I promise you this isn’t an overreaction to the latest win against Villareal. Sometimes when I’m bored at my day job, I think about United and what is going on in their ethos. If you do too, congratulations! You are entering a tier of fandom that might be malevolent to your interpersonal relationships, health, and bonus structure! Join me as I take a deep dive into what Man United are, and aren’t.
What Is “It?”
Defining “It” is as hard as you can imagine. “It” kinda refers to what couch coaches like myself use to describe a lack of impression that a team possesses. United is kinda just “meh” at this point. Excuse my lack of intelligent analysis of this team, but I’m far from the only one who can’t put his thumb on what United are. Roy Keane, Gary Neville and Peter Schmeichel are all analysts who think United are just weird. Maybe the squad is going through their angsty teen years of listening to Green Day while dying their hair black and straightening their bangs, and the best is yet to come. I would like to believe this because, to be frank, I’m scared of the antithesis and what it means for the team.
I say all of this to say that United clearly aren’t firing on all cylinders, and are lacking a bit of an identity at the moment. In a team full of pure World Class talent, the performances have been a bit all over the map. I’m not gonna hate too much, cause PSG have been doing this for years with not much to show for it.
A New Formation?
Coming into this game, United were on quite the slip, and had lost 3 of their last 4, and the pressure might have been piling on Ole. Ole seemed to be the only person who didn’t think Ole was staring at trouble in the face. He didn’t even call this game a “must-win” in the press conference. Mr. Calm, Cool and Collected this fucking guy. I’m sorry but if you lose your 3 straight home game to the team who beat you for a trophy last year, that’s pretty fucking despicable.
Good thing for everyone is that United somehow didn’t manage to lose or even draw the game thanks to Ronaldo. Shocker, I know, but sometimes we need to take a moment and let the air breath and assess the game. Ole clearly listened to the twitter heads, and tried out a 4-3-3 today with McTominay sitting in front of the defense. The game clearly lacked influence, and there were more than a few times the defense got exposed and the offense looked devoid of ideas.
Fix It, Ole. Or Someone Else Should
I truly believe the 4-3-3 can work, but there are a couple items that need sorting first.
- United have no playing identity. Other than counterattack, I can’t really describe how United create goals. The defense constantly seems to be in “OH SHIT” mode, and the offense in “oh well” mode. Not a very good combination in my opinion.
- United don’t have clear tactics or processes. The creativity is manufactured by individual brilliance, and not concentrated styles of passing patterns. The defense is focused on sprinting back from getting caught out.
Good news is that these 2 main issues are fixable. Bad news is that these two issues arise mainly from the coaching. The Ole Project is currently in its draft forms, or at least I hope. If this is the finished product, I don’t think Ole is the guy. The issue with Ole not being a finished product is that the team is designed to win now. If Ole is a finished product now, this team isn’t going to be around forever. Cavani is gonna be gone after this year, Pogba’s contract is up this summer, and Ronaldo will be 38. The clock is ticking and the time to win is now, I just hope Ole delivers before a great opportunity is wasted.
Actually Try Coaching
Now onto the few tactics I picked up on that I think should change.
- The fullbacks never got ahead of the wingers. Telles has an ELITE left foot, and proved that with his wonder-volley, and Dalot couldn’t possibly be worse at attacking than he is defending. Everyone once in a while, the fullbacks should make some runs behind because that can cause some level of confusion for the opposition of who to cover, leaving just enough time for an accurate cross.
- The passing is slow and not intrusive. There is a lack of accurate one-touch passing in the final third. When United can’t find anything down a side, they usually go back to McTominay to cycle to the other side. A one-touch pass from a midfielder back down the same side could catch the defense ball-watching and put them in a state of panic.
- Effective pressing. After United lost the ball, Villareal were off essentially to the races. For one, we could do a little better in possession, but two, United defenders should have better positional awareness. Guys like N’Golo Kante and Rodri always seem to be in the right place at the right time, so why not McTominay?
The training ground exists for a reason other than to spam my Instagram feed with videos of players jogging and laughing. Get it together Solsjkaer, or else this season will be over before it even gets going.
P.S. Someone keep an eye on Donny, he may actually kill Ole and Phelan in the next few days.