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Controversially only 13 conclusions on Wolves-United; lazy 1. That was a terrible performance. I thought I’d seen the worst United performance of Ole’s tenure in the FA Cup defeat to Wolves but this tops (or bottoms?) that. Other than the first 15 minutes or so, we were just dreadful, despite Ole’s insistence to the contrary. We were beaten by a team doing nothing more than the basics (and I mean that as a criticism of us, not them); there was nothing particularly inventive or spectacular about Wolves’ performance – there didn’t have to be – they just turned up and played their natural game. The word that best fits our performance was timid. Passing, shooting, tackling, goalkeeping was all really tentative and half-hearted, not enough conviction from the players, almost like they were nervous. Maybe the pressure of renewed expectation has gotten too much for some of them.
2. Ole’s critics will likely point to this match as evidence that he was out of his depth all along. I don’t think that this match, nor any of the others in which we have dropped points, was particularly his fault; for my money the players have been largely to blame. Sure, there have been some mistakes from him but he’s doing his best with a squad that is sorely lacking balance. There has been a noticeable decline in the effort and performances of a worrying number of first-teamers since the PSG return leg. I don’t think our tactics have been wrong, and we have generally been picking the strongest eleven available, but too many of the players have been letting themselves and Ole down in game.
3. The poster boy for this has to be Pogba, who I can’t remember having a good game (or even a good 45 minutes) since facing Chelsea in the FA Cup. His passing accuracy has been average at best (69% last night), his energy and movement limited, and his contribution virtually non-existent. The most logical explanation is that he’s decided he wants out again, with Real Madrid his new destination of choice. As far as I’m concerned he can go. It was all very well blaming Mourinho for his previous malaise but he can’t use that excuse any more. Ole has gone to great lengths to show him how highly he rates him, so he has nothing to complain about. A rebuilding project like ours has no room for fairweather players, so unless he’s willing and able to play to his full capability all the time then we’d be better off without him.
4. Surely any thoughts that this defence does not need improving upon have surely been banished after the last few matches. The defending for the Wolves goals was catastrophic. Smalling just isn’t good enough for this level, Calamity Jones is never fit for more than 5 matches at a time, Bailly has been an absolute horror show when he’s played this season, and Rojo must surely be on his way out too. Only Lindelof really looks like he’s got the ability to play for us right now, so at least one centre-back is an absolute necessity.
5. One area in which Ole does deserve a bit of criticism is the awful decision to play Young as part of a back three. He has adapted his game to be a passable right-back but no more than that. His positional sense leaves a lot to be desired at the best of times so asking him to play as a sort of centre-back is just asking for trouble – it’s especially strange given that both Rojo and Jones were on the bench. He shouldn’t have started there, he should have been replaced after his first yellow card, and the sending off illustrated that perfectly. If we go into next season with him in the starting 11 then we’ll have screwed up big time.
6. However, the most worrying aspect of our back line was De Gea. He has started conceding really ordinary goals and making silly mistakes with alarming regularity – not just for us but for Spain too. I’m not saying he’s suddenly gone crap but there are certainly concerns about him at the moment. A lot of blame was laid at the feet of Fred for the equaliser but in my opinion he was put under pressure by De Gea’s unwise pass out. In a time when goalkeeper distribution is under scrutiny, De Gea looks weak in comparison to some of his peers. Perhaps the reluctance to award him with a Sanchez-level contract isn’t all that strange while his form is below par.
7. The only positive to be taken from this game was, surprisingly, Scott McTominay. His finish was very good and he almost doubled his tally in the second half. I think that’s probably the biggest indicator of how poor our attackers were all night; that our defensive midfielder was our best attacking threat is embarrassing. For my money, I would be giving him regular starts in our midfield from here on – take your pick of who he replaces because I would be happy seeing any one of Matic, Pogba or Herrera miss out.
