Manchester United managed to edge out a 2-1 victory over promoted side, Watford FC at Vicarage Road today. With the winner coming for the away side at the 90+1′ mark, thanks to an own goal from Troy Deeney, Manchester United managed to secure a well-deserved but difficult 3 points.
While goalkeeper David de Gea tried his best to keep a clean-sheet with his amazing saves (yet again), Marcos Rojo gave away a penalty in the 88′. Troy Deeney, a prolific scorer in the Championship last year, scored from the spot and probably felt like a job well done. Sadly he couldn’t predict the future.
Right at the start of injury time, with United pushing hard for a goal, the ball moved like a pinball amidst the clutter of players inside the box. The ball reached German maestro Bastian Schweinsteiger on the far side of the post at a very sharp angle, where he tried to put it in. The ball wouldn’t have gone in by itself, but the hero of Watford himelf gave away the very point he had managed to earn for his club by helping the ball into the net in an attempt to clear away the ball. The goal was so unexpected that even Louis van Gaal jumped out of his seat!
In a match which reminded many of the last minute excitement the Manchester side had back in the Sir Alex Ferguson’s era, here are 5 talking points of the game:
After the hamstring pull which caused Ander Hererra to pull out of the game midway into the first half, Louis van Gaal decided to change the formation from a 4-2-3-1 to his personal favourite 3-5-2. Bringing in Marcos Rojo for Juan Mata, he allowed Daley Blind to move one position forward as United shifted to a 3-man defense.
While 3-5-2 is a good choice against teams which play completely on the wings, the midfield control drastically reduces. This leaves the team vulnerable to attacks from the middle, leaving lots of space for the opposition striker to move around. A very similar situation was observed in the match as the team started to lose their control over the game after the switch of formation.
Schweinsteiger often found himself running all the way back to help the back four more often than he should have, due to the space given. Although the 3-5-2 gives the team more attacking options with further players up ahead, the formation was not the best choice for the game considering the sheer number of defensive-minded players playing in the midfield – Scheweinsteiger, Schneiderlin, Blind.
The switch seemed more of a forced attempt by the manager to continue the consistent attack they displayed in the first 10 minutes. The move did serve its purpose; it involved equal number of losses – with lost balls, interceptions and tackles.
Nathan Ake, the Chelsea defender who is on loan at Watford was one of the few players of the home team who seemed to demand something out the game as United dominated the most of the first half.
Ake continuously pushed the team forward, creating forward options and positive movement. His energy inspired others from his team to do the same, and Watford were finally able to take the grip away from the away side. He even played a major part in a few good chances early on in the second half.
Chelsea FC, rest assured, you have a good man awaiting to continue your star studded line-up.
Over a good part of the season, the first 10 minutes have been the most turbulent and rough on the United squad. United’s losses this season can be traced back to early goals, including the 3-0 loss to Arsenal. Similarly, the larger victories of the ongoing seasons can also be traced back to strong and amazing first 10 minutes of their game. Today’s victory could have been of a much larger margin if not for the unfortunate Ander Hererra injury, due to their very strong grip on the early phase of the game.
One of the major reasons the first 10 minutes seem to be so important for United is that the team requires time to settle. While some formations and some combinations click instantly, others take their own sweet time. With injuries plaguing the squad regularly, there has not been one fixed squad which can be set upon for the players, where they know every other player’s positioning and movement early on.
On the other hand, a good start can boost the team’s self confidence. They attack with more conviction and purpose, and attempt an increasing number of chances. While not all might end up inside the net, the confidence just builds up over the opposition and shuts the opposition into their own shell.
Marcos Rojo almost lost Manchester United an easy 2 points as he gave away a penalty to Watford in the dying minutes of the game, which they converted with no trouble. It was yet another unnecessary defensive maneuver from the Argentine which has cost the team yet again.
Rojo’s rash plays have been often criticized by the fans, but it seems that the manager and the fans cannot change that aspect of him. His tackles often miss the mark and are late, causing him to be penalized or worse give away a penalty – like today.
Rojo has a notorious aura around him, similar to that of Fellaini – to dominate the opponent by dirty tackles. The manager needs to make him realize that English football is a very dangerous place for dirty football. Where strikers search for an opportunity to fall down at the slightest of tackles, defenders run across a very thin line – blocking the defender without giving him the chance to fake a foul. Rojo cannot afford to give opportunities for strikers like these on a platter for them to choose at their wanting.
With the relationship between Louis van Gaal and Marcos Rojo already at a rocky stage, this can mean a complete breakdown or a drastic improvement for the player.
After series of bad performances over the good part of this season and a major part of last season, Wayne Rooney has still regularly always found place in the first team set for him. His terrible run of form did not discourage Louis van Gaal from choosing him to start in most of the games. Fans, clearly disraught by this choice of the manager, voiced their opinions loud and clear – No player is bigger than the club, and it was proven today.
Although one may argue that Watford is atmost a bottom half team, the Premier League holds its share of surprises. Wayne Rooney had been adding little to the team apart from his leadership on the ground for Manchester United. With a majority of players injured for this fixture, the Dutch manager had to rely on unorthodox players to play – like Memphis Depay as striker. The team coped well, without Rooney and at no point seemed wanting for his form.
Van Gaal has to make the difficult choice and drop Rooney for the better of the club. The fans love Rooney, but nobody comes above the club. Unless Rooney realizes that fact and comes to terms with it, we cannot expect him to play his best. With him aging, it would be wrong on us to expect what he did 5 years ago, but it wouldn’t be wrong to expect proper touches and final touches which could have been goals oh-so-easily. This game serves as an example of life moving on for United without the English captain – and will continue to do so.