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Football News: Manchester United will Improve as the Season goes on

Manchester United will Improve as the Season goes on

Hopefully now all the over the top emotion has simmered down and we can reflect on the opening two games with a little more of a level head and avoid some of the crazy hyperbole that has been flying around such as questioning EtH's position at Manchester United - which is frankly ridiculous.

There is no getting away from it, the team have not started the season well. Very few if any players have given a 6 out of 10 performance across the first two games. In my view we look undercooked coming off the back of pre-season, the players don't look fully match fit and match sharp. There seems to be a few early teething issues with both the new tactics and how the new players fit within those tactics.

That said I don't think we have been anywhere near as bad as many are making out. You'd presume from the fan fallout that we have been absolutely awful, have been comprehensively outplayed by both Wolves and Spurs and that we are in some kind of relegation form.

The game against Wolves we were too open, ultimately it was a fairly even contest that Wolves can feel a little aggrieved to have not got something out of it. They clearly had their tails up with it being the first game under a new manager and probably saw a game at Old Trafford as a nothing to lose game. That relieves a lot of pressure and given the players the freedom to play in an expressive way. In that game United looked nowhere near capable of competing with Wolves physically. They looked like a team that was ready for the season while United looked like a team a couple of weeks into pre-season.

The gulf in stamina and was obvious. At half time United had 8 attempts on goal to Wolves 6, in the second half Wolves had 17 attempts on goal to United's 7. The way United just didn't have the stamina to keep up with Wolves. Tactically It is hard to unpick and decide if much was wrong as quite simply United were two or three levels of where they needed to be physically. If United had the stamina and match sharpness they would have been able to get back into defensive shape quicker and more effectively stopping a lot of the Wolves chances.

They would have been able to move the ball quicker and offer more off the ball movement to pull Wolves out of shape and create better chances, they even might have been more clinical with their chances if they were fitter and sharper. You could see what we were trying to do, but we just weren't capable of doing at the pace that the game was played at. This makes it very hard to accurately decern if the tactics were wrong.

Against Spurs you could see we were sharper and fitter than against Wolves, in fact for the first 35 minutes we were far and away the best side on the pitch, we created 2-3 really good chances and probably should have been 2-0 up at that point. If we were a little more clinical then that would have been a very different game. However, Spurs started to get back into the game in the final 10 minutes of the first half and were the better side for the second half.

Much like the Wolves we clearly do not have the stamina yet to keep up with the pace of the EPL games yet. The fact that we were so dominate in the open exchanges shows that the tactics do work when we can match the other sides fitness. Again at half time United had 14 attempts on goal to Spurs 7, in the second half Spurs had 10 to United's 3. It is the second half of games when our players start to tire when the tactics come undone and the opposition are able to get on top of us.

While there are still obvious weaknesses in our squad the only one I'd say that has actually impacted us during the first two games is actually the lack of options at CF. Playing Rashford there is not ideal, and if we had a quality option who is a natural CF to rotate with Hojlund (and cover while he is out injured) then I think United would have created a few more chances, a few better chances and would have scored a couple more goals. This also has a knock on effect for the whole front three where the balance doesn't look right.

While the depth in midfield will likely be an issue at some point this season the reality is that to get the current first choice midfield fully fit and up to speed they need to play games. This side will not improve by chopping and changing players, that just slows the first 11 from getting fully fit and match sharp and slows the ability for the players to build up those relationships on the pitch. These players need to play their way into fitness and form. No other way around it.

Individually I don't get the Mount hate, I suspect it's much like the Carrick issue where he does so much off the ball that most people don't see they only focus on what he does on the ball and dismiss a massive part of his contribution to the team. I do wonder whether ultimately Mount and Bruno might benefit from switching positions slightly with Bruno playing deeper (where he actually excelled in the few games he played there last season) and with Mount playing higher.

At the moment the issue is we aren't moving the ball quickly enough through midfield, which is something Bruno would fix with his tendency to always look for that killer ball, while Mount is much more natural rotating out to the wider areas and has an excellent cross on him from those positions. However, this is difficult to say if this is really needed yet as until the side is up to fitness its hard to see how well the tactics are really working.

