City 1 - 0 United
Valencia Smalling(s/o) Rojo(McNair) Shaw
Di Maria Fellaini Blind Januzaj(Carrick)
So here we are after yet another defeat on the road. If I’m completely honest, I’m really not that disappointed after this game. We were playing the Champions of England and played the majority of the game with 10 men. Although, at this stage of the season, last year we were 4 points better than this year, I can see an improving side and I’m not entirely worried about our 9th place league standing. We were controlling the game and had our fair share of chances before Smalling earned himself two yellow cards. After that, it was always going to be a struggle against a team with a host of world class players. City were evidently better than us, they could have had a penalty and also hit the post BUT our players never gave up and that was really good to see. Last year we conceded 7 goals in two games against this side. We never really put up a fight but, this year, City were afraid of us during the latter stages of the game and we managed to give them a scare or two.
Then again, football isn’t about giving your opponents scares. It’s about scoring and getting points. Although we saw plenty of fight from our players in our last three games, we only got 2 points from a possible 9. That’s just not good enough but at least we can find some sort of respite from the fact that this team is finally functioning and van Gaal had his tactics spot-on vs. City and Chelsea. These past two tests, against two top sides, shows that with a bit of sense, luck and a tweak or two we’ll be challenging the top teams again.
Up until now, we’ve had a ridiculous amount of injuries at the back. Jones, Evans, Rafael and now Rojo are out. Smalling will be suspended for our upcoming game. I think any team would struggle with so many defenders missing, yet we’re only 4 points away from the fourth spot. Having said that, Arsenal have had a lot of injuries too and lie 4 points above us so, as such, injuries aren’t an excuse. But they’re definitely part of our problem. Thankfully, there are some positives at the back. I think that Luke Shaw is finally settling in and has improved drastically over the past few weeks. He had a good game against City. Paddy McNair, in my opinion, played well given the situation. I think I’ve seen enough of McNair to have complete faith in him for our upcoming games. He was composed whenever he played and although van Gaal will have no option other than to play him vs. Crystal Palace, I think he’s earned his place there. He will start the game vs Palace and deserves to.
What about Smalling? I thought he was having a very good game until being sent off. What’s very frustrating is that he could (make that should) have easily avoided both offences. The first one was plain stupid while the second was very naive of him to rush into a challenge like that. Milner was going nowhere. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that when he had shown an excellent display vs. Chelsea and rebuffed our hopes of finally seeing Smalling fulfil his potential, he does something like he did vs City and cost his team the game. I think we would have matched City if we had 11 men on the field. Crucifying him is stupid though. Manchester United players have been sent off in the past and more will be sent off in the future. Players like Rooney, Vidic and Keane have all made silly decisions and cost Manchester United a point or three in the past. Let’s hope Smalling was at the end of a right bollocking from LVG and has learned his lesson.
Blind wasn’t as effective as we would have liked him to be. But he’s a player who does a lot of ‘hidden’ dirty work. So maybe I missed something that can only be seen by people who are inside the stadium. Fellaini had a good game again. It’s a shame he spurned a real chance to draw us level sometime in the second half. Januzaj had a few promising breaks but was unlucky to be subbed off due to our sending off while Di Maria delivered some world class crosses from freekicks. What I can’t understand is how someone can deliver such crosses but can’t beat the first man from a corner. His corners were awful. Another worrying thing about Di Maria is that he was marked out of this game as well as the game vs Chelsea. World class players strive under pressure and excel in these kind of games. Just look at Ronaldo! We’ll be needing Di Maria to be on top of his game against these sides. RVP was good at times but was too isolated especially after Smalling’s sending off. He almost scored a great goal after a fine solo effort. Rooney was excellent when defending and rolled back the years with a surging run but failed to shoot when he could have pulled the trigger. Would have been a great goal had he managed to finish it.
Our next game is vs Palace. I expect a win and hopefully to have a few injured players back. Would be nice to see Falcao play. We haven’t really seen enough of him since his arrival. Also, time for Di Maria to get his confidence back after a couple of subdued performances. Come on United!