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Fellaini > Lukaku if Man United play long ball
There can be no argument today on Morata or Lukaku. It’s pretty black and white. Morata is clearly the better striker today. He is technically superior and has a fantastic ability to influence play all on his own. What a nuisance the man is! As an United fan, I wish we got him instead. Lukaku has to improve his first touch. If he hasn’t been able to do that in 10 years of playing football, I have my doubts on that improving over the next two years. It is so easy. Let the man win the long ball. Focus on where it will bounce off him and boom, he is useless. In short, for the games where we need an outlet, Fellaini is much better than Lukaku playing up top.
We are missing Ibra. He would be much better than Mkhi in the number ten role. He would be miles better than Lukaku in the front man role. When does he come back?
Mata needs to replace Mkhi in these games. Mkhi is going through a woeful run of form and is much better playing balls near the opposition penalty area. Mata is going to be better in the big games. He is our big game player and has an extra gear.
Jose did alright tactically. We were just outdone by a stronger team of players. They made us look ordinary.
Chelsea are an one-man team. That one man is Kante.
Bye bye title. The De Bruyne team are clearly going to run off with it this year.
Man Utd inept without Pogba
Our predicament should clarify to anyone who questions Pogba’s contribution to the team. It’s no coincidence that since his injury we have been abysmal in our football. There is no link between defence and attack. All we see is long balls to the forwards without a proper build up.
We don’t have a single player that comes close to Pogba’s calibre which is worrying. No team should collapse like we have by missing a player. January transfer window should set the tone for the remaining season. Either we fight for the title, or fight to stay in the top four.
Omair MUFC, Karachi
Too many bang average players at Man United
What’s my synopsis on Chelsea-United? The end and short of it is that there are too many bang average players in and around United’s first team.
Yet again failed winger Valencia demonstrated his lack of any end product from promising positions, and the fact that he is the on-field captain is indicative of how far United’s stock has fallen.
I have seen the classic film Bambi, and that poor fawn had remarkably more balance on ice than Smalling. But at least Bambi improved the harder it tried.
How Young has moved himself into first-choice left-back for a top side is living proof of the failure of the recruitment policy. Jose must swallow his pride and at least give Shaw some game-time next week. It’s petty at this stage (who knew)
Meanwhile, Lingard is all fart but no poo and Herrera is like Scrappy Doo, barking at the ref all match for feeling hard done by but cowardly when it comes to the nitty gritty.
Rashford should be off corners immediately, and should revert to the super sub role for a spell too.
14 more Man United conclusions
1. Right off the bat: sorry, Jose, but we didn’t deserve a draw. We might have created a couple of chances that could have gotten us the draw, but it wouldn’t have been deserved at all. The opening 10 minutes and maybe the last five minutes aside, Chelsea were the better team. Simple as that. If anything, we were lucky to not be 3-0 down after half an hour.
2. That said, I don’t think Jose did anything wrong per se, outside of picking Mkhitaryan again (more on that later). He went with the same side that did played well and beat Spurs, which I think is pretty much fair game. The only difference was that far too many of our players had really bad games. The only players who would achieve a passing grade in my book were De Gea, Valencia and Young, and only really De Gea had anything like a good game – the other two were just standard showings.
3. Matic, in particular, was very poor and had probably his worst game in a United shirt. He looked sluggish in defence, being dispossessed in dangerous areas several times, and did little in the way of getting the ball forward. Perhaps this was down to fatigue, seeing as he has played virtually every game in full since he signed, but it seems that when Matic plays badly, so do we.
4. And Herrera was especially poor. A far cry from his performance in our last fixture against Chelsea, I don’t think he even saw Hazard for most of this game. He offered nothing going forward, and nothing defensively other than to consistently give away free-kicks in our half. Rumours of Mourinho being interested in Kroos shouldn’t come as any surprise, given the dramatic downturn in the form of Herrera.
5. Isn’t it amazing that your striker can stand a chance of scoring when you get the ball to him in the box? Morata managed to find some space in the box (not that it was difficult, given our defenders’ proclivity to pretend he wasn’t there), and was found with an accurate cross. How many times have we done that in the last 5/6 games for Lukaku? Not nearly enough. That’s not to say that he hasn’t had any chances, but we haven’t created anything like the kind of quality opportunity that Azpilcueta did for Morata yesterday. If we are going to expect him to lead the line and be a 20-goal a season striker, then we simply have to get the ball to him in threatening positions. If he misses those opportunities then it’s fair game to criticise, but it’s hard to be too damning when we aren’t helping him at all.
