Category Archives: Match Preview

Manchester United v Newcastle Preview

Manchester United

Manchester United will square off against Newcastle on Monday in the Premier League. The match should go on despite the cancellations of previous Manchester United matches, but could still be cancelled.

The Magpies have had a horrid last couple of seasons. If it wasn’t for Joe Willock and some good form late in last seasons campaign the Tyne-side club will likely be playing in the Championship.

Eddie Howe picked up the only win of the campaign earlier this month against fellow relegation threatened Burnley. Newcastle sit joint bottom of the table, only ahead of Norwich by two goals. The Magpies have drew seven times in the league this season.

Despite only having 10 points this season, Newcastle can still stay up. Newcastle are only three points behind Watford with safety, but because of goal differential the Magpies would need another point.

Newcastle has been thrashed their last three games against formidable completion: Man City, Liverpool and Leicester easily dispatched the side who was recently bought by Saudis.

The new cash influx could help Newcastle out this window, but they have not received reinforcements yet.

Howe has come out lately in the 4-5-1, but the side has some flexibility to change shape. The only player that should really scared United is Allan Saint-Maximin.

The speedy and flashy French forward only has three league goals this, but his capable of the special goal. Jonjo Shelvey hit a stunner against Liverpool, two matches ago and is capable of producing a nice long range goal every now and then.

Manchester United and Ralf Rangnick will have nearly a full squad at his disposal on Monday. The only player out is Paul Pogba still because of an injury he picked up with France on November.

United’s Final Group Match

Man United V Young Boys

Manchester United have already booked their ticket to the knockout round when they defeated Villarreal a fortnight ago in Spain.

Tomorrow they will face Young Boys with nothing on the line, because of a new rule in the Champions League, even if the Red Devils were defeated by Young Boys and Villarreal win, United still win the group because head-to-head records count more than goal differential this season.

United are in a terrific spot to rest key players with the congestion of the upcoming festive fixtures closing in on them. This is an opportunity for Ralf Rangnick to assess whether players are capable of his system, maybe even some starters will have a run because of that.

Young Boys

Young Boys still have something to play for and that is Europa League possibilities. Young Boys are rooted at the bottom of the group with 4 points. A win at Old Trafford and Atalanta losing to Villarreal will lift the Swiss club into third.

Young Boys famously defeated United at their place to kick-off the group. Jordan Pefok, the American international scored the game winner late to give Young Boys the unlikely victory.

At the very least this is an opportunity for the Swiss side to showcase their talents on a big stage. Pefok is currently chasing a shot at making the United States national team roster ahead of the World Cup in the summer. The striker position is wide open on the team and he would look to impress.

Pefok has 10 in 21 competitive games this season and could lead the line against United. David Wagner’s side is a little banged up. A few players that took part in the first match against United are out.

First choice keeper David von Ballmoos is out, Christian Fassnacht a fantastic player is also out and Ulisses Garcia is out. Garcia played really well at left-back the last time the two clubs faced off. They will also be without a couple

In their last Champions League outing they drew 3-3 against Atalanta. The terrific match was leveled by Luis Muriel late to steal a point for Atalanta. The two clubs are not far apart geographically and on the pitch that night, but Young Boys could not finish off Atalanta.

The three points would have been huge going into the United match, especially in the fight for the third.

United Team News

As I mentioned earlier this is an opportunity for Rangnick to experiment a bit, to gauge his squad and he has already confirmed that Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson will be in the starting XI tomorrow night.

“I haven’t finally decided to be honest. It definitely makes sense that we will rest a few players because of the crowded fixture list over the next few weeks and months. We need to make sure we have enough recovery as possible, also for the Premier League, but, on the other hand, we need to keep our positive momentum,” said Rangnick.

“To start with both will play tomorrow in the first XI and as you saw, Donny came on as a sub last Sunday. Dean is a very good ambitious goalkeeper, we definitely need two goalkeepers,” said Rangnick when asked about whether Donny and Dean are going to go out on loan in January.

Crystal Palace Travel North To Old Trafford on Sunday

Manchester United v Crystal Palace

Manchester United host Crystal Palace on Sunday in the Premier League.