8. Speaking of Herrera, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that he was out of the squad entirely on the same day that rumours of him agreeing terms with PSG surfaced. If that’s the case then I would continue his absence until the end of the season. He’s been a good player for us and will be missed but there’s no room for sentiment; there’s literally nothing to be gained by keeping him in a team that he isn’t going to be a part of next year, especially not when we have other players who desperately need minutes to stake a claim on a place. Pereira, Fred, McTominay and Garner would all be better off getting game time, regardless of how much better Herrera may or may not currently be, because they are all likely to be at the club next year.
9. All of a sudden, the summer shopping list looks a lot longer. There are several positions in which we look woefully short, right now I would be looking for a: right-back, left-back (backup or competition for Shaw), centre-back (maybe even two), central midfielder (two or even three if Herrera and/or Pogba depart), right wing, and maybe even another striker. Maybe some of the youngsters can take some of those places – Chong, Gomes, Garner & Greenwood could all play a part – but we are short of a lot of quality right now and it would be asking too much of such inexperienced youngsters. At the very least, we need a centre-back, centre-midfielder and winger, the others would be nice to have.
10. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I think we would actually be better off missing out on the Champions League next time. The last thing we need during a huge rebuilding project like this is a season competing at an elite level that we are demonstrably not ready for – if you can’t win it (which we can’t) then it just becomes a drain on your players’ fitness. In the Europa League you can rotate the squad a little more and give minutes to players who might otherwise miss out, plus it lessens the risk of muscle injuries from fatigue. The PSG result aside, we have not been competitive in the Champions League for a long time, and if we are going to be supplementing this squad with more youth then it could do more harm than good. Granted, we might miss out on some of our top targets but if they only want to play for us if we’re in the Champions League then they aren’t the sort of players we should be signing.
11. Football is all about highs and lows, and the mountainous high felt after the PSG win has now have been replaced by a bit of a canyon after three entirely avoidable defeats. As good as Wolves have been this season, we should still have been able to beat them in at least one of the two recent attempts, especially after having taken the lead in this latest failure. There is an enormous amount of work to do for next season but with Ole in charge it seems way more achievable than if it had been Mourinho at the helm. I’m not going to change my mind about Ole after a few defeats, as I’m convinced he was the right man for the job, and I still think that he can be a success with us if we get the summer recruitment right.
12. We’ve got 6 league games left. Realistically there are three which should be winnable (Cardiff, Huddersfield and West Ham), while in the other three we absolutely have to at least avoid defeat (Chelsea, City and Everton) – though I’d be happy to lose the City game if it scuppered Liverpool! Against Barcelona, the only objective is to not get embarrassed; if we only get beat by three goals over two legs it will be a miracle. Our defence against Messi & co is nightmare inducing, so we’ll have to be at our very best to only lose 1-0.
13. The honeymoon period has clearly ended and there are some tired and unfit players who need a rest, while recent form and results have changed the complexion of our season. If we can get 12 more points this season that puts us on 73, a total that would have been a pipe dream before Ole took over, which would still make this season a success (in relative terms). The more points we get the better (obviously) because it gives us a better platform for next year but, like I said earlier, it won’t be a disaster to not qualify for the Champions League next year. Ted, Manchester But United should have won A United take on last night, Ole was correct in his summing up that United should have won, the first 25 minutes Wolves were nowhere in sight and only for poor headers United should of been 3 up.David De Gea has been immense for the past 6 or 7 seasons but last night he just couldn’t be arsed, Fred got it in the neck for the first goal but the pass from De Gea was loose and unnecessary putting Fred under pressure from 2 wolves players. After that went in United’s heads went the composure went out of the window and apart from McTominey the team played poorly.
Ashley Young, Jesus when a converted winger is your go too right back and captain you know something isn’t right, the red was harsh I feel as he got the ball and his momentum took him into the player but when Mike Dean is waiting for the right moment to produce his 100th red why not do it against United to make sure you get a few column inches.
Talking of Dean seemed every United foul was deemed a yellow card offence yet Wolves got away with all sorts, call it sour grapes if you will but wrapping both arms around Lukaku in the box isn’t now a foul under Dean rules.
