We can talk about team selections and formations until we are blue in the face. Louis van Gaal now has the chance to tweak to his desire with an almost full squad to pick from.
But the main problem, regardless of who plays, is Manchester United’s recent fear of playing the forward pass. It’s killing this team.
We saw it a dozen times on Sunday and we have seen it on so many occasions over the last 18 months – moments when a quick forward pass can completely open up and wrong foot the opposition but when Manchester United players instead take the safe option and pass sideways or backwards. This allows the opposition to get back into their right positions and Manchester United are once more popping the ball around in front of their defence instead of behind it.
When Moyes was in charge it seemed to be happening because of a complete lack of confidence in the team.
Confidence still plays a part but we think that Louis’s desire for ‘control’ of the entire game means that he has drilled his players to keep possession at all costs – pass backward if it means keeping the ball because you can then build again instead of chasing possession.
But this is currently having a negative effect on the team. Manchester United has lost its sense of daring. There were at least 5 occasions on Sunday when we were screaming for the a short forward pass/lay off ‘around the corner’ which would have left Southampton players out of position and carved them open like so:
But instead Manchester United went backwards and Southampton re-grouped. In truth The Saints weren’t under much pressure in the entire game.
No shots on target from Manchester United tells its own story. Mata missed some sitters which could have changed the scoreleine. But the performance would still have been too slow in the build up and too risk-averse. We think it’s OK to lose the ball if you are applying regular pressure and getting behind defences.
But Manchester United are looking toohtless and currently going backwards after a recent good run. 1 win in 5 in The Prem tells you all need to know about the team lacking cutting edge.