A tight group just got a whole lot tighter. With Wolfsburg beating PSV Eindhoven, the result now puts CSKA in second and Manchester United in third by Alphabetical means, with both teams level on points and goal difference.
Manchester United, who started the game with Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian on the bench as van Gaal decided to rest players with the Manchester Derby on the horizon, spent most of the game on the front foot but couldn’t find a winner. Here are 5 talking points from the game:
He is a constant menace to the center halves and his intelligent runs combined with lethal finishing often leads to goals, as displayed in the equalizer. Valencia crossed the ball and Martial headed it beautifully into the bottom corner after a superb run in behind the defense.Not to say that he did terrible on the wings, he was decent. But for all his attacking qualities, Martial isn’t too good a defender and it can be a real problem at times. Play your players in their best position if you want the best output.
Arsene Wenger will know quite a bit about this. His Arsenal team have always been known for trying to pass the ball into the net and against Bayern Munich, it seems he finally realized that possession isn’t always the answer. Van Gaal has built his team around the same ideology or ‘philosophy’ as he loves to call it. He builds his team around the ideals of ball retention and keeping it safe, keeping it simple.
While it may be a good tactic to tire the opposition, you cannot win games by passing it around for the sake of possession stats and not knowing what to do with the ball.You need incision. This is where Ander Herrera has become a key player recently, but this is also why van Gaal doesn’t prefer Herrera to the other midfielders he has.
Being incisive comes with the risk of losing the ball, and van Gaal is known for not being much of a risk taker when it comes to play style. His side enjoyed 70% of the ball in Moscow but only managed 3 shots on target throughout the whole game. CSKA also had 3 shots on target despite only seeing 30% of the ball.
How? Because every time they got the ball they didn’t look to pass it back and keep it, they focused on attacking United whenever they could and always looked for the forward pass. They knew what they wanted to do when they got the ball and hence had the better chances, and also always looked more likely to score. van Gaal’s team need to be more creative and incisive when they have the ball or else they will find goals and wins hard to come by.
This happens quite a lot with United’s defence. They focus so much on the ball or the player who has the ball that they have no idea about players making runs in behind them and this often leads plenty of goals.
In Russia, De Gea did brilliantly to keep out a penalty but instead of rushing in to clear the rebound, Phil Jones took a second to realise what had just happened. In that split second extra he took to react, Doumbia was off and there was no catching him as he smashed home the rebound past a helpless De Gea.
Awareness is one of the most crucial areas of defending and so often have United been found wanting in that department. They better sort out the issue before their noisy neighbors come knocking.
When you have a keeper as brilliant as De Gea, you tend to ignore the events that led up to the chance and admire the brilliance of the man between the sticks. De Gea has spared United’s blushes on countless occasions and it was no different here in Moscow.
He stopped a penalty and kept out a brilliant dipping shot from Musa. United need to focus on giving their keeper as little to do as possible. He is always made to clean up the mess left by the defense in front of him and more attention needs to be given to this matter. Heaven knows how United would have coped had he departed to Real Madrid in the summer.
Rooney is the sort of player who always wants to have the ball. He just cannot stand still and wait to receive it. He refuses to stand still, always looking to come deep to receive the ball and get it back when it’s lost.
While many teams would die to have such a player in their team, it is often a problem as well. Rooney thrives on having the ball and just cannot stand being isolated. The problem with that is, if United aren’t giving him much of the ball and he tracks back in order to receive it, the team is lacking a striker in the box, a player around the area to cross in to
There are times when there is no one in the box and Rooney should be in there but instead he is on the left or deep in the heart of midfield. In order to score goals, United need a focal point and when Rooney tracks back more than necessary, they lack that key asset in the box and they have no one to finish off chances. They have no one to look to pass it to and if Rooney wants to end up with 20+ goals this season as United’s main striker, he needs to carve this out of his game.