After a series of three successive 0-0 draws, Manchester United were back among the goals as they beat a defensive West Bromwich Albion side, with Jesse Lingard’s curler from outside the area the highlight from the game. Juan Mata made it 2-0 from the spot, with a lot of question marks asked about Louis Van Gaal’s style of play
Are the Legends Right?
I wouldn’t enjoy playing for Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United.
After a series of consecutive goalless draws, one of which resulted in United getting knocked out on penalties in the Carling Cup by Championship side Middlesbrough, United’s legendary playmaker Paul Scholes insisted that the buck must stop on the Dutch manager. After a series of disappointing performances, there was a lot of criticism around United’s game-play, despite averaging more than 65% of ball possession. Despite Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial spearheading United’s attack, United couldn’t finish their chances against Middlesbrough after the game dragged on to extra time.
Scholes believes that United lack the creative spark and the urgency to attack and threaten the opposition. Louis Van Gaal’s possession philosophy has been a highlight of his United reign, as he is of the belief that the team that wins must keep most of the ball. There have been numerous instances where, United have just slowed down, as the make their way towards the final third almost as if there is fear to play in an attacking pass. Scholes goes on to say, “There’s a lack of creativity and risk. It’s a team now you wouldn’t want to play against because they’re tightly organised. But it seems he doesn’t want players to beat men and it’s probably not a team I’d have enjoyed playing in.”
If for one minute, anyone felt that Paul Scholes has generally been critical of the side on previous occasions too, United’s Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel also believes that Louis Van Gaal despite carrying the laurels, mustn’t change the hallmark United attacking style. Traditionally whenever United attack team, it has been a flurry of attacks before the opposition used to give in to the tremendous pressure.
Good Performances can’t always bail you out!
A series of good performances from Anthony Martial, Juan Mata and Memphis Depay early on didn’t seem to put the spotlight on United’s game-play because there were results. Van Gaal’s first season didn’t churn up the amount of criticism that’s flying in right now because the critics wanted to give the Dutchman the time to make his mark. United even though outclassed their top 6 opponents, they lost out against the teams below them, with the 5-2 defeat to Leicester City being an evidence of the trend. United have so far not been beaten at home, but that has largely been due to the rock solid performances of Chris Smalling and Co.
While the lack of goals conceded does need credit, but after a heavy investment in attacking talent there was a higher expectation that United will definitely be more decisive and comprehensive in the attacking third. With one of the most talented and complete midfield with the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick and Ander Herrera, it isn’t a good sign for United to not have a single shot on target after 70 minutes of the game.
Despite Anthony Martial’s menacing eye for goal- a cracking debut goal against Liverpool was enough to signal intent, much of his natural flair remains underutilized on down the right wing. Wayne Rooney despite leading the line barely had 5 touches inside the Crystal Palace game in Selhurst Park. Juan Mata has also looked visibly frustrated down the right wing, after a bright start to the league campaign. The attacking players’ movement of the ball has been good- Mata’s ability to run into pockets of space and Martial’s threat of running at defenders is still evident but has been diminishing as the games progress.
Playing Martial as No 9
There has been a lot of push in recent few weeks by fans and pundits alike to get Anthony Martial further up and play as a striker. He is definitely a lot more threatening down the middle and one of his greatest strengths seems to be a weakness. While Martial thrives on getting the liberty to run at the retreating defenders, United’s ability to really finish attacking build-ups after a lot of hard-work to retain the ball has been the cause of frustration. It almost seems like there is a sense of fear and reigns being pulled to take risks and have a real go.
United created a host of chances after the introduction of Anthony Martial as a striker against Middlesbrough. The midweek game Champions League encounter also saw United start ever so brightly against CSKA Moscow. After a series of patient build-ups and almost getting scored if it hadn’t been for De Gea and Chris Smalling’s heroics, Wayne Rooney got his goal and won United a game that currently has the 3 time European Cup winners top of their group with 2 matches to spare.
With a lot of debate on the discussion on Wayne Rooney’s ineffectiveness as a No 9, after a series of lackluster performances, there is a lot of demand for Anthony Martial playing further up to give United the much-needed impetus in attack.
Lingard, a new star in the horizon?
Special players are not only the ones who shine ever so brightly when the day is good but also when you need them the most. Jesse Lingard- United’s exciting homegrown product has been managing to steal away the criticism pointed towards his manager. After a lively performance against CSKA Moscow in midweek, Lingard got the Stretford end roaring again after a breathtaking curler from outside the box. Incidentally, it is United’s first goal from outside the box after Juan Mata’s strike against Stoke City in April 2014. The young Englishman’s first league goal for Manchester United was welcomed by his manager.
Of course, it was again a fantastic goal because Jesse Lingard scored his first goal today. In the training session earlier this week, he had these chances but shot directly, I told him to control the ball first because with that touch you have more of a feel of the ball – he did today it and scored a fantastic goal. I’m very happy for him, he deserves it because I think he played very well.
With Jesse, United have a potent weapon as he can play with equal effectiveness on both the flanks and has a real eye for goal which he showed against a disciplined Baggies side. Louis Van Gaal is no doubt a “happy manager” but he must realize that long gone are the days when he can be shielded from his critics. Manchester United must do a lot more, and there is a feeling that deep down he himself also knows that!