I don't know. Another worrying performance. We only really won because unlike Southampton, Stoke retreated as the game progressed. Though we are definitely getting better, and that is directly because Moyes has used Kagawa more and Januzaj has featured. It is not really an improvement with the existing coaching and the system, it is worrying that Moyes needed that much convincing with Kagawa. We need to improve a lot more before we face Arsenal. I think losing that game completely ends all hope of a top 3 finish for us. We have to stay close to the leading pack. Here goes..
Play the same team. The international breaks have not helped, as well as injuries and such but now is the time for building some consistency and familiarity. The pieces are not gelling enough as it is, it is not helpful to keep swapping them out non-stop.
Fix our passing. Hire some consultant from La Masia or Clarefontaine or wherever to the coaching staff. Build a Footbanaut. Do something. The complete inability of any Manchester United team to string together passes and break down the opposing team is god awful. Bad passes, a lob when it should stay on the ground, poor ball control, static play and no movement, the defenders completely uncomfortable being on the ball and having to boot it out etc. We have been plagued by these problems since forever but it is now too evident. I keep hearing about the intensity of our training but I don't see it translated to the football field. I mean imagine if our passing game was up to the level of a Southampton (yes that's what I think of our passing). I don't want us to become Barca, I like our game but as a top club we should be flexible and able to adjust. Sometimes it is all about probability. You boot the ball up field because you cannot deal with the high press, you reduce the probability of keeping possession. Against the bottom of the table teams you mostly get away with it. Against the better teams you get punished. Please don't be fooled with our passing when a team is camping in its own 18, we look busy all around the 18 but we could not break through even if the opposing defence had their feet in cement.
Hand in hand with better passing and ball control, reduce the over reliance on the cross. Yes we beat Stoke, but it strikes me as crazy for the whole game plan to be firing crosses into an 18 yard box defended by several 6 foot plus giants. It is low football IQ, low probability, and little to no flexibility football. Here look at this goal. This player plays for us right ? Was it a miracle goal? Great move but very simply done. It is absolutely possible to get the ball to the feet of our strikers and have them create a little space and get a shot on goal. It should be emphasized as part of the training really. Here is another goal. Higher probability of a shot on target than just lobbing the ball in there. It is bad that these types of goal are so few and far between.
I really do miss the era of Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez where our transition was lightning fast. Example here. It amazes me that our coaches, wingers and strikers can't do the math. It is easier to score against 5 defenders scrambling to get back than 6 or 7 defenders well camped and organized. Nani, Kagawa, Young, Cleverley .. all slowing the ball down either to over dribble or because they hate to have the ball at their feet. Chelsea do a fast break like 8 times a game. As I type I'm watching Torres cause De Michaelis and Clichy all sorts of fits just by running at them.
Video sessions? I don't know if they do this or not but they need to. The coach makes notes that show up on the screen and the whole team gets together and watch the match. Then Rooney can see where he could have put Kagawa in with the right pass, or Nani could see where Smalling had the perfect overlap and instead of using that he hit another useless 30 yarder.
Januzaj does not come off the bench again. He is a top echelon United player, I actually think he should be just as automatic as Van Persie at this stage.
Work with Nani, he needs to be stifled and the game made simpler for him. He is too creative and skillful for his own good, he literally does not know what to do. A complete contrast to Januzaj who has great balance and skill but is able to focus it. If you watch Januzaj, he could do a lot more but he basically does the same thing. Januzaj will walk his man backwards into the danger zone of his own 18 then lay the ball off to an overlapping full back or inter change with someone else. It causes penetration and pulls the defence apart. Football is simple but Nani's creativity confuses him. This is up to Moyes, since he has granted Nani a new contract. He should be peaking as a player but is actually getting more inconsistent. His football IQ needs to improve, I cannot understand why he does not try to get in the box and shoot, why he insists on 30 yarders. Or why he slows the ball down no matter what the situation and then stares at his marker's feet for about 10 seconds. Moyes needs to call him in regularly and say.. look at the video.. this is what you do well and this is where you mess up. All I want is for you to do this. No more of those other things. And you are allowed only 1 shot from the edge of the box each game.
Ditto for Young. He tries to be a dribbler but he cannot so he settles for the dive and getting fouled. He needs to use more of his speed and just be direct. Don't complicate it.
Moyes: Ashley, I'm putting you on for the last 20 minutes. All I want is for you not to dive, take on the first man. Don't slow the ball down, get to the byline and cross. Just focus on the service. Try to do that a few times.
Young: Yeah but can I cut in and try to penetrate and link with Rooney and...
Moyes: No. All I want is for you not to dive, make sure you take on the first man, don't slow the ball down, get close to the byline and put in a good cross. We get you back to the basics again then you can start cutting back in and all the other stuff. But no diving ever again or you're done.
Valencia needs to be deployed at fullback more. When played as a right winger he stifles the right full back (Rafael) which in turn limits what we are able to do offensively. However it adds an extra dimension to our attack when he can easily overlap someone playing in front of him and use his favored right foot. It should only be to give Raphael a rest and against lesser teams but the upside is that it will end the Chris Smalling at right back experiment. We have enough wingers to cover. A year at that position will make him a good full back. I'd rather have Valencia and his fight in our team some way than not.
Stop Smalling at right back. Just stop it. Only play Smalling with Evans at center back. Smalling may never develop to his potential but his best position and play is at center back. And he is best with Evans. He lets wingers run at him when he plays right back. Why he keeps back pedaling even before they start trying to dribble I don't know.
Play Phil Jones at defensive midfield more. The young man may thinks he is a natural defender but he is not a good one yet. Too, too many lapses in concentration. However as a DM he provides the ability to man mark, bully and occasionally charge up the field. First game against Real Madrid last years Champions league, he almost succeeded in shutting down Ronaldo. Playing him at DM will give more chances to play more creatives (Kagawa) in front because Jones can cover more ground in the defensive midfield role than anyone else.
Play Kagawa at No. 10 or let him go. Playing Kagawa on the wing is not the same thing as playing your wingers inverted. He does not interchange well with Evra, he basically just vacates the wing and clogs up the middle. Watch the Real Sociedad game, No. 10 is where he is most effective. If not possible then swap him for Gundogan. Or sell him back to Dortmund and use the change to pay up for Herrera. One bad thing about Kagawa, he fades towards the end of the second half. I think it is a combination of lack of involvement and poor stamina.
Rooney is not the no. 10 we need. He is OK enough at it but in today's game, a premier team features a No. 10 in the mold of Ozil, Messi, Isco et al. I actually dislike Rooney's tendency be at the edge of the 18 and then spray the ball out wide and never playing the wide man into the 18. That is a pure strikers mentality, here is the ball, let me get into the box. The best Rooney was wide in a 3 man attack with Ronaldo and Tevez or when he was the main striker himself. Rooney has displayed the ability to take on his man this season. Play him as a striker or edge of a 3 man attack with Januzaj/Nani/Young on the other side, Van Persie/Hernandez/Welbeck in the middle and Kagawa behind the striker. Then put Phil Jones as one member of 2 man deep midfield to provide enough cover. A 4-2-3-1 or even more attacking 4-2-1-2-1.
Carrick. This will be most contentious but the end is upon us I'm afraid. It is time to think about converting him to a defender. I've seen him completely bypassed in almost every game this season by the opposition. He always used to get that nick in and stab the ball away, but in this United team, with the lack of compactness and discipline, he is getting exposed defensively. He still has that ability to pass the ball, I'll give him praise though he is too hesitant for me with his passing and still settles for the long ball/pass instead of orchestrating through balls. Think Mascherano with Barcelona. Not the same thing but he could play another 3 good years for us at defender and maybe elevate that position.
Well the rant is done. I watch Bayern play sometimes and as almighty as they are, it is because they do the little things well. I actually prefer the Jupp Heynckes version to Guardiola's version. Those guys just did the same thing over and over and over again and did it well. No over dribbling unless you have license (Robben and Ribery), the overlap happens on schedule, you recognize the open man and move the ball, you keep the tempo and rhythm. Wave after wave of attacking movement, there was a purpose and intent for everything. It is what happens when good coaching adapts to the football IQ of the available players, develops them accordingly and builds a system that maximizes their natural talent. Before you know it you have a world class team.