What Man Utd really need right now is Park Ji-sung in his prime

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12 points on Arsenal v Man Utd
If you take the result in isolation then 2-2 against this incarnation of Arsenal, especially after being in a losing position twice, is a good result. It certainly felt like a positive result at the end of the game. But the problem is that it leaves us in 8th place, 8 points behind Arsenal. We desperately needed to win last night and because we couldn’t we’re now closer to the bottom than we are to the top (in terms of points). Making it into the top four would genuinely be a miracle at this point.

To be honest, I thought that the starting eleven last night were all pretty good. Some were better than others – Rashford, Martial, Lingard, Herrera, and Bailly were especially praise-worthy – but there were no notably poor performances from them, which is about as good as it gets for us at the moment. I would be pretty happy for us to continue on with that 11 for every game, with the exception of switching Shaw for Darmian on the left.

Dalot started off well but he, like Bailly, was clearly struggling for fitness by the end – which is hardly surprising given how little football they’ve played this season so far. But he’s certainly cause for optimism, so I hope he starts to feature more regularly.

Herrera was excellent all game and looked far more like a captain than Smalling did, constantly communicating with and organising those around him. He’s the closer thing to a leader we have, so I don’t understand why he has featured so infrequently this season.

The defence itself was much improved – which feels daft to say, given that both Arsenal’s goals were down to mistakes – but we looked far more solid in open play aside from those two incidents. Rojo and Bailly were impressive, the latter more so, and looked really suited to the formation we used. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means but it was one of the better I’ve seen this season, so it’s at least something to build upon.

I actually thought the 5-2-3 (ish) formation we used was pretty much spot on. Having Martial, Lingard, and Rashford as a fluid front three really worked and you could see some understanding developing between those players. The wing-backs offered a bit more of an outlet out wide, and with more practice that could be the formation that suits our players best. I would still prefer to see us play with out-and-out wingers, but in the absence of a true right-winger then this would be a good compromise.

There were a couple of frustrations though. While Matic is a good reader of the play and does make a number of key interceptions, he is just so painfully slow to release the ball. He plays so deep that when he dithers in possession – which is happening far too often for my liking – he inevitably ends up putting us under real pressure. I would also question whether it’s really necessary for him to play when we’re using a back 5 – we shouldn’t need a defensive screen in that formation and we would have been better with a bit more movement and thrust in midfield. Personally, I think he is in desperate need of a rest, so I would rather see us give Fred an extended run in the side for a bit. He might make some mistakes but he’s not going to improve unless he plays.

Obviously the individual mistakes were frustrating too but it’s impossible to be mad at De Gea given all he’s done for us. Plus he more than made up for it with some of his second-half saves. Rojo’s was slightly understandable – he seemed to be looking around for someone to pass to, but there was nobody showing for him and he ended up caught in two minds. It also doesn’t help that he has also played very little football for a long time, so again I’m not too concerned there.

But the biggest frustration by far was the attitude of the three substitutes. Rashford was sprinting for pretty much the entire 90 minutes; I don’t think I saw one sprint from Pogba, Lukaku, or Fellaini combined. At 2-2 the game was finely poised and we could have easily nicked it with a bit of extra effort and some luck (Arsenal could too, of course), but those three barely touched the ball. I’m not sure whether those players were acting out because they thought they should be starting, but none of them offered any evidence to back that up.

I have been firmly in the “Pogba In” camp up until now, but at this point I would be happy to see him leave. If he doesn’t care about the team – which certainly seemed to be the case last night – then he’s doing us no good at all. He appears to think he’s bigger than the team, and maybe he is, but that isn’t what we need right now. No amount of occasional brilliance is worth what we get the other 90% of the time. I’d rather have someone less technically talented but more engaged and willing to work for the team – what we really need is a Park Ji Sung in his prime right now.

I spent a lot of time watching Lukaku too and I started to notice the things that people have been complaining about. I don’t believe that he’s a bad footballer, like some around me were saying, but he’s definitely not a good one. His first touch is abysmal, his movement limited, and even his effort is lacking. He looks far too bulky, and all the best parts of his game from his first season are completely missing. I’m not giving up on him, but he needs to make some serious changes to his effort and his overall game because both are lacking right now.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse last night. There were some reasons to be cheerful and some not so much, but what we need now is some consistency. I would love for us to find a settled formation and starting 11 and use that in consecutive games. I think there were enough positives on show last night to make it worth giving that formation another go at least. He just needs to stop tinkering and stick with one formation and style so that the players can feel a bit more settled and build some confidence.
Ted, Manchester

No pretending
Let’s not for one instant pretend that a draw with a very tired Arsenal side is somehow a good result at home. Jose is already pointing to ‘heart’ and ‘character’, oh do f*** off Jose, if we had any cohesion or consistency we wouldn’t need so much character, would we? The most damning statistic is that Jose has now made 46 changes to our starting line-up in 14 games. That doesn’t exactly point to a manager who knows his best 11, is getting on with his players or has a game plan. There have been some injuries but we’ve made more changes than any other team in the Premier League.

