Diogo Dalot has emerged from the shadows to be a hero. Manchester United fans are trying not to get carried away but…
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Now that Rangnick can do no wrong, and Fred is a hero again, I thought I would share six provocations:
(1) There was football before gegenpressing. Look it up! Remember when nobody could think beyond Tiki-Taka? And I’m pretty sure there was a time when total football was the absolute pinnacle of what football could be. However hard it seems, nowadays, there are other ways to play football.
(2) Fred will not be the last beneficiary of Rangnick revisionism, although as a long time Fred sympathiser, I’m really happy for him. McTominay is still a couple of years short of his peak and if he was playing for any team outside the big six, he’d be drawing rave reviews as the next big thing. I expect him to flourish in the Rangnick system as well.
(3) We can all see the improvement in the team based on the initial work by Rangnick, but let’s not forget that Solskjaer won his first game 5-1. God forbid football fans should be accused of taking a single data point and turning it into an immutable trend!
(4) How much of the aura of Rangnik is based on the success of other German coaches? Imagine if he came in to United but instead of Klopp and Tuchel dominating the tactical arena with Pep, it was (say) Conte and Ancelotti. Would people still be as reverential towards him, based purely on his personal track record?
(5) I’m glad he’s here. The Solskjaer experiment had run its course, and Rangnick absolutely has the intellect and method any football club should want. But there are many ways to fail and I’m definitely cautious about turning him into a messiah, and then deriding him for not being able to walk on water.
(6) If he can consistently get a tune out of Dalot and Telles, the squad suddenly starts to look a lot healthier, with Varane and Cavani also getting back to fitness. Here’s to winning the winnable games.
Ved Sen, MUFC
Not getting carried away but…
Well, that was a slightly better Manchester United performance. I’m in no way getting carried away with it, new manager bounce and all. After the depressing three years of woeful winless defensive football under Ole, it was a welcome change to actually be on the front foot from the first minute.
After hearing Utd DNA for three years and playing really bad counter-attacking football, I tried my hardest to remember a time when Utd played sustained game in game out counter attacking football during their mega successful two decades and unsurprisingly I couldn’t.
During the first half on Sunday, that was how Utd used to play albeit with far superior players back in the day. I could never understand why we needed a back four then five and two ultra-defensive midfield players, too many cooks in there with no real Chef to lead them. It always looked a bit school boy with the idea that the more bodies in the way, will make it hard to break us down. Alas, we found out every game that it was quite easy to break us down no matter how many bodies were in the way.
Like I said, not getting carried away but at least there were some positives and it was only Palace. Yes, they beat City but with a man advantage and a City off day. Palace didn’t walk off the pitch looking like they could play another game and neither did we. Shows a far more physical performance.
The good thing about the way we played was the fact that if anyone thinks Shaw is better than Telles then you need forget names/nationality and go on performances. Telles offers so much more in every department. If you feel that AWB is a better option than Dalot, then I feel that your opinions on football are not relevant. Dalot doesn’t need to be an amazing one on one tackler, same way as Kyle Walker doesn’t need to be. Truth is that Dalot can pass, that cross in the first half was a thing of beauty. He can also defend with more composure; sure, he’ll get beaten from time to time but every full back does. TAA isn’t the best defending full back, it is what he offers the team in other departments that makes him so good. Now I’m not comparing Dalot to Walker or TAA, but he is a far more accomplished full back than AWB will ever be.
Fair play to Fred, again not getting carried away especially that he scored with his weaker foot. Wow, a pro elite footballer scores with weaker foot! Seriously though, Fred was never a DM. His last two games have been so much better with him further forward. He’s not perfect, there is a sign that he could become a player though.
Ronaldo is the fittest 36-year-old out there, isn’t he? It is however starting to show that he is 36. Against Arsenal at the end he was done, same against Palace. I think it will get easier on him as the team learns to press as a unit. They did yesterday until the obvious fatigue set in. When you have been used to sitting off and inviting teams onto you for years and hoping to hit on the break, which we did very unsuccessfully before, it will take time for the players to build up the fitness and stamina. Expect a few injuries.