One interim period is over. Welcome the new interim period. Michael Carrick took charge of his third game for Manchester United and secured an important victory for his side who are hoping they have turned a corner. However, it will be without Carrick who has stepped down from all club duties with Ralf Rangnick taking charge of his first game this weekend.

Crystal Palace are the visitors to Old Trafford this Sunday and if recent history at the Theatre of Dreams is anything to go by, Palace might be in for a good afternoon. United have not beaten Palace at home since September 2017 when Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku and Mauroane Fellaini (twice) found the net in a 4-0 romp for Jose Mourinho’s men.

However, Palace have been victorious in their previous two visits with some late magic. United will need to stay focused for the entire game if they are to grab all three points.

Palace’s Form

This year Palace are a completely new entity under former Arsenal and French midfielder Patrick Vieira. Having arrived from Nice in the summer, some questioned if he was ready for the Premier League having struggled in his final season. However, the London club have gone from strength to strength after a huge turn around in the squad.

The Eagles currently sit in 11th place six points above the bottom three but just five points off United who are currently 7th. With just three wins it is impressive they are so high up but Vieira’s men do have seven draws this season; he will be hoping they can turn those draws into victories very soon.

Currently without a win in three games following defeat to Leeds United and Aston Villa (and a 3-3 draw with Burnley), Vieira will be keen to get back to winning ways as they have not tasted victory since the start of November against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

One thing Palace do not lack and that is goals. Against Leeds midweek was the first time they have failed to score since their defeat to Liverpool in mid-September.

Palace Team News

Vieira has played either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 this season, a similar formation to that of United’s, and will not be panicked to change drastically following the two defeats. It will be interesting to see who he starts with up front to challenge Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire; who returned to the side on Thursday and put in a strong performance. He could be tempted with the strength of Christian Benteke or the wiry nature of former Manchester United man Wilf Zaha.

Once again United find themselves against a quality midfielder in on loan Chelsea man Conor Gallagher. The England midfielder has been the most consistent player for Palace this year and he will be a real threat to Fred, Scott McTominay and Bruno Fernandes. United should know about his gameplay having played against him twice last season against West Bromwich Albion.

Palace just have the one injury at the moment with tricky winger Eberechi Eze still out injured. However, Danish defender Joachim Andersen is set to return.

Arsenal Preview

Arsenal v Man United

Manchester United take on Arsenal in the Premier League on Thursday at Old Trafford. A big match for both sides trying to keep pace with the top four.

Arsenal currently sit 5th, but are tied with West Ham on points for 4th, but losing out on goal differential. Arsenal are five points clear of United who have 18 points in 8th place.

Arsenal will be able to see what they are going to have to do on Thursday because West Ham play on Wednesday. There could be no way for Arsenal to crack into the top four if West Ham wins, so the focus will be keeping teams below them at-bay and keeping pace with West Ham with a win over United.

Arsenal would get a huge boost if they can crack the top four, especially after a slow start to the season. Arsenal were unbeaten in 8 matches before getting handled by Liverpool, but bounced back against a slow-starting Newcastle side at the weekend.

The road has been rough on Arsenal this season, only two wins against Burnley and Leicester. Brentford, Spurs, Liverpool and City took care of Arsenal on their ground.

United on paper are probably the better team, but they have to be weary against Arsenal. A team that has not taken many big scalps this season, but have taken care of business against teams that they should.

Arsenal’s Spending

Mikel Arteta received funds to revamp the squad this summer and with their current form might get another reinforcement or two this upcoming winter window.

Nuno Tavares, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Aaron Ramsdale and Martin Odegaard are a few of the players bought this summer that have featured recently for the Gunners, all with good sized fees.

Ramsdale has been great in goal. Tavares is still a little raw, but has been holding off Kieran Tierney. Tierney has been a bit injured already this season and has made the bench the last couple of matches.

Arteta has been lining up this season in a 4-2-3-1, but came out in a 4-4-1-1 against Newcastle. Tomiyasu is not a marauding full back so it could be a back three at times. Tomiyasu dropped a dime for the second goal at the weekend against Newcastle. Bakayou Saka covers a lot of space on the right, but could move around to find space.

