One week its Ed Woodward and the Glazer’s, the next it’s the manager, and sometimes it’s the players that get it in the neck. In truth a combination of all those above are most likely to blame for Manchester United’s inconsistent run of form in recent years.
There are easy targets in the team such as Jesse Lingard and Phil Jones. They will take stick no matter what they produce. Most football fans understand that in a team that’s challenging for major titles both Lingard and Jones would only be considered as squad players at best. But there are a few players at Manchester United that most fans believe can change the fortunes of the club, especially if they were playing with better players. These are the players that now should be producing and driving the team on.
David De Gea :
Joined in 2011 and had a shaky start in his first season which was understandable with such a big move for a young player. But for six seasons after that he has been without a shadow of a doubt the worlds best goalkeeper. With a United team that struggled to perform at the level the club had been used to under Ferguson, De Gea pulled off world class save after world class save to win a league title and get his team into champions league top 4 positions they may not have in his absence.
His form showed up the Ballon D’or for what it is, an over hyped popularity contest. Not even placed in the top 3 in the height of his powers. He wasn’t even nominated in his best season in 2017/18…
“Excluding own goals, De Gea only conceded 23 goals but based on the Opta xG data for shots he faced, the average goalkeeper would have conceded 37 goals. The difference between expected goals conceded and actual goals conceded (14) was the biggest for any goalkeeper in the Premier League, even more than Lloris and Courtois, who were nominated for the award.”
But those dizzy heights of goalkeeping brilliance over those seasons have disappeared in the last two. While you can’t totally judge a goalkeeper on the amout of goals his team concede he has gone from conceding 0.73 goals a game at his best to 1.31 goals a game last season. What has been noticable are the amount of unforced errors that lead to goals last year that crept into his game and unfortunately has continued into this season. His confidence dealing with crosses has taken a massive dent and looks unsure on a regular basis. Is the fire still in the belly? A change is needed both for Manchester United and for De Gea.
Anthony Martial :
Firstly to be a top centre forward for a top side you need to be consistently scoring goals and influencing games. Also, to be a top side you need a top centre forward. This is not what Martial is serving up. Since his fairly impressive 17 goals on his debut season he now averages around 3.5 games a goal. Compare that to other United centre forwards like Rooney 2.2 games a goal and Van Nistelrooy 1.45 games a goal and you can see how far he is lagging behind.
A more worrying aspect of his game is that he doesn’t seem to have improved his game from when he first arrived. He is now in his 5th season with United. His general lax attitude out on the pitch doesn’t help him. Inconsistent performers like Martial are the very reason for an inconsistent United. In a Manchester United that is challenging for titles and has top players in forward positions then see’s Anthony Martial as a squad player.
Paul Pogba :
With Paul Pogba there is no need to bring out statistics. He has been misused at United. He has never had the discipline to play centre midfield. Yet the managers keep trying to play him there. He is an attacking player and a quality one at that. That is where he should have and still should be used. In behind a striker. He played on the left of a front three for Juventus and they got the best out of him. In the final third he is at his best. But Mourinho and Solskjaer played/play him nearly on top of the back four.
As a consequence of this the fans have been on his back as they dont see the performances that they expected from him. He looks lazy, sometimes he is. Especially when he loses a ball he may saunter back. That’s why he is not a centre midfielder, he leaves gaps. In saying that, if you are not chasing back on footballs that you got dispossessed on that says something about your attitude. The fans pick up on this, hence the disharmony amongst them towards him.
The fans are tired of his lackluster playing style as they seem to believe Pogba’s heart isn’t fully in the club. His agent doesn’t help his case regarding this. Pogba is tiring of always being made scapegoat for the teams performances, he seems unsettled. His agent again doesn’t help. His heart may not be fully in it now. Caught in between wrong positions on the pitch and wrong agents off the pitch, a move away could be best for all. Their are plenty of players with good attitudes that could out perform Pogba’s Manchester United career. It’s time to get the right player in now as creativity is where United are falling apart.
Ole Gunner Solskjaer has a big job on his hands. When you think you have the Lingards and the Jones’s of the Manchester United squad to move on first, you are then relying on these three type of players to step up to the mark. In all truth, to form a solid foundation then it’s these three players that must be replaced in the team with players of similar talent but more importantly more heart and desire.