Showing posts with label Victor Lindelof. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Victor Lindelof. Show all posts

Must win game for Solskjaer, again!

Manchester United travel to Goodison Park to play Everton after two defeats in two competitions, first a loss to Arsenal at home in Old Trafford after a gap of 14 years and secondly a least expected away loss at Istanbul the bottom side of group H in Champions' League that was shambolic. After a run of successive victories when Solskjaer took over, United suffered their biggest defeat of his first season at Goodison Park 0-4 mauling that made the Norwegian to rightly apologize to the fans "I just want to apologise to the fans. They're the only people with the badge on today who can hold their head high, because we can't." Just as now, and back then all criticism was directed at the players.

These defeats highlight the importance of Victor Lindelof, clearly if it wasn't for him United's loss to Arsenal would have been greater instead of being just 0-1. Suffering from a bad back he might miss this crucial game. David de Gea looks like he has regained his lost form, responding positively to induction of Dean Henderson becoming his deputy. Is Harry Maguire the right man to organize United's defense? Has he got the right protection in front of him? McTominay has industry not discipline, Fred is not a specialist central defensive midfield nor best in the world, while Nemanja Matic has lost his pace to play regularly.

Reactions on team selection seems to have gone to the head of Solskjaer. Donny van de Beek started after an intense backlash especially from Patrice Evra who questioned the rationale behind his purchase after spending more time on the bench. Ole Gunnar has persisted with both McTominay and Fred after the 1-6 defeat to Spurs, and removed not one but both of them at Istanbul after Paul Scholes told Premier League Productions "It’s as poor as I’ve seen Manchester United at Old Trafford to be honest with you. You have to give Arsenal credit, they were very good but on other hand you have to expect more from United and the two midfield players especially." Paul Pogba started again after a seemingly unexpected comment by Bruno Fernandes the talisman of last season's revival, but the Frenchman bizarrely few times quite clearly failed to pass to the most influential United player of recent times in Marcus Rashford. Fernandes said this after the Istanbul defeat that further raised eyebrows about the football management team responsible for running the club "We need to do much better, and we need to do something more than say 'Do something in the next game', because it will be a difficult game for us." 

Victory over Leipzig and Newcastle was huge but they came late in the second half. But Solskjaer again sounded overly optimistic when he said "It's not long ago we were the best thing since sliced bread, beating Leipzig and PSG. [You get] ups and downs in football. You've got to have belief." This followed an assertion from him that 3rd win of the season did not come until the 10th game last season easily forgetting that last season was the worst start to a United campaign in 33 years! 

Sir Alex Ferguson sounded out Pep Guardiola, Mauricio Pochettino, Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho to be his successor but was unlucky to not get any of them to become the manager of Manchester United. Instead it was David Moyes. Then Louis van Gaal took over instead of Mauricio Pochettino and later Jose Mourinho instead of Carlo Ancelotti. With Solskjaer the heart is in the right place to restore United to its glory but the means seem missing like a structured consistent performance despite spending close to 250 million on squad overhaul. For the second straight season United have started badly to mount a challenge in the English Premier League that seems to throw up surprising results opening the competition up for many clubs to claim. United thus far seem unable to grab this opportunity, on the back of a delayed Europa League Cup that did not give the players adequate recovery time. Luckily United have a big squad to be able to cope especially the addition of Henderson, van be Beek and Telles add depth which wasn't there earlier. But the club knew this situation all along and still delayed the transfers to not help their man in charge. These are the minutiae that top coaches of the world in Mauricio Pochettino look at before choosing their next move.

United do have a good squad even if its not great like the top three of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea, to eventually come good and climb the league table with a game in hand. Its these players who for the sake of their careers get going again. Else the upcoming break due to international fixtures might come to haunt Solskjaer. Jose Mourinho was sacked after losing away to Liverpool, today their neighbours Everton host United in a must win game for the Reds.