Veteran strikers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are supported with some good young creative talent. Saka, Odegaard and Emile Smith-Rowe have good starts to the season. Smith-Rowe was recently called into the England squad because of his form.

Thomas Partey and Albert Sambi Lokonga provide cover the center backs and are solid professionals as well. Lokonga was also bought this summer from Anderlecht and his slide into the first team. Arteta has put together a decent side that is flexible.

There is firepower off the bench. Lacazette usually comes off the bench, Eddie Nketiah, Nicolas Pepe and Gabriel Martinelli have a goal in them off the bench.

Spending over €150mil has helped as they now sit in 5th and are threatening for Champions League spots even though the season is still early.

The approach is slightly different from most big clubs, but is how Arsenal has done business before in the past. Not necessarily going all out for big named signings, instead getting solid well scouted players with decent sized fees. White is the exception probably because of his English fee.

The Gunners fell off a bit the last few seasons, but they have reloaded well and could be challenging for the top four come April and into May.

Chelsea Preview

Chelsea Man United

Manchester United face Chelsea on Sunday in the Premier League.

New challenge, new United, new manager but could it be the same old problems? After the humiliating 4-1 loss to Watford last Saturday, the Manchester United board relieved Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of his job and placed Michael Carrick in temporary charge for the game against Villarreal. Carrick will remain in charge this weekend against Chelsea but it is expected that Ralph Rangnick will be named the interim manager incredibly soon.

So with Carrick still in charge will we see a similar approach to what we did on Wednesday? Carrick set up more defensively and decided to start with Anthony Martial and Donny Van De Beek rather than Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford. It was around the 60th minute mark that he made his move and used the fresh legs of his subs to win 2-0.

However, Chelsea will be a completely different entity. The London side have been transformed by Thomas Tuchel and currently sit top of the table three points clear of 2nd place Manchester City. Chelsea are the team to beat having only lost once this year to City. They are clear title favourites alongside United’s city rivals and Liverpool.

Will United be able to beat them? Recently in this fixture, United have been the stronger of the sides but the past two league games have drawn a blank. This is unusual for this fixture with goals usually coming in it, the previous seven fixtures (before the two 0-0s) the game ended with a minimum of two goals in it.

Chelsea’s Form

Imperious is the word that comes to mind. Tuchel has found the balance of his team and is able to rely on the back up brigade when needed as well. Chelsea top the group in the league, top the group in the Champions League and are through to the quarter final of the League Cup; it really is quite rosy by the Thames. 

However, in their second to last league game they came unstuck against a stubborn Sean Dyche who refused to give up and his Burnley side managed a surprising 1-1 draw. This was just a minor blip on a superb start to the season and Tuchel’s men backed it up with a 4-0 thumping of Leicester City to restore themselves to winning ways.

Chelsea Team News

Chelsea will certainly be without left back Ben Chilwell who has suffered an ACL injury. Tuchel confirmed today that the injury will see him out for six weeks minimum and then he will be assessed for surgery.

Alongside Chilwell, N’Golo Kante has been side-lined. The French world cup winner has been an ever present player for Chelsea since he arrived and usually puts in an 8/10 performance against United so they will be happy to see the back of him.

It looks likely that Kai Havertz and former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku will return to action this weekend as they shake off previous injuries. 

Christian Pulisic has also returned in a recent weeks for Chelsea. The American has scored a couple of goals for club and country recently and could make an impact from the starting XI or the bench.

Tuchel will certainly play three at the back but it will be interesting to see the variant up top. With Harry Maguire struggling for form, it is quite possible that he will go with two strikers rather than just one. With the return of the bullish Lukaku it would make sense for Tuchel to play someone up with him to really put pressure on the United backline.

Chelsea are an expansive side with the ability to hurt you in all different ways, however, their strength is out wide and the loss of Chilwell is a big one. If you look at the heatmap from the Leicester game a lot of their attacks focus down the right and that is through the ever impressive Reece James who has become one of the best full backs in the country. 

It could be another grim day at the office for Manchester United if they are not going to be solid.

