vs Tottenham (1-2), Southampton (0-0), Palace (2-0)
This is probably the first time I’ve failed to post on this blog for three games running as I was away in Switzerland with no laptop. Needless to say, I watched the games vs Tottenham, Southampton and Crystal Palace. A tad disappointed with the way we approached the first two games but delighted to see youth given a chance. I’ve heard a lot about Tuanzebe and it seems that a lot of locals rate him highly. He had a tough game vs Tottenham but improved in the following games. His performance vs Palace was easily a 7/10. It’s always a pleasure to witness the emergence of an exciting home-grown talent. Obviously, there’s plenty of work to be done but our Reserve Team Player of the Year has done well when given a chance during the past month.
The game vs. Palace gave us a glimpse into the future as it featured as many as 9 players developed by United’s academy. The team fielded was the youngest in Premier League history and the boys (quite literally) produced a good display at Old Trafford....something that’s become a rarity. It was great to see Harrop score on his debut and produce a very good performance. Mitchell was excellent. Pogba scored his first goal since January after scrumptiously assisting Harrop. Augurs well for the final.
Anyway, the Palace game brought an end to a very poor Premier League season. I expected so much more than a 6th place finish behind the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal. We’ve finished 24 points adrift of Chelsea. There’s a lot to be done if we want be more competitive next season as we risk becoming a cup competition team (just like Liverpool since their last title win) without any real power to finish the marathon that is the Premier League on a high. Technically, Chelsea and Tottenham are miles ahead of us, as the league table tells, City are bound to get better next season and Liverpool aren’t half bad either.
What went wrong this year is definitely up front. Ibra scored a lot of goals but there wasn’t anyone that came close to his goal record. I expect more goals from Pogba, Mkhi, Martial and Rashford. Mkhi scored a few cup goals but his contribution in the PL was poor. We’ve got some excellent forward players but they’ve fluffed chance after chance. I can think of 8 PL games which we deserved to win but had to do with a draw...that’s 16 points! We would’ve qualified for the Champions League and given Chelsea some tough time. And that’s what makes me feel quite confident about next season. It’s not like we were dominated in the games we failed to win this season. It’s the opposite actually. We need a great finisher up front who’s got pace and I think we can go that extra step next season. We already have an excellent striker in Ibra but sometimes I feel that he slows down our play. We need an explosive forward to partner Martial and Rashford. Griezmann said there’s a 6/10 chance of him joining United....well, I wouldn’t mind him in a United jersey J
I don’t think there’s much wrong with our defense other than having a few defenders who spend more time on the treatment table than on the field. Bailly has been a great buy. Valencia had a very good season. Blind dependable and Rojo improved greatly. Jones was really good when he played but Smalling had a bit of a bad season, in my opinion. I think either Jones or Smalling will have to make way for a new defender this summer. Shaw’s lack of improvement has been sad and Darmian has had a few good games at left back. Our back four were backed by a top-class goalie who I don’t think will be at Old Trafford next season. Whatever happens, I have full confidence in our second goalie Romero.
Finally, a little word about tomorrow’s final vs. Ajax. This is perhaps the club’s biggest game in years. Winning it will save our season. There’s so much to play for tomorrow; a place in the Champions League, promise of better players joining us in the summer and, over and above all, a European trophy. If, at the start of the season, you asked me to choose between seeing United end 2nd, 3rd or 4th in the league and not win the Europa League and ending 6th but winning the Europa League, I would have most definitely chose the latter. Silverware is silverware and winning this trophy will be a very important step for Manchester United. Having said that, I really don’t want to see United in the Europa League next season so that’s an extra incentive to win the final tomorrow.
Ajax is a young side, a team that creates chances for fun. Luckily, their forward line misses a lot of chances too. I expect us to beat them but then again, I expected us to challenge for the PL this season. Football’s a funny old game. Come on United!