I am known as a Manchester United fan, who has a lot to say about his darling club, the Red Devils. But this isn’t the best of times to be a United fan.
Our dear club is going through it, things haven’t gone as planned the last six or so years since the retirement of the god, Sir Alex Ferguson.
There is a general or i should say popular belief that Manchester United lack the necessary quality of players, despite spending over £800m on new players.
But yours truly is one fan who doesn’t buy that idea as i believe usage and proper coaching have been the biggest problems – you can tell from the turnover of players over the period in review.
Since Louis van Gaal’s time, United have added enough talents to at least play consistently good football. But this hasn’t happened, we continue to struggle – with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the latest manager on the hot seat.
Ole has added two more players, Bruno Fernandes and Nigerian forward, Odion Ighalo in January, taking his transfer spending to almost £200m.
While Ighalo is yet to even train with his new teammates, Fernandes made his debut in the ill-fated goalless affair against Wolves just before the winter break.
It was another unfortunate performance from a United point of view, while many consoled themselves with Fernandes’ average showing, it was a sight too familiar to get carried away by.
So, what’s the way forward? I have put together three things United must do to turn the tide around before another inevitable addition this summer.
Admit Anthony Martial Error
The name “Martial” currently evokes bitterness and hatred amongst United fans and this has been the case since the Jose Mourinho era when the Frenchman was said to be “lazy”.
— Alexis Martial (@AlexisMartial_) December 7, 2019
Martial as a lazy player has stuck even under new boss, Solsjkaer who decided the forward will be his first-choice striker with Romelu Lukaku leaving for Italy.
It was a decision this writer has always frown at, and six months down, it has become clear that it can’t continue, a new form of laziness has been created for Martial, even by those who called him a centre forward because he’s “clinical”.
The reactions each time Lukaku scores for his new club, Inter Milan, reveals how much nobody remembers that Martial is “clinical”.
United must admit it was a mistake and fix it, Martial loves to be involved in play a lot, he loves to drop very deep to help progress play and lacks the necessary skill to run in behind centre backs.
This has always been the case, he remains one of United’s best progressors and playing at CF, continues to play like a wide forward that he indeed is, looking to be involved all the time.
Despite his goals contribution this season, Martial must be returned to where he is most comfortable especially with Marcus Rashford injured and Ighalo available.
Fix the midfield – never play Fernandes deep again
This is where the real issue lies, this is where Solskjaer has his work cut out. I was watching the Analysis Show and ex-Spurs boss, Tim Sherwood, pointed out how there is a lack of balance there because we keep playing ” tippy-tappers” and players who are “too similar”.
Happy with my debut 💥 Looking for the next game and grab the 3 points! 🔴⚫️ pic.twitter.com/kXns5b6BhV
— Bruno Fernandes (@B_Fernandes8) February 1, 2020
I have always been pro-4-3-3 for United, but Solskjaer prefers a 4-2-3-1 and we have seen all sorts of combinations in that double pivot, the most annoying being Fred-Andreas Pereira, two players Sherwood name-checked, Juan Mata, the other.
With players like Pogba (who is still out injured), Fernandes, Nemanja Matic, Fred and Scott McTominay, United has just one recognised defensive midfielder, Matic, proving Sherwood’s point.
The middle can never be balanced because bar Matic, the rest are basically playing out of position and with his preference for the 4-2-3-1, surely, at least one must continue to play out of position.
In his debut game, Fernandes actually played deeper, taking him further away from the attack, and this is something we must ensure never happens again.
Fernandes and Pogba are number 8s, while Fernandes is more comfortable as a 10, when not playing 8 than Pogba, both players are 8s. Fred and McTominay are box to box players, but regularly used as screens in front of the back four.
Can we for once use players where they are most comfortable and leave them there? When Matic plays as the screen, in front of the defence, while he has lost some yards, we always look different especially when we dominate on the ball, compared to when Fred or McT play there.
Improve coaching (on the ball) and usage
Staying with Sherwood, he mentioned how United’s problem is when they are in possession of the ball- with six to seven players in the opposition half – we look very much clueless.
Sitting in our half, we counter-attack superbly, but when we face teams who cede possession to the Red Devils, there is a problem.
The coaches need to do more, we need more on-the-ball/possession drills, which should be complemented with better usage of players.
The quartet of Fred, Fernandes, Pogba, and Martial hold the key. These are easily the best players at United when it comes to using the ball. Play them to their respective strengths, let them be as involved as possible with the ball, their primary instinct is to have the ball and help build link-up up play.
We need to let them be just that with players who are skilled at running into space and behind defenders playing ahead of them.
With Ighalo now at United, how the boss uses that quartet will go a long way in improving us. Those four used in a way that allows them focus on being the team’s creative tank, and with Ighalo doing what he does best against the defenders, I expect to see improvements.
— Odion Jude Ighalo (@ighalojude) February 4, 2020
So, there, United don’t have the worst players but we aren’t helping ourselves with the coaching and how we use these guys – cue Fernandes aka creativity dropping deeper in his debut.
We need to do better to be favour-ed!