Fatigue catches up with the best United midfield in a decade

At the London stadium, Manchester United team consisting of midfield trio Casemiro, Eriksen and Fernandes tasted its first defeat to West Ham due to an howler from keeper David de Gea in the first half. Bruno Fernandes ranks the best in Europe in terms of xAG, key passes and shot creating actions. Despite starting well and creating a host of chances the forwards Weghorst, Rashford and Anthony failed to convert any. United lost their 4th away match in last five a staggeringly poor set of results that included a club record 0-7 drubbing at the hands of fiercesest rivals Liverpool at Anfield. Its Liverpool who are chasing down United for the crucial 4th spot for qualification to next season's Champions' League. United are only 1 point ahead with a game in hand and most crucially 3 of the remaining 4 matches are at home to Wolves, Chelsea and Fulham.

Fernandes(54), de Gea(53), Rashford(52), Fred(51), Casemiro(46), Martinez(45), Shaw(43), Dalot(40), Eriksen (39) have been part of United's squad that has played the most games of any club in the top 5 leagues across Europe. Also the age profile of players in their supposed peak around 30's has 9 players: de Gea, Casemiro, Varane, Maguire, Eriksen, Fred, Fernandes, Lindelof, Shaw, Martial. West Ham literally out ran United in the second half and were easily making a run with a shot at goal. It was a terrible sight. Substitutions were needed to be made around 60th minute or earlier to have been effective. This dip in second half performance clearly lays out the problem of fatigue. United need to muster all energy to push for 3 wins now else the season will unravel. Repercussions will include a lower budget for squad overhaul and importantly top players like Osimhen will again snub United for European glory.

United have been playing two games per week on Thursday's and Sunday's since Christmas and thanks to their exploit's in FA Cup and League Cup have played 52 games thus far. Bulk of their scoring has come from Rashford alone. Weghorst for all his effort in pressing hasn't been able to score enough goals while Martial has been injured or lacklustre. Since the last international break Fred has had a reduced participation and Casemiro a dip in form. Erik ten Hag picked Lindelof and Shaw in central defense and benched Maguire, who gracefully came on as a substitute whenever called upon. David de Gea discussing his new contract with United and committing blunders at the same time does not auger well for both parties involved despite public backing from the manager with a claim of most clean sheets in the Premier League this season.

United raised their game to beat Brighton on penalties and reach the FA Cup final. Despite being second best, they were able to contain the seagulls and constantly search for answers with timely substitutes which took to penalties. David de Gea miss read all spot kicks and then came Weghorst to cheekily disturb the next taker who missed the target thereby saving the Spaniard's blushes. Erik ten Hag has been able to bench under-performing players in defence, midfield and not in forward or goal keeping positions due to lack of squad depth. Dean Henderson rebelled against the club to be sent on loan, Heaton and Butland have not featured in any of Cup games either tells a stark tale of United living dangerously, after Newcastle recalled Martin Dubravka who had played in League Cup game. United might have to stop City winning the treble in the final.

Maguire, Martial, Henderson, Telles, Bailly, Tuanzebe, Williams, Jones potentially represent a third of squad that needs to be replaced and fill the empty slots in forward positions. Huge task lies ahead for Murtough and team in the summer. All major deals are held up due to takeover saga which has not concluded except that of Shaw and Garnacho. Likes of Rashford, Dalot who may want even bigger pay check if Qatar become the new owners. This will push the renewals to the summer and add work on top of recruitment. News of Glazers who may yet opt to stay either as majority shareholders in partnership with US Hedge Fund companies or in minority with Ineos bid was a big dampener. Supporters have put their weight behind the Ineos bid to remain apolitical.

Jimmy Murphy statue was unveiled in Old Trafford which finally recognises his crucial role in not allowing the club to fold in the immediate aftermath of Munich air disaster of 1958. Sir Matt Busby used to frequently say his best signing was his assistant Jimmy Murphy. Wayne Barton has written a definitive book aptly titled 'The Man Who Kept The Flag Flying' and recently shared the sad news of legendary United fan Tom Clare's passing. #RIPTomClare This comes after the loss of Ian Stirling, the founding member of clubs Fan Advisory Board and liaison officer for Manchester United Supporters Trust. #RIPIanStirling


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