Antony continues to frustrate, he reminds me a little of Nani in that he clearly has ability, but his good work is undone 90% of the time due to poor decision making. So often he beats his man only to turn back and give the defender another chance to win the ball, while when he gets into good positions he shoots when there is a better passing option on or crosses into an area where no one is there. He plays with his head down, like he has decided what he is going to do long before he does it and he isn't reading the constant changes and adapting his approach to what is happening at the time. He seems to pick up the ball and decide "I'm going to shoot" and he is just determined to create even a half chance to get a shot away and ignores his teammates.

Another who I feel has actually been a big contributor to our lack of cohesion in attack is Garnacho. Who seems beyond criticism at times. Now I appreciate he is young and an academy lad so he should be given a little more patience that some others, but can anyone say he has really played any different to Antony over the first two games. If I described a performance as "good effort, some good moments to get into good positions ruined by poor decision making", can you say with certainty whether I was talking about Antony or Garnacho?

Having both wide players making poor decisions in the final third makes it hard to sustain any attacking momentum. This has been compounded by playing Rashford through the middle, a player who also tends to look to shoot rather than create. Effectively giving us a front three where everyone is playing to an extent with the blinkers on looking to shoot and not work with their team mates to fashion the best possible chance of scoring. That I would say is a tactical issue born out of the personel that EtH has available to him.

For me the easiest way to fix that is to get Sancho into the side. Probably for Garnacho who for me still plays his best football as an impact sub. I'd be tempted to play Sancho as a false 9, allowing Rashford to play in his best position coming in from the left. We would then have a player in the front three who can combine and work with those around him, playing as a link player to create better chances for the side. At least until Hojlund is fit enough to come into the side and see how he can impact the team.

As for a positive that seems to have been completely brushed over Andre Onana has been quietly excellent and is really growing into the side. He has has probably already claimed as many crosses in his first two games as DDG did all last season in the league. His passing out from the back has been simply delicious at times, he is calm and is press resistant, has swept well when required and has shown himself to be an excellent shot stopper. He has shown himself to communicate well with his defenders and has shown command of his area and bravery in being prepared to take a hit to stop a goal.

I also thought his post match interview after the Spurs game was excellent, he took responsibility for his performance, admitted that there are things for himself and the team to work on to improve, admitted the team made mistakes while not throwing any individual players under the bus, win as a team and lose as a team. He showed glimpses of leadership in the interview and is clearly an intelligent player focused on becoming the best player he can be and helping the team be successful.

As for the push for new signings, there is clearly a need in several areas in terms of depth. We need another more defensively minded midfield option as clearly EtH doesn't trust McTominay as he did not look to bring him on in the second half against Spurs as we started to lose the midfield battle. We also need more depth at CF, with Hojlund being the only real option, with Martial rarely fit enough to be relied on. More depth or rather better quality in depth is needed at CB. While we could maybe do with a back up keeper with Henderson likely leaving and Heaton not being ideally suited to the tactics despite being a good EPL level keeper.

However, I wouldn't expect any of these potential signings to be regular first choice options, all are really about adding quality in depth or options better suited to the managers tactics. In truth even if we had already signed a back up GK, a CB, a CDM and a back up CF that none of them would have likely made a significant difference to how the first two games have gone. There is no reason to assume they would be fitter and sharper than our current first 11, they would similarly be having to adapt to the team, and they would still have been playing with teammates who aren't yet fit enough or sharp enough.

While further signings are required for this season to give us a strong enough squad to challenge on multiple fronts, the reality is none would have likely altered the performances over the opening two games. The only thing that can get us playing better is time, more time training and building that understanding of the new tactics and each others game, as well as more time to build up fitness and improve match sharpness. Unfortunately a lot of that has to be done by playing games in the EPL.

We need to ride this out and play our way into fitness and form. As fans we need to trust the process, back the manager who exceeded expectations last season, a manager who has shown he knows how to turn a sleeping giant back into a top side challenging for and winning major honours. A season isn't won or lost in August, there will be ups and down both for us and for our rivals. Chelsea for example were the better side against Liverpool, but where well beaten by a struggling West Ham side.

Our season isn't over, we have 3 points on the board and have lost in what on paper was always likely to be one of the trickier away games (away to a top 6 side) . We need to look forward and try and focus on the positives. Get behind the team and try and drive them on. We will improve as the season goes on and the team get fitter, sharper and they start to click with each other and better understand the tactics.

Written by Shappy August 21 2023 12:28:41


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