An Okay Villarreal Side Is Their For The Taking

Villarreal v Man Utd

Manchester United take on Villarreal tomorrow in a pivotal Champions League matchup in Spain.

Both teams are tied atop of the group with seven points. Only two games remain in the group stage. Even a point could be useful for Manchester United on the road. United host Young Boys to finish the group, even they lost in Switzerland, they should look at that game with three points in mind.

Manchester United Squad

If United come out and take the game at Villarreal and win well they could flip momentum in their season. At this point getting to the knockout round of the Champions League is a success. A smash and grab could be another route, and even inspire the same.

Another late Ronaldo winner might not quell the doubts around this team. Ronaldo can not always bail this team out, other players like Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Luke Shaw need to step up big.

Bruno Fernandes has been impacting the game in other ways for Manchester United his deep passing has been superb, but if he only gets one or two chances in a match, he should finish, he has the quality.

The calls for Donny van de Beek to play from the fans has been loud and frequent for some time. It is a common talking point and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would say something like, “Donny works really hard, he is a great player and if he continues to work hard, he can be a great player,”

If you do not like him, just say it. It was rough to watch the treatment of a player who has a lot of passion, he obviously wants to play. Not just play, but the passion to work hard. His tackle on Sarr this weekend was a little dirty, but at least he went in and put a tackle on someone. At least he showed some physicality.

That has not been the theme this season at United. There are a lot of physical players on United, Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, and Luke Shaw are all physical players. Even Bruno likes to get dirty every now and then, but it has not been enough. The best tackle this season came from a box-to-box midfielder who has played a handful of minutes.

DVB needs to play against Villarreal, they need a midfielder who can play a pass between the lines, a player that can help break down the Villarreal low block. If they lose the ball high up the pitch, you need a guy who is going to sell out in the middle to help break up the transition, Villarreal like to defend and counter.

This could be a game for Alex Telles and his ability to put in a cross. Ronaldo has become one of the most dangerous target men in the world, his ability to leap is astounding. United need to utilize that ability more with crosses in the box.

It will be interesting what Carrick does in other defensive positions. Ole favored Victor Lindelof a bit more than Eric Bailly lately. Bailly’s athletic abilities could be a boost, but he has made some mistakes in the past. Diogo Dalot could also feature for AWB he had one of his worst games in a United shirt against Watford.

The defense has grown a little comfortable when Ole was in charge, they need to be pushed more and changing it up could lead to more competition in the side, thus creating better players overall.

If you are not going to use the players that cost millions on the bench, might as well sell them when they have value instead of letting them leave on a free. Some of these players were bought with the intention to switch it up. Telles and Dalot are good players and every now and then they should get a game.

You need squad rotation because you need your top players to be fresh. A game like Watford is the opportunity to play a rotated squad, so they could be fresh for an important Champions League game. Ole was forced to pick his best side against Watford because of the pressure on him.

Carrick has to keep Chelsea in mind at the weekend. I do not think United are going to win the league, I think most would agree, but if they want to qualify for Champions League next season, which are the minimum of standards at United, this Chelsea game is important to keep pace, every league game is really, but Chelsea a are a top club at the moment.

United should relish in those opportunities to play other big teams, not be worried.

For the Villarreal match I would go with de Gea, AWB, Maguire, Bailly, Telles, Matic, DVB, Bruno, Rashford, Ronaldo, Sancho.

That is what I would do, I think defensively these guys can handle the Villarreal attack. They need to take the game to Villarreal and get a good result. A win would almost guarantee the knockout rounds, it would bust the ghosts of the Europa League Final and boost spirits for the match against Chelsea.

Maguire will miss Chelsea because of a ban, so he is likely to play. I would give him some time off, but can see why Carrick will pick him. Lindelof is good at times and could start over Bailly. I like Bailly because of the counter, someone athletic to break stuff up, he played well in their last encounter.

Carrick has not had much time and could keep it Ole with only a day really to prep. The players that are likely missing were out this weekend.

Villarreal

The yellow submarine are not doing so hot in La Liga this season. In Champions League they should have beat United at Old Trafford, but Ronaldo. A draw against Atalanta in their first game and two wins against Young Boys give them seven in the group and tied with United.

