New Year, Same Red Devils

Arsenal celebrate in front of dejected Fred, Matic and Maguire

It pains me to begin my new coverage of Manchester United with a demoralizing loss to Arsenal. A team on a woeful run and an uncertain start under a new manager proved far superior to Ole’s charges. This is something that I think should precede any points I talk about here. As bad as United were yesterday evening, Arsenal were unreal. They were fluid, solid and not one player turned in a bad performance. They looked like the team that came so close to winning the title in 2016. Though there are multiple issues with the current United squad, it would be unfair to discredit Arsenal’s performance.

Let’s have a look at some of the talking points of the game 👇

The Curious Case of Luke Shaw

Pepe leading Shaw on a merry dance

This might deserve its own blog post. Luke Shaw was run ragged by Pepe in the first half, almost giving away a penalty by diving wildly in the box. If he made any slight contact with the winger’s legs it would’ve been a clear call. He didn’t keep track of Pepe for the opening goal. He gave away the ball needlessly in the second half which almost led to another goal. Brandon Williams was sat on the bench for the entire game. It’s hard to imagine any reasoning for Solskjaer to prefer the lateral passing and lazy running compared to Williams’ forward thinking and aggressive nature.

Fred and Martial – dangerous duo

Fred worked his socks off

With Rashford subdued for most of the match it was left to Tony Martial to lead the line. That he did. He drove deep into the heart of Arsenal’s defense, somehow keeping the ball at his feet and almost scoring and creating chances nearly every time he got a sniff. He has stepped up big time in recent games amid criticism from pundits and tweeters alike. He can be proud of his performance last night.

The other United player that can be proud of his performance is the diminutive Brazilian, Fred. He is having an impressive season so far and has been United’s most consistent player over the last few months. He was battered and bruised last night and got on with, not looking for frees but looking for the next pass. A fully fit McTominay alongside Fred would be the start of something consistent and solid in my opinion.

Sub almost paid off!

Another anonymous performance from the Brazilian

Andreas Pereira, often cut down for his unfulfilled potential, almost turned the match upside down just a few minutes after coming on. His blistering shot hit the side netting and for a brief, agonizing second the ripple of the net fooled us all. If that went in I’m not sure the Gunners could have held on to the lead. Ifs and buts. Pereira was anonymous for the rest of the match, mind.

Arteta’s philosophy

Arteta and a rejuvenated Ozil

Just to reiterate, Arsenal were quality. I don’t like saying it and I don’t like seeing it, but here we are. They harassed and harried, pushed and pushed and splayed the ball from side to side with ease. When even David Luiz is threading passes through the lines you know you’re in trouble. Arteta may look like an exotic dancer ready to attack the dance floor with his furrowed brow but the man knows football. It’s just a shame it all clicked when they played United.

This does not take away from the fact that many United players looked like they didn’t want to be there. Perhaps the amount of games in such a short space of time has caught up with them, but there is an uncertainty rooted in the team that seems hard to displace. Ole places his trust in age and experience rather than trying out the youngsters in tough games such as these. However, when your experienced players like Shaw and Lindelof cost you goals, that’s when it’s time to pick Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe, especially before the latter decides he needs regular first team football somewhere else.

Clear Penalty

Arsenal fan Christopher Kavanagh

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was denied a penalty at a crucial point during the match. Granted, he looked like he went down a bit easily in the slo-mo replay but Aubameyang’s leg cuts across his path and makes clear contact. I thought that referee Christopher Kavanagh was allowing some tackles that were borderline fouls in the spirit of letting the game flow. The penalty incident would have been a foul anywhere else on the pitch so I struggle to understand his reasoning in not awarding the free. Also, if he deemed it a dive then Wan-Bissaka should have been booked. The mind boggles.

Verdict

Matic and Fred chase down Lacazette

Not trying to be funny, but United kept up their recent form of underperforming against a team in the bottom half of the table. The inconsistency is rage-inducing. The lack of desire in some players is infuriating. The ineptitude at the back, including kick outs, created doubt in the rest of the team. It’s United v Wolves away in the F.A. Cup this Saturday and I’d be lying to you if I said I was in anyway confident. Wolves have this United team sussed and unfortunately, United don’t have anyone sussed. Another opportunity to come closer to the top four missed and more questions about the talent raised. Is this a sign of things to get worse this year? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or online 👍

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4 thoughts on “New Year, Same Red Devils

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