Sep 19

Retrospection and detailed analysis of Manchester United’s 1-3 defeat to Watford

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Manchester United got mutilated 1-3 by the yellow Hornets, Watford, as the home side vandalized over listless United at Vicarage Road. United’s third straight defeat on the bounce over the course of a week saw the history repeating itself for manager Jose Mourinho after 2002, when his team Porto lost three on the trot (in single season) and back in 2006, when his club Chelsea got defeated in three consecutive matches.

Surely one could have filed a missing person complaint for the non-existent midfield play United had today. The final ball from every United player was  pathetic. Skipper Wayne Rooney was atrocious and looked like a burden playing at central midfield. United missed  the controlling midfield presence of Micheal Carrick, to provide stability in front of the back four and give Paul Pogba freedom to motor forward, which Rooney lacked big time. United needed to keep hold of the ball and composure. The midfield seemed to be marking space or chasing shadows rather than marking Watford players.

So disjointed and slow performance from the Red Devils was on display, with no dominance, no creativity, no tempo, no passion. United fans must got tempted to get into the touchline and pull out the mask of supposedly Mourinho, to unravel Louis Van Gaal a la Mission Impossible. 

United started as if they came  straight from  Amsterdam after wild bender. In the dull, sluggish Rojo of  performance that United churned out, even the throw-ins were shocking.

Errors and decision making all over the pitch by the Red Devils were just wrong. Serious lack of pace and initiative in midfield and forward line  were  killing the flow. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic  and Rooney, two 30+ players, the pace was shambolic. Players did not seem to actually know what type of football they are supposed to be playing? 

After each & every minute of  play you can start  see more flaws. The holding midfielder got the ball ,sees that there is no one to pass the ball  to. Tries audacious  pass. That  Goes out. This pattern got repeat all game like ”Live, Die, Repeat” of Sci-fi flick ”Edge of Tomorrow”. Like a pot of soup for amala joint in Africa, the elements  of United’s game didn’t sync.

United lost the ball, possession so cheaply, couldn’t put more then two or  three passes together. The match was a major throwback to Van Gaal era as they were as frustrating as the past three  seasons. Mourinho need to sort out his best starting 11, best formation to eradicate the  confusion of Moyes and the monotony  of Van Gaal. There were far too many sideward passing and they didn’t go for the jugular vein when they should have had.

United attack was very narrow as Marcus Rashford and Ashley Young both were  playing inside, needed more width. The  attacking play was awful, the decision making in the final third was miserable, looked clueless going forward. Ibrahimovic wasted chances too. How many touches does  he  want? Under 10 kids  are drilled in “Control, Look, Pass” mould, which look in better mould than the aging superstar. The front six were  immobile and the three up top were standing absolutely still. Is Ibrahimovic another Van Persie in the making?

The Goals and the impacts:

Stage was set for Frenchmen like Pogba and Martial, but another Frenchman Capoue scored Watford’s opener in the 34th minute. Decent build up goal. Ibrahimovic immediately forced Watford keeper and defence into red alert with his 41st and 43 rd minute efforts.

After the one-hour mark, Marcus Rashford came to the rescue at  62nd minute, to become the highest scorer for United in 2016, sublime finish after an Ibrahimovic ball came off a Watford defender. The Swedish got the assist for what was United’s 800th away goal in the Premier League in his 800th professional club appearance.

The goal was triggered because Ibrahimovic made a run, movement was the key for the cherry picker. The Red Devils were actually doing something with the possession finally after the equalizer. Held  possession on the attack and kept the ball,needed to up the pace though.

But as Zuniga ended Neymar’s world cup campaign, he ended United’s comeback hopes into smoke as the super sub scored within 50 seconds of coming on, at 83rd. Pereyra came up with a great cutback to get the assist, as United trailed again as  they got  ripped open in defence by the pull back again.

Watford’s third goal was the final nail in the coffin as Deeney converted from the spot at 94th minute after Fellini gave  away a penalty, pulling down Zuniga after Bailly fails to deal with the threat.

Mourinho’s mistakes: Maybe United players looked like that they had watched illegal streams of  Gazza hobbling at Old Trafford but Mourinho got it wrong. He shoehorned Rooney in the line-up with disrupted the whole rhythm. It was Interesting that Rashford’s on the left and Martial on the right. Herrera and  Mata were mostly on the bench, when United needed creativity and to unlock.

Mourinho needs to pick a team with speed and intent on scoring. Pace and movement is a key. The gaffer need to be ruthless enough  to show Pogballs and drop Rooney and mould a new free-flowing team. Maybe just  play in a 4-1-4-1 formation with  Carrick  playing CDM on his own and Pogba with freedom.

A big-money  playmaker who has to drop into holding midfield and play square balls to the full backs, is just not done. In the match, United went from a counter attack of 3 on 3 to a a situation of 6 on 8- such was the lack of planning.

The  tailored approach to forwards’ immobility by putting wide men on and the short-termism by Mourinho is getting bared. Against progressively weaker opponents, three submissions on trot, speaks of something.

Tactically the players didn’t seem to know where they’re meant to play, looked like individuals and not on the same wave length frequency.  Whether he would  draft in Schweinsteiger from the wilderness to solve midfield woes, is up to him.


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