“And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain…” So United’s winning run is over but just as Ol’ Blue Eyes sang, Ole did it his way and it almost paid off. While a draw at home to Burnley will never be a good result, it can be a positive one. Being 2-0 down with five mins to go and drawing is a reason to be cheerful. United have belief. The fans are behind this team. The players are happy. It’s not perfect and it’ll take at least three signings to make this team title contenders, but Solskjaer has worked wonders.
United are looking and feeling more like the United. Attacking football remains the order of the day. The issue facing Solskjaer is the one that plagued Jose Mourinho, United’s defence isn’t good enough. The last thing the fans want to see is negative football that overcompensates for a shaky back four. Ole’s ethos has in part been based on attack being the best form of defence. And it’s worked. Until now. So what did we learn from United’s Desmond on Tuesday night?
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1.The fringe players need to take their chances.
The Burnley result didn’t highlight the manager’s flaws, it exposed the team’s. There’s a difference. Solskjaer has said he’d give certain players a chance. He’s reminded everyone who’ll listen that the squad not just the team is key. A home game against Burnley following a high-octane win at Arsenal four days earlier should’ve been the perfect chance to juggle his side. Solskjaer didn’t go crazy, David De Gea, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford all started. There’s little argument that all of the aforementioned players would make United’s strongest team. A £75 million striker, two England internationals who went to the World Cup and a recent addition to the Brazil squad made up the rest, hence it was hardly a weak team. Even if it was a weakened one.
Andreas Pereira and Romelu Lukaku in particular were two players that needed to show the manager why they’re good enough to start more often. The problem was, they didn’t. Both were subbed with United chasing the game. Pereira who was at fault for Burnley’s opener had a night to forget. Lukaku looks ‘better’ under Ole than he did under Jose Mourinho but he still looks a level below some of his teammates.
2. At least one full back incoming please.
Ashley Young and Luke Shaw are arguably the Reds’ first choice full backs, although some would argue Diogo Dalot is our best right back. The question is are they good enough for a title challenge? Or more pertinently with Young, will he be good enough next season for one?
Shaw has flattered to deceive far too often and while he’s not been dreadful, there’s still lingering doubts as to whether he’s truly at the level we need. A new full back in the summer wouldn’t go amiss, Dalot looks like he’s one for the future, United could do with one more who is too.
3. Ole, Ole, Ander Herrera.
While Pogba gets the plaudits and Matic’s ‘revival’ is lauded, Herrera is often overlooked. The sh*thouses, sh*thouse has been superb under Solskjaer and was badly missed last night. Whether it’s breaking up opposition attacks or starting United ones, Herrera is essential. Whilst we can understand the need for rotation, some players are undroppable and Ander is one of them.
4. Jon Moss
It may seem like sour grapes after missing out on a ninth straight win, but referee Moss was dreadful. Yes he gave United penalty but he was inconsistent throughout. Time wasting went unchecked for much of the second half. Innocuous challenges were deemed fouls. Fouls were deemed innocuous challenges. It was an exercise in incompetence and he, like some of his colleagues needs to improve.
5. It’s total football.
Victor Lindelof’s equaliser summed up the fact United’s players to a man are feeling unshackled. It’s not just the attackers, attacking. Even the defenders are getting in on the action. Whilst Matic is ostensibly a defensive midfielder, he’s been far more willing to get forward under the new regime. The same can be said of his teammates as Ole encourages the right mentality. One that suits United’s ideals of entertaining the fans and getting at our opponents.
As we saw against Arsenal even when United are defending there’s always the chance of a quick counter. Last night saw the idea that every single player can and should get forward come to the fore. United fans have had enough of David’s dourness, Louis’ possession obsession and Jose’s pragmatism. Now we have a manager who whether United are winning or not, will always seek to attack.
The Reds are blessed with players who are comfortable on the ball – and Phil Jones. It’s criminal not to use the gifts they’ve got.
Tuesday night’s record will show, Ole took the blows, but continues to do it his way.