Manchester United - The Season So Far..
It is a new feeling for United fans all over, eagerly waiting for games on weekends to see one of the best strike forces in the world in action against teams where the result just two seasons back was a foregone conclusion in our favour. We are missing on European nights, its painful, I know. You can thank DM, or rather not, for that.
What the hell happened last season?
Without dwelling too much on what I call "The Gas Leak" year, taking a page out of Community (Six Seasons and a Movie!), heres my take on it: I was circumspect on Moyes as manager from the beginning but put faith on SAF as he had taken United to unprecedented heights, he could do no wrong right? Well Moyes certainly put that to the test and beyond. I spent all last season trying to figure out what his game plan was, like literrally what are you trying to achieve on the field. We seemed lost, completely bereft of any ideas up front, leaking goals at the back. Sometimes I almost wished the other team scored on us to wake us up. Well it went the way it was alwats going to. Moyes was never the man for the job. Enough about the gas leak year.
Fast forward to the new and exciting.
Van Gaal. Herrera. Shaw. Di Maria. Blind. FALCAO!!
We had one hell of preseason. We beat Real, Valencia, Roma, and Liverpool going unbeaten into the first match of the league. Riding high on the optimism, I expected it to be a cakewalk, only to see a tough fixture away at Swansea become Van Gaal’s first loss. The players were definitely not playing with the speed and accuracy in their passing and movement as the preseason. We controlled the game until Herrera got injured. That position just in front of the defence has been really critical. Our losses this year, have always involved the opponents getting the better of our DMs by closing them down and not letting them time to bring the ball up the field. David Nugent dropped deep for the sole purpose of closing down Blind and we all know the score line. In my opinion, that is position that coaches are looking to target when they play United. Switching to four at the back with Herrera/ Blind partnership just ahead of them (when Herrera returns fro his injury) will be crucial. It is for this reason, and perhaps the high pressing Herrera does that he has already been sidelined twice with injury.
Out last two outings since the defeat by Leicester, have been marked by some amazing football up front, nervy and shaky defending at the back. What is quite disconcerting is that the pace of our game seems to decline after dominating the game for 60 minutes in both matches. That also happens be the same time Di Maria seems to switch off a bit and doesn’t play with the same speed as he does the first 60.
Where are we at 2 months into the season:
Currently at 4th position, which is United’s minimum target this year, and 8 points behind the leaders Chelsea. The goals leaked in the Leicester certainly haven’t helped our goal difference that could help us leapfrog teams easily in standings.
Squawka does a great job at laying out the football stats. Check out the United stats. While our passing and possesion seems to be pretty good, where we lag behind is converting those chances into shots on target and goals. We are winning just under half of all duels on the field which means we still lack that midfield general to boss the game for us.
Formation: 3-5-2 worked perfectly for Van Gaal in the World Cup and even during the preseason. But the direct attacking nature of English system made him reconsider or perhaps it was the injuries to first choice defenders. Not that it directly reflects anything, I tried his system on my team in FM 2014 which resulted in injuries after matches, perhaps the high pressing and speed required to play in the system took its toll, as well quite a shaky defence. Never the less the move to 4-4-2 diamond that he has made in last few matches have given us stability at back where Blind, Herrera, Rooney and sometimes Falcao and Di Maria have dropped back to help out.
Going forward I see a lot of flexibility to switch to 4-3-3, stay with 4-4-2 or use 3-5-2 using DMs to shore the defense while Shaw and Rafael move the ball down the flanks.
Wayne Rooney vs Juan Mata
Much has been said already about the two competing for the number 10 spot. I am a fan of Mata and his short passing game just outside the box is way better than Rooney. On the other hand I also feel he is much more easily out muscled by opponents and tends to disappear at times during matches. Last week’s match against Everton is an example.
Rooney on the other hand gives you a third striker, someone who has a physical presence and will run all the way back to his goal every single time to help out. His best skill is his ability to show up in the big matches, like Chelsea the weekend after. His worst is his lack of discipline and rash challenges suchas the one that got him a red the game before last.
My verdict would be to go with Rooney, I feel in the 10 scenario he has more to offer to attack and defense. Having both at your disposal is definitely a good thing.
Here are some of the best of the season.
Ander Herrera – Individual highlights – QPR
After a shaky start, Van Gaal has steadied the ship. More importantly all the signings have hit the ground running with Di Maria dictating the pace, Falcao a constant threat up front, Blind/Herrera bossing the midfield and Rojo has so far been solid at the back. What has been amazing in the light of injuries and suspensions, we have seen some of the young players put in solid performances for the first team, Blackett and McNair along with Tom Thorpe look like they are on their way to be great players for United in the coming years. The team has settled into the style of playing Van Gaal wants them to play and as long defense is solid, our possession, speed and one touch passing will help us carve out the best defences in the league. Stay tuned for the West Brom Preview.
Buckle up, the season has just begun! #GGMU