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Football News: Manchester United: Asleep at the Wheel

Manchester United: Asleep at the Wheel
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Asleep at the Wheel

Ole's at the wheel!

It was brilliant wasn't it?

A team scarred from the previous manager and, seemingly, out of love with football, revitalised by the return of a beloved former player. For a few weeks in December and January, we started to believe that Manchester United were on the up again. Old Trafford even got to belt out a Stone Roses classic with genuine gusto.

Perhaps it was the wrong song. Maybe we should have plumped for David Byrne's more subdued words: "And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile . And you may ask yourself, well how did I get here? "

Well, how did Ole get here?

In the aftermath of Jose's sacking the club stated the intention to use the rest of the season drawing up a plan to rebuild the club. Not only taking time to identify the right manager, but also sort out a director of football/ sporting director to overhaul our recruitment and transfer strategies. A decision that was both sensible and necessary, give our persistent failings to bring in the right people to deliver on-field success in the post-Fergie era.

The results and performances in Ole's first few weeks, however, gave the club an easy out. Rather than embark on a lengthy and potentially painful bit of soul searching, they harnessed the good will and positive mood to give the permanent position to an inexperienced former player. The mooted overhauls were quickly put on the back burner. Even as the results and mood soured, the club dragged its feet on shaking things up. By the summer, as people like Rio and Darren Fletcher were touted for the director role, it became clear that the club would press ahead with business as usual.

Business as usual played out during the transfer window, with stories of amateur behaviour, and a failure to secure new players and move on those not in the manager's plans. Failure's to address midfield deficiencies, and limited quality in attack were offset by good preseason performances. In turn, the opening league win against Chelsea was viewed as evidence that this United team was poised to chase behind City and Liverpool.

The last two games have served as a bit of a reality check. Despite looking relatively pedestrian during the Wolves game, this could be brushed off as one penalty miss away from a good away victory against a tough side. Indeed, there are some, including Ole, who think that yesterday's home defeat to Palace side that failed to score in their opening two games was just bad luck.

For those of us watching with a more critical eye, the opening three games of the season serve as a microcosm of the strengths and limitations of this United side. In the opening game Chelsea dominated the early stages, but after going behind to a penalty were brutally punished by some excellent high tempo counterattacking football. This is what this side s set up for: draw the opponent up the pitch, and then hit them with the blistering pace of our forwards. It plays to our attackers' strengths, and allows Pogba to play key passes from deep. The second game was more tense. Our attackers were less clinical, and we looked a bit shaky at the back. It was a nervous performance, but a decent away point.

Yesterday, however, underscored the major deficiencies with our tactical setup. If the team is set up for fast counterattacking football, what happens if the opposition drops deep? Palace are a poor side with an undated manager. Yet, they didn't need to be good or clever. All they needed to do was to sit deep, nullifying our attacking threat. Their goals came from defensive errors. But a simple tactical decision was all it took to blunt our attack. At no point did we look likely to score from open play.

There are, of course, means of opening up a deep defence. City, for instance, do so with midfield guile and creativity: fast one touch passing to open up space. And the Jose method is to make sure that there's a strong striker offering a target for crosses and occupying the centre backs. Our problem is that our midfield is weaker than last season, and we sold our strong striker without replacing him. In other words, our transfer mistakes have left us with a one dimensional squad that lacks the depth of personnel to react when things aren't going our way.

After selling Lukaku, Ole claimed that Greenwood was his replacement. Greenwood was brought on yesterday to turn the tide. He had zero impact. This isn't his fault. He's a 17 year old with threadbare experience at this level. He can't be expected to replace the club's highest scoring attacking player for the last two seasons. It's one thing to have faith in youth. It's another to put pressure on a 17 year old because you messed up the transfer window.

There are still issues with our defence, and we are only one injury away from Young being a starter. But this area has at least been addressed, and should improve as the back five get more playing time together. In contrast, the lack of creativity in midfield and attacking plan B will not go away. It has already been exposed, and we're not even in September.

Ole probably isn't the right person for the job, and I think he will struggle throughout the season. However, the bigger mistake is the failure to overhaul our recruitment and transfer structures. In the heady hysteria of those first few weeks, the club and its supporters lost sight of the bigger picture. Ole will likely be the first causality, as he will struggle to get a squad so obviously lacking in depth into a top four position. But we shouldn't lose sight of the bigger picture. Ole isn't responsible for our regression since Fergie retired. He is just a symptom of a club unwilling to put in the hard work and pounds necessary to compete for the top prizes.

Written by Danny Pughnited August 25 2019 21:26:51


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