What’s happened to United? They’ve turned a natural goal machine in Falcao into nothing more than a Colombian Heskey, they’re losing to the likes of MK Dons and even Big Sam is calling them a long-ball team. It’s no wonder they’re struggling in the Premier Lea… Oh hang on… They’re third, and have just booked a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals. How did that happen again?
Their back four has looked rather vulnerable at the best of times this season, with Blackett, Smalling, Rojo and Jones looking lost under Van Gaal’s less-than-revolutionary 5-3-2 system. Luckily though, De Gea has been outstanding, relentlessly keeping opposing strikers at bay.
Carrick has been fairly solid, but the Englishman aside, you’d fancy a trio of Per Mertesacker, Nigel Farage and Lucy Beale to overrun The Red Devil’s midfield. With Mata not being on form, they lose that creative spark – they need someone to act as a playmaker. Rooney has often been brought into a deeper position to fill the role, which just hasn’t worked. Arguably Fellaini has been United’s best midfielder as he adds that physical presence to the middle of the park, and has started to bag a goal or two. Yep, Fellaini is their best midfielder. Dark days indeed.
Wazza, Di Maria, Van Persie, Falcao and Januzaj: not a bad 5-a-side team, eh? Here’s where United make up for their weak defence and unspectacular midfield. They have the second best chance-to-goal ratio in the Premier League (18%) behind Chelsea and have only been outscored by the top two and Arsenal. Di Maria had an incredible start to the season but has since dropped the pace somewhat. The goals keep on coming – but this is largely due to the immense attacking threat that United possess.
He may have liberated Old Trafford from the monstrous Moyes dictatorship and repaired some of the resulting wounds, but at the same time he’s turned one of the world’s greatest clubs into nothing more than a more expensive, route-one playing Stoke – and spent millions in doing so. When he sorts his act out and knows which formation best suits his team, he will eventually restore United back to champions. Surely he’s got to take a large amount of responsibility for his team’s woeful start to the season.
United have proven that even when playing poorly they can still get results – they’ve managed to reach third without once playing anywhere near their best, so surely they’ll maintain a Champions League place. As for the FA Cup, they have a real chance of winning it. Assuming they proceed with the formality of beating Arsenal (they’ve lost just once in 15 matches against The Gooners), it looks like only Liverpool will stand in their way to win silverware this season… And maybe Bradford.