Villarreal are like a Leicester, tactically not so much, but where they are in their league because of their involvement in Europe. Villarreal currently sit in the 12th spot in the league, just like Leicester. They both have good players and are capable of more in their leagues.

Villarreal lack wins, only three in their first 13 games. They have seven draws this season. Villarreal have a tough time seeing out games this season and give up late goals often. Another one this weekend against Celta Vigo.

Dalot got torched the last game by Arnaut Danjuma, but luckily he is hurt at the moment and is in doubt for the match. Star striker Gerard Moreno has been out for awhile and is out for the match. Etienne Capoue and Paco Alcacer join Danjuma as doubtful for the match.

Dalot could see minutes if Danjuma is out, but it might be too risky to start him tomorrow.

Villarreal have some injury problems to key players in their attack. Defensively they have been consistent and injury free. Juan Foyth, Raul Albiol, Pau Torres and Alfonso Pedraza cover Geronimo Rulli. Villarreal are tied for third best in goals allowed in La Liga this season.

Final Thoughts

Unai Emery knows this game is important, especially with their final game being against Atalanta, a draw could see the top three teams with 8 points. Atalanta will probably beat Young Boys. Villarreal has a good goal differential and could draw out the next two matches and qualify for the knockout round.

A win for either United or Villarreal would put either in the driver seat to qualify for the knockout rounds. The yellow submarine do not really have the firepower right now to go for it.

It is hard to expect much from a team with a caretaker manager. The quality is there and sometimes you cannot put your guard down against a wounded animal. I think Emery will leave his guard up, but United still have the quality to win even if Villarreal plays tight.

Same Old Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Press Conference

Talk Man United Header

Manchester United are in action against Watford on Saturday. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer spoke with the press ahead of the game on Saturday.

It was the same press conference that has been had. No hard questions, nothing about tactics, same questions about him almost losing his job and Jesse Lingard.

The Lingard situation is understandable, it is being reported that Lingard is going to leave on a free after contract talks have stalled. Lingard wants to play to make the England World Cup squad. United should have sold him in the summer.

“Jesse is training really hard, really well and he’s ready and available for me, definitely. He’s disappointed he’s not played more, of course. In regard to the contract situation and talks, I’ve not been in them very, very closely. For me, Jesse is still a big part of this club, an important part. He gives energy to the group every day,” said Solskjaer.

Solskjaer and Pogba

Paul Pogba was injured on the first day of training for France and could be out for awhile. Is it a bad thing?

“Of course, there’s a couple of doubts with illnesses and small niggles. Paul is out still for a while, Rapha is out for a while still. Apart from that, players will be coming back in, [let’s] call it, the near future. Some this weekend and some during the week. But that’s the same for every team that misses players,” said Solskjaer.

Maybe not. Solskjaer has deployed Pogba on the left at times and Pogba disappears, Solskjaer plays Pogba in the double pivot and sometimes he disappears.

Most people would say Pogba’s best position is the number 8 role, the box to box midfielder who can sit back deep and pick a pass, but have someone next to him to provide cover. The problem with United is no one is capable of playing that defensive midfield role week after week.

It is not likely that Solskjaer changes his tactics to a 4-3-3 instead of a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-back system that he has used as back up.

We could see Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek paired together in Pogba’s absence. DVB is a classical Dutch number 8 and was phenomenal in that role with Ajax.

The Pogba injury allows Solskjaer not to pick him without scrutiny. Pogba is one of the best midfielders in the world, but could be gone after this summer with his contract coming to an end. Watford could be a glimpse of United without Pogba.

Ole Still Positive

If Ole is negative in these press conferences, he will take a beating in the media. Ole plays it tight, keeps his cards to his chest and always says the right thing. The politically correct thing.

“We’ve been through periods like this before. Our away form should give us confidence, what we’ve done. We’ve just gone 30 games away and lost one or whatever we have. Last season, we turned it around as well on a run with 20 games and one defeat. That’s the kind of run we have to get back to. As I said, this week we’ve worked on a few things, we’ve prioritized a few things that we have to improve on.”

