United Continue to be Clueless as they get done in Tyneside
Moments sum up games. There are always those instants in football matches that are supposed – or at least said to – encapsulate and be a microcosm of the entire game, or give a note of what the game turned out to be and what it stood for. Manchester City’s game against Queens Park Rangers in May 2012 had Sergio Aguero’s goal, celebration, and Martin Tyler’s yell; Manchester United’s win against Bayern Munich in May 1999 had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s goal and Clyve Tyldesley’s commentary; Arsenal’s victory at Anfield in 1989 had Michael Thomas and the commentary words ‘up for grabs now!!!’
So to Newcastle United against Manchester United in October 2019. Perhaps the moment that summed up the game was in the 62nd minute, when Marcus Rashford over-hit a United corner, and Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin took the ball and under no pressure, ran it out for a throw-in. It doesn’t really matter that there was a goal in it; that Matty Longstaff was the match-winner on his debut for the Magpies, that Toon manager Steve Bruce bagged his first win as manager over his former club; that Newcastle grabbed three much-needed points after a less than comfortable start to the season.
This was a poor game in every sense of the word. There were a few moments of excitement: Longstaff’s goal, a shot that hit the bar from the same man, Harry Maguire missing from point-blank range. But the game was awful for most of it. From Andreas Pereira’s tame shot in the first half that was United’s first attempt on target for some 130 minutes, to Saint-Maximin starting off a Newcastle counter which ended which with Jetro Willems calmly giving the ball away to the opposition.
Yet, in spite of the dour nature of the game, Newcastle came out of it with a positive. A first win since the end of August, a first win on home soil this season. The pressure on Bruce had been growing, particularly after last weekend’s tame display in the 5-0 hammering at Leicester. Plus, if anyone deserved to win this game (no one really did), it was the Magpies, for at least being less unpleasant than their visitors.
And that’s another indictment of Manchester United of late. It’s one thing to lose. It’s another to do it so tamely at a team that recently suffered a humbling and have the fans on the manager’s back. It’s then another case to continue to look tame and lifeless as the week passes. After the game, some of the words David de Gea told Sky Sports were ‘I don’t know what’s going on’, and that basically sums it up. What is going on at United? What is going on with United?
Between Sir Alex Ferguson and currently manager Solskjaer, the club have had three other permanent gaffers in between. Under David Moyes, United looked ineffectual at the stewardship of a manager who continued to look and talk like he was in the wrong job, one that was too much for him. But there was a plan. Under Louis van Gaal, United were pedestrian and ponderous, with a Dutchman who talked big but never quite walked the walk at the helm. Yet, there was a plan. Under Jose Mourinho, United turned out to be filled with internal strife and unrest under a manager known for the inevitable and predictable combustion. But – at least at the beginning and for the most part – there was a plan.
United currently don’t have squad unrest, have a manager who’s talked about playing football the way they used to, and one who’s very much supported by the fans. It’s not that United are pedestrian, chaotic, or inconsistent. It’s that United are clueless. There is no visible plan. There is a dearth of creativity up front, and a lack of solidity at the back, and nothing seems to be done to fix those problems.
Sacking Solskjaer won’t solve the problem at the club – Van Gaal and Mourinho both fell victim to a hierarchy lacking on-pitch direction – but surely such tactical setups, or more visibly, such lack of tactical setups, mean he’s surely not the right fit for the club. The Norwegian continues to preach positivity, but that was effective in the early days of tenure, when he was less seen as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and more as Not Jose Mourinho. But positivity without a plan is pointless.
De Gea rushed forward in stoppage time as United sought an equaliser, but frankly it would mattered little. Even if United had managed to score twice late on and won the game, would it really have mattered? Would it mask the obvious flaws with the team or even paper over cracks?
So, one has to really ask what Manchester United are. A fallen superpower that has become a commercial entity? A club that’s been knocked far down the mountain, and barely looks like it wants to get back up? A corporate entity which prioritises revenue over on-pitch activities and fan happiness? Well at least it’s easy to say what they are not; which is any good at football.
Liverpool always find a way
The game was up against Leicester, but Liverpool didn’t see it that way. 1-1 in stoppage time at Anfield, the Reds won a penalty to continue their winning run. Seven league wins in as many games this season, 18 in a row; it’s almost not stupid to think Jurgen Klopp’s side will find a way to win every single league game this season.
- For the first time since Pep Guardiola took charge, Manchester City have lost a game at home without scoring, as the champions fell against Wolves. You know this won’t be your season when Adama Traore keeps a cool head to score against you… TWICE. For Wolves, though, it’s three vital wins in eight days.
- The crisis continues for Spurs, as they suffered a shocking defeat at Brighton, four days after conceding seven at home to Bayern Munich. It increasingly feels like it’s time Mauricio Pochettino and the club parted ways. They’ve lost 17 league games this year; Notts County – who got relegated from the Football League in May – have lost 14.
Manchester City 0-2 Wolves; Newcastle 1-0 Manchester United; Watford 0-0 Sheffield United; West Ham 1-2 Crystal Palace; Southampton 1-4 Chelsea; Burnley 1-0 Everton; Norwich 1-5 Aston Villa; Arsenal 1-0 Bournemouth; Brighton 3-0 Tottenham; Liverpool 2-1 Leicester
Kunle Ajao121 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not