It was sickening wasn't it? It was appropriate that in the away game that we seemed most comfortable in we would end up losing. That's football, the manager acknowledged as much----it has a way of kicking you in the teeth. Yesterday in Wales was one of those days.
That though does little to address the issues about the elephant in the room. Not unlike the opening day of the season, United dominated the game but Swansea picked up all three points. Not unlike the opening day, United had fewer shots on target with more possession (65% to be exact) and yet could not make meaningful use of it.
Following the defeat at home to Southampton, it is becoming a notable pattern that if you sit back deep, you can actually nullify most of what United will throw at you--simply because of the preference to cross balls into the box rather as opposed to making inroads central or having shots at goal from outside the penalty area. This is the variation in play that I alluded to in the preview. United need more Scholes-cum-Herrera moments. The Spaniard is the closest we have to Paul Scholes in the team and yet for some reason has had to sit out the majority of the season because of one unjustified reason or the other. He is the perfect combination of energy and skill in the middle that we seem to be desperate for. He is 80% Paul Scholes----and there's not many who can claim such figures. The point is, he is the perfect variation to our play because he can make late runs into the box and score from anywhere within a 20 yard area from the goal. It is a trait that has been lost on almost all our forwards as everyone seems intent on helping the ball wide hoping for a delivery into the box to find them unmarked.
It's all too easy and predictable defending against the current mode of attack. Little wonder then that the opposition finds it easy to limit our shots on target. The English game rewards gamblers more, which is why Swansea got their win yesterday....having a go from 25 yards.
Alternatively, if you are to be more elaborate, then do it at such speed and tempo that the opposition cannot keep up or are forced to making errors. United are too lethargic at the moment. The irony is that the one time we broke with pace and purpose, we scored. Therein lies the frustration. The solutions are readily available to the players but everyone would rather win the contest of who finishes the 90 minutes without breaking sweat.
Whereas our defending as as suspect as usual, it is quickly becoming apparent that our attack might not be free from requiring surgery as well come the summer window. It was supposed to get us out of jail this season but the final third seems to where we ran out of ideas most. Robin van Persie was the equivalent of Radamel Falacao yesterday and suddenly, possibly worse, given that we actually created a number of half chances throughout the match. He left the stadium in a protective boot which could mean that he faces between a couple of weeks and a couple of months out until we are certain on Monday. It speaks volumes about the pair's contribution this season that we might not be too excited that Falcao is our next option up top. Baffling. Simply because no side in world football has the luxury in attack that we have, but there's that stuff about things on paper and then on pitch.
In all probability, we shall lose our top 4 status after the weekend schedule is done. We always ran the risk. Such are the margins in the race for that top 4 spot. With the fixtures remaining, we now need to pick up difficult points at places we might not have needed to if we are to make the season's target.
Two quick games follow an upcoming long week in which the media will have enough time to throw stones of all sizes at the club and the manager. At home against Sunderland and away at Newcastle have now taken on much more importance. United have to improve, and fast because for all the ground work still being laid on by the manager, there are standards below which we cannot afford to fall.