Missing midfield scuppers Manchester United title chances

Date published: Monday 13th September 2021 2:40 - Editor F365

Manchester United have a gaping hole where their midfield should be and that’s why they won’t win the title. Send your views on this and any other subject to theeditor@football365.com

 

Manchester United’s big problem
I’d like to thank James of Liverpool for illustrating so perfectly why Manchester United won’t ‘seriously’ challenge for the league title this season. James lists five defensive players and five attacking players, no midfield players (no Pogba doesn’t count, he’s bad at CM). An army can have the greatest soldiers in the world wearing the best state of the art armour but without suitable transport they’ll never reach the battle. Here in lies the problem, our defence is pretty good and our attack is pretty good yet the two are connected with lint and frayed bits of string. The plan it seems is to pretend midfield doesn’t exist and simply transition as quickly as possible between attack and defence, which I don’t imagine will be very effective for long. Newcastle are not the opposition to judge our title chances, far sterner tests will follow.

Also the Harvey Elliott injury was terrible but there was nothing wrong with Struijk’s tackle, he won the ball and unfortunately their legs tangled awkwardly, it wasn’t reckless or dangerous and thankfully incidents such as this happen rarely but the do happen. Banning him at all is ridiculous but banning him for Elliot’s recovery period is even more stupid now than it was when you suggested it for Pickford, at least that was a dangerous foul.
Dave, Manchester

 

…I can’t decide if James, Liverpool’s breakdown of the Manchester United team that has “no weaknessess” but only has ten players in it (and was conspicuously lacking a holding midfielder) was a genuine oversight, or some understated trolling.

I agree that those United players are strong, but they should probably chuck on an 11th man, just to make up the numbers.
Andy (MUFC)

 

…James, Liverpool puts forward this team for United and asks “where’s the weakness?”
De Gea
Shaw
Maguire
Varane
Wan-Bissaka

Pogba
Fernandes
Sancho
Greenwood
Ronaldo

Well James, the weakness is in that blank space there between the five defenders and the five attackers. It mightn’t look like much, but it could most definitely be the difference between challenging for the title and being considered also rans.
Jerry

 

On the Glazers and FSG
I’m pretty sure this isn’t the first time Lee/some other Liverpool fan has written in about United and the Glazers, and it’s the same nonsense every time. If he had actually watched the game on Saturday, he probably wouldn’t have sent his silly little email about United fans not protesting the Glazers, because there were very audible anti-Glazer chants while Avram was literally sat in the stadium.

I’m not going to go over the same arguments again, but there’s pretty much nothing the Glazers can do that will ever make them welcome in Manchester. But I suppose it’s easy for a Liverpool fan to talk about owners when they’re pretty happy with theirs who put their staff on furlough, and were pioneers of the Super League project because they finally won that league title they were dying to. All it took was some wishy washy apology that obviously didn’t meant anything.
IP (Maybe they’ll start protesting FSG in a couple of years when Klopp leaves and they’re back to where they were before him)

 

…Lee, you’re quite mistaken.

Ronaldo, Varane and Sancho’s fees and big contracts were not funded by debt. They were funded by profit. Also funded by United’s profits are repayments (so far totalling over £240m) on the leveraged debt the Glazers put on the club – that will probably never be repaid, like a sleazy buy-to-let Landlord’s interest only mortgage – and, of course, the £125m the Glazers have paid themselves in dividends.

That was all money for nothing as far as I’m concerned (with the club’s boom in commercial value being driven by the men they hired, who could’ve been hired anyway) that has been leeched out of the club that could’ve been spent on something more valuable, like a not-leaky roof at Old Trafford, both Neymar and Mbappe or, and this would be my choice, Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C (based on current market value on Transfermarkt).

So Lee, notwithstanding being pleased with the summer signings, I’d still rather the Glazers left*.

The club having made a few signings doesn’t affect that in the least. The fact that the fans will celebrate when/if the club wins does not make them hypocrites. You’re making a false link between on pitch success and the protests. The Norwich City scarves started in 2010, a year that was sandwiched with United league wins. The most recent flare-up happened after a several year period of United underperformed with no real protests and was clearly prompted by the ESL (which caused protests at multiple clubs – including the team that won the Champions League that year)) at a time when United were enjoying one of their better spells.
Andy (MUFC)

* I say that but maybe its a case of careful what you wish for. There are worse owners to be had…

 

Arsenal fans can’t win
Nishul Saperia, thinks I have a small game mentality for not thinking Arsenal would beat Liverpool or Manchester City. However, if I had said Arsenal should have beaten Liverpool and Manchester City and raged when they didn’t, I would get called delusional.

