Our Current Squad and Its Challenges

Relevance

In the wake of the FA-cup defeat to Chelsea, where our weaknesses were exploited in every way possible, the topic is more prevailing than ever. As discussed in fulltimedevils’ youtube channel, the need for a dominating, defensively sound midfielder is enormous. Why are we doing well despite of that? When are we being punished for not having one? Who can be our new signing? Those are questions I’d like to try to answer.

Why we are doing well

Manchester United are currently the team with the best performing player in the league, Michael Carrick. What an absolute beast. He dominates when it comes to possession, defensive positioning, hitting those perfect, deciding passes that opens the defense and at co-operating and taking part in 1-2s and other forms of team play on the pitch.

What is unique about Carrick this season, and at times in the past, is his ability to do these things, game after game, no matter how his teammates perform. The players around him are being played “better” by him, as we call it in Norway. It is an invaluable trait for a player to have, and there is no wonder he is the first name on the team sheet when Ferguson picks a team for a big game.

Other than that, if you take a look at United defense, it has really come together since new years. Vidic is back, Ferdinand is in great shape and both Smalling and Evans performs very well when given the chance. We have one of the best defenses in the league, with an in form keeper behind them. This helps our midfield in tremendous ways when it comes to breaking up attacks and starting offensive plays ourselves.

The mindset of our ever so under appreciated, hard working offensive players such as Valencia, Welbeck and Rooney, who all tracks back with great heart and soul, is essential to our play. Valencia, who is having his worst season with United since he came, still offers a lot defensively, and both Rooney and Welbeck tracks back like no other striker in the league. Welbeck has been the most impressive one, being a beast against both Real Madrid, City, Spurs and yesterday against Chelsea. He completely ran the game for us, and  put a very good pressure on the Chelsea midfield and defense.

However, two of our midfielders did not perform well at all yesterday, which leads me to the next point;

When a piece of the puzzle stops performing

We end up with showing nothing. By being unable to take the ball of Chelseas offensive in Hazard, Mata, Oscar and Ramires, we are also unable to dominate the game. Jones was nowhere to be seen for big parts of the game, and Cleverley was invisible. What do we have to  put on? An out of form Anderson or a Giggs (who offers a lot offensively, but not much in terms of defense). And that is exactly where the problems lays. We do not have depth in midfield to handle tough, defensive games. The European football is becoming more and more a product of a 4-2-3-1 or a skew 4-3-3 (4-1-2-2-1/4-1-2-1-2) and we do not have the midfielders to handle that.

In the YouTube channel mentioned above, they discuss this and suggest Dembele and a few other players. For me, it has gotten to the point that anything will do, really. We just really need a player there. It is a shame Fletcher is unfit and diseased, or we would have done a lot better in games that required heavy defending.

The punishment

Are the games you see United on the back foot. Against spurs when we are ahead, we leave the game initiative in their hands, bend over and just take it from behind. You can cross your fingers or pray to whichever god you stand behind, but fact is we leave a lot of the outcome to the opposition. I much rather see us pushing the advantage when ahead, but the ability to reclaim the ball in midfield is lacking in many games for us. This leads to offensive players desperately trying to play ball without any support, and a boring game for the viewer as well. I would love for us to start DOMINATING while we are up. Just like we did Norwich. And of course, Norwich isn’t the hardest of opponents, but we have the quality to do that to better teams, for sure.

New signings

There are two different types of players we could be going for really. You have the type that  is quite similar to Carrick. Good both ways, with emphasis on the constructive part of the game, or the more beefy type, who creates havoc in midfield and gives us the pressure that Jones did for us at the Bernabeu.

In the category of all round midfielders, there are many to choose from. Some more well known, but I’ll list some names anyway;

– Gundrogan, Dortmund. Solid all round. Shines offensively, but is a safe choice that rarely is going to lose the ball. Brings that Turkish work ethic with him, which is to never give up the ball.

– Vidal, Juventus. As Marchisio, Pirlo and Pogba should be enough, I thought about the idea of luring Vidal to join up with countryman Henriquez at United. He is a very quick, hard working and technically good midfielder that is in his mid 20s. Expensive? Yes. Quality costs money.