Solskjaer held firm on 'United way' but inflexibility cost dearly

Manchester United ran out to dominate and attack Sevilla from the start creating most of the chances befitting the United way of playing football. Credit to Solskjaer for opting exuberance that provided good attacking display but as Sir Alex Ferguson found out European football is a different ball game altogether. Overlooking experienced players, not exploring alternatives and defensive errors cost them ultimately against five time winners of the Europa League on Sunday. Losing their third cup semi-final of the year despite Solskjaer extolling all season long how a cup win could give his young team an identity and belief. Inevitable analysis and conclusions follow suit after their 61st match of a prolonged season.
No substituition until 86th minute for United whereas Julen Lopetegui did his first in 56th minute to engineer the game with fresh legs. Nemanja Matic the mainstay of United's revival post lock down and despite signing the new three year contract wasn't even used! Juan Mata's introduction in the previous game settled the nerves for extra time and could have had a positive influence much earlier than from 87th minute. If Solskjaer got Odion Ighalo to extend his stay why not utilize him much sooner than in extra time? Sergio Romero dropped yet again in favour of erroneous David de Gea and looked uninterested in pre-match warm-up routine. All four will definitely review their futures when the manager clearly did not trust them with responsibility but their age will deter any forced exits and adds unwisely to the deadwood category that already has Jones, Rojo, Lingard, Smalling, Dalot. United stuck to a game plan but were not adept to change once they could not get second breakthrough.

Penalty kings of Europe! is a new moniker to be tested in Champions' League next season. Scoring penalties especially in the season when VAR was introduced does not seem dreadful but only when it becomes the sole avenue of goals. Marcus Rashford was fouled in the follow through, a rare decision and the ensuing penalty expertly dispatched by Bruno Fernandes his 12th goal since his January move. Anthony Martial has improved leaps and bounds this year and claimed the top scorer gong at United with 23 strikes, he missed to hit the target in 33rd minute and couple more chances in second half when their keeper Bounou made excellent work to block the Frenchman. Only 24 he could still become the best marksmen entering the prime of his career. Mason Greenwood had great start to both halves then became less involved as game wore on, too young yet notched up credible 17 goals in his breakthrough year. Paul Pogba played his part well but could not create from a midfield that pressed non-stop limiting his scope.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka kept the in form Ocampos quiet to such an effect that the Argentinian was substituted and confronted many opposing runs extremely well. Inexperience of right-footed Brandon Williams shone at several times that once again stressed the importance of back-up left back to Luke Shaw. There simply isn't any competition to Maguire-Lindelof that puts them under pressure and raises question on injury prone Eric Bailly's long term future. Bruno Fernandes ranted at Victor Lindelof after conceding the 2nd goal that reminded many of Roy Keane demanding nothing but the best from his teammates. The ultimate responsibility of organizing the defense clearly falls on captain Harry Maguire who must have hoped for a disciplined Matic shielding the defense. David de Gea doesn't come off the line enough to negate the threat of the cross to dominate his penalty box like great keepers of past.


Solskjaer had the tools to beat Sevilla but could not having spent big on Maguire and Fernandes. Most fans welcome the manner of this loss than the bitterness that followed Mourinho's dull display but that does not hide the fact that Solskjaer had a team that could have done much better. If the logic of this game's selection, tactics and substitutions were to be relied upon to make a judgement on United's summer transfer it would seem that strengthening the spine with a first choice centre-back and classic  number 9 type centre-forward would be the priority, not Jadon Sancho! This clearly does not seem to be the case based on consistent rumours of perhaps the biggest transfer of this summer that Dortmund are demanding 120 million euro's for. The argument that Solskjaer did not have anyone to bring on to effect the change is entirely flawed as it puts forth the idea that he wanted to highlight the lack of squad depth than to reach an prestigious European final making best use of available resources that was clearly miles better than at Jose Mourinho's disposal.

Solskjaer has got Alexis Sanchez off the wage bill already vacating the illustrious number 7 jersey and his optimism rubs off on everyone in United setup drawing constantly on his playing days under Sir Alex Ferguson. It is to this fact that most fans base their trust upon to get this summer's transfer priority right and cementing a top four finish next season closing the huge gap of 33 points 'significantly' with the Champions next season. Club hierarchy should realize that director of football not only aids the manager to shortlist the tracked targets but while searching keeps in mind the ethos of what it means to be a United player despite the changes to manager himself reducing the squad burn in between and keeping the challenge alive through the transition.