6. Speaking of which, Rashford seems to create absolutely nothing for his fellow teammates. He looks threatening when he has a bit of space to run into, but as a winger it is just not working for him at the moment. If he is being tracked by a defender then all too often he overruns it and the ball goes out for a goal kick, and when he doesn’t do that he loses possession or misplaces a pass far too easily. I know he’s only young but if his future really is as a wide forward then he needs to improve the creative side of his game too – especially his corner taking, which is woeful. Also, that last minute free-kick was not the appropriate moment to try out a Ronaldo free-kick.
7. I don’t know if it’s getting used to playing three at the back (which is not an acceptable excuse for professional footballers, by the way), but Jones has gone back to being calamity Jones (that own goal absolutely should have stood), Smalling has no idea how to defend, and even Bailly has been poor of late. Lindelof’s bedding in period is taking too long and this consistent lack of game time seems to be stalling his progression. I’m hoping that Rojo can hit the ground running when he finally returns, because we’re in desperate need of some defensive improvements.
8. Speaking of returning players, other than Pogba and Rojo, I can’t wait for Zlatan to come back. We are in desperate need of his ability to lead the line, his link-up play going forward, and his ability to finish tough chances when it counts. Lukaku had a good start, but he’s tailed off recently, and yesterday we could really have used Zlatan’s presence. It’s not a magic cure for all our ills, but someone of his ability and experience would almost certainly be of benefit at the moment.
9. But Martial didn’t fare much better when introduced. You would have been forgiven for not knowing he was playing, so minuscule was his contribution. For every moment of quality, it seems there are an equal number of moments of anonymity. Another one who rapidly needs to improve the creative side of his game.
10. Mkhitaryan. What the hell has gone wrong? He looks completely bereft of not only confidence but even the most rudimentary abilities. As mentioned in 16 conclusions, Pogba’s absence does not account for the basic things that Mkhitaryan is doing wrong, but there simply has to be something deeper than Pogba’s absence here; he looks so far out of his depth that it makes his debut against City look like a good performance. He should not only be benched but completely absent from the matchday squad on current form, because he doesn’t look like a professional footballer right now.
11. Credit has to go to first Zappacosta and later Azpilicueta for their performance on the Chelsea right. Our left side has regularly been our most threatening, but they completely nullified everything that came that way.
12. Fellaini had no business coming on in that game, not because I think he’s crap or anything, but because it was clearly ahead of schedule and he looked way off the pace. If anything, it put him at risk of picking up an injury by coming back too quickly. He will obviously play a bigger part when he’s fully fit, but he wasn’t ready for that game, even as a cameo appearance.
13. That result pretty much confirms that we will be fighting for a second-place finish at best now. There’s no way that Guardiola’s City will drop nine more points than we will, and we certainly won’t take any points off them if this weekend is anything to go by. When it was a “big four”, you didn’t necessarily have to beat all your direct opponents to win the league, but now it’s a six, you have to pick up at least five wins out of 10 to have a realistic chance; we’ve got one out of three so far, and another four looks unlikely unless Jose can address this glaring problem in the away games. The next five weeks are going to be absolutely pivotal to our season, with Arsenal away and City at home interspersed with suddenly more challenging games against a resurgent Newcastle, Watford, West Brom, Leicester and Burnley.
14. All things considered this was a terrible result for us, with all the teams around us picking up wins. I liked that Jose actually went for the win – even all his substitutions were positive – but it’s a huge worry that we looked so poor in defence. Eight points behind after 11 games is not a good place to be, even if we are somehow still in second. My biggest worry is that there a few things happening that normally signal an impending Mourinho departure: picking fights with everyone, accusing the fans of not supporting him/the team, public criticism of his own players, mentioning other clubs as being on his bucket list, complaints about his contract…it’s not looking good. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we’ll have a new manager in the next 12 months, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Man United simply cannot compete
United were atrocious last night. I *almost* wish we just parked the bus, but I mainly just wish we were better at passing, defending, attacking, tackling, shooting, creating chances and looking like a football team. The worst part is that when you’re known for being a good defensive team, you’ve got to make sure the goals you concede aren’t down to abysmal and almost comical defending; now seen against Huddersfield and Chelsea. Morata had enough space to claim the land as his own. It was, however, a beautiful pass and a magnificent header.
At half time, despite United creating almost nothing worthwhile in attack after the first 10 minutes and being largely terrible, fans seemed to be ecstatic about the fact that we weren’t playing with eight defenders. Tricking themselves into thinking the game was setting itself up for a Martial or Rashford winner. Alas, it was proven that when you go into every big away game with the mindset of “oh I hope we snatch a winner late on” you’re more than likely to be disappointed, and that we were.
