Fatigue is the buzz word at the moment when you discuss Manchester United.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I’m sure after the performance against Chelsea on Sunday Ole would perhaps have gone back and selected a different team playing his favoured formation of 4-2-3-1.
The question is would it have made much difference?
The drop off in performance over the last four games has been massive and has seen the team going from – in my opinion – the most impressive team in the league since football returned, to an average Premier League side really struggling to build any sort of momentum or consistency in games.
The first half on Sunday was really a non-event with very little goalmouth action and very little quality considering the standard of player on the pitch for both teams; United, who have played the 3-4-1-2 formation very effectively at times under Ole’s tenure, couldn’t get wing backs Wan-Bissaka or Williams high enough up the pitch to have any effect on the game which left all our play very narrow and ineffective.
Of course the goal right at the end of the first half was a hammer blow at the time it was conceded – but the biggest concern for everyone would have been the reaction or lack of it in the second half! United seemed so passive in everything they did both in and out of possession and barely laid a glove on Chelsea other than a half chance for Rashford and the Fernandes penalty. De Gea’s performance obviously had a big factor in the result but it’s important that it doesn’t paper over the cracks of what was a really poor performance all over the pitch with nobody coming away with any real credit.
The extra recovery time would, of course, have given Chelsea an advantage in their preparation for the game but definitely not the amount it seemed to.
Having watched a lot of the Premier League fixtures since football returned, I would have to say it looks like United’s performance has dropped off the most over the past 3-4 games in terms of what looks like fatigue. The spark seems to have disappeared… don’t get me wrong there has still be the odd glimpse here and there, but the difference between say the Brighton or Bournemouth attacking play, and the Southampton or Crystal Palace performances, and again last night, have been like night and day.
Some suggested that the team selection was down to pressure to qualify for the Champions League.
I would imagine in the club’s eyes, the most important thing this season is qualification to the Champions League, and rightly so for a business that expects at the very least to be involved in the most lucrative competition in club football.
To attract the calibre of player to really challenge Champions League football is a must and of course for the club to finance these sort of moves. Obviously any sort of silverware would be a massive boost to everyone at the club after a tough couple of years, I think the majority of fans would accept and understand Ole changing the team for the FA Cup considering the games that were coming up but what would have been very hard to accept would have been the performance as much as the result, crashing out with a bit of a whimper!
I have been as guilty as anyone getting a bit carried away in the past couple of weeks, watching United playing with attacking vigour and confidence – reminiscent of the wonderful teams of years gone by!
The last four performances against Southampton, Palace, Chelsea and West Ham have brought him back down to earth and realise there is still plenty of work for Ole to do to get the club really competing again.
In terms of what’s required to do that 0 the goalkeeper situation is an interesting one, De Gea has been a wonderful servant to the club over the years but hasn’t been the same for a couple of seasons, for me he should stay one more year and Henderson should be brought back and they fight it out for the no.1 jersey.
I’m not sure it would be the right call to bring back Henderson and throw him straight in as the no.1. With all due respect to Sheffield United, a brilliant football club, it’s a different world at Old Trafford and Henderson should be given a little time to ease his way in.
The defence is probably the biggest issue, Wan-Bissaka looks the part and could be the club’s right-back for years to come. Maguire and Lindelof are having a really tough time and look as though – that word again – fatigue has affected them more than anyone else both in and out of possession over recent weeks.
A central defender is a must over the summer maybe even two if the opportunity arises.
Going forward there are certainly less issues but if Sancho was a realistic opportunity it would be great to get him through the door. Realistically I would say the club are probably four players short of really competing. Two central defenders or one, and a left back, Sancho and possibly a centre-forward… easier said than done!!
Ahead of the game last night David Moyes was discussing his time at United and he said the major difference between him and Solskjaer was that Ole has been given time.
I don’t think David has tried to undervalue what Ole has done, I think he is frustrated still for being relieved of his duties before he believed it was fair. And maybe he has a point, but at the same time he had a near on impossible job replacing the greatest manager the game has ever seen.
Ole deserves credit for building the foundations for an environment and culture that the club is built upon, that may have been a little lost on David, Louis and Jose.
I don’t say that disrespectfully but Ole lived it, he learnt from the great man was ingrained in it and is now trying to get that back with his own spin on it.
Only time will tell if he gets it right but I genuinely believe he’s on the right path and given time can get the club challenging again.