Monday, 21 October 2019

A step forward but Solskjaer's United must keep it going

When still unbeaten Liverpool arrived at Old Trafford to face a United side at our lowest ebb for 30 years, there seemed to be only one winner.
 Jurgen Klopp's side had won every league game to open up an eight-point advantage at the table's summit and take a giant stride toward a first ever Premier League title.The only topic of conversation in the lead up to English football's biggest game was the Scousers expected margin of victory.

Instead, we defied all odds and expectation in a tremendous performance of guts, desire, energy and fight. This United side again showed that when backs are against the wall, we are at our best.

In an unfamiliar system, we set up with three at the back and two wing-backs, and also used two forwards in Dan James and Marcus Rashford to play high, fast and wide. Tactically, Solskjaer got it absolutely spot on. To come out and play like that against a top-class team such as Liverpool should give his side lots of confidence.
It was United's energy and intent up front that I really liked, and that is what I want to see more of. They played on the front foot, worked hard and had a clear plan. We were never going to go all out attack and go toe to toe with Liverpool, we had to find a blueprint that worked and managed to do so.
Before the game, you probably would have seen a draw as a good result for United, but Liverpool ended up being the team delighted with a point. I'm gutted we didn't hold out and claim what would have been a monumental victory, but I'm immensely proud of the team. If we play to this level every week and not just when the mood takes us, results will come and we will start to climb that table.

In my mind, there was nothing wrong with the VAR decision that Liverpool were left so incensed by. Victor Lindelof was entitled to go for the ball, it was on halfway and Divock Origi was going down anyway. There were three more phases before the goal and they had more than enough opportunities to clear. It wasn't enough of a foul and if you're giving that then there would be 500 free kicks per game!

It's all well and good to summon this kind of showing over 90 minutes against our biggest rivals in what was effectively a free hit, but the challenge now is to build on it. Our efforts against Liverpool will prove to be in vain if it's not backed up with nine points from nine against Norwich, Bournemouth and Brighton in the coming weeks.We have to build on this and make sure it is a platform for the future and not just an admirable one off. It was a performance that showed why Solskjaer deserves more time.

 Solskjaer will be bitterly disappointed we could not hang on for five more minutes for what would have been a hugely satisfying landmark win.

He will, however, be delighted with the fight, spirit and organisation shown by his side, especially as the five-man defensive system United had been working on this week was disrupted minutes before kick-off when Axel Tuanzebe was injured in the warm-up and replaced by Marcos Rojo.
They subdued Liverpool until they switched off carelessly late on when Rojo went missing and Ashley Young failed to spot the danger from Lallana in behind him.

Overall, however, this was a huge improvement simply in terms of resilience and character.
Goalscorer Marcus Rashford worked tirelessly in his best performance for months while Scott McTominay continues to mature in midfield. Andreas Pereira had probably his best showing in the red of United, Fred was good and Dan James looked like he'd rather die than lose.

This is a mediocre Manchester United side but there was no shortage of effort and they deserved a point that Solskjaer will hope provides a platform for a rise up the table.

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