Which brings me to Mourinho’s approach to big games away from home; the record speaks for itself, your tactics are NOT working and you NEED to be better. Away to top 6 rivals under Jose, we’ve played 8, scored 1, and won NONE (shout out to twitter for pointing that out to me). It’s easy to point the blame at the players in games like today, you know, because they were awful, but Mourinho needs to take responsibility here. When everything that comes out of your mouth is either to prove a point, criticise journalists or complain, you have to make sure your team’s football can do the talking.
It’s not surprising that we lost considering our record at Stamford Bridge, but the performance was disheartening, and makes me think we won’t win a game away from home against the top six this season. Regardless, our next two home games afford us the opportunity to play some decent attacking football and regain some confidence provided our “creative” players stop playing like accountants. We’re still second, so it’s whatever dude, we’ll be fine.
Gaaavie, Cape Town
Mesut Ozil has been slaughtered for the past for seasons for crimes that do not come close to the atrocities Mkhitaryan is carrying out on a weekly basis. The argument that he’s not the same player without Pogba is a woeful excuse, no player should be able to turn in turgid display after turgid display and get a free pass because a player is out injured. His best bit of movement and the only time he put in any effort came when he jogged to the bench looking visibly relieved.
He’s got the touch of the Di Maria’s about him and I can see him going the same way. Remember when he was frozen out? I miss those days.
Wayne (Jose you benched him for playing well last season. For crying out loud stop picking him), Manchester
Play some football please, Man United
For the attention of those with a better footballing brain and eye than mine;
What is our actual playing style/identity at United right now? Is it to be terrified of every other big team?
There sure are going to be more and more of those if the EPL clubs keep attracting the talent they are…shall we relegate ourselves so as to avoid these nasty big matches with all their damn stress and expectation?!
Grief man, play some football will you lads!
I will not tolerate absolute tripe being spouted about either just because I support a team, and the fact is that this United squad cannot challenge that City squad on style for starters, the gulf in class is real, and very evident.
The fact that such style (read: awesome, potent) often directly affects many points you can hope to accumulate…and it’s clear that United will not 1-0 our way to a close title challenge either folks, a situation where City score 427 but lose more games than us and we pip them by a point or two, if you will.
That just will not happen, and maybe because City are too good to be challenged in England right now in reality, and I am an irrational football fan I concede. But doesn’t that just sound like the lamest excuse for one team running away with a competition, seemingly streets ahead of their rivals?
Manc in SA (FIND SOMETHING THAT WORKS AGAIN Lads, simple as that, work and work and work till you find that something, but bloody well put in the hours to find it!)
* Would any other Man Utd fans have taken a win, a draw and a loss against Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea before the games? It’s probably not good enough to catch a rampant Man City side, but it’s decent against your rivals. Other than the Huddersfield match which is one of those aberrations that happen in football, it’s been pretty much perfect against the non-top six sides.
* Will this be the end of Mourinho’s flirtations with three-at-the-back? That formation only works well if your full-backs push high up and your centre-backs are willing to push forward and commit to attacking play (Azpilicueta is the perfect example of this). I know it’s all the rage these days but I don’t think you have to play three central defenders to beat a team with three central defenders, and in the Chelsea game the midfield was more important. Remember when Sir Alex Ferguson used to play a 4-4-2 and get beaten in midfield by a 4-3-3 team in Europe? Yesterday was identical, but a 3-4-1-2 vs a 3-5-1-1. The more things change the more they stay the same.
* United would have been far better playing three in midfield, but given Carrick, Pogba, Fellaini are all injured/returning from injury that would only leave Scott McTominay as a proper central midfielder. If he’d come in and done amazingly as he did in the Benfica game it would have been fantastic, but if he’d been thrown in and been found out by better players it would have been seriously bad for his confidence. It was clearly a risk that Mourinho was not willing to take.
* Everyone wants Rashford, Martial and Lukaku to play together, but I simply don’t think they can. All three can play as a central striker, and both Rashford and Martial can play as a left sided forward, but neither of them is even remotely accomplished on the right side of the forward line. That means there is no working formation that can fit all three of them in. I can see why we went after Griezemann as that right forward position is crying out for someone to make it their own. Mata played well there in the LVG days and Mkhitaryan has tried but failed.
* Finally, it’s no secret that Mkhitaryan has been bad for a while now. In fact he’s been worse than that, he’s been absolutely atrocious, anonymous, appalling, and that’s just the bad words beginning in ‘A’. Playing in a number 10 role he simply does not link defence and attack in the way he should. Pogba was doing that and United don’t have anyone else who can if the Armenian isn’t on form. I think Mourinho is trying to ‘play him in to form’ but I think time out from the side would help. Mata works harder defensively even if he doesn’t have the raw pace, but as Mkhitaryan isn’t using his pace to actually do anything I think it would still be a positive switch. I can see him being another Di Maria style failure of never living up to his quality. Sell him at the end of the year and replace him with Ozil for free?