Arsenal have been in decline for over a decade due to poor management, Wenger staying to long, poor signings, poor leadership and a long list of other poor things. Having lived through that and come out with realistic view of where Arsenal are and what they are capable of (did you watch the pre season games?) it does not make me small minded.

I am uncertain if Arsenal have the right manager but wish him the best, think 6th place is a realistic and obtainable target league position but wish we could achieve more. In addition, I like the fact we are buying young promising players instead of Willians or David Louis types.

I won’t apologise for being realistic and if that means you feel empowered to have a dig, go for it because it sounds like whatever I say you will knock it.
Croydon Gooner

 

Leeds poor but that red card…
We absolutely deserved to lose that. A summer of not investing in the right areas means we are as weak as we were at times last season. How Liverpool didn’t run away with it, I don’t know. And how we still persist with a 9 at number 10 and then expect Tyler Barndoor Roberts to be the answer and expect to get away with it, I don’t know. Raphinha, Meslier and Philips won’t stick around for another season in mid table.

Not worried about second season yet though, we’ve played a team who have spent in excess of £1bn on their squad and a team who annihilated everything in their path to a League title. Everton was a win/loss last season and Burnley are just thuggish Burnley. Which brings me onto my main point:

Burnley put on so many challenges against Liverpool and Leeds this season without a single red card for malice on intent being shown. I am therefore still confused about the red card for Struijk.

Last season, Liam Cooper left the ground in a full blooded challenge on Jesus, playing the ball first but catching Jesus knee. Initially given a yellow card the referee was content to play on before VAR became involved. After deliberation and viewing the challenge again, he upgraded it to a red. Fair enough. A second later and Jesus could have had a broken leg through a solid/fairly reckless challenge (delete as applicable).

Yesterday, there was no malice, Struijk read the player/ball, reacted accordingly to drag the ball away whilst sliding, he didn’t leave the ground with his studs as Cooper did, the referee played on, he didn’t go to VAR for a decision and only blew up when it transpired that the player was injured.

How did he come to upgrade the card to a red? There was no intent, he remained in control? The consistency is infuriating as we now risk losing a CB to suspension to go with our injuries to Koch and Llorente.

Also. Social Media can get to f**k. The abuse Struijk has received is disgusting – it was a good challenge with an unfortunate outcome. Get some perspective and get outdoors you basement-dwelling gimps.
Mat, Leeds fan

 

No foul but no control either
I’ve seen some responses about the red card for the tackle on Harvey Elliott and I thought I’d throw in my two cents.

John saying Struijk should be banned for as long as Elliott is out is just so stupid that it’s not worth responding too, but I will.

What if Elliott never returns? What if he never gets selected again? Struijk should just accept that? Sit out? No wages? Accidents happen, this was exactly that, accidental.

It was a genuine attempt for the ball, he actually won the ball, however , he was ‘out of control’ with the lunge and it was the trailing leg that done the damage.

Dangerous lunge from behind and out of control? Red card.

We all are acting like red cards are new in football, one second we are complaining that players are too soft and the next we are banning tackling because of injuries.

Players are paid handsomely with this in mind, one injury can end your career, but it’s still really unlikely.

It was an accident and a red card. Time to move on.

Speedy recovery young man.
JoeKen

 

What a day to be a Palace fan
* Given their relative status and form going into the game, we could easily be looking back at the end of the season and calling Saturday’s win for Crystal Palace one of the results of the season. Table-toppers with a 100% record up against a team yet to register a victory, and yet it was the Eagles who dominated and deservedly won. Or, to put it another way, losing a game many signs suggested they should take three points is decidedly Spursy.

* It’s fair to say this took a while to warm up, with Palace accumulating xG through a series of long-range chances. This was not necessarily Patrick Vieira’s strongest XI; Odsonne Edouard, Will Hughes and Michael Olise (allowing for fitness concerns) were among the substitutes but could in future expect to start. However, the players backed by the manager to start really seized their opportunity: Cheikhou Kouyate and Christian Benteke worked incredibly hard for the team and left the field to rapturous applause.

