Louis van Gaal's Manchester United continued its trend of being maddeningly mediocre by playing out a largely uneventful draw against what should have been lesser opposition. The result is a decent one, all things considered, but it was still a bit of a let down after Sunday's encouraging performance at Everton. Like most of your adult life, this game had its share of both successes and failures, with more of the latter.
Success: Playing the Right Midfield
The midfield trio of Morgan Schneiderlin, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Ander Herrera should start most games together. Not only are they obviously United's best midfielders, but their respective skill sets complement each other rather than overlap. Schneiderlin has emerged from his brief spell out of the team looking more settled than ever, and his imposing presence in the middle of the park allows the other two to play their natural games.
For once, van Gaal resisted the temptation to make Herrera the scapegoat after a quiet first half, and the Spaniard responded by growing into the game after the break. Herrera played a brilliant through ball to Antonio Valencia who then crossed well (!) for Anthony Martial's equalizer.
Failure: Playing the Right Midfield Three Times in a Week
Schweinsteiger played the bulk of Saturday's match, started again today, and presumably will start in the Manchester derby on Sunday. For a player on the wrong side of 30 who took several weeks just to get to full fitness, this is a ludicrous decision from van Gaal. Michael Carrick may have started looking every bit of his age recently, but surely the game in Moscow was a perfect opportunity for the manager to rotate his midfield metronomes. Schweinsteiger was taken off at half-time partly because the team was too slow - a problem remedied by the introduction of noted speedster Marouane Fellaini. Without the benefit of added rest, it's fair to assume that he won't suddenly get an added spring in his step for Sunday's game.
Failure: Wayne Rooney
Jesus Christ. How long are we going to have to do this? There are only so many ways to describe Rooney's embarrassing first touch and shocking lack of pace. Rooney was up against a central defensive duo that was almost a combined 70 years in age, and he didn't get in behind them a single time. It's bad enough that having Rooney in the team is like playing with ten men, but when accommodating the useless galoot means that Martial is pushed out wide, it's like playing with nine and a half. Martial is still a threat cutting in from the left, but - as he's already United's best attacker - he could do so much more from his proper position. Memphis Depay has mostly been rubbish, and we still have little idea what James Wilson/Andreas Pereira/Jesse Lingard can offer on a consistent basis, but surely any of those would offer more than what Rooney is currently capable. As has been the case for
weeks months years, he needs binning ASAP.