Saturday 25 November 2017

Paul Scholes: The real worry is Manchester United weren't good enough

There was no lack of effort against MK Dons - just a real lack of quality, writes Paul Scholes

Ryan Giggs shows his frustration along with the rest of the coaching staff during Manchester United's defeat to MK Dons. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images
Ryan Giggs shows his frustration along with the rest of the coaching staff during Manchester United's defeat to MK Dons. Photo: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Paul Scholes

Almost 19 years ago I was part of the Manchester United team that failed to overturn a three-goal deficit in the second round of the League Cup against York City. We won 3-1 at Bootham Crescent in the second leg but it was not enough and the experience of being eliminated by a team two divisions below us was terrible.

I can only imagine that the United players, as well as Louis van Gaal and his staff, will have felt devastated yesterday morning as they sifted through that 4-0 League Cup defeat to MK Dons. I don't care about the mitigating reason that the United team included some young, inexperienced players. The side was good enough to win that cup tie.

The strange thing was that United did put a shift in. I never thought the players gave up. They were just not good enough. I wonder if there was another factor at play, that some of those who featured on Tuesday night have already been told they can leave.

In the end, United managed their first shot on target on 72 minutes. Having Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck in the team should have guaranteed them some goals. Adnan Januzaj does not look fit enough to me. It was the first game of the season for Anderson and Nick Powell. But even so, there should have been enough quality.

The biggest problem of all for United? Three men at the back doesn't seem to be working for them. At the moment United look like they are going to concede goals too often. It was the same at Sunderland on Sunday. There were mistakes. They were letting Sunderland run through them. There was a worrying absence of tackles being made.

I understand that Van Gaal is trying to make a lot of changes very quickly but the problem is the players don't seem to have adapted comfortably to 3-5-2 yet.

It is never easy to make a dramatic tactical change in a short space of time when you are dealing with players who have been drilled to play with a flat back four for many years. This doesn't mean Van Gaal's preference for 3-5-2 is wrong - change isn't necessarily a bad thing at all and players have a responsibility to trust and believe in their manager's methods.

But it does take time, patience and perseverance before the message sinks in and players feel comfortable and confident about the new system.


Van Gaal says it will take three months for the players to adapt to the way that he wants things done. I hope it will be the case, because at the moment it looks like it could take a lot longer. There won't be easy quick-fit solutions but I'm hopeful such an experienced and world-class manager is capable of rebuilding and reshaping this United team.

Of course, the expectation now on Angel Di Maria becomes ever greater. He is what United need. He is the kind of player who will get fans at Old Trafford excited and out of their seats. He can beat a man and create a chance. Like a lot of United fans, I don't care how much was paid for him - although I think £59.7m is too much. The important thing for the club is that they have signed him. I just hope there are more players to come.

I don't think Di Maria is going to play as a wing-back in a 3-5-2 system. I could see him playing wide in a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 formation. But if Van Gaal is sticking with 3-5-2, I could see Di Maria playing off Robin van Persie and Rooney as a third striker. I could also see him as a No 10 in the Juan Mata role. He could also play in the same side as Mata. Mata is a great player but he doesn't have any pace, and needs to be played with others who do.

For the amount of money being paid for Di Maria I would ideally want an attacking player who can score 20 to 25 goals a season. His record says he will not get that many, but that he will create a lot. I hope Di Maria's arrival does not mean that Welbeck leaves. Danny has a lot to offer, not least the raw pace that is lacking in United at times. His problem has always been that he has not scored enough goals.

I would have liked to see him given a run in the team of 10-15 games. It is going to be hard for him to get that now, with so many players ahead of him. He will never get 15-20 goals a season, but 10-15 is a possibility. Either way, it will take Van Gaal time to get it right. I imagine there will be more difficult days for United fans before he does. (© Independent New Service)


City can rule Europe as well as dominate Premier League

Watching Manchester City on Monday, the scale of the club's ambitions was clear. They do not just want to be champions of England; this is a squad built to win the Champions League, too.

I hardly need to say that I am a Manchester United man to my bones. As a kid I was at Oldham Athletic before joining United but I can safely say that I never had any affiliation to City: not a trial, not a training session, nothing.

I am a United man and, as a result, there were moments watching City on Monday when they were so good I felt like turning the telly off. But I can acknowledge a very good team when I see one.

All good sides have a mixture of qualities and City have the guile of Samir Nasri and David Silva combined with the pace and power of Yaya Touré. Alongside Touré is Fernando, a variation on Fernandinho, whom I also like.

Perhaps the most daunting aspect of it all was when Stevan Jovetic scored his second and the camera panned to the bench. There were Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Jesus Navas - it reminded me what an incredible squad Manuel Pellegrini has at his disposal. There are 22 proper, top-class footballers at that club, and they can compete with the very best.

So far, they have never got close in the Champions League and this is the year that they have to make the step. Over the three years that City have been in the Champions League, it has struck me that the home crowd could have done more to get behind their team.

I guess much of that is down to the places that City fans have had to watch their team play in the last 20 years. When you've followed your team to clubs like Lincoln, Walsall and Macclesfield, for league fixtures, it is perhaps only natural that when Real Madrid or Bayern Munich are in town, you watch open-mouthed.

But it won't help their side.

What City need to do is turn the Etihad into a hostile environment for away teams.

At its best, Old Trafford on a midweek European night gave United's players a real advantage. It is the same at Anfield. The City fans need to get to terms with the fact that they are now part of the elite and create an atmosphere that makes it difficult for away teams.

If there is a weakness in City then perhaps it is in defence, although Martin Demichelis has improved a lot since he first arrived. You do wonder how they would fare if Vincent Kompany picked up another injury because they rely so much on him.

It's one of the few potential clouds on their horizon. (© Independent News Service)

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