Oh what a comeback! That first half was another shocking performance, but that second half was incredible. So let’s go through that complete emotional rollercoaster
A Terrible 45 Minutes
Before going into the good stuff, let’s just go through how truly terrible that first half was. We looked unorganized, lacking ambition, and most of all, not interested. I truly believe that we have the worst defence out of the top 5. Even though De Gea has kept the most clean sheets in the league, we also face the most shots per game. It shows when watching that first half again. So many times we just let them come towards us and play their game. Mourinho seems to believe that this is the way to defend, and he might be right. But when we have players who seem unable to defend, it is impossible to make any system work. Valencia, Young, Bailly and Smalling were all tragic in the first 45 minutes. Valencia seemed desperate to ruin any shape we tried to have, Sterling put Young on a plate multiple times, Smalling was at clear fault for the first goal, and even Bailly was giving the ball away in stupid. It was poor all around and just continues to remind me how poor that back four is as a unit. I still argue that Liverpool have a better defence than united, while we have kept more clean sheets (thanks to a certain Spaniard), Liverpool do not allow opposition teams to take many shots. If their keepers were more consistent, they would easily be the third best team in the country. Another issue that seemed to continue was United in general struggling to move the ball. It was classic Mourinho, send long diagonal balls to Lukaku and hope that he is able to win the header. The issue here was the balls given to him were consistently poor. Even if Lukaku was closer, there was no one close enough to win the second ball. I do never want to see such a poor first half ever again by Manchester United, especially against our second biggest rivals.
Dealing with Fernandinho
The Brazilian has continually been the cog to this phenomenonal team, and to deal with him, is the key to dealing with city. In the first half United used Lukaku to shadow Fernandinho, but because the Belgian also had to put pressure on Otamendi and Kompany, this didn’t work. Matic also came out to pressure the Brazilian, but this also didn’t work. When he did this, it left Herrera and Pogba to cover for him, and with those two sitting further back, it gave more space for Gundogan and Silva to move and receive the ball. In the second half however, there was one slight adjustment made. Herrera would go further back to make a back 5, so if a player would step out to Fernandinho, it wouldn’t leave United as exposed. A smart move to nullify a player who is capable of moving City much further up the pitch.
Since signing from Arsenal, it is safe to say Alexis hasn’t been an instant success, but the second half shown the quality of player we have at the club. One of my biggest issues with Sanchez has actually been on the ball. He seems to miss time his passes, resulting in United losing possession. This could have been a result of only signing recently, meaning he still isn’t on the same wave length as his teammates yet. His performance on Saturday was a definite showing of how good he is. Mourinho said after the game he wasn’t happy with Lingard and Sanchez in that first half, and wanted them to come closer to Lukaku, which they definitely did. Sanchez started to move more towards the middle, giving Danilo a much harder task, and had an involvement in 3 of United’s goals. The Chilean managed to create 5 chances, more than any other player for United on the day. The ball for Pogba’s header was inch perfect. It was a delivery we expect from a player of his calibre. It is great to see him finally showing why we were so happy to sign him.
But of course the biggest talking point is the performance of a certain Frenchman. Pogba in the second half was everything we needed in one of our biggest players. But let’s begin with his first half. In all honesty I didn’t think he was as bad as everyone else. He was at least trying to move the ball up the field, even though it did end in failure. It was incredible to see him change that much. It was the first time all season we have seen him run into these dangerous positions, to remind us why he scored so many for Juventus. It is still up for debate whether he decided to do this himself or if Mourinho gave him these instructions. The manager did say after the game that he was happy with the midfield, so it can be safely assumed Pogba decided himself. He is turning into a real character, and especially, a leader. A leader is something that cannot be bought, but made. Most importantly he scored two good and important goals to put us back into the game, against I team I despise from the bottom of my heart. But for me the best thing he did was give Otamendi a proper hard tackle. It was something that wouldn’t even be questioned if Keano or Scholes did the same thing. A choice to waste more time and to remind city that he is there. A show of pure passion and desire. Rumours and criticism of Pogba isn’t deserved. He has struggled recently, but we all know he can become a truly brilliant player at United, and let’s hope he continues
The Party Ruined
Oh the smile on my face when seeing all those city fans miserable at full time. At the end of the day the Champions League is more important for City. They have a tough game against Liverpool and need their bigger players ready for it. But they have also missed a one in a million chance. That being winning the title in front of their rivals. I’m glad they didn’t win, but they still have this title wrapped up. If City lose to Liverpool though, I do think they have underperformed this season, which will be explained if that happens.