Calum, MUFC, Wokingham
1. I had written earlier this week suggesting that an adventurous midfield and aggressive pressing of Chelsea’s backline is the way for United to win at the bridge. Mourinho got his midfield and tactics wrong last night.
2. If you’re going to press an opponent, then it has to be a 11-man press (including the goal keeper). You can’t just semi-press up the field in hope of holding the ball up front while the rest of your midfield and backline are passive. What it does is creates a sizeable gap and pockets of space for your opponent to play through. And despite my reservations for Fabregas, if you’re going to allow someone like him that much space, combined with Hazard joining him, you can be a team managed by Pep for all I care, it’s going to be trouble. United were abysmal in their pressing tactics. That do I press or do I stay put dilemma from middle third to their goalie was the reason they struggled.
3. On to Chelsea, I feel our best team is a 3-5-2 with Hazard up with Morata. Our best games this season at Wembley, at Atletico and last night all had the 3-5-2 at it’s heart. Yes we lost to City with same formation but I keep saying this that game had a tired Chelsea and an injured Morata (and Conte’s bizarre substitution) which took the stuffing out of us. But last night was not that. It was a team that played to plan.
4. Some thoughts on Andreas Christensen. I have been writing a lot about how he’s our best defender and he proved it again. To me the difference between Andreas and Luiz is this – Andreas is measured than Luiz. When he has the ball, he sees the entire pitch and he only makes a vertical risky pass if he knows that there are enough personnel to receive and take it forward and chance of ball being turned over is minimal. On the other hand, Luiz is more cavalier and sees only the pass, but not the rest of the pitch for other variables. Therefore, to me Christensen has to play that anchor role in defense. He put no foot wrong. He also proved that if you position yourself for long balls and receiving passes, being half the size of the striker is irrelevant. Give him a 10 year contract Chelsea.
5. Also thoughts on Morata, in my view the real MOTM. Last night was his best game in a Chelsea shirt. Every long ball was won. Every ball to his foot stuck to him. What this does is brings the rest of the midfield into play. One of the reason we had all the ball for a long period was Morata just beating the crap out of their back three to win aerial balls and smartly holding it when it was played to his feet. Even in the City game, as long as he was on the pitch that was happening. Morata is a handsome son-in-law bloke from Spain and is white. But he is not a striker like Torres. Morata is a proper center forward who can hold the ball, can win headers (in that department he’s in the Drogba league even better than Costa was), has pace and can finish as well. Can we please stop the bias that he’s a pure striker?
6. That brings me to the only pure striker on the pitch – Lukaku. Another player stereotyped for his colour. Lukaku’s strength has never been centre-forward play. He’s the striker you feed balls into space. You give the ball besides his feet than to his feet. His real strength is when someone can play that through ball into space. He’s more Torres than anything else. And he’s an intelligent striker also! The reason he had no touch in our penalty box had nothing to do with him. In fact he has no blame for last night. He was starved of supply the entire game. So can we please start providing context for statistics?
7. Last night’s game was won in the midfield. Kante and Bakayoko are going to be one heck of a midfield partnership. Bakayoko’s best is a box-to-box midfield player. He is best in pinching balls, winning physical duels and running with the ball. And he also had one of his best Chelsea games. I’m sorry Daniel Storey but you saw a different game. Bakayoko is not known for scoring goals or finishing so if he’s judged on missing those sitters (yes I admit, they were sitters) then that’s one tiny story in an otherwise brilliant midfield display. We sold Matic and got Bakayoko not because Matic was bad but we needed a mobile midfield player. We saw that last night. Also, he made those third man runs (thanks to Cox who pointed it out) from midfield which caused United so many problems (including drawing their defenders out during our goal). This is our template for this season now.
8. A small note on Kante who adds every one else’s match rating by a score of anywhere between 1 to 5. What a player. And he cost 32m pounds. You know what’s his worth in the market today? Probably the cost of our new stadium.
9. Eden Hazard had another brilliant game. Pity he didn’t finish the chance he had. I was about to write once saying Conte must start using Hazard in build up play when opponents press us like mad. Last night we saw evidence of that when Fabregas and Hazard made it a midfield of five at times (apart from our wing backs), completely annihilating Man United’s midfield. This is the type of tactical tweaks I’d like from Conte more often (something pep is subtly very very good at).
