Friday, 8 May 2015

LIMPING TO THE FINISH LINE

In the season of the 20th anniversary since His Royal Highness King Eric Cantona famously infamously did the above, Manchester United travel to Selhurst Park in perhaps similar levels of frustration after three defeats and three games without a goal. What fans would give for similar folklore drama tomorrow evening. If the football is going to be ponderous, the least we deserve is a kung-fu kick bit of entertainment here or there.

To say that United have deserved more than nought from those fixtures is to plainly state the obvious but football does not reward in the same way that natural justice does. The bare facts are that for all the chances created over the past 3 weeks, United have lacked the ruthlessness to finish them off and, more crucially, have been devoid of the defensive nous to keep out the opposition at the other end of the pitch.

Again, as the narrative went last week, United will dominate possession and chance creation. That much is as certain as the fact that the sun will rise from the East tomorrow. What we all cannot say for sure is if they will have the invention and diversity to cause Crystal Palace the kind of problems to merit a goal. Tony Pulis will get them deep, tight and ready to hit on the counter.

Selhurst Park, like Goodison Park is a small tight pitch that leaves you with little room to breathe. For instance Marouanne Fellaini could struggle again to get his game going as he will be easily dispossessed for a lack of close control and speed of movement.

It will be a shame if United go about this in the same way they have gone about the last three games. The key has to be diversity in attack at speed. The ponderous footbal
l will not be of much help because Palace will have the time to get back into a shape that will protect their keeper. United have to be direct and more ruthless in the box.

Michael Carrick's return is key to all this though. The Geordie's return would allow Ander Herrera to be much closer to goal and allow for more defensive stability on the counter-attack. It is a position that will dictate how we deal with the counter-attacks from the opposition. So far, it has dictated that we've lost rather than drawn the last three games. Paddy McNair does not make that tackle on the edge of the box last week if we had someone in there to intercept the passage of play that West Brom used to get that close to goal. The devil is in the details.

It's 6 points from 9 for Champions League football next season. With Arsenal due at Old Trafford next week, United have little margin for error tomorrow. Certainly, top 4 will be ensured if we win and Liverpool get beat at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. With Chelsea already Champions though, do not bet on it.

Ultimately though, it's turning out to be a damp-squib of a season end. In fact, at the moment it feels like only transfer activity is getting the tails up at United. The football seems to have already packed its bags for the beach. Hopefully there's a few strides in there to pull United over the line in a season that is has repeatedly been in the least difficult to surmise and at lengths discombobulating.




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