United Corner: Key highlights from Arsenal vs Manchester United
Manchester United suffered a setback in their pursuit to chase Champions League qualification spot for next year with a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal. Granit Xhaka stuck a curling shot in first half, before a soft penalty won by Alexandre Lacazette was converted by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Here are the five things we learnt from the game.
#1 United forwards looked blunt
United would have got a dream start, equivalent to the one in PSG game, if Lukaku had been even half as clinical as he was while poaching chances in PSG game. Coming from a Luke Shaw’s excellent cross, Lukaku had a tap-in which he miss-hit and hit the top bar from just a couple of meters away from goal.
Lukaku again had a great opportunity to level the game when Rashford found him with an excellent through ball, but Lukaku seemed like he got surprised at receiving ball and took a bad first touch, took extra time to sort his feet, allowing Leno to come ahead and block the shot.
Rashford on other hand had a bad game himself. He kept giving away the ball, his passes were not finding their way through to intended targets and his runs were kept getting intercepted. Yes, he had a wonderfully taken penalty in PSG game, but apart from that, he has been off boil lately.
#2 Pogba missing
This was a game where Pogba was supposed to take control. There were quite a few factors playing into his hand. To start with, both United and Arsenal had played midweek, but Pogba on the other hand had got a rest owing to his suspension.
Arsenal played Ramsey and Ozil who are much more attack minded than Mattéo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira Di Pascua. This attacking move had offered Pogba much more space and less hassle than he could have expected if either Guendouzi or Torreira were playing. But he failed to take advantage of either of this two points and failed to create consistently going forward. Apart from long range cross ball to Lukaku, Pogba was not able to provide any decisive ball. On the other hand, Pogba is always a liability while running back, he would let runners easily get pass by him.
#3 De Gea Distribution
Keeping first goal aside, a big area of improvement De Gea needs in his game is his distribution. Rarely does De Gea kick a long ball with decent enough accuracy, allowing United front men to legitimately fight for the ball. Today, maybe a bit rattled by the first goal, at least 4 times he gave the ball straight to Arsenal players in middle of the park. This forces United to play short from the back, even when they are getting pressed, as opponents know either United will give the ball away from a long ball from De Gea, or else they will have to play in tight spaces near their goal.
#4 Defence will keep United in race
Although United’s attack has gone off the fizz, it’s their defence which is keeping them in games. United are constantly under attack for majority of the games, surrendering possession and sitting deep. Apart from goal to Crystal Palace and an individual error from Bailly to give PSG a goal in Paris, United defence has been solid since the PSG game at Manchester.
Even today, goals had come from a soft penalty given by Fred and a long-range effort which midfield should have done better in not allowing space and time to shoot. Shaw, Smalling and Lindelof all 3 have been brilliant in all the games since the defeat at Manchester. United will need them to keep doing the same if they are to push forward with their charge for a top four finish and a silverware in FA and Champions League cups.
#5 Plan B - Keep the ball
In PSG, as well as in this game, United seems to be content in allowing opponents to keep the ball and plan to hit them in counter attack. Problem with this is, opponents have figured this out and they are prepared for that. No longer are opponents providing wide spaces on the flanks as was done by Tottenham and Arsenal in previous games. Solskjaer needs to have a plan B wherein if United are getting dominated, instead of going for a fast break every time, we build up attack through some patience build up with a slick passing game.