Manchester United have continued to lose ground in the title race after another disappointing display against West Brom Albion. A spectacular Bruno Fernandes equalizer on a half volley could not inspire the visitors to mount a comeback after they went a goal down earlier in the game.
It was a typical Manchester United display against a bottom-ranked side, which saw them enjoy the majority of possession but with no end product.
Dark clouds formed for United at The Hawthorns when a burly Mbaye Diagne powered a header past David De Gea inside the second minute of the game. The Senegalese international should have probably grabbed two more goals against United in the second half.
Sunday's game exposed certain weaknesses that United have faced all season. There was an expectation that the January transfer window would be used to fix certain areas in the team, but no major players were brought in. This has put pressure on United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
In Solskjaer, United have a manager with little experience at the top level, short of proper tactics in game management and somebody who the board can impose their will on.
As much as Manchester United have enjoyed some memorable wins under Solskjaer, there is still a lot of work to be done at the club. His managerial pedigree has been tested this season, and as it stands, the team is only a few games away from going downhill again. We look at the 2 glaring issues that United have to address to improve their form.
#2 Playing Anthony Martial
Many players have ups and downs in their careers. While Fernandes is an ideal model of what a proper Manchester United player should play like, other players such as Anthony Martial are the opposite.
The Frenchman has struggled to impress in Manchester United's last ten matches despite been given opportunity after opportunity. His two goals against Southampton were much-needed but came when the Saints were already wounded.
Martial has been slow to recover the ball and his defensive contributions leave a lot to be desired. His 7 goals in 29 appearances this season is not a fair reflection of how awful he has been. A fit Edison Cavani should start over him at centre forward on any matchday, but Solskjaer continues to pick Martial.
#1 Squad selection
One of the biggest problems Manchester United is dealing with is on the defensive front.
Eric Bailly is undoubtedly their best centre-back when fit as he brings an allure of confidence to the backline. Solskjaer's insistence on playing Victor Lindelof over the Ivorian has come at a cost. It was the Swedish international who was outmuscled by Diagne in the box on Sunday. Lindelof's lack of physical presence and aerial ability are reasons for his shortcomings.
In a game like this, where West Brom were absorbing the pressure, there was no need for two defensive-minded midfielders. This is a system that Solskjaer has used and is predictable to opponents. As a result, Manchester United have found it difficult to break down teams who sit back.
Top managers adapt to different opposition but it is usually more of the same from Manchester United and Solkjaer. Midfield is a key area when it comes to controlling a match so having two defensive midfielders for every game is not ideal at the top level. Introducing a bit of dynamism in midfield with Donny Van De Beek and playing two up front will help things chance for Manchester United.