In some of those fixtures, United just about got away with it, but Friday night was one of the games in which they didn’t.
United started the match with a host of players who aren’t guaranteed to play in the FA Cup Final – but that’s the short term. Long term, they are players who have to prove they are good enough to hold on to their shirts next season. To a man, they failed both tests. Instead of giving everything to make a positive impression, the players looked as though they had been forced on to the pitch against their will.
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In terms of desire, Brighton were streets ahead, more worryingly, in terms of technique, they left United in the dust too. Once again, one of the most expensively assembled teams in sport left you feeling very short changed. As a one off, United’s display could be brushed off as something of an anomaly, but the performance wasn’t a blip – this is a sustained period of mediocrity in games United are expected to win.
United have now lost seven Premier League matches this season, which is two more than last year when they finished sixth. Three of those defeats have come away to the three newly promoted clubs. Friday was one of those games that draws you deep into the realm of footballing existentialism.
Who are ya?
Who are we? What are we? You start to wonder if it would be a good idea to get rid of every player and every senior staff member at the club and start again from the ground up, brick by brick. Bar David De Gea, of course.
But hey, we’re second in the league which means we’re great, right? Isn’t that what that means? We’ve also scored more goals and accrued more points than when we were sh*t last season, so that’s also nice. Who needs to enjoy watching football when you have all those lovely creamy improved statistics to keep you nourished?
Players, manager or both?
Who do you back? If you’re in Jose Mourinho’s camp, then the players are to blame for these regular dips into complete uselessness. There is some merit in that line of thinking. A good chunk of these players have been the common denominators during the worst period in United’s Premier League history.
But if they are as bad as Jose is making out (not that he has any motive for shifting blame), why hasn’t he sold them inside his two years at the club?
On the other side of the line, you have those who believe that responsibility for this dross lies with the manager. Again, there is plenty of merit in that argument.
Mourinho is getting close to nothing out of many members of his playing staff. Some of them clearly want out and none of them ever look like they are enjoying their football. Whisper it quietly, but there are other managers in the league getting much more out of much less.
Marouane Fellaini’s contract
This guy. The absolute cheek of him. Fellaini gave a bizarre interview to the foreign press during the week, which was egotistical at best and completely deluded at worst.
Fellaini thinks he is worth a big pay rise at United and he believes the club are close to “missing out” on retaining him by not offering the deal he wants. Kindly take a run and jump, sir. In many ways Fellaini is representative of everything that has gone wrong at United since Sir Alex retired.
The former Everton man should absolutely not be anywhere near United and instead of counting his lucky stars, he is holding the club to ransom over a new deal he categorically doesn’t deserve.
He says he has offers elsewhere and I recommend he takes one of them. If the rumour mill is to be believed, then Turkish club Besiktas are front of the queue. I guess that’s testament to just how good a player he is.
I’m going to make a little list here of things certain United players do every time they play. None of these things are good things.
Matteo Darmian being absolutely terrified of the football – he doesn’t want it and he will get rid of it as quick as humanly possible.
Chris Smalling lining his whole body up square to the ball before he can pass it – it’s like Smalling has a three step sequence he has to perform before he moves the ball on.
Ashley Young’s loopy back post crosses – 3% of the time, they work EVERY time.
Paul Pogba over-elaborating - It’s ok to pass the ball simply. Every situation doesn’t call for a chop inside or two stepovers. It usually ends with him flat on his arse, appealing to a disinterested referee.
The Fellaini back post cross – United have no clue how to manufacture a shot, so they look for the big man at every opportunity. Sunday League stuff.
The Juan Mata pass – Mata will look forward, scuttle inside, then whip the ball out to the left back before scuttling onward purposefully. Pointless.
Lingard’s on the move – “It’s the touches of the ball I don’t have that you have to look out for”. Lingard is the master at being involved without being involved. I have a feeling he will be riding the wave of his mid-season purple patch for quite a while.
Anthony Martial’s blind alleys – “I’ll beat one, maybe two…..now where did I leave that football? Ah there it is!....nope it’s gone."
Marcus Rashford’s running – He makes lots of run, none of them good. His favourite thing of all is running the ball out of play.