Manchester United finally ended their long winless drought by defeating Swansea 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Starting the new year on a high, Louis van Gaal would be hoping for his team to change their fortunes and look forward to a new and goal-filled new year.
While only Gylfi Sigurdsson managed to equalise for the away side, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney both found their footing and the back of the goal, giving them the much-required boost.
Here is Essentially Sports bringing you the 5 talking points from the game:
All though the offence hasn’t performed all that well either, the main reason for almost all the losses so far in the league can be successfully traced back to a poor defence. And yet again, the team’s back three finds itself in shambles, confused and tattered.
Early on in the season, the team was performing very well, so much so that people took United’s defence for granted. ‘Smalldini’ might remind some of the fans of how much trust they had at the man and their back line. And why not? The defence was organized and had a perfect form, with players knowing their positions well.
But as the season progressed, so did the injuries. The back line was almost annihilated, sparing a couple of first team quality players. This created a huge gap, which opposition teams often made good use of.
All though Luke Shaw won’t come back till the end of the season, Matteo Darmian and a few others have. Even then, they never had the time to settle into their positions. With the lack of proper coordination with the keeper as well as their midfielders, the defence seems to be missing an offside trap, or even a decent back line. The ball is simply played through the gaps provided for free chances at goals.
This game today saw a 3 man central defence with 2 wing backs. Although they did try to move on and about, the chemistry in the team was left wanting. It would not be right to blame LvG for this, and only time and regular play would heal these bruises.
Wayne Rooney, the man who has served the club for over 15 years had been under severe criticism from the fans due to his poor performances for the club.
Apart from being one of the most experienced players in the team alongside Micheal Carrick, he also was the captain of the Red Devils for the duration. After regular demands from the fans, Louis van Gaal decided to drop the English captain.
But since the past two games, after he returned from his injury, he seems a different player altogether. Maybe it is Louis van Gaal’s impending departure scare which led him to defend his club and manager, or maybe it was he himself. But he was all around the ground today, creating and converting chances. He was involved with multiple plays, and the second goal for United, after a beautiful pass from Martial which he backheeled his way to glory.
It seems that he has finally found his position in the club and now sharper than ever in the entire past year. For good football, let’s hope it remains so!
It has been made certain now. December was filled with rumours of the Dutchman being sacked, thanks to his bad form and the run of the club. Apart from that, the play never really went well with United fans, and they complained of boring football which involved mere possession.
The team slumped to their worst form in many decades, not winning 6 games in a row. They finally broke the debacle today and also the brittle rumours along with it.
Louis van Gaal was himself not happy with the situation surrounding him and the security of his job, claiming indirectly of resignation if the team would have lost against Chelsea. But the game against the Blues saw a lot of positives, despite the 0-0 draw. Enough to keep the Glazers and investors happy, he continued to serve as the manager. And now, this win only adds up to secure his position as the manager at least until the end of this season.
As they find themselves fighting to prevent being relegated, a major reason for their poor form has been the lack of a solution against highly aggressive teams.
Swansea traditionally has a possession based gameplay, which depends on regular passing until an opening sprouts up. As the teams started understanding the situation, teams this season have played more aggressively than last year against them.
With no space or time for them to pass or create chances, they often find themselves giving away the ball high up the pitch. Apart from that, they also panic under pressure, leading to wayward passes and mistimed shots. Although their pace has been a plus, Ayew being the sole reason, they have a lot to improve.
Today’s game was no different. Rooney and Martial often closed down the defence leading them to often pass the ball back to Fabianski hoping for the keeper to do the dirty job. This might be a temporary damage preventive measure but if they wish to survive, they should find a better solution.
The flank play has been a plus for United since the Ferguson era. Primarily, the reason was brilliant wingers, from Beckham to Cristiano Ronaldo. But as the years went by, United developed itself into a style which supported its wing play more than anything else.
Louis van Gaal tried various formations in his year and a half tenure at the club. But more often than not, it is the flanks from where the goals have sprouted. And yet again today, the story remains the same. Both the goals came from the wings, with Martial and Mata doing well on either side to keep Swansea defenders confused.
Ashley Young has developed into a dependable wing back, who regularly helps the team as a whole to push ahead and tracks back as soon as there is a possible counter attack. Louis van Gaal should make a note of how well this system works and give the players freedom to play on the flanks more often.