Opinion: The wind blew our way for a change

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Lucas Moura
George Wood/Getty Images

I’ll keep it brief since we have to wait nearly a couple of days to find out who we play next. It could be Sunderland, might be Liverpool or Chelsea, or anywhere in between. 

Nuno handled the selection and substitutes as well as one can hope. I have no real issues with what we were trying to do, other than I thought we got too backed up in our own end in the final 15 minutes. The performance of a pretty strong side in the first half was pretty awful, but Emerson freezing with the ball and not crossing, and Lucas reaching his usual quota of bonehead decisions were two of the biggest offenders—and yet they were the duo that won the game. Steven Bergwijn was simply a mess all night—I just don’t know if we will ever get some of the early promise from two seasons ago fulfilled.

Kane continues to be meh at best—poor shots, poor in possession—but he did send a beautiful ball to Gio for what could have been the winner in the second half. Lo Celso was pretty good, I thought—but he made it even more noticeable how little Skipp and Hojbjerg advance the ball—the Dane did make a couple of effective flat passes down the spine in the second half. And the back four was pretty darn solid on defence—maybe Sanchez’ best game, as even with Wood and Barnes both on in the final half-hour, he was winning most of the aerial duels.

So it’s a start—but Man United had already been bounced from this competition, so in their time of trouble they will have had the entire week to prepare in what might be a “win or else” fixture for their beleaguered manager. I honestly don’t know just how we will match up against them—the home fixtures with them have been tight affairs in recent years, with the funky stuff happening at Old Trafford.

While Sanchez deserves a look at CB instead of Dier, this won’t be the game—nor the one to experiment with Lo Celso instead of Ndombele or even Skipp. As for Dele and Winks, thank goodness this was a victory, or surely there would be ample incentive for either or both to seek out friendly media members to dish on Nuno. They might just do it anyway. How sour is the atmosphere during training? One can only wonder.

We still have three trophies to play with, and assuming we can beat Vitesse next week, that shouldn’t change whatever happens Saturday. Nothing changed in terms of my view of the shortcomings of this squad last night, we got on the right side of a 1-0 outcome for a change.

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