It was a big night for Marcus Rashford, wasn’t it?
Honestly, it was one he needed. His start to the season was poor as he tried to be getting over those back problems he’s had for a few months.
Obviously he’s looking a lot fitter and last night was great but – and some won’t like this – I still think his decision making needs to improve. When he’s playing from the left he often chooses the wrong option and he doesn’t cross the ball enough. No doubt he can be devastating, like Leipzig found out, but my concern going back to when he first on to the scene was that he would be better as an impact sub. That’s how I still see him, someone to use when the opposition team have used much of their energy. That way his own energy and direct attitude is really good and can have the impact like it did, especially when the structure of the team enables him to just run through the lines like he did last night.
I would still be tempted to play him through the middle as an impact sub until he learns to take more of those one on one chances like we saw him miss against Chelsea – but credit where it’s due, he took those goals well last night and I hope he does it more often.
Ole used a diamond last night and it was very effective. It’s similar to the 4-3-3 and even the the 3-5-2. I admit, I do like the diamond because it allows us to get the more technically capable players into the team and stops us relying on Mata who I obviously rate but feel his best days against the top teams are almost done.
The diamond gets the best out of the team – we’ve tried width, we’ve experimented with James and it just hasn’t worked. The full-backs these days provide the width and sometimes you have to play to your strengths. Van De Beek, Bruno and Pogba all together, on the pitch, playing and linking through the lines. We’re supposed to attack and think forwards, not backwards. If you set up defensively you promote negative thoughts that spread through the team. Last night proved Pogba can play on the left area, Van De Beek can link up through the midfield in ways that lesser players can’t do. I really felt we saw Pogba finally looking like he was enjoying the area of the pitch he was playing and he was also working hard.
So where do we go from here? Does Ole change again or keep the shape? I personally would keep it because it is fluid enough to change.
That leads you on to what to do with the defence. I would keep it as it is. I think the system allows them to concentrate on defending rather than asking them to do things they can’t do. Now Wan-Bissaka is looking good enough. Tuanzebe and Telles did well and that seems to have brought better out of Lindelof and Shaw – maybe they’ve realised their places are at risk and that they can be dropped. Sometimes that’s a good thing. I think, though, Axel has earned his chance to even be considered as the first choice.
Day Upamecano has been linked with the club – he’s a player I’ve rated very highly and said we should sign. He had a difficult night. A lot of people inevitably gave him stick – why would we want him now? He was all over the place? Look – his team were dismantled. United’s forward line was on fire. Upamecano’s performances last season were brilliant. He can’t be expected to do the job of all of them. One game doesn’t make a bad player.
We move to Arsenal on Sunday and nobody knows what Ole will do. I think another line-up like he picked for Chelsea would be too conservative. Personally, like I said, I’d go with the diamond again. Don’t worry about what Arsenal are doing.
That said, it’s hard to plan for them and for us. That’s the problem, we don’t know what to expect, and when you don’t know, it’s hard to see where they will get consistency from, and that’s the difference between us and Liverpool.
We shouldn’t be tricked – the squad had let us down when crucial games come around. The league table doesn’t lie and that’s why I’m not getting carried away with a couple of good results. Celebrating single wins is a sign of a small club mentality and the bigger picture for United is to win trophies. When we win against the top teams and have trophies to show for it, then great. They need to be a team that is feared, not one that is enjoyable to play against, and that is a work in progress.
Still – put my neck on the line and I’ll go 3-1 United on Sunday.