Thursday, 26 November 2015

ON BENDED KNEES IN PRAYER


There was always the chance that Group B would end in the mathematics of a Matchday six in the Champions League after the second round of group fixtures had all teams on three points. Following last night's dour draw with PSV Eindhoven at Old Trafford, United have left themselves in dangerous territory as they bid to get out of the group.

Certainly, VfL Wolfsburg, for all their impressive results in the German Bundesliga are no world beaters and United have it in themselves to get an away win in Germany but the method of the current crop under Louis van Gaal has no guarantees. Indeed, the only near certainty about United at the moment is that they will more likely than not keep out the opposition,


On the Match
The trouble however stems from an attack that often times appears decidedly short of ideas. The biggest indictment on United last night was that Eindhoven did not have to defend particularly well on the night. Indeed, United did manage to create chances in the first half to win the game but the finishing, as it were in Holland was poor. 

Ironically, it is not that United were not attacking the Dutch Champions at will. Indeed, often times Chris Smalling was past the half-way line into the PSV half but United hardly played a ball in behind the PSV defence to rattle the visitors.

On a night when Old Trafford paid tribute to the legendary George Best on the 10th anniversary of his passing, the football on display was simply not up to the edge of your seat dazzling stuff of the Northern Irish legend. 

Perhaps more hurtful was the apparent manner in which United seemed to give up as the match drew to an end. There was no will to win the game that was at least evident in the CSKA Moscow game or more recently in the Saturday win at Watford.

The round of boos at the end were perhaps merited but these are strange times at United. A win on Saturday takes this United team top of the league and Louis van Gaal could argue that qualification from the group remains in their hands. United's second season under van Gaal is shaping up to be one giant paradox. 


On the Sub-Plots
Ironically, the return of Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial did not really better United's attack from the weekend. Memphis Depay and Lingard were much more fluent on Saturday than they were in wide roles last night. How to solve a problem like that.....?

Louis van Gaal bemoaned the failure of his substitutes to have an impact on proceedings. He will shudder at Phillip Cocu's revelation that United's Plan B in Marouanne Fellaini gave the Dutch side an easier time defensively than Plan A. How depressing!

Whilst on the subject, it must also be pointed out that Cocu has long running unbeaten streak against United and indeed Louis van Gaal. For the superstitious, that should explain events last night.


On the Bottom Line
The last thing United need right now is Thursday Europa league football to derail an otherwise solid foundation in the premier league. The importance of the final group fixture in Germany cannot therefore be overstated. 

It's ridiculous that it has come to this, but for Louis van Gaal and his current set up, its getting to a point where they'll have to turn in more than 6/10 performances to keep the campaign alive on major fronts.

Saturday at Leicester City is a good place to start!


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