To summarise our season:

The top four is out of sight

We’ve let in more goals in 14 games than the whole of last season

Our most expensive signing doesn’t get on with our manager

Our most expensive midfielder can’t get in the matchday squad

Our centre back who has returned from being frozen out was our best defender last night

We’ve not won a game in the last five attempts

We have a negative goal difference

No Manager on the planet is going to save our season now, we’re going to get royally creamed in the last 16 of the Champion’s League, let’s get Jose out no matter how much it costs and start the squad overhaul. I reckon there’s the nucleus of a good side in there, if we get a manager the players actually want to play for and who won’t blame them every time it goes wrong. Time to press the ejector seat button.

Cheers,
Paul, Man Utd

Jose out if we fail to beat Fulham
3 draws on the bounce in the league against Palace, Soutampton & Arsenal (3 points out of a possible 9, which is rubbish), I think United failing to beat Fulham on Saturday should be the last straw in regards to the board not doing anything relating to the job security of Jose Mourinho and some of the players too. If Ranieri should manage to nick a result against United at Old Trafford and I fancy them to do so too after watching them play Leicester at Craven Cottage last night in which they were unfortunate not to win, surely the club have to come up with some form of a contingency plan for the rest of the season?

Not sure why some protests aren’t happening in the ground, it just seems like everyone is mega confused and there does not seem to be a shred of leadership on or off the pitch for United. Ed Woodward looks like a man that cannot be taken seriously, the Glazers do not give a f*ck about results as long as the club are generating money (In which is does with no issue) and Jose has an unlimited jar of excuses that has no end.

Just laughable really.
Rami, London

You are the ref
G. Thomas from Holland stated (this morning’s mailbox) that Mkhitaryan’s goal should have been awarded as De Gea had deliberately played the ball. Sadly (as I wanted the goal to stand too) he is NOT correct.

·         The law states:
A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.

A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area).

So De Gea made a save!!! As per usual the law is still so vague as to make the referee distinguish between making a save and deliberately playing the ball. So if you slice the ball in front of your own goal and it doesn’t go in…why could that not still be deemed a save as in the case he points out?

More importantly, a wall is not going to drop back, so the linesman had little excuse missing the offside for United’s first equaliser. VAR can’t come quick enough for me. But I understand why United and Chelsea would be so against it.

Regards,
Chris (loving the new agressive Arsenal) Charteris

Dear Ed,

De Gea made a “save”. The laws are clear on the criteria for a save: “a ball which is going into or very close to the goal”. So, Mihki was in offside position when the shot was hit, and became active by playing the ball, so it was “offside”.

Laca heading the ball out of Leno’s hands is an offence. The laws are clear, there’s even a special clause for it: the GK is in control when “holding the ball in the outstretched open hand”.

These two are standard, clear, easy calls. However, refs aren’t perfect as highlighted by the obvious penalty and corner errors in the Bton-Palace game, where the ref’s mistakes at the key moment of the match probably directly lead to the winner of the match, a red card and a star striker injury.

Yours,
A lowly lower league ref (F365 since 97!)

Man City. Ridiculous.
Liverpool have amassed an incredible 39 points via 12 wins and 3 draws from their opening 15 league games this season. They’ve conceded 6 goals. At the same stage last season they had conceded 427. Stats. Fact.

Ridiculously they sit in second place. Ridiculous, because never after 15 games in LFC’s history have they had a better start to a campaign, pointswise. Their previous best at the same stage of a season was 38, accrued during the 1904-05, 1978-79 and 1990-91 campaigns.

Man City are so consistent that Liverpool, in spite of their best ever start to a campaign, find themselves in second position. This is a team that has won 18 titles, although granted it’s been a while.

Interestingly, (amazingly?), of those 3 prior best seasons, the only one in which Liverpool kicked on to be champions was in 78-79.

I feel like there is a conclusion lacking here but basically I’m not sure whether to be buoyed by a superbly consistent start to Liverpool’s season, or deflated by the fact that we are competing against a side that may break a host of records and are on a slightly different level.
I’ll keep the faith for now.

Cheers,
Rory Collins

Missing Xhaka
I was worried going into last night’s game at OT without the under valued and over abused Granite Xhaka. As good as Torreira has been, and as much as he has been lauded for his play, yesterday showed just how much GX was missed and how integral he is to the smooth running of the Arsenal midfield. Is he prone to the occasional, and usually costly mistake, yes; does he pick up too many unnecessary bookings, yes, but does he complete 90%+ of his passes, over a variety of ranges and keep things moving – hell yes! Thank you 16 Conclusions for recognizing the value of the man whom this team needs to be built around. On another note, I’m a long time and fervent critic of Aaron Ramsey, but he proved me wrong on Sunday, with a performance I didn’t think he was capable of; but mercifully his injury yesterday saved us from yet more of his undisciplined and selfish movement, where he reverted to type by moving into other player’s spaces and vacating his responsibilities, leaving huge areas for other isolated players to cover, which all led to the Xhaka-less shambles of a midfield – at one point in the first few minutes he was standing next to Iwobi and Kolasinac on the left touchline, leaving acres of space for Bellerin to cover on his own – so unnecessary and yet so typical.

On another note, what a shame to see the excellent and improving Rob Holding leave the game in such circumstances – hurt the team yesterday, and let’s hope that Koz is fit enough and sharp enough to come in so that it doesn’t hurt the team longer term.
NC Gooner – loving this 20 match unbeaten run


Source: football365.com