Manchester United snatched their third consecutive victory in the Premier League 2016/17, as they got better of West Bromwich Albion on Saturday night.
Jose Mourinho’s men have been performing well for quite some time now, but they were missing the winner in the previous fixtures. However, it seems that Manchester United are now well on course to a better season under the new boss. The Premier League giants have extended their unbeaten run to eight games now, a streak that started after the 0-4 thrashing against Chelsea. While the ultimate fate will only be clear in February or so, it cannot be denied that the side are beaming with confidence at the moment. Yet, the last match showed that there are still a few problems for the Red Devils and these should be addressed at the earliest.
(1) The traditional long ball:
Premier League has often seen the age old tradition of sending long balls from the defense to the wingers who would then cross it to the box, with the hope that the attacker would head it home. But, with the evolution of football, one should understand that it won’t work as effectively as it used to. Not anymore. Well, one can argue that Manchester United’s opener against the Baggies was a perfect example of this. Yesterday, early in the game, Antonio Valencia set Jesse Lingard up with a long ball and the Englishman floated it to the box. The ball then met an onrushing Zlatan Ibrahimovic who slotted it home with a delicious header.
Unfortunately, similar techniques will not work well against fast paced teams like Manchester City, Chelsea or Tottenham. Especially against teams with strong and tall defenders, the chances are slim that United will find the back of the nets using this strategy. Naturally, Mourinho must think of alternate tactics to use for different opponents.
(2) Too much dependence on Ibrahimovic:
Echoing the previous point, it is crystal clear that all Manchester United attacks are now centered around the charismatic striker. The former PSG man has adapted well in his new club, and has now netted 15 times in all competitions this season. But, other United players must remember that it is a team game and they should start scoring as well. Of late, it seems that Rooney or his other teammates have lost their touches when it comes to find the target. Only Paul Pogba and Rooney, other than Ibrahimovic, managed shots on target over the last two games. Do the team need a certain Juan Mata, who already scored five times during this campaign, to step up regularly? Food for thought for the United manager.
It might not be a big deal against the minnows, but Mourinho’s men should avoid miss-passes as much as possible, should they want to aim for the coveted titles this season. Often times, the team are lacking the composure in the midfield. As a result, the ball possession is lost and the opponents are getting a chance to start a counter attack. Better midfielders like N’Golo Kante, Yaya Toure or a fit Aaron Ramsey can cause havoc if this happens against the top teams. Statistically, only Michael Carrick has made more than 50 passes and registered a passing accuracy of more than 85% in the last two games.
(4) The left flank:
Without taking anything from Matteo Darmian or Wayne Rooney, it is evident that Manchester United need a confident and in form combination in the left side. The Italian was brilliant against West Bromwich, made as many as 8 interceptions and 8 clearances. He also made dangerous runs down the wing and provided ample support for the attackers.
Rooney, on the other hand, was effective in both ends of the pitch. He always drops back to support the defenders. Yesterday, he made three important tackles as well. However, it is no brainer that the United captain’s primary position is not the left wing! The Englishman is possibly the best utility player a coach can hope for and hopefully he would perform well in any position. However, in my honest opinion, the team definitely need a better combination on that side. During the last match, Craig Dawson, Chris Brunt and Salomon Rondon defeated the duo on several instances, albeit United saved the scare every time. But, the outcome won’t be the same if Pedro, Christian Eriksen or Theo Walcott get these chances.
If Manchester United manage to get better in these aspects, the Red Devils can surely hope for a top four finish in the league, and maybe a couple of trophies in other competitions. Do you think that will happen this season? Let us know your views in the comments below!
Photo by tEdits