McTominay and Rashford need some serious coaching. All I seem to see is Rashford running without any positional awareness. He’s called a phenomenal player and I just don’t see it. The times have to change where we are allowing a player to be quite awful for 89 minutes and then maybe producing something. We have to get away from the only winning with a bit of luck which we have been for so long now. Rashford ticks that box of playing so bad for so long before he actually does something. Regarding McTom, he needs to develop very quickly into the 1 holding player which I think he might. It will be easier again when the side starts to control a game better.
Our major problem this season, and most of last was that we never controlled a game, simply inviting the opposition onto us without having the players who can operate that way. Our set up was always to nullify the opposition rather than play to our strengths. Plan to not lose rather than plan to win, it was always going to end 1 way. I’d much rather have a game like we did against Arsenal but lose than have a game like we did against Watford. Every fan can take a fair defeat against a better team, but when you lose with no idea, desire and in such a depressing manor, that’s painful.
Players who should be worried are obvious. Shaw, AWB, Pogba (going anyway I hope) last thing the squad needs is him coming back from another winter holiday and being the d1ck we all know he is. Anyone seen the video he put up of arriving with Matic? Matic looks like a grown up, acts like a grown up and speaks like a grown up. Pogba, acts, looks and speaks like a 14-year-old, the bloke is 28!! Oh and Martial who should have gone years ago. Also one of Bailly, Lindelof and Maguire will need to move on.
All in all, it was better, but let’s not get a head of ourselves. Wednesday will be a good test to see the depth of the squad. On paper our next big test is City, so Ralf has a good run of games to get this team performing and those who cannot accept it, or do it, will need to go no matter who they are or what they did a few years ago.
…I so hope Fred does well under Ralf. Me and the lads have always said there is a decent player in there and if he was playing at City we’d all be envious of another wonderful Pep midfielder. Fred has form for this though, the odd outstanding performance is precisely why he’s so maddening for fans, and we would now expect a flurry of f***-ups over the next five games to balance out the positivity. Perhaps Ralf can help break that cycle.
There was a new formation, the 4-2-2-2 that Ralf has employed with numerous teams previously got its first run out but aside from the notable individual performances from Fred, Dalot, and Lindelof all of whom were much improved, the most distinct changes were not so much tactical as they were philosophical. The pundits focused on the increased pressing but I thought the speed and effort to get back into position was far more important, particularly the central midfielders and centre backs. Whenever the press didn’t work or if there was a turnover of possession both Fred and McTominay sprinted back into position and stayed close together as much as possible, same with Lindelof and Maguire. This provided much needed solidity when defending and Palace found it difficult to get into dangerous positions.
When attacking all the players were making higher risk more progressive passes, most notably from defence to midfield. Previously there is no way Lindelof would pass through the lines to a marked midfielder, he would have gone to Maguire or AWB on either side and we’d have struggled up the wings, but time and time again he looked for the incisive pass and even chased the ball forward on a few occasions. I think this was a taste of Ralf’s vertical football, the initial passer is given license to run forward with others providing a sort of tunnel or pathway for them to run through whilst playing the ball to each other and moving it up the pitch, the runner then gets the ball back at the end of the tunnel and can attack.
So a few simple instructions, ‘get back into position quickly’ and ‘make riskier passes’, but with little time to implement any method yet the team looked more assured and more threatening. Very early still and not getting carried away, the last eight years have destroyed my hope, but I think the remainder of this season is going to be appreciably more enjoyable than its been so far.
The Brits might be the problem
So everyone is slowly starting to realise that the issue in United’s midfield along was with the academy graduate with the cringy nickname rather than the easier-to-malign foreign import?
And actually, speaking of academy graduates, there hasn’t been much commentary about how poor Rashford’s form has been. He doesn’t put in the hard yards either, and throws a strop with the best of them, but it’s all good because he is clearly a saint off the field.
