Well what can I say…Actually, there’s plenty to go through today. First off let me begin by congratulating Everton for their outstanding display that resulted in a well deserved 3-0 hammering of the Red Devils. Everton came into the game with a game plan that was executed to perfection. And it was simple. Let united pretend to be Barcelona and do their own atrocious version of ‘Tiki Taka’ ,wait for the inevitable mistake and pounce on the break with pace. Sure enough, the plan was employed to perfection for the first goal, albeit with the help of some Sunday league school girl defending by a young Paddy McNair to allow McCarthy to skip past him and Blind (who together with a couple of his other teammates were pretty much spectators) and finish beyond De Gea, who in my opinion has somewhat been off the mark since the Liverpool game (
One eye on Madrid perhaps?). The Toffees also played a very high pressing game that allowed our midfield three no time to think on the ball through a very disciplined man marking of the united midfield three,Herrera was a no show, Valencia was afforded way too much space and time on the right side but his lack of creativity and route one style of play meant he was ineffective. We had the lion’s share of possession, particularly in the first half, but the buildup was excruciatingly slow, allowing Everton to defend with ease and break swiftly once we made the mistake.The whole team, with the exception of Luke Shaw was off, LVG and Giggsy thought so too, with the manager saying he feared for the worst when he watched the team warming up before the game. Fellaini let the emotion of the Goodison return get to him and he seemed to forget the philosophy, whose main foundation is positional awareness. He got booked in the 11th minute for two completely unnecessary challenges within the space of thirty seconds and was out of the game since then. I also thought the team selection was a bit wanting from the manager. Fellaini and young have had a brilliant season under LVG so far. I mean who would have thought Ashley young could relegate the stylish Angel Di Maria to a bit part role for over a month?But the truth has to be said: while these two are good players, they cannot be ‘plan A’ players for a team like United. Not if we want to win titles beginning next season. The ‘Fellaini’ approach is very obvious and almost route one, whereby we hoof the ball long and hope for a knock down from him for the players around him to feed off. Ashley young, on the other side, can beat his man, with ease at times, but his final ball is usually disappointing more often than not.
The way Everton were set up, quite similarly to Chelsea the other weekend, required a player with pace to be able to break down the very compact shape held by Everton. I thought LVG got it wrong by starting Fellaini especially, I thought at half time the sensible substitution was to replace Fellaini with Di Maria to increase the width and have Mata play behind Rooney (who by the way was pocketed by stones in a manner that was almost embarrassing).
Although some may argue that when you’re 2-0 down at half time your best chance of winning is by introducing another striker, Falcao was unnecessary for me, especially at half time. Di Maria also came on but there wasn’t enough time for him to make substantial impact. When he came on we played with more width and he played a lovely ball to Falcao who had the time to bring it down and finish,but instead was a bit hasty and went for the spectacular looping header, which Howard saved with ease. We were still unable to break down an excellent Everton side and got caught horribly for the third goal ( Mirralas’ finish was brilliant). Credit has to go to Everton and Roberto Martinez, who made sure united were on the back foot from the first to the last minute. A miserable afternoon was capped by an apparent knee injury to Rooney, who has not been that good up front since we played Spurs at Old Trafford. United seems to be a one man team at the moment, and that one man is Micheal Carrick . We sorely missed his composure in midfield and near perfect reading of the game. His replacement, Daley blind seemed to have been too accustomed to the left back role he has played excellently in the recent weeks, and gave a performance to forget. We can’t dwell on this defeat too long though, as it has got United looking over their shoulders again with Liverpool only seven Points behind with a game in hand. Next up United have West Brom at home and Palace away before the in form arsenal visit us for the final time this season,who gave a good account of themselves against Chelsea Bus Services and got a point that strengthens their push for a top two finish. City also beat villa, but not in a convincing manner . United need nine points from the four remaining games to secure a top four finish, but I would much rather prefer finishing in the automatic Champions League places, and we have a fight on our hands to make that happen.
In as much as we have to thank Van Gaal for all he’s done with the team this season (because United seem on course for Champions League football next season), the writing is still on the wall. And its quite clear: the rebuilding job is very much alive, and LVG should already be deeply thinking of what needs to be done this summer. The defence is not solid, the midfield is still unstable and they’re firing blanks forward. All eyes will be on you this summer, LVG.
P.S: Special mention for Eden Hazard and “HarryKane” for scooping the PFA player of the year and Young player of the year award respectively . Hazard is really growing under Mourinho and at 24, I shudder to think what he will be like when he reaches 27-28, which is usually the peak for most players. I think Kane still needs some mentoring despite netting 30 times in all competitions in his breakthrough season. It remains to be seen whether he will suffer the ‘second season syndrome’ that affects most players who have brilliant first season (Totally not looking at you, Lovren). We shouldn’t forget abut Leicester city, who as we speak at the moment are out of the drop zone and are on fire right now. If they do manage to stay in the Premier League, they’ll surely have deserved it.
That’s all for now though, as I retreat to the corner of my office to avoid the banter from my colleagues.
This post comes to you courtesy of Timothy Opiko, a good friend and equally possessed United lunatic as I am.