10. All in all, a totally end to end dominating performance. Every player 8/10, Morata perhaps 9/10 for his CF display. Man City will drop points for sure. When we go to the Etihad if we’re five points away from City, I’ll start dreaming. But before then we have a small job of not losing points anymore.
Aravind, Chelsea Fan
Broken crayons: An update
‘Like the award-winning artist who is able to create a masterpiece with a pot of broken crayons and a pair of rusty scissors, he has shown his ability to excel in the face of adversity once more.’
Since Matt Stead wrote the above about Rafa Benitez (after he somehow masterminded wins over West Ham ,Swansea & Stoke) Newcastle have won once (against Crystal Palace) and lost to Brighton, Burnley and Bournemouth and have failed to score a goal in those games.
On a positive note, Matt will surely never write anything as bad/cringeworthy as that line again so unlike Newcastle under the award-winning artist, the only way is up.
Giving up on West Ham for now…
I can only assume that if David Moyes is the answer, the question must be ‘what is the cheapest option West Ham have to replace Slaven Bilic?’
And so the circus rolls on with Ringmasters Sullivan and Gold again showing they are unfit to run my club. Everyone has known that Bilic had lost the dressing room, and there were plenty of warning signs: unfit players, defensive holes week after week, nobody making runs, and no spirit. As such, he had to go. But that Sullivan and Gold think that Moyes is an adequate replacement says all you need to know.
In short, they have no plan. This saga has been rolling for over a year, yet they have sat on their hands because they do not know how to solve it. Leicester have showed that decisive acts can make a difference, yet the West Ham duo’s ‘two more games’ mantra has seen us lumber on with a series of weak performances for far too long. And now we have Moyes it seems. There was an argument that, with Bilic having six months left on his deal and no chance of renewal, the players didn’t care as it was perceived he was off anyway. Fantastically unprofessional if true, but par for the course with modern football. So, if the same players know that Moyes is a short-term solution, why are they going to try for him? He is hardly a pedigree manager these days. I can only imagine that John Gregory and Peter Reid turned us down…
I never supported West Ham for glory. However, the current set-up is the worst I have ever seen. And that includes the boom-to-bust Icelandics. Sullivan is a man who wears his wealth in the form of tasteless but expensive jewellery and flash cars so you know he has money just by looking at him. His West Ham is like this. He will not invest in decent training facilities as he cannot show that off. Instead, he will buy a winger we do not need for £20m so he can boast about breaking a transfer record. It is measure of him and Gold (who struggles to tell our players apart), that they wouldn’t even invest £250k to put a claret band around the pitch. Maybe if Bilic had asked them to stud it with diamanté or use it to promote Sullivan’s latest straight-to-DVD caper it might have been approved.
I will not give these two-bob cretins any more of my money. They are killing my club and I would genuinely prefer we went the way of Portsmouth or Coventry, than those charlatans stay in charge. West Ham fans deserve better. Certainly better than David Moyes. And much better than Sullivan and Gold and their one-trick circus.
Peter G’s weekend thoughts
* Sean Dyche may be upset that foreigners now get all the good jobs, but if he had managed in the good old days – say, 1362 – he would have been burned at the stake as a sorcerer. He didn’t even celebrate the winning goal; no need to if you’ve cast the spell the night before. By the way, at least for the moment he drinks water out of bottles with blue tops and claret bands. Class.
* Steve Cook scored the winner for Bournemouth, but until then did a very good impression of someone who’d forgotten how to play centre-half. His form is just terrible.
* Max Choupo-Moting is a winger by trade, which hasn’t stopped Mark Hughes from trying him at central striker. (It worked for Thierry Henry, didn’t it?) He hadn’t remotely looked the part until Saturday, when with back to goal he sent Xherdan Shaqiri through for Stoke’s first score. So I guess we’ll see more, with Peter Crouch coming on late to save the day, of course.
* Brighton are a strange side. Mostly they’re as cool as you like, very much in the image of Chris Hughton. But when they have a lead with maybe 20 minutes to go, half the time they get scared and barely survive, or don’t survive at all. Against Swansea a total breakdown in stoppage time let Luciano Narsingh in, and he should have equalised, but hit the bar. As for Swansea, they did a whip-round to collect the worst batch of set piece deliveries in the history of football, and let them loose all in one game.
* It’s official: the most irreplaceable player in the league is Heurelho Gomes of Watford. When he left injured and was replaced by Orestis Karnezis (Greek for ‘Position Vacant’), the side collapsed. As for Everton, I hate to say it, but they need Sam Allardyce or the equivalent. Unless the defence is stabilised, they’ll be on the edge of relegation most of the year.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA