, because we are still not playing to his strengths; get him the ball in the box and he is so much more of a threat than playing with his back to goal. Play the ball in front of him and he will cause problems for the defence. Treat him like Drogba and he will be ineffective; treat him like Lukaku and he can be a threat.
5. What does Luke Shaw have to do to get in ahead of Ashley Young? I don’t mind having inverted wingers if your full-backs are naturals on that side and make overlapping runs but having two right-footers on the left negates the threat. Shaw is at least as hard a worker and easily a better defender than Young and I believe his left foot would be a far greater asset on that side.
6. But the win came, once again, on the foundations of another De Gea wonder save. A lot of hyperbole is aimed at the number of points a season that a good ‘keeper is worth but in Dave’s case it’s wholly deserved. We may be in a mid-table scrap without him.
7. Valencia is gone. He looks knackered all the time now and isn’t getting forward anywhere near as often, pointing to the fact that we desperately need to bring in a better, long term option in the summer.
8. And the rest of the defence needs work too. Lindelof gets more time because he is a new arrival and hasn’t been playing regularly enough. But Smalling and Jones have shown they’re not up to it, the former’s goal notwithstanding. The way the defence switched off for the Palace second is just unacceptable at this level and I don’t believe that our current players can get up to that level.
The biggest positive for tonight was the way we kept at it and ground out the result. Obviously we had more than a bit of luck along the way but the attitude and application in the second half was good. We won’t get such luck against Sevilla or Liverpool so we will have to improve vastly for those games but at least I’m saying that after a win and not dropped points.
And yeah, about Paul Pogba
Its halftime and I must say that’s the worst I’ve ever seen Paul Pogba play. He’s been abysmal, sloppy, lazy, and wasteful (lost possession 13, yes 13 times); and guess what? This is despite playing on the left of a midfield 3 like all the experts were screaming is his best position. Even young McTominay is performing way better.
I look at the Kevin De Bruyne’s consistently glorious excellence and I get nostalgic about the Ginger Prince, Paul Scholes. Just this dedication to consistent brilliance and a drive to be the best and make their team the best.
Can someone in or around Carrington remind that young man of his potential and that he’s currently not way behind the other Ginger genius and he can take a few lessons from his namesake and focus on being the best midfielder, not some stupid haircuts.
Mere Godled, MUFC, Nigeria
…Thank you F365 for nailing the performance of Pogba so accurately in your article. I was hoping it would be raised for debate today and you didn’t disappoint. I was following his movement after his stupid Hollywood ball leading to the first Palace goal and cannot begin to reason why such a highly rated international can be so slovenly in his movement (Ozil and co. got murdered for this sort of thing last week) and so unaware of opposition player’s positioning around him in a dangerous area.
There was the excellent point raised that Pogba’s long legged, languid style could be mistaken for apathy at times and I think this is valid. However, his lack of application at times is shocking. The Chelsea goal last week for example came directly as a result of him deciding not to jump and challenge for a 50/50 header.
He is a complete passenger at the moment. Opposition are quickly working out that if you rush him when he receives the ball, there’s a good chance you’ll nick it off him or force a mistake, especially in close quarters and it seems to be catching. 44 losses of possession in 45 minutes between Sanchez, Young and Pogba is unacceptable.
Until Pogba starts preparing his mind and body properly for matches, he will continue to be a liability will be experiencing a lot more bench time as a result.
…And some more Man United thoughts
Halfway into the season, the last person I would have expected to be our most reliable forward was Lukaku. But that’s exactly what he is for us right now.
I have to confess to dropping a mail a while back saying he is not likely to improve as a player if his touch is the way it was at 24, but he has been superb in holding the ball up in the last two games.
Scott had his first real bad game, and it’ll be interesting to see how he responds vs Pool assuming he gets selected. Surely Mou won’t revert back to a 4-2-3-1.
One step forward, 2 steps back for Lindelof. It’s worrying how Lingard and Martial are markedly better when coming off the bench. Mou’s treatment of Shaw is getting a bit silly now. It’s been a good 8 days for the club, and I’m sure a good number of fans would take a win and a draw vs Chelsea and Liverpool if it had been offered earlier.
Also seen a few mails and comments saying how City might win the league at Old Trafford. The next derby is at the Etihad. Dunno if giving them the guard of honor there is any better. It’d almost be like going to their party if that happens.
Van Dijk is playing bloody brilliantly
I noticed VVD isn’t really getting much press or comments for his performances. He’s a defender. He’s not there to set the game alight, I get that, but he deserves some credit. What he has done is brought so much calm to those around him.
I know it’s early days and we have bigger tests to come. United next week being a huge case in point but his influence is very telling. The one moment against Newcastle that epitomises him and what he’s bringing to this team is when we had a simple goal kick. Because Newcastle was pressing high Karius decided to kick it up the field and waved the players away.
Van Dijk obliged and made his way up. Lovren being Lovren stayed back on the edge of our area leaving a massive gaping hole in the middle of the field where 2 Newcastle players were. VVD was organising the defence and seeing that gap he shouted at Karius to wait to kick the ball, getting Lovren to move up and get in position.
