Tuesday 23 January 2018

Even when it's fun, Man United are boring - Five talking points from Old Trafford

Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea greets West Ham United's Spanish goalkeeper Adrian
Manchester United's Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea greets West Ham United's Spanish goalkeeper Adrian
Anthony Martial of Manchester United
Manchester United's Chris Smalling

Alistair Tweedale

Even when it's fun at Old Trafford it's still boring, big clubs missed a trick with Alex Song and left-backs should be left-footed.

Even when it’s fun United are still boring

This match was action-packed, with both teams keen to attack and looking to win the game. It was about as exciting as a Manchester United game has been this season and at times it was even end-to-end.

And yet, United waited until the 60th minute for their first shot on target, and once again drew another blank. It was the seventh of 13 home games this season that has been goalless at half time and ended up their fifth 0-0 draw in their last nine games.

They were far, far from their painfully dull, like-watching-paint-dry worst and the crowd were more encouraging than impatient, with team responding on the pitch pushing tirelessly for a winner in spite of the threat West Ham pose on the counter.

However, few home fans could have been fully satisfied with this performance at home to an inferior team also further weakened by injury.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Anthony Martial of Manchester United reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Ham United at Old Trafford on December 5, 2015 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Left-backs should be left-footed

It is impossible to second-guess Louis van Gaal’s selection decisions and even after the teams were announced it still wasn’t entirely clear how his Manchester United team would line up.

At kick off it was apparent that right back Matteo Darmian would play at left-back, centre-back Paddy McNair would play at right-back and Daley Blind would be back in the middle.

One can understand Van Gaal’s preference to pair Blind with Chris Smalling as they are familiar with one another, but it does seem strange that the only left footed player in the home side was playing in a central role.

Darmian is a capable left-back and he got forward with intent but almost every time he overlapped Jesse Lingard he was left in a position of considerable weakness where Blind would be far more comfortable.

Meanwhile on the other flank McNair never looked a natural right-back. This United team don’t put a great deal of crosses in to the box but with Marouane Fellaini included they surely should have played to that strength. Van Gaal’s selection in defence certainly didn’t help matters.

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Big clubs missed a trick on Song

Alex Song made his first start of the season at Old Trafford and it was fair enough that he looked a little rusty at times but he has a coolness in possession that gives West Ham an added edge.

He wins the ball regularly and efficiently, making more tackles than any other player in this game despite going off in the 78th minute, while he also plays forward passes with purpose that set his team on the front foot.

He was vital for West Ham last season and Slaven Bilic will be delighted that he is back from a lengthy injury layoff. He could play a key role this season and it’s a wonder that for a second successive summer there was no bigger side in for the Barcelona man.

Manchester United's Morgan Schneiderlin in action with West Ham's Alex Song

Something needs to be done about the Premier League’s hamstrings

West Ham lost Victor Moses to a hamstring injury before Morgan Schneiderlin limped off with an identical problem. Those two made it 21 and then 22 Premier League players currently sidelined with hamstring injuries after Fernando had gone off in the earlier kick off.

At West Brom Stephane Sessegnon then suffered similar fate. And this was all in the first half.

The Premier League’s physical demands are such that hamstring injuries are often unavoidable but the sheer volume of them in recent months surely means something is being done in the wrong way.

Van Gaal should look to youth more

Given a chance Jesse Lingard has made himself an important first team fixture at Old Trafford and surely the many others that have made it onto the United bench of late deserve a shot on the pitch.

They need exciting players and they need goals, which patently aren't forthcoming with things as they are. Why on earth are United failing to score while James Wilson - a player about whom it is almost universally agreed that he will become a Premier League striker - on the scoresheet for Brighton. Van Gaal should show a little more faith in the youngsters at the club.


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