– Gonsalons, Lyon. Very similar to Carrick in his play style. Tall and rather slow, but a magician with the ball. A cheaper alternative as Lyon isnt really the team they used to be. Not the most exciting talent, but would certainly bring depth to our squad.

– Ward-Prowse, Southampton. New British super-talent that can become as good as anyone really. Under the wings of Ferguson, there is nothing stopping him.

– Powell, United. Maybe we don’t need a new signing? He has been VERY convincing for the reserves, and definitely deserves more first team action than he has gotten. He was a beast vs Chelsea in the league cup, and has been good every time I have seen him. I have not been this confident in a youth player in a long, long time.

– Strootman. Second to Fellaini on beefiness, slower than Vidal, but great work-rate and a very nice strike on the ball. Has the ability to hit short, quick passes as well as the long more difficult ones, and is probably available in the summer. PSV signed a new, Swedish talent to take his spot. We have great history of doing well with Dutch players, and I’d love to see him come in.

In the beefy category, there are many players. Many of them unproven, but still a lot of players to choose from;

–  Capoue, Toulouse. A leader and a strong midfielder who loves to brawl. Potent passer and relatively young.

– Fellaini. Could be placed in both categories, but has said he wants to play CDM. Has the air dominance as his main trait, and is familiar with EPL football.

Leroy Fer, Twente. Beefy, quick player who loves to be in situations. Cheap alternative and a great prospect.

There are plenty other interesting players, but these are my most likely ones to be mentioned.

If you read this far, thank you. Do you have any suggestions or good criticism to the post or the blog in general, please comment!

Rdzzl

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Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United – Routine Stuff

Starting Eleven – Manchester United

David De Gea, Rafael, Smalling, Vidic, Buttner, Carrick, Anderson, Shinji Kagawa, Young, Valencia, Robin Van Persie

Substitutions used:

Johnny Evans for Rafael; Cleverley and Welbeck for Kagawa and Anderson;

Setup
The international break has prompted Sir SAF to rotate the starting eleven. The defense was the quad of Vidic, Rafael, Smalling and Buttner. Ferdinand given rest after the international match while Evra too given rest favoring Buttner on the left.
The midfield had a fresh twist with the trio of Carrick, Anderson and Kagawa in the middle. The Japanese midfielder slightly ahead of Carrick and Anderson to help out RvP with Anderson and Carrick to provide protection to defense. Valencia and Young out on the flanks to provide the width and pace to get the ball beyond the defense of Sunderland.
The solo forward being RvP.

The substitutions were the early bringing on of Evans in place of Rafael who tweaked his groin. This prompted the switch between Smalling and Evans. Smalling taking the right back and Evans taking on the CB role. Later on, Cleverley and Welbeck came in for Anderson and Shinji Kagawa to provide more energy in the midfield.

United Counter Attack

The whole of United’s philosophy was to counter attack through the wings and Kagawa. In the first half, the quickness of Kagawa and the lethargy among the Sunderland players to track back enabled the Japanese midfielder to find pockets of space to run into and attack from. This provided the impetus to switch the ball to and from the flanks.

In addition, Young and Buttner had a strong play on the left helped by Kagawa’s positional freedom. The rapidity of United’s counter was thanks to the pace on the wings and Kagawa in the middle. Sunderland were really slow in getting numbers back that it hurt them continuously with decent chances from United.

Sunderland Amps It Up

The second half saw the Home team play with more gusto and enthusiasm. They pushed higher up the pitch putting pressure on the midfield. Like matches before, this caused some lapses in passing which would’ve been dangerous if the opposition was a better team. Much like the Chelsea match. This prompted SAF to bring on Cleverley and Welbeck to replace Anderson and Kagawa. In essence, this move was to solidify the midfield and bring some control. It didn’t work wonders but it was enough.

Player Thoughts

The best player of the day in my opinion was Michael Carrick. He time and again shows why he is a great midfielder. Passing and control of the game was top notch in the early half. As time wore on, with oncoming pressure, he was brilliant. Running back, tackling and marking. Carrick was by far the best player on the pitch.

Conclusion

The difference between United and many other teams season after season has been the ability to grind out wins. This was an excellent example. First half, they put Sunderland in a good amount of pressure and then just held steadfastly. Maybe, RvP should’ve score at the last touch of the match which was palmed away by the Sunderland Keeper. A win is a win and that was enough.