This is what he brings. Organisation. Calmness. Leadership! Before VVD arrived Karius would have just kicked it up regardless as he was gonna do it anyway. A header back our way would have left 2 opposition players in on goal with Matip and Lovren falling around to get back. This was the problem before. These defenders just plodded along without smelling danger before it happened.
I’m absolutely loving this signing. I was so excited when I knew we were in for him because he is exactly what Liverpool needed. He’s making Lovren look good. I have to say Lovren with VVD looks better than Matip. With another strong CB signing this team could be defensively sound. Who’d have thought we’d be saying that this season.
Cynical fouling: it really is an issue
Interesting but not surprised Man City are probably the dirtiest team in the league. It seems to me that the top managers are not only the most adept at tactics, developing players and in games decisions but also the most effective at implementing effective tactical cheating into their teams DNA.
The first time I remember coming across this cynical form of tactics was Mourinho’s Porto team that won the UEFA Cup and Champions League in subsequent seasons. If anybody saw (and still remembers) the UEFA Cup final against Celtic in 2003 the Porto players couldn’t stay on their feet the moment they thought possession was going to be lost and the ref fell for it over and over again. It was pretty much the difference between the two sides in a thrilling (albeit infuriating) 3-2 Porto victory with chief culprit of all the diving and play acting Derlei scoring the winner in silver time (remember that experiment?).
Nobody needs to be reminded about the diving, play acting and cynical fouls used by Guardiola’s Barca team to help them keep possession and stop counter attacks on the rare occasion they lost the ball so it no surprise to see his Man City players have similar instructions. Pochettino’s Southampton and Spurs sides have also had questions raised over the seasons about their persistent tactical fouling.
It was no surprised to see these managers clubs making up three out of the top five in your fouls per minute spent out of possession table that you reported yesterday but what can be done about it? Well if a retrospective ban of up to two games can be handed down for diving and feigning injury then why not the same for cynical fouls that stop an attack? Is preventing a team from attacking by intentional fouls any better than diving to win an offensive free-kick or penalty? In my view it isn’t as they are both cheating.
It could said that this would be too difficult to enforce but if someone can determine if a player dived or not then hand out a ban they can certainly decide if a player intended to get the ball or just foul to stop play and do the same.
If teams could be deterred from making cynical fouls because of retrospective bans to key players this would make games more exciting as fewer counter-attacks would be prevented by cheating which should in theory result in more goals (great for fans). Since top teams seem to be fouling more and benefiting from this it would also be interesting to see how effective certain top teams are when they can’t employ dirty tactics anymore (or at least not as much as they do now).
Lies, damn lies and fouling statistics?
Lies, damned lies and statistics so the saying goes.
Man City concede the most fouls per minute when the other team has possession therefore Man City are the dirtiest team so the current statistic goes. The hypothetical argument may be true, but the desperate need for statistics to prove everything is getting a bit over the top now. This was trotted out to argue that City over-use the tactical foul. Again, this might be true (almost 100% is true) but can we not just see that by, you know, watching the games?
This statistic in particular is utter nonsense without any context because fouls per minute are obviously going to be affected by the styles of play and the flow of the game. Looking at one example, I dunno, let’s say…Man City. They average 70% possession (which btw is another problem with this as it’s almost impossible to define who has possession consistently for the whole game). They also play quite a patient build up game, interspersed with some devastating attacking at speed.
Therefore, firstly, opposing teams will spend long periods where City are patiently building up play from the back. Aside from the odd frustrated striker throwing himself at the ball just to get a touch, they are unlikely to give away fouls during this time. Hence their fouls per minute without the ball will be low. Is it therefore a surprise that teams that consistently average low possession, also have low fouls per minute? Not particularly.
Secondly, opposing teams get very few chances to attack City and so they don’t tend to build patiently from the back. In fact quite the opposite – they tend to try and break with speed. This is the exact type of movement that causes fouls, intentional or not, to be committed. Winger breaks from a corner, full back tries to nick the ball, misses and gives away a foul. Hence fouls per minute without the ball will be high. Again, is it a surprise that teams who generally dominate possession and are hit on the break have a higher fouls per minute? Probably not.
So my, perhaps long winded, point is that as much as I love statistics they don’t prove anything without context. And we really don’t need a statistic for every little thing.
Alex, (cue Pete G putting me firmly in my place), Ayr
This might explain something
Just a thought that might go some way to explaining the Chelsea performance on Sunday.
Reports have come out that N’golo Kante collapsed in the dressing room shortly before the game and the (correct) decision was taken to not play him as a precaution.
Is it not possible that the team were distracted as they were worried about their teammate being seriously ill?
The ends only justify the means if it works
The Chelsea fans yesterday made me laugh with their “well it almost worked” defence of the tactics used vs Man City. I’d like to list things that I almost achieved this year:
I almost won £160m on the Euro Lotto – I only missed out by 5 balls and 1 lucky star
I came so close to dating Jennifer Lawrence – I only failed because I don’t work in the entertainment field and I have never met her
I was a cats whisker away from breaking par on my local golf course – if only I didn’t have an 18 handicap.
Chelsea fans – the ends only justify the means when you actually get the result.
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