The result was fair. They dominated most of the first half—out everything–ing us—attack, defence, and particularly hustle.
We were lucky to be down only 1-0 and then even more for the score to be level after one supreme effort from Dele. Ironically Gazzaniga was partially at fault for Rashford’s opener (Sanchez mostly the culprit) but then made two terrific saves to keep us in it. Aurier was, I thought, our best defender in the first period, and then comes out and is beaten twice by Ashley Young—ASHLEY YOUNG—on the same play and there’s the ball to Rashford and Sissoko is unlucky the heels clipped for the winning penalty.
But even after all that in the final 20 minutes or so, with United losing steam and Eriksen and Ndombele on for the equally ineffective Lucas and Winks there should have been goal scoring opportunities. The Aurier to De Gea direct connection worked beautifully—somehow our right back could never bend a ball toward where it could actually cause some difficulty. Son was really poor on the left wing. Kane was a passenger—no service and obviously the other “H”—Maguire—must have kept him in his back pocket. Dele and Kane simply couldn’t connect and there went any chance to equalize. United created five or six more scoring opportunities in the first half involving their front line than we did in the entire game.
So what else did we learn? Jan is really slow at left back—I understand that in the warped 3-3-3-1 that Jose is in effect using with Aurier more advanced that doesn’t matter as much- but it hinders our ability to get the ball out of trouble and moving forward. The defence in general was as much at fault as Winks and Sissoko for the fact that United kept on the offensive throughout the first half—aimless balls going nowhere time and time again. Sanchez and Aurier each defended very poorly on the plays that led to the two goals. But there were other problems on all the near misses.
Harry Winks is barely competent at this level—surely Jose must be thinking hard about whether and when to promote Tanguy Ndombele to become a permanent starter. Sissoko is better off on the wing and, off of today’s performance, he might play there ahead of Lucas, at least until Lamela returns. Lucas was a shambles for most of his time on the pitch.
The holding midfield slot is a problem. And so is the attacking quartet in a more stationery game where the Alderweireld long balls don’t find their man. The problem with Eriksen’s disappearance—and he barely made a mark when he came on tonight—is the reduced service for the other four. Winks simply doesn’t seem capable of producing it—and we know Dier can’t so Jose for the rest of this season is going to have to go back to the drawing board.
The fixture list, to be fair, has been brutal. We have now played every team above us in the standings at their ground save Chelsea—with a NLD at the Emirates thrown in for good measure. Can you blame Mourinho for another two goal concession? Can’t see how, except indirectly. Sanchez and Aurier made big mistakes—and his other players weren’t good, quick or energetic enough. This isn’t yet the team that can/will challenge for trophies. Let’s hope in a few months time it might be closer.
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