Two steps forward, one step back - renowned English commentator Peter Drury's remarks on Manchester United's current run of form signifies how vulnerable the club is at the moment. United were welcomed by Arsenal on New Year's Day at Emirates Stadium. While Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, who are in the hunt for a top-four finish alongside United, dropped crucial points earlier, Manchester United were expected to come with all guns firing.
However, that was nothing but a false assumption as Mikel Arteta's men thrashed Ole Gunnar Solskjær's eleven in a thumping manner. In what was a tremendous performance from the Arsenal point of view. As a result of the 2-0 victory, Arsenal climbed up to the 10th spot with 27 points from 21 matches. On the other hand, United keep the 5th spot under their dominion after garnering 31 points from the same number of matches as Arsenal.
Tactical defeat or psychological breakdown?
The match saw everything an Arsenal fan expects from a Mikel Arteta's side. They were quick while attacking and compact while defending. Yet, the question remains whether it was Arsenal's supremacy or United's lapse in concentration. From the tactical point of view, Arteta fielded an attacking 4-3-3 line-up while Solskjær launched Jesse Lingard, who had no Premier League goals or assist to his name in 2019 calendar year, in the crucial no.10 position. Arsenal came up fast when they got the ball, while United played slow and passive football for the whole 90 minutes. When United got the chance to break the Gunners down on the counter, they took too much time to find a pass. And hence, allowed Arsenal to get back to their defensive shape.
Arsenal's defence worked pretty well to prevent the danger and grasped their 4th clean-sheet of the season. Although the Londoners played outstandingly to snatch all 3 points, we can't ignore the fact that some United players like Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Marcus Rashford and Harry Maguire didn't seem focused enough while playing on Wednesday. It seemed they were mentally drained as their heads went down pretty easily, after conceding the first goal of the match.
What was Solskjær's fault?
The Red Devils manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has been in the job for over a year now, and people still criticise him for making näive mistakes. It was the selection of Jesse Lingard over Andreas Pereira in the starting eleven for what he got all the sticks from United supporters. His ability to read a game quickly from a manager's perspective has been questioned many times this season. On Wednesday, he made the substitutions when everything was gone beyond United's control. If he wants to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford, he needs to rectify his mistakes very quickly because time won't wait for none.
The dilemma regarding Paul Pogba and Mino Raiola
In recent times, Paul Pogba and his agent Mino Raiola have become a curse for Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Paul Pogba, who was expected to start against Arsenal, missed the game with another injury. Before the start of the 2019-20 season, Paul Pogba was believed to make a move away from Old Trafford and join Real Madrid, but United somehow managed to keep him at the club.
If Mino Raiola continues to poke United, the club might be forced to sell his client sooner than later which would be beneficial for both Pogba and Raiola.
Improvement needed at recruitment method
Signing no midfielder in the summer transfer window has become a major issue in Manchester United's camp. Injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay has suddenly opened the eyes of United's recruitment department.
When they should have signed at least 3 midfielders, they didn't get one. Yet, everything is not lost. January transfer window has already arrived, and Manchester United desperately need to make signings to beef up their squad. If they fail to add new names to their roster this time, it would be United's recruitment department that needs a revamp.Published 02 Jan 2020, 23:27 IST