“We know the run of form hasn’t been good and that performances haven’t been good enough. We know we can do better, we know we should do better and we think we will do better. It’s down to performances on the day. [Players are] human beings, sometimes you hit the post and it goes out and sometimes it goes in. That can change the mood, the atmosphere. We just got to focus on getting a good start tomorrow and build on a good start.”

Watford vs Manchester United Preview

Watford

Back to the grind for United players and fans alike as they travel down south to Watford for their Premier League encounter. After what seems yet another international break, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be hoping that his players are rejuvenated after successful international outings or enjoying a break from the media hurricane after the losses to Liverpool and Manchester City.

It is time for these United players to start performing and produce a good display. Some might be thinking this is only Watford who sit in 17th place but there is no easy game in the Premier League and there especially needs to be a reaction following the losses against two rivals.

Watford’s Form

A trip to Vicarage Road is going to be a lot edgier than it would have been two months ago, Watford could just surprise some people as they look to move away from the foot of the table.

The Red Devils come up against an out of sorts Watford who have just won three games all season. Their last win came three games ago as they produced a magical late display to beat Everton 5-2 with form Manchester United man Joshua King grabbing a hat trick.

However, that has been the only glimmer of success recently as they were thumped 5-0 the week before by Liverpool…not that United can talk. They also lost to Southampton and Arsenal 1-0 in the last two games.

Manager Claudio Ranieri has been in charge for four games now with three losses and one win but he will be looking to take all three points against a fragile United side. It could well be a repeat of the 2019 game at Vicarage Road where Watford won 2-0 thanks to a massive howler by David De Gea.

Watford’s Tactics

Since Ranieri has come in, he has adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation allowing striker King to command the role up front on his own. He has also favoured Moussa Sissoko in the holding role in midfield and this could be a key battle with the weak midfield for United.

However, against Liverpool Ranieri favoured a 5-4-1 formation to restrict Liverpool’s dynamic front men but that plan did not work. Could he be tempted to pack the defence against United? Do they offer the same threat? Probably not but United can really struggle to pick the lock when sides sit deep against them.

Watford’s Team News

Watford will certainly be without the suspended Juraj Kucka who picked up a second yellow card late on against Arsenal before the International break.

The Hornets really are there for the taking and do not look solidified just yet as they battle relegation. Former Manchester United man Ben Foster has been one saving grace for them as he is constantly peppered by the opposition but has been repelling them more recently.

Watford also have Ashley Fletcher, Craig Cathcart and the aforementioned King who could all feature against their former side.

Man Utd U23s Take On Derby U23s Friday

Man Utd's Amad Diallo

Man Utd U23s resume their season on Friday when they travel to Derby to face the Rams’ U23s in a Premier League 2 matchup.

It has been an up and down season for the young Red Devils, but they went into the international break on a high-note, beating Leeds’ U23s by a score of 3-2. Two great goals from Amad Diallo, the winner in the final minutes of the match, was the difference.

“He comes down here, works and helps the team. He was brilliant. The little glimpses of excellence that he shows are unbelievable,” said Man Utd U23s head coach Neil Wood when speaking to MUTV.

Amad might not be in the side against Derby, the recent injury of Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane injured and the recent woes with wingers in the attacking third, Amad might make the bench for Watford.

It would be safe to let him play against the worst side in PL2. Even if he makes the bench against Watford, he might not play. Watford is a good game for someone like Jadon Sancho or Mason Greenwood to get minutes especially if United could retain the ball, where their individual styles seem more suited for.

Man Utd U23s PL 2 Season

The month of October epitomized the high and lows for the U23s this season. Two fantastic 3-0 victories against Liverpool and Blackburn were followed up by a huge 6-0 defeat to West Ham and a 1-0 defeat to Spurs.

Anthony Elanga and Shola Shoretire each scored goals in the victories over Liverpool and Blackburn. Amad’s brace sandwiched a Charlie McNeil goal versus Leeds. Man Utd have a plethora of attacking talent in their academy at the moment.

Despite having good attacking talent, they only have 18 goals this season compared to Arsenal’s U23s who have the most with 32, half the league has scored more. United have given up 20 goals this season, the 5th best out of 14 teams.