United actually played better with 9 men (I’m not counting Pogba here) and with a bit of luck could of at least got a point, alas the luck went in Wolves favour with De Gea once again throwing his arse halfheartedly at the ball rather than you know actually trying to save the damn thing and with Jones and Smalling in the middle you just knew OG was on the cards.
The make up of the United team just isn’t right, to many players out for themselves rather than the team, Ole needs backing to bring in hungry young players who want to pull on the red shirt. Ole is still at the wheel just seems we have a few idiots on the drive home that need binning. Paul Murphy, Manchester
The Pogba problem Has anybody noticed this strange coincidence – ever since Zidane was reappointed, Man United have stopped playing well?
There’s a lot of talk about whether OGS should be looking to buy defenders, wing backs, forwards or replacements for Herera and Matic. I think the problem lies elsewhere. The elephant in the Manchester United engine room is Paul Pogba and his lack of dependability. It’s a complex problem. Pogba is comfortably the best player on the pitch, and when he wants to be, in the league. But there’s the problem – he doesn’t always want to be that player. Whatever his reasons are – be it dissatisfaction with the manager, or the distractions of a romance with Real Madrid, it seems to have a direct impact on his game. Since Zidane walked in to Madrid, Pogba’s focus seems to have gone. He’s stopped trying. And the last 3 games have seen the wishy washy Pogba we saw earlier in the season.
And when Pogba plays poorly, it puts a lot more pressure on Matic and Herera, and when they get overrun, everybody is quick to lay the blame at their door. But it usually arises from Pogba shirking his duties and in those games, Pogba makes his team mates look worse. Most great players will have a 7/10 or a 6/10 game, but when Pogba has a bad game, its usually 4/10. Just look at his stats in the Wolves game last night. It’s not about United regressing to the mean, it’s Pogba regressing to his heartless state. I’m sick of watching him amble back while the player who has just dispossessed him sprints past him.
Now this is still not the biggest challenge, but if the form of your best player, the player you rely on in tough games to hold the ball, bring a presence to the midfield and inspire the rest of the team, vacilates between the brilliant and apathetic then you have a problem. And if that player is meant to be the man driving your team forward, and in the engine room, then the problem amplifies dramatically. It’s no secret that United have lacked a leader on the pitch. Great teams have many leaders. Solskjaer has spoken about building the team around Pogba, but Pogba isn’t the kind of player you can build a team around, because I suspect that he isn’t the kind of person you can build a team around. If your talismanic player can’t be bothered to turn up, it deflates the rest of the team.
If Pogba’s heart is in Madrid, United are better off selling him. A player 70% as good but somebody who tries harder and can be more consistent will significantly improve the team. For the £150m United should get for Pogba, we can probably get any 2 of Doucoure, Capoue, Neves, and Moutinho, with change left over, assuming the clubs want to do business. Thanks but no thanks Paul. You can be a star elsewhere, I’d rather have a player. Ved (Wanted, players with heart) Sen, MUFC
Reality bites Amid the euphoria of a returning hero inspiring an enormous upswing in form and outlook, it was easy to overlook the serious problems that persist within the club. Luckily for all concerned, the Premier League doesn’t normally make you wait too long before delivering a large dose of reality.
I’m reasonably confident that Solskjaer’s affable nature in public hides a flintier side which sees through even his own sunny rhetoric to the real problems that exist within the team, let alone the club. If not, he won’t finish next season as manager.
It seems once again a summer overhaul is needed to make United serious players in the league again. Such an overhaul could have been facilitated by finally letting the overpaid and overrated players in the squad leave. Looking specifically at Young, Jones and Smalling here (and to a lesser extent Mata), so it’s worrying two of the three have signed new deals under Ole’s watch, and the third the night before Mourinho was sacked!
Talk of “protecting the club’s investment” in order to get a transfer fee is laughable the minute you see the wage they’d expect to meet or exceed at any other club. No sensible club is paying those players what we pay them. And therein lies the problem. Or one large portion of it at least.
