It was a big week for United last week which turned out to be a mixed week in terms of results and performances. We took on Liverpool in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16, in which we needed to turn around a 2-0 deficit and then of course there was the highly anticipated Manchester Derby at the “Emptyhad” – although it was pretty full for this game.
It was a week that was important and a week that had the potential to either keep United’s season alive or totally destroy it and I have to be honest, I wasn’t particularly psyched for either game and that is purely down to the football we have been subjected to and the managers team selections. All season we have seen unfathomable team selections and severely mundane football, so you can forgive me for not being enthusiastic, despite who our opponents were and our recent record against the better teams.
The result against Liverpool came as no surprise to me, especially after seeing Fellaini had been picked and that Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin in particular, were left on the bench. I knew that with the Belgian playing that it would be like playing with 10 men and that we would struggle.
The game itself didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would be though, however we did lack the desire and passion that you would expect from a Manchester United V Liverpool match. The performance was toothless and I failed to see any real passion or fight on the pitch. This was not acceptable in such a huge game on the Football calendar.
Then of course there were the defensive substitutions; two full backs and a defensive midfielder. In a game where you are chasing three goals, you make attacking changes, right? I know I’m no manager, but come on. Memphis was on the bench so why was he not used? As we have witnessed recently, he is that player who can produce something special. At the very least, he would have added some pace and strength in our attack.
Following the draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford came the victory in the Manchester derby at the Etihad. Again, I could not get excited during the few days building up to this match like I normally would for such a big game. Sure, City were also on a run of substandard form, but United have been so much worse. My hope was lifted a little, however, when I saw that Fellaini wasn’t starting. I liked the prospect of Carrick and Schneiderlin starting with Mata in the number 10 role. Mata hasn’t really been a standout player in recent weeks with goals and assists, but more often than not he is involved in the build up to goals… when we actually score them!
The team selection without Fellaini paid off. It felt like we had another option in midfield. I can’t help but believe that if Fellaini had played it would have been Schneiderlin who would have been left on the bench and Schneiderlin played a role in the build up to the only goal of the game. He and Mata linked up in the midfield then Mata threaded the ball through to Marcus Rashford. The youngster then skipped past an ageing Demichelis and slotted the ball past the England number 1, Joe Hart.
Winning this game gave United yet another glimmer of hope in finishing in the top four, with City – who currently sit fourth – now only one point ahead, although the remaining games each of the top 5/6 teams has tends to suggest that we may struggle to get that top four spot.
What can we take from the two matches?
If we are to take any positives from this week is has to be that with Marcus Rashford in the team our attack looks so much better with added pace, strength and of course, goals! All we need now is for Memphis to start firing and we can be a lethal attacking force again.
Michael Carrick also had two great games this week. His defensive contribution has been vital and his passing ability to instigate attacking moves has been admirable. And let’s not forget Smalling, Blind and de Gea. This trio have been excellent not just in the last week, but all season and are without doubt the reason we are not flirting around mid-table.
Paul’s final thought
We may all be happy that we have beaten City at the Etihad but we simply cannot forget the horror show we were subjected to over the two legs against Liverpool in the Europa League. The performance was disgusting and completely unacceptable against such big rivals. We must not allow ourselves to use the odd victory, like the one over City, to paper over the cracks of our poor season. As fans, some of us are slipping into that frame of mind where we are beginning to accept mediocrity. I have seen it on social media and I am guilty of it myself. This simply cannot happen.
Thank you for reading and enjoy the international break… Who am I kidding? No one enjoys it!