Manchester United got back to winning ways at Old Trafford this afternoon with a 2-0 victory over Gus Poyets Sunderland. After suffering a defeat on the road last weekend when they lost 2-1 to Swansea City it was imperative that United got the win if they are sustain their challenge to finish in the top four the Premier League come the end of the season. The win for United came thanks to two 2nd half Wayne Rooney goals, the first coming from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after a foul on Radamel Falcao by former United defender John O’Shea but the referee appeared to send off his fellow centre-back Wes Brown by mistake. Though he has claim that he felt that both O’Shea and Brown appeared to challenge Falcao and he felt that Brown had committed the foul that brought the penalty.
Despite the win it was another disappointing performance from the Red Devils, they appeared to start this game playing a 4-4-2 with a flat midfield four with Angel Di Maria playing down the right wing and Ashley Young playing down the left wing. United have a long tradition of playing with out and out wingers that stay on the wing and constantly attack the opponent’s full-backs. This tradition has disappeared over the last few seasons since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson and in all honesty we didn’t play in the United tradition in Ferguson’s last few years. Over the last few years we have signed players like Shinji Kagawa and Juan Mata, who aren’t really the types of players Manchester United would have bought in the past.
I was at Old Trafford this afternoon watching this game and thinking this team has no personality anymore, what is the United style of play now, is it swash buckling attacking play with fast players, are we playing in the tika-taka style of Barcelona. Are we trying to play a more defensive style and catch teams on the counter attack. It doesn’t seem to be any of these in all honesty. Are the players getting confused by what Louis Van Gaal wants them to do? Have they been told by Van Gaal what he philosophy is? To me it doesn’t seem that even Van Gaal knows what his philosophy is. He keeps changing the formations, whether it be three at the back and this formation a 3-5-2 or 5-3-2? Then we go back to four at the back and playing the 4-4-2 with the midfield in a diamond and then its to a flat four attempting to play with wingers or are we playing 4-2-3-1.
Many Manchester United fans over the years have been brought up on Manchester United playing in a 4-4-2 formation with two out and out wingers terrorising the opposing full-backs. Whether it be George Best, Steve Coppell, Jesper Olsen, Lee Sharpe, Ryan Giggs, Andrei Kanchelskis, David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo. I myself was brought up on the wing play of Lee Sharpe, Ryan Giggs and Andrei Kanchelskis. These were players that would help United attack with pace and would blow the majority of teams away early in games as the team would come flying out of the blocks and stretch teams with the pace of their wingers.
In today’s game and in many games this season the play from Manchester United has been far too slow and teams are able to sit back and keep their shape, then attack United on the break. There were several occasions in the first half of todays game where Sunderland could have quite scored against Manchester United on the break. Manchester United had plenty of possession without really doing anything with it, they were just playing the ball in front of the Sunderland defence with taking any risks. Ashley Young tried his best to attack down the left flank, while Angel Di Maria kept drifting inside and was leaving Valencia to attack down the right flank, whereas they should have been combining down the right flank like Young and Rojo were attempting to do on the opposite flank. At half-time Di Maria was taken off and replaced with Adnan Januzaj. Januzaj impressed with some of his play down both flanks as he and Young swapped positions several times. Januzaj also combined well with Valencia down the right. Januzaj showed more strength and ability to run at defenders than Di Maria had done in the first-half.