Smalling, Jones and Young have all proved to varying degrees to be not good enough for a title-chasing team, if not squad. Given the opportunity to get their enormous wages off the books, the hierarchy demured. It’s not clear why, other than they are accountants protecting their investment. Their sense of perspective and planning does seem to have re-appeared just in time to quite reasonably not want to pay a 29-year-old Herrera £200k a week. Perhaps it was on hiatus when the Sanchez deal was being penned.
The brief, giddy high of seeing the United “board” (read: Woodard and Arnold) actually doing the right thing for the football club by sacking Mourinho and allowing themselves time to think and plan before the new season dissipated the second they then briefed that a Director of Football could yet be two years away, and maybe not even a Director of Football, and maybe could be an internal appointment anyway so everyone just calm down ok!
Presented with the perfect window in which to claw back goodwill and do the work necessary to bring the club into the modern era, plan for the next decade and beyond, Woodward couldn’t bring himself to do it. It’s not as though it would be unprecedented. The United hierarchy overhauled the entire youth and scouting system fairly recently, and started a women’s team from scratch last year. The capacity is there, so the only conclusion to be drawn is that Ed just isn’t ready to vacate his seat at the big boy negotiating table just yet.
As a result, United will continue to misspend their money and mismanage their assets. It’s not true to say United haven’t spend money under they Glazers, they have, just in all the wrong places. It seems the Glazers don’t care too much about this mismanagement of company funds, certainly not when the tractor partners keep rolling in. So what we have is a club held back on the pitch by the egos off it. Until that changes, it’s difficult to see real progress being made on the green stuff, no matter who is at the wheel. Adam MUFC (daring Woodward to prove me wrong with an audacious summer window)
See, it’s not all bad So, last night’s result wasn’t the best, but it’s easy to be negative at times like this. To counter act I’ve thought of some positives (get ready for some clutching at straws).
1. This is the easy one, Scott McTominay. Very positive performance. The goal did his confidence the world of good and playing with permission to get forward clearly suited his game a lot more.
2. Diogo Dalot. Looks like he has potential to be a very very good right back. Strong going forward, pace to recover in defense. I like him.
3. Yes, Paul Pogba had another poor game after being poor against Watford. However, both games he has had a sensible haircut. Hopefully this means we won’t see columns by people like Garth Crooks writing about his hair every time he has a bad game (I said some were clutching at straws).
4. David De Gea was not great. Didn’t command his area for the second goal, some of his distribution wasn’t the best either, but remaining positive that’s surely his mistakes for this season out of the way.
5. Final one. This has got to be the end of Fred. I remember people saying Lucas must be the least Brazilian midfielder ever because he offered nothing going forward. After watching Fred this year he can’t be either Brazilian or a midfielder but like I said, as a positive that has to be the end of his United career.
Now hopefully we can carry all this positive energy into the final 6 games and still get top four. Ole said we probably need 15 more points, I think more like 18 which means we have to win the final six but I still think we’ll get there. Bernard (if you believe you can achieve) MUFC
Cruel fate If destiny was on Liverpool’s side, why would it have let our best season in 30 years coincide with this ridiculous Man City team, with all their riches and their record breaking points tallies… Rob (lfc)
Ground control You know, I do think we English get carried away with ourselves. I keep hearing the new White Hart Lane is “the greatest stadium in the world”. Now I will admit it’s a really great looking stadium and is something to be proud of, but before anyone gets carried away, have a look on Google for the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.
OUT OF THIS WORLD! Paul Norris
Want you back One of my earliest memories of Premier League football was back in 2003 when Mark Viduka scored the winner against Arsenal in a 3-2 win at Highbury which kept them in the league and gave United the title, I can still remember Viduka celebrating in that blue and yellow away strip, sorry Sheffield United but I hope Leeds finish in the second automatic spot this season. Mikey, CFC (Blue and Yellow is a beautiful colour combination)
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