Friday, 21 November 2014

OF INJURIES, MORE INJURIES AND LE ARSE

Is it the training methods? Perhaps the intensity? Faulty medical department? Fragile players? Or simply good ol' plain bad luck? Whatever it is, Louis van Gaal has got to get to the bottom of it because what could easily be an 'okay' season is seriously being threatened by a catalogue of injuries. United have had up to 9 players injured at nearly every match week. Just when the club was about to achieve a clean bill of health, the International break made sure the status quo was quickly restored with injuries to Michael Carrick, David De Gea, Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Di Maria to add to an illustrious list already boasting Radamel Falcao, Marcos Rojo, Jonny Evans, Rafael, and Phil Jones.

As it stands from the above list, De Gea, Carrick and Di Maria are certain to pull through Saturday's trip to the Emirates whilst we await confirmation on Luke Shaw. Daley Blind joins Rojo on the list of long term injuries while for the rest it is as you were. Whereas it is expected that at various points during a season you are bound to lose players due to injury, losing them in catalogues is never on the script.

Having endured a lucklustre start to the season, it is almost imperative that United make hay between now and Christmas to rack up a points total to build upon in the new year. At the moment, that prospect is looking bleak ahead of the winter schedule not least because of the injuries earlier alluded to. If it is indeed true that adding more players to this squad would affect the chances of fringe players, then those players have an almighty chance to show what they can do whilst this injury crisis lasts.

If nothing changes between the manager's press conference yesterday and tomorrow evening, it will be interesting to see the kind of defence we put out at the Emirates. Having already used 13 different centre back combinations in 11 games, there's every chance the one we shall see on Saturday is novel as well. Arsenal, for all their problems are blessed with pace in their team. The combination of Sanchez and Chamberlain supported by Welbeck upfront means that whatever the backline tomorrow, they shall be tested for speed and concentration.

Arsenal are perhaps the one side of the 'traditional big four' against whom we boast an impressive record in recent history. Our last defeat against them was an isolated result in 2011 when a substitution by Sir Alex allowed Aaron Ramsey to ghost in the area unmarked and poke home what proved to be the winner before Park Ji Sung could get in position and pick his man. However, because of their singular minded game plan , the top teams have learned to play against Arsenal.

Under Louis van Gaal however, United seem to be moving away from their pragmatism that served them so well in this fixture. Arsenal love it when teams go to the Emirates and try to beat them at football in its purest sense. I'd like for the boss to keep it at pragmatic tomorrow because such fixtures are more about the result than the performance.
With 4th place and probably third place in the league still very much up for grabs, it is down to these two sides to pull together a run of consistent results to lay claim to those places.

The nature of the league table is that only a handful of points separate the fourth placed side from the 12th side. At the moment, we're only still in charge of our destiny because so many other sides seem to have problems of their own. We have a run of fixtures between now and Christmas that are winnable and can aid the turn around of our season. That said, look how the start of the season panned out! It's becoming quite a strain on many fans waiting for that turn at the corner only to find out that it was a false turn. That we do not have an away win this season heading into the close of November is by itself a failure this season.

It's not like the remedies are not there because they are. For starters, Di Maria should not take our corner kicks. I do not know whether price tag dictates who takes the set pieces, but our best ball swingers at the club from a corner are Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in that order. A corner kick, by default must beat the first defender at the near post. Di Maria hardly accomplishes that. His talents are undoubted but I think that particular duty should be reassigned just to give effect to making selections such as Fellaini in the team.

With the apparent risk of losing touch with our season's target, it is imperative that we get a result tomorrow. This fixture used to determine the destiny of the league title but in 2014/15, it could significantly determine who makes the Champions League places. A shame, but still as fiesty as ever.

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