* Eventually, the Eagles got the upper talon by imposing their way of playing upon Hotspur. They dominated possession and looked for intelligent movement and combinations to get through a group of three defensive midfielders who weren’t all that good at defending. One attempt at these led to Japhet Tanganga’s first yellow card, another led to the penalty. There were lots of moments where a Palace attacker found enough space away from their opponents’ attentions in order to take a shot, create a chance or find a teammate in a similar situation.

* Speaking of Spursy, there’s this tweet:

The obvious thing to note is that Spurs are clutching at straws for some sort of positive, but including the scoreboard is a particularly nice touch. Hotspur had few answers to Wilfried Zaha beyond fouling him. This tweet and the reactions of some Spurs fans has been amusing, not least because for both them and England in recent times, a common (and successful) tactic has been for Harry Kane to back into an opponent and then fall forwards under slight contact to win free kicks. On that note it’s testament to the talent and efforts of the entire Palace team that Kane failed to get a single touch inside the opposition penalty area during a game for the first time in his career.

* Tanganga should have been sent off after he sent the Ivorian flying, under what I’m calling the Harry Wilson rule – there was no attempt to win the ball, only to stop (and possibly injure) an opponent. It’s exactly the sort of offence that needs removing from football and severe punishments are the most effective way to achieve that.

* From then on, dominance of the game became dominance on the scoresheet. Zaha and Benteke combined with Conor Gallagher, whose cross struck the outstretched arm of Ben Davies in the penalty area. Zaha converted from 12 yards, and afterwards, Palace didn’t look back.

* Edouard scored so soon after he came on I don’t think Hotspur had realised it had happened. As the substitution took place at a Spurs free kick, it’s a real head scratcher. The ball was worked down the left and Zaha passed inside to Edouard, whose off-balance shot was nonetheless placed well enough that Hugo Lloris could not reach it.

* The third goal saw all three substitutes combine. A fantastic cross-field ball from Luka Milivojevic found debutant Michael Olise in space on the right; he passed to Gallagher on the edge of the area, and as the Chelsea loanee checked his stride, there were seven opponents watching him, and no one watching Edouard. One simple pass and one simple finish later, it was 3-0.

Odsonne Edouard Palace

* It would be very easy to get carried away after what was admittedly a fantastic start for Edouard in favourable conditions, but there was also a lot to like about his positional awareness and link up play, which will bring the best out of other players if he isn’t personally able to get among the goals.

* This was a victory for Patrick Vieira. While he was quick to praise the foundation laid by Roy Hodgson, the Frenchman deserves the lion’s share of the credit. Hodgson always felt like a leading member of a group of predominantly British managers, who approach games against top six sides with caps doffed and forelocks tugged, meekly knowing their place in the hierarchy and not wanting to get above themselves or make one of their superiors look bad. Vieira meanwhile had no qualms in setting his side up to humble a club with significantly loftier ambitions.

* Honestly, one of the best days of being a Palace fan for quite a while.
Ed Quoththeraven

 

Trending is no measure of a footballer
I’ve no interested in the Messi v Ronaldo debate. They’re both insanely good footballers and I’d be happy to leave it as that.

What I do know though is that if we are going to compare them, who makes someone trend on social media shouldn’t be part of the conversation. The fact that Ronaldo blows up social media more than Messi is because he has much more of an ‘image’ than Messi does. The hair, the abs, the poses etc. He courts publicity far more.

Are we going to say Paul Scholes wasn’t a great player because he never sought the limelight? Going by Dave’s metric, David Beckham was a better player than Zinedine Zidane. Beckham was a global phenomenon, and it had nothing to do with his playing ability. Paul Pogba has over 3x as many instagram followers as De Bruyne. I know who I’d rather have on my team. Social media profile does not equal footballing quality.

Maybe I’m a grumpy old(ish) man but this social media obsession drives me mad. I saw Man United fans gloating on twitter because the Ronaldo announcement was faster to 1 million likes than the Messi announcement. Who cares? How about celebrating the fact that you have one of the best players in history coming back to your club? Be excited about that.

On a final point, Messi didn’t play this weekend, which is probably why Dave didn’t know who PSG were playing. Pretty sure it would have got some coverage if he had.
Mike, LFC, London

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