Southampton came away from Old Trafford with a 1-0 victory thanks to a winning goal from Dusan Tadic in the 69th minute. The win is Southampton’s first at Old Trafford in 27 years. Anyone connected with Manchester United can’t have any complaints about this result, as they were toothless throughout the whole match and failed to register a single shot on target.
When I first saw the team, my first reaction was Rooney would be up front with Van Persie, which is where he should be, He’s done a job in midfield over the last couple of months while we’ve been missing players in that area but Wayne Rooney is not a midfielder. He is a striker or play him in the hole advanced of the midfield and behind one or two strikers, however you want to play. Another thought I had looking at the team was is he carrying on with back three or has he gone back to a back four.
It was a continued use of the back three, which baffles me, surely with everyone now fit you can play a back four especially in games at home when you should be doing most of the attacking. With the starting eleven that Van Gaal selected yesterday that is not the way I and many other Manchester United fans would have envisaged us lining up. You can play a back four of Shaw, Smalling, Jones and Valencia. Then have your diamond in midfield, with either Carrick or Blind at the base providing that bit of extra protection for the defence. Di Maria to the left of the midfield two, where he has played his best football for United since joining, he has the freedom to roam when he’s playing in this position, then again either Carrick or Blind to the right of the midfield two, I would be happy for either one of them in either of the positions as I feel they can rotate. Say if Carrick was at the base of the diamond he can drift forward and Blind would be able to drop back and cover him. Then you could have a Juan Mata playing just in behind Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie, I feel playing this way we would have at least created a few more clear cut opportunities.
One of biggest shocks to me and a lot of Manchester United was Van Gaal’s decision to not just to not start with Falcao but to not even have him on the bench, especially when he has decided to have three defenders on the bench, now I know we’ve suffered a lot of injuries to defenders this season but I find myself questioning why have three defenders on the bench and not Falcao. Something else I find puzzling about this game is why not bring James Wilson on at any point. Southampton have a very good defence but I feel we didn’t even attack them and feel the introduction of James Wilson would at least have stretched the Southampton defence with his pace. Then this would have given the likes of Mata and Rooney more space to work in between the Southampton defence and midfield.
He had several opportunities to bring him on, first being when Van Persie went off and instead he brought Herrera on and Herrera clearly signalled to Rooney that he was to play upfront now but Rooney still seemed to think he was playing In midfield, he was dropping deep for the ball and to me he should have been the furthest player forward at this point occupying the Southampton defenders. Then Luke Shaw was taken off and replaced by Blackett with Blind moving to the left-wing back position. Again for me Wilson could have come on then and we could have gone to a back four with Blind playing at left back.
The way we started this game we have players playing in positions they are either not conformable with or even used to playing. We’ve got Luke Shaw playing at left-wing back, Shaw is a very good full back but he’s not a wing back. I feel when he plays in this position he doesn’t know if he is supposed to be defending or attacking more. His best performances for United since moving in the summer from Southampton have come when we have played a back four and he has played at full back. He has defended well and come forward with the ball well. When playing as a wing back, the opponents know that just have to concentrate on him and he struggles to beat players when they double up on him, whereas playing as a full back he can overlap the midfielders in front of him and maybe one have one man on him.
With this defeat United have slipped to fourth in the Premier League and haven’t won in three Premier League games having drawn at Tottenham and Stoke prior to this game and having now lost for the first time in ten games. Manchester United will be looking to start another unbeaten run starting against QPR next week. I only hope we see Van Gaal returning to a back four for that game and future games and use players in positions they are comfortable with. I have no problem with having players that can play multiple positions as long you play them in the positions they can play and not ask them to do something their now familiar with.