Do Man United still have their best midfield since 2008?

Date published: Monday 2nd November 2020 12:00

Pogba

An imposition

Never in our wildest dreams did we think that the midweek Man United giddiness would evaporate so swiftly. It’s just beautiful.
Just three days after Samuel Luckhurst wrote in the Manchester Evening Propaganda that ‘Christmas has come early’, Christmas was summarily cancelled, lost in a lockdown as it pisses down on Manchester.

Let’s remind ourselves what was said four whole days ago:

‘Solskjaer’s tactical foresight can only be underestimated for so much longer. He has schooled United’s would-be heir to Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino, and Pep Guardiola with split strikers and in successive weeks dominated fashionable Germans coaches via two different formations.’

There is acres of ground between underestimated and overestimated and yet nobody seems to want to tread that ground. Certainly not Luckhurst, who wrote the above paragraph within weeks of Solskjaer being schooled by Roy Hodgson and the original Jose Mourinho. Add Mikel Arteta to a lengthening list and it becomes even more ridiculous.

But by far our favourite sentence from that piece was this one:

‘United’s midfield department has not been this imposing since they last hoisted the European Cup in 2008.’

A reminder, should it be required, that United have won the Premier League title three times since 2008. This current iteration of United lies in 15th.

Thankfully, Luckhurst was on player ratings duty for the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal so we can check in on his thoughts about this midfield of Manchester United that is their best in 12 years.

On Scott McTominay: ‘Positioned at the base of the diamond but was a poor conduit between defence and attack and was swamped.’

On Fred: ‘A sloppy regression from the Brazilian, who could not hit water if he fell out of a boat.’

On Paul Pogba: ‘Failed to match Arsenal’s intensity and his passing was often errant. Imbecilically conceded a penalty by fouling Hector Bellerin.’

On Bruno Fernandes: ‘Taking risks are part of Fernandes’ game but he was wasteful to a maddening level and it was not an aberration. Rightly substituted.’

Imposing, you say? At least it starts with the same two letters as ‘imbecilic’.

 

Half a week away…

Samuel Luckhurst, MEN, October 28: ‘Another big game and another big win. Some wondered whether Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would be among the turkeys at Thanksgiving but he is now destined to see through Christmas.’

Samuel Luckhurst, MEN, November 1: ‘Solskjaer is perilously close to emulating the shoddy start to last season that unsettled the United hierarchy and this year he is devoid of get-outs as he approaches the second anniversary of his appointment.’

 

Half a week away again…

Dave Kidd, The Sun, October 28: ‘United are 15th in the Premier League, yet have a game in hand and the title race is wide open.’

Dave Kidd, The Sun, November 2: ‘It looks as though Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are currently on course to win the Champions League in style and narrowly avoid relegation to the Championship.’

 

Unpretty

Anyone who picks up The Sun and thinks it odd that Dave Kidd begins his opinion piece on Arsenal thus…

‘BEAUTY is in the eye of the beholder. Arsene Wenger would have thought this blasphemy.’

…and then writes ‘they pressed hard, they worked dirty, they won ugly and they nicked it with a penalty’ while referring to a 6-3-1 formation, Arsenal being ‘effective in a peak Graham era fashion’ and all manner of other things to downplay this result and performance…

…should have their attention drawn to this in December.

‘The appointment of the Spaniard, 37, with no previous managerial experience, represents a shot in the dark almost unprecedented at a major English club.’

Coming after the appointments of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Frank Lampard, that piece and that sentiment was extraordinary.

And now the only way to cope with Arsenal picking up more points than every other Premier League club barring Liverpool and Manchester City in 2020 is to claim that he can only win ‘ugly’.

Apparently Arteta’s 2020 – in which he has beaten Manchester United twice, Liverpool three times and both Chelsea and Manchester City – represents a ‘decent body of work’. Not bad for a manager appointed as ‘a supreme punt on a good bloke, with the raw qualities of brightness and desire, and little else’.

Maybe there is a little something else, Dave.

 

Against all odds

Meanwhile, on The Sun website

‘His manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, decided to experiment with an odd-looking 4-4-2 diamond formation, in order to try and accommodate four central players in his midfield.’

The same ‘odd-looking 4-4-2 diamond formation’ he used in a 5-0 win over midweek?

 

Exclusively yours

TalkSPORT are claiming an ‘exclusive’ on this story:

‘Manchester United told they are ‘wasting their time’ with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and ‘need an elite coach’ as Roy Keane makes sack claim’

How careless to accidentally suggest that Roy Keane has said that Manchester United are ‘wasting their time’ with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and ‘need an elite coach’, when those words actually come from talkSPORT reporter Alex Crook.

Exclusive quotes from their own reporter. What a scoop!

 

The blame game

The back page of the Daily Mirror tells us that ‘Paul Pogba shouldered the blame for another home defeat’ but that kind of sensible talk generates no website traffic so Pogba’s quotes magically take on a different tone on the website…

‘Paul Pogba blames Arsenal’s tactics for Manchester United defeat’

Did he f***. He praised Arsenal and their tactics and then literally said: “We have to do better, the team, myself, it starts with me.”

He’s not Dave Kidd, after all.

 

This is bad…

 

This is worse…

 

Recommended reading of the day

Miguel Delaney on Jose Mourinho and Spurs

Jonathan Wilson on Manchester United

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