Looking at the last two games (albeit a small sample size), another two English players, AWB and Shaw, will be under genuine pressure to regain their spot. I thought Telles was excellent vs Villareal, has a “cultured” left foot and doesn’t collect yellow cards with the same frequency as Shaw, while Dalot has already offered more going forward than AWB all season. And when you consider that Maguire is still the issue at CB in the long run, you really would ask the question: are United’s current academy graduates/English players, over-rated (Greenwood aside- Sancho not there long enough to judge)?
Is Fred the new Lallana?
Ok hear me out here as I am aware they are very different players, but as Man Utd kicked off their first game under new management I cast my mind back to Liverpool’s first game under Klopp, a somewhat underwhelming draw at Spurs. Basically, everyone ran a lot and a certain Adam Lallana was the poster boy for engaging with the new revolution running himself into the ground. Other comparisons include, well they were both arguable too expensive for their abilities, both had blown hot and cold under previous management and both seem to fully engaged with the new man methods. TBH, I can keep going with these comparisons over the squad, Lovren = Maguire anyone?
Happy LFC fan
In response to KC’s mail about Origi’s two goals in 38 minutes this season and whether or not he’s any good, here are his overall PL stats: in 5 and a bit seasons at Liverpool, he’s only made 103 appearances and in those, only 3417 minutes. As it happens, that’s almost exactly a season’s worth (38 x 90 mins = 3420). In those minutes, he has 21 goals and 9 assists – pretty good for a season’s worth of playing time, a goal contribution every 114 minutes (Salah’s record at Liverpool is every 88 mins, Mane’s is every 126 mins).
Then again, there’s a bit more to playing as a forward than just goals and assists (especially if you play under Klopp) and he’s more likely to be playing against weaker sides to give the others a rest (he’s never scored against Utd, City or Chelsea for example).
But overall you’d have to say most teams would be pretty happy with a fifth-choice forward (or probably second or third choice) who can play across the front line and scores or assists every 114 minutes in the Premier League.
Hence the love and admiration from Klopp isn’t just lip service, he knows how lucky he is to still have him in the squad.
…I think Klopp and his coaching staff deserve some praise for making a change with how they use Origi. Instead of playing to their wishes that the front three be interchangeable and putting Divock out on the left, he is now being used as a traditional center forward where his size and speed can cause problems, especially late in games. Divock has a wonderful first and second touch, but it’s after that where things fall apart. Not even a Trump supporter would mistake him for Mane on the wing.
It’s going to be one of the most interesting aspects of Liverpool’s play in January if they want to play a front three of Jota, Origi, and Bobby. The latter two demand being played through the middle, but the outside forwards need pace. Origi is better suited as a battering ram and Bobby is wasted hugging the wing. So what’s the solution? This contributor is hoping for a four-four-fecking-two with Bobby and Divock up front and Jota and Henderson at the 7 and 11 making us feel like the 60’s or 70’s again.
Niall, Bethany Beach
Mail from a fuming Villa fan
First time writing to the Mailbox, but as a Villa fan I feel compelled to write about something nobody seems to have picked up on from yesterday’s match…
Namely the disgraceful performance of Michael Oliver … and I don’t mean in terms of Ramsey’s goal that wasn’t.
No, it is the fact that Leicester gave away 25 freekicks plus several advantages, and yet it was only in the 89th minute when Maddison messed up his freekick and committed not one but two fouls on Chukwuemeka that he finally reached for a yellow card; I think this may have been the 24th foul Leicester gave away. This surely has to be some kind of record? By simple maths, every Leicester outfield player including subs gave away nearly 2 fouls each, implying several committed more, which raises questions around his definition of persistent fouling. It is possible that if Maddison had not reacted so badly to his mistake, they may have got through the match without any cards at all!
But more than that, there surely must come a point where no matter how innocuous, tactical or in non-threatening positions these fouls are at an individual level, that at a collective, team level it is a deliberate tactic. As such it is the responsibility of the referee to try and regain control of the match from this cynicism and the next perpetrator needs to go in the book; which Oliver obviously failed to do yesterday. I would suggest that if a team reaches double figures with no cards, then that might be the time to start.
Luckily, this time, it didn’t prevent what was a very impressive second half performance. UTV!