Monday night was an extremely disappointing performance. The summer optimism was replaced with last season’s recurring problems. As he was so often last season, Rooney’s overall performance was poor; his touch was all over the place, and he was clearly lacking in fitness, but Sir Alex refused to replace him.
Patrice Evra was hopelessly caught out of position on several occasions and offered very little going forward. Büttner could seriously turn out to be our most important signing. Nani, for all his undoubted talent, delivered absolutely nothing as he so often does when United need him. Antonio Valencia, United’s player of the season and new number 7, was inexplicable deployed at right back, when our first choice sat on the bench. Cleverley showed that as good as he is he doesn’t have an eye for a goal, which is not too much of a cause for concern as it’s not his primary concern. It’s less acceptable in the case of Danny Welbeck, his goal tally needs to increase, however, he was just waiting to be replaced all game. We were bullied all over the park and Sir Alex failed to change a game with his substitutions. It’s been a while since he’s been able to do that. Of course, as usual when we lose a match, we are written off.
While it’s true that we were suffering from injuries; they can no longer be used as an excuse. It’s gone way beyond coincidence that we always have players injured. It’s impossible that we’re just that unlucky. Something’s not right and it needs to be looked into.
A very worrying aspect of Monday night was how easily Everton bullied our players in the middle of the park. That Anderson, or Andesron as was written on the back of his shirt, highlighting that it wasn’t just United’s players who had a bad day at the office, is the closest United have to a player bullish enough to combat Fellaini shows just how weak our midfield is. I’m so happy we’ve bought Van Persie, but it is still that strength in midfield which may well leave us behind in the race for the Premier League and Champions League.
However, our biggest problem is that we are devoid of on-field leadership. Nemanja Vidic is a very good defender, but he is not a leader. Everyone knew that Fellaini was Everton’s biggest danger off corners, and the Belgian knew Vidic was the only player United possessed who could come close to dealing with his aerial threat so he stayed clear of the Serb, and stood next to Michael Carrick who he had tormented with all game. Vidic should have taken the responsibility upon himself and sought after Fellaini at every corner. Vidic is prone to reacting badly to mistakes and does not display leadership characteristics, yet he is the best of a bad bunch. It’s not just in defence where players are refusing to take responsibility. With 15 minutes left, Everton set up camp in their own area and United had to try hard to find any sort of gap to exploit, yet no player was willing to take the risk of squandering possession. The ball was knocked about from one wing to another and Everton really weren’t defending for their lives at all. Corners and crosses were lumped high into the box, with no real aim; Everton’s defenders were always going to beat our attackers in an aerial battle. Too often last season we failed to put pressure on opponents when trailing.
Kagawa was the only positive from the performance. He was the only United player actually trying to make something happen and I’m really excited to see more of him this season. David de Gea is another player of whom we have high hopes. He has the natural ability and has become a fan’s favourite. Gone are the days when we worried about his mistakes. His shot stopping second to none. That’s the one element of goalkeeping you can’t teach. The rest comes with experience.
We have a talented squad; make absolutely no doubt about that! Youngsters with a lot of potential. However, when the Nevilles, Butt, Beckham and Scholes were thrown into the first team fray they had Cantona, Schmeichel, Bruce, Keane alongside them. Leaders who nurtured their development and helped them overcome poor form. Our current crop of youngsters, like Phil Jones, who’s been hopelessly out of form after his own goal against Benfica, need guidance on the pitch.
With everyone fully fit, and the chance happening at the moment seem minimal, we have a very good team. Certainly talented enough to compete on all fronts, but we are just lacking that strength in midfield and leadership. At certain grounds in the Premier League it’s a battle and when it comes to a battle, our soldiers just aren’t tough enough.
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