Unfortunately, not everything went to plan yesterday. Once again, Manchester United managed to concede some sloppy goals. When Fulham got their second goal, it seemed to take the life out of us as we seemed to limp across the finish line. The good thing is there were more positives than negatives. Our attack looks quite promising with the acquisition of Kagawa and Van Persie and with a better backline, we’ll look even stronger. There’s were some players who I think deserve some notable mentions from yesterday’s performance.
It’s only his second competitive match for United and he’s already slotting in nicely with the rest of the squad. Although I think he performed better at Everton, it’s evident he has the potential to become a really top player for us. United fans have already started liking to him with the “All I need is Shinji Kagawa” being sung at the Theatre of Dreams. Combining well with our midfield and forwards, tracking back, rarely losing the ball, he’s exactly the type of player our attack needs. His presence will bring variety to our attacks as we will have a threat through the middle instead of defaulting to playing the ball wide. There’s certainly more to come from this lad and it’s going to be exciting to see him develop alongside our other youngsters in the team.
Robin simply gets a mention for his superb finish after we conceded a sloppy goal. It was a half-chance he had no business finishing. Another demonstration of the type of caliber we’ve brought into our attack. His clinical finishing will be key throughout the season as like yesterday, he got us out of a jam and allowed the team to calm down and attack Fulham at will. By his own admission, he is not 100% match fit and like Kagawa, was overlooked at times as our players constantly looked to spray it wide. An observation which I find quite intriguing as it seems to be our first instinct almost everytime one of our players gets on the ball. For not having much pre-season preparation, he’s done alright so far and over time, our players should adjust to his style and use him more.
A player who is either overrated or underrated by the United contigent, Tom is slowly showing why Sir Alex is right to put his faith in him. He brings a certain type of maturity to our midfield. His ball retention and quick football brain enables our attack to tick. He also combined well with Kagawa, Anderson (potentially a great partnership) Even though he’s not so strong physically, he doesn’t mind getting stuck in. He broke up Fulham’s attacks fairly well and made and won more tackles than any other United midfielder. With more games, his positional sense and discipline will improve as he strives to make the central midfield position his own. Central midfield is a very difficult position to master and provided that he remains injury-free, think he will go on to have a great season. That turn and shot in the 2nd half was a joy to watch. He’s beginning to show what he has in his locker and it won’t be long before he scores his first United goal.
A wonderful first half performance from a player who splits opinion among United fans. His ability to get forward and join the attack is without question. Although he did get skinned a few times, with a run of games, he should return to top form. He won 5 of 6 of his tackles. His main weakness is slight lapses in concentration which are usually followed by a highlighted mistake by commentators, fans and pundits. It gives him an unfair rep as other defenders make more mistakes but receive less criticism as it’s not as noticeable. We should see an encouraging season from him. More to come.
What a great first half! Van Persie’s strike came at the right time after conceding early and we pushed on from there. The Cleverley-Anderson-Kagawa axis offers some promise. We all know Sir Alex likes to rotate so although we won’t see such a trio in all of our games, I’m sure it’s something he’ll be willing to try in the future. Kagawa’s work-rate is a plus in this scenario as he tracks back and helps maintain our shape. Offensively, I think he’s shown why he’s better as a #10 than Rooney. He’s simply more consistent with his touch, link-up play and movement. When Martin Jol remarked his side couldn’t deal with Cleverley and Anderson in the first half, he wasn’t just talking about it from an offensive standpoint. Both players took turns hassling Fulham’s midfielders and forwards into making mistakes. By coming at them from different angles and cutting off their passing lanes, they didn’t have much time on the ball to really create anything noteworthy. It has to be said though, Dembele was a problem for us throughout the match. Not only his skill on the ball and strength, but his acceleration allowed him to drift past our players. He’s a talented player and despite our rumoured interest, I don’t think we’ll get him. He’s not necessarily essential for our midfield as he’s very similar to Anderson with a bit more pace and strength on him. It’s also questionable whether he can add enough bite to our midfield. Nonetheless, he’s a very good player and I don’t see him remaining at Fulham for too long.
Yesterday was once again another game where we favored the wings more so than going central. As a result, Van Persie didn’t get many touches on the ball. I think over time this will change and our attack will become more varied and balanced. So despite our overuse of the wings, there’s good enough reasons to see why we pursued with such a tactic. We have very good wingers in Nani, Young and Valencia and the latter two churned in decent performances against Fulham. Unfortunately, they were also guilty of being a bit slack in possession along with other players in a 2nd half where we could have been more useful with the ball. As our squad becomes more used to Kagawa and Van Persie, we should see more ball movement in the middle. Conversely, as the two mentioned above adjust to our wing play, we’ll be able to work it wider quicker and hopefully ensure more chance conversion from our crosses.
Onto the second half where United were not as urgent to attack and for some fans, the reason Fulham got back into the game. I wouldn’t worry too much about Fulham’s 2nd goal. It must be noted that Vidic only played 10 games last season and is feeling his way back into the team. De Gea hasn’t played many games with Vidic and these are the sort of outcomes when there’s a lack of communication and understanding. It’s better that we are conceding such silly goals now before we get to the bigger games in our schedule. In the past 2 seasons, United have been known to take the foot off the pedal when we reach a comfortable lead. Whilst a similar thing took place yesterday, I find it difficult to be so harsh on the players for a couple of reasons. Playing yet again a more solid but still makeshift back 4 and having players who aren’t 100% match fit, in my opinion, led to an inconsistent sense of urgency in our play. Let’s not forget this is our second match of the season and it’s clear to see we are still finding our stride. I’m sure it’s an issue Sir Alex and the staff are looking to improve. Whether it’s complacency or not remains to be seen, but it’s tad bit alarming these issues are beginning to creep upon the squad again.
Let’s hope this issue is due to a lack of carrying out proper instructions rather than becoming complacent. There’s no reason to be complacent 2 matches into the season. Once Carrick returns to midfield, we will see more solidity and organization in the team. This is something Cleverley and Anderson have yet to master, however, with more games, I think it’s quite possible for them to have a fruitful partnership. Rooney is still some way from hitting form as his passing was inconsistent and maybe was a bit too eager to create. His gash will now put him back even further but hopefully, by then he won’t need as much time to get back into his stride.
Other than a few blips and lapses in concentration, United can be somewhat pleased with the performance. It’s certainly disheartening to see such silly goals conceded but with the way our attack is evolving, it won’t be long before a team gets a hiding from us. It’s clear to see Sir Alex is moving us towards a new system and I feel exciting times are ahead. Have patience and in time we will see teams become fearful of the Red Devils once again.