Now a well deserved rest.

Solskjaer got the better off Mourinho and Guardiola within 3 days!

After two disappointing draws against two newly promoted sides in Sheffield United and Aston Villa even the most long standing Manchester United experts had a negative opinion about the next two big matches with high profile managers in Jose Mourinho's Tottenham Hotspur and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. MUFC were outplayed except for 7 minutes by Sheffield United and failed to be at their best at Old Trafford versus Aston Villa.

Solskjaer outmaneuvered Mourinho first by starting with high intensity attacking their weak full backs such that it moved one of their holding midfielders consistently wide thereby creating space in the middle for Fred and McTominay to dominate the game. It only produced a solitary goal from in form Marcus Rashford a fine volley that was reminiscent of Sir Bobby Charlton's famous thunder shots stuck with full force and the ball dropping just before the keeper who now has to take the additional bounce into consideration. Their equalizer came from a high ball that split the defense with a fine flick over the top by Delle Alli and beat the keeper easily. Rashford's intelligent run gained an early penalty in second half to lead 2-1. Greenwood had started ahead of Martial who was out with an injury, experienced Ashley Young at left back, Lingard created more assists in this one match than in this whole year. Mourinho's return to Old Trafford ended in a defeat.

Inside 72 hours the team had to play in the Manchester derby with City wanting to catch the run away leaders Liverpool who had a 14 point advantage over the reigning champions. Ashley Young rightly rested in favour of Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial back to lead the line. Marcus Rashford yet again was felled inside their penalty area and converted the spot kick while missing two other spectacular chances created by quick counter attacking runs of fabulous four of MUFC especially Daniel James. With only 16 of 38 league games played Rashford has already equaled his best goal tally with 10 goals! Anthony Martial turned around and slotted home a powerful left footed shot that left the City keeper with no chance 2-0 justifying his selection ahead of Greenwood. Substitute Nicolas Otamendi muscled his way to head the goal off a corner 2-1. City had majority possession and their successive onslaught was thwarted by United defending well 'as a team' especially Fred who was immense. Aaron Wan-Bissaka kept Player of the Year Raheem Sterling quiet, captain Harry Maguire headed out most of the balls, Lindelof recovered well from one mistake to block a firm goal bound shot that eventually went over the bar, Luke Shaw wrongly headed a cross to the midfield instead of heading out wide that created the chance for City, Fred and McTominay covered every inch of grass to thwart City, David de Gea was back to his best by sticking to the basics of keeping and caught many shots from de Bruyne, Mahrez and David Silva safely.

The last derby of the decade had Manchester painted red but City had won 10 of the 19 league matches during that time. United fans savoured the win by staying long after the final whistle amid the applause from Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill. This win further vindicated the vision of Solskjaer rooted in the tradition of MUFC and got the approval of his ex-captain Roy Keane. The match was marred by one racist incident when Fred was about to take a corner. United next face AZ Alkmaar in the match that will decide if United will finish on the top of their Europa League group or not.

MUFC ended the week back in top 6 but the key to sustain the challenge is for them to replicate this form against non-top 6 rivals whom they face next in Everton, Watford, Newcastle and Burnley. MUFC have beaten City, Spurs, Leicester, Chelsea and drew with Liverpool, Arsenal. That's simply impressive. Paul Pogba who last played in the League Cup win over Rochdale AFC in late September on penalties and he incidentally did not take one, was present in the stands to watch the derby perhaps to build bridges and might be back to face Colchester United in 4th round. Financial Fair Play regulations might deter Real Madrid and Juventus from making a bid for Pogba in January with MUFC and Solskjaer now in strong position to choose the Frenchman's next outcome.

These two wins against more fancied teams Solskjaer has shown real tangible progress on the field with limited squad that has won the doubters over given several constraints like clearing the deadwood to improve team dynamics, injuries of up to 9 players and inconsistency resulting from integrating youth. Solskjaer and the team meanwhile deserve every right to relish the moment that eclipses the triumph in Paris. This new high is also reflected in the stock price of 18.69 seen last at the start of transfer window in July and all of a sudden the peak 21.21 before that PSG away win is not far off. Board must however rename the stock ticker of MANU!

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