Derby, despite being last in the league with only 6 points have a slightly better defense, giving up one less goal. They do not score much, they are tied for last in the league with 15 goals. They do not lose by much, they are competitive regardless of their current standings and could give Man Utd some trouble.

Still, Man Utd U23s should get the job done against Derby. The match will be live on MUTV Friday evening.

United’s Season So Far

Manchester United

The rollercoaster of Manchester United continues. It has not been an impressive and dominating start that many people predicted for the Red Devils. Currently they are in free fall and are still a million miles away from Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea in terms of challenging for the title. Can anything be done to stop the rot?

Pre-season started with a lot of promise with more signings brought in to bolster the first team squad quality. Signings of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo really showed intent to the other teams in the league. However, all how come with a lot negativity.

Signings

Firstly looking at Varane he has excelled and looked to be settling at the heart of defence but has really struggle with injury. The French world cup winner has only featured nine times (one appearance from the bench) in all competitions which is not good enough for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to be able to solidify the defence.

Secondly, Jadon Sancho simply has not played enough. Solskjaer has not given the opportunity for Sancho to prove what he can do. Each time the England winger has been used it has either been from the bench, played for around an hour and more disappointingly it has been from the left hand side. Sancho was signed as a right winger and that needs to be where he plays.

Then there is Cristiano Ronaldo, the man who has dragged United out the mud on what seems like a thousand times in the space of three months. He has helped with the goal scoring but has he helped with the style of play? What is the style of play this season? Questions are lingering over Solskjaer and he needs to know what is best with a 36 year old Ronaldo. He will score but will he press if you want him to?

United’s Style

 It has been such an inconsistent start to the season and there are clearly glimpses of magic from this United team. Thrashings of Leeds United and Newcastle United showed that they can do it but backs against the wall performances against Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers will not cut it. To win a league title you do not always have to beat the best sides, it is about picking up the wins against the lower league teams.

One thing that has changed under Solskjaer’s United is that when they do concede a goal there is not panic and there is the faith they can restore it quickly. However, it is now becoming where they look like they could concede five goals and look nowhere near scoring one.

United can be are one of the best on the counter and they can string some fantastic balls around the edge of the box. Solskjaer has made United more entertaining especially after the previous three stewardships. However, the start this season has not felt flowing it has felt very haphazard with players leaving their positions wide open. Against Liverpool and Manchester City it was embarrassingly easy for them to dominate the game and the lack of belief was evident from the players.

Ole’s Credentials

The question remains over the manager and will continue to do so for as long as he is in charge. Many believe he does not have the credentials to take United to the next level and it could be the case that he has reached the ceiling of his capabilities. However, he has proven that he can get United challenging in his previous two full seasons in charge by reaching semifinals and the final of the Europa League. But it is hard to see that being enough when things are this low.

Reverting back to the point about the style of play, Solskjaer needs to know what he is playing and how he is going to play it and be firm in that decision. Changing a style of play each week against the top teams to match their style rather than one you are comfortable is always going to end up disastrous, just as it did against Liverpool with United pressing high up and trying to play out from the back against the best pressing side in the country.

Solskjear clearly needs some help and looking to improve his coaching staff would not be the worst thing in the world. Coaches like Carlos Queiroz and René Meulensteen know the club well and could be a great signing to help build on the restructure of the club behind the scenes.

Are The Players Up For It?

The chips are down, once again, so Solskjaer needs players to fight for the shirt and get it right. It is looking far too easy for some to give away the ball and not be bothered about winning it back. Approaching the winter period, it is vital to pick up some wins and some good wins at that to build confidence but Solskjaer needs to get his system right and the players need to fit around that.

The inconsistent performances of Captain Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Aaron Wan Bissaka is killing the team. The same can be said about the limited midfield pairing of Scott McTominay and Fred, both capable of doing one thing a defensive midfielder is required to do but not both things.

If Solskjaer is being let down by his side he is reluctant to look to his quad and he needs to change that. Keeping it fresh is important and with results coinciding with poor performances he needs to be more ruthless and give squad players a chance to prove themselves.

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