Manchester united went into their boxing day showdown against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium under immense pressure and at 5th position in the league. Louis Van Gaal has received a lot of criticism by the media after a rather disastrous run by his team in the past few weeks and of course after that walking out during his last press conference. Manchester United came into the match without a win in their previous six matches while on the other hand their opponents had defeated United’s city rivals and Chelsea in the past few weeks. A loss, if the newspapers are to be believed, would lead to Van Gaal’s sacking. But a sweet victory at these tough times could have changed things for the Dutchman .
Yet it didn’t happen for the Dutchman who saw a dreadful performance from his side who were KOed by stoke at boxing day. A mistake from Depay allowed Bojan to score the first goal for Stoke in the 19th minute and Arnautovic scored a screamer 7 mins later. United have now have lost 4 games on the bounce in the Premier League, something that hasn’t happened since November 1961. The game ended 2-0 for Stoke City and now has seen United take just 2 points of a possible 15 in their last five matches. Van Gaal will definitely have a tough holiday season ahead.
1. Good bye Van Gaal ?
The Dutchman has now gone 7 games without a win and was significantly outplayed by Mark Hughes’s men. The lack of spark and offensive penetration coupled with many defensive errors saw them get destroyed at Britannia. With all the newspapers linking a host of managers with United, Van Gaal might just be shown the door sooner rather than later. His decision to not include Rooney in the team sheet might just have been the wrong one , as united lacked leadership and passion to score a goal in the first half .
Maybe Rooney’s presence would have lead to a more cohesive performance by Van Gaal’s men since the first half itself as Rooney’s presence in the second half was a positive one for United. Whatever be the case, this boxing day defeat has left United’s and Van Gaal’s future in a very uncertain state. And with Mourinho looking for a job , Van Gaal is set to have a rather anxious holiday season .
2. Stoke front men looked sharp .
The combination of Bojan , Arnautovic and Shaqiri harassed the United back line for a good part of the match. Shaqiri especially made Daley Blind look very shaky and uncertain. The first goal by Stoke in 19th min gave us the indication that United are not as solid at the back as they are thought to be this season. A poor header by Depay was read well by Johnson who just passed the ball beautifully to Bojan who had no problems in netting an open goal. But the man of the hour for stoke would undoubtedly be Arnautovic who scored a belter against United. Many of Stoke’s attacks were engineered by Johnson who supplied many great passes for the Stoke forwards to feed on .
3. Boring football from Manchester United
Manchester United appear to have found a way to make boxing day action boring . United played the game with a good amount of possession again amounting to nothing . The lack of killer passes and penetration just made it worse .
United relied heavily on long balls aimed towards Fellaini which was a tactic controlled easily by Mark Hughes’s men. Rooney’s presence in the 2nd half made things a little better for the Old Trafford side but the lack of good crosses just crushed any chances of a comeback. Shawcross and his men had no problem in keeping United out of the box for a majority of the game. Young on many occasions whipped in great balls but the balls found no good contacts from United’s front men. The midfield to was unable to provide any good chances as Carrick was largely missing from action and Herrera and Mata couldn’t find their passing rhythm.
4. Butland was solid
The Stoke ‘keeper had a great performance today. Although he was tested only in a few situations, he showed he was a top top keeper. He made a great save to keep Fellaini out from a very close range. The keeper looks to be a good alternative for Joe Hart for the the
Three lions for the upcoming Euro 2016. Although Martial and Depay were less than threatening in the first half, Butland made sure to keep out whatever few shots that was fired at him.
5. Top 4 still possible ?
United now have taken a lowly two points from their last possible 15. They haven’t had a win for 7 games and now have lost 4 consecutive games. They have slipped down the table from their 5th position and might just end up being 7 points off the pace at the end of boxing day. With many tough games coming up, United will have to make many changes in order to win against Chelsea, Swansea and Liverpool in the coming few weeks. Whether Van Gaal leaves or not, United players have to find their form back. Rooney has to again find his form and lead his team back to the top 4, and atleast secure Champions League football for the next season, having already been knocked out of the competition early this year.