Monday, 7 March 2016

False dawn (again) as United crash two steps backwards (again)

United's disappointing defeat at the Hawthorns summed up both our season and Louis van Gaal's Old Trafford tenure.

Coming into the match at West Brom off the back of four straight wins, afterwards we were left with the same feeling that we've had so many times before this season.

This was just another false dawn: after a promising step forward came a juddering step back. 

The West Brom setback proved that, far from turning a corner, the recent run merely served as an illusion and papered over the cracks. 

We should not be under pressure to beat Midtjylland, Shrewsbury and Watford- who could count themselves mighty unfortunate not to get something from their Old Trafford visit.
While the Arsenal result and performance was arguably the most spirited in the post-Ferguson era, the caveat was that it came against renowned bottlers. 

Van Gaal's team selection at the Hawthorns once again made little sense- he tinkers too often and without reason. 

Guillermo Varela, Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay have all been influential during the recent run, yet all three found themselves demoted to the bench as Van Gaal made four changes.

Varela has given United a different dimension down the right, Schneiderlin's energy and pace has quickened our play and Memphis shone against both Midtjylland and Arsenal.
Instead, Matteo Darmian's less energetic style exposed United, his crossing was poor and Michael Carrick looked every bit his age.

Van Gaal chose to ignore Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who impressed in midweek, and persevere with a 'very tired' Daley Blind who LVG had admitted needed a rest.

The Dutchman will take criticism with his substitutions- and it would be justified. 

With the match still in the balance, he replaced the bright and busy Ander Herrera with Morgan Schneiderlin, pairing the Frenchman with Michael Carrick in midfield.

Herrera may not have been outstanding, but he was pushing forward trying to support the isolated Anthony Martial.
Then, chasing an equaliser in the dying moments, Van Gaal swapped Darmian with centre-back Fosu-Mensah, leaving attacking options Marouane Fellaini and James Weir on the bench.

The next 10 days will go a long way to deciding Louis' long term future at the club- with an FA Cup quarter-final sandwiched between the Europa League double header and then the away league derby with City on the 20th. 

Whenever United turn the corner under Van Gaal they collide into gridlock- had we appointed Jose Mourinho in December it's unlikely we'd be languishing in sixth.

The youngsters, unknown and unpredictable qualities, accentuated the feel-good factor but the return of the seniors allowed Van Gaal to return to type. 

He remains the biggest problem. 

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