5 Things We Learned: Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United

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By Matthew Jones

1) Defensively shambolic

It might be a startlingly obvious place to start, but the defensive capitulation in the second half at the King Power Stadium on Sunday has to go down as one of United’s worst ever moments in the Premier League.

Against QPR, the new signings combined to restore optimism to the Old Trafford faithful, but it was largely ignored that the opposition was beyond poor.

And, up until the hour mark against Leicester, the new boys again showed that, at least going forward, we will scare the life out of teams this season.

Unfortunately, the last half hour proved that, going backwards, we will scare the life out of ourselves too.

As opposed to United teams of the past, which would undoubtedly almost always close shop and see out the victory, the teams of the last few years have looked like they could concede goals at any minute.

After the amount of famous records that tumbled under the leadership of David Moyes last season, losing to Leicester set another unwanted one for new boss Louis van Gaal – it was the first time in the Premier League era that United had lost a game after going two goals ahead (853 games).

While the trio of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra all had their issues with form and injury in their twilight years at United, they had knowhow and character.

All three left in the summer and only Marcos Rojo and teenager Luke Shaw came in (granted Daley Blind can play left back).

I said throughout the summer I believe there are a dearth of quality central defenders in world football, but we still needed something more, even a stop gap like Ron Vlaar, something, anything.

Sunday’s defeat simply leaves Reds’ fans with a bewildering sense of disbelief that the experience and quality of defenders we let go in the summer was not replaced with something of similar measure.

2) It might get worse before it gets better

With Tyler Blackett now banned, Van Gaal must also await the result of a scan on Jonny Evans after the centre-back was forced from the field in the 30th minute and left the stadium on crutches.

That means, ahead of the West Ham game this weekend, that United’s only senior defenders are Chris Smalling (who is an injury doubt according to media reports), Rafael, new boy Rojo (all 24) and 19-year-old Shaw.

While playing at home might well have the effect of galvanising a team reeling from such an alarming loss, and United fans will be hoping for more of a QPR performance than the display at Leicester, or hoping for our stellar forward cast to rescue us, there really is no getting away from the fact that United at the back are in disarray.

Many fans have been waiting patiently for the trio of Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones to mature into United grade defenders, but a seemingly endless list of serious and niggling injuries has seen their development stutter. With Evans substituted after only 30 minutes, and aged 26, it’s surely the last chance saloon for him this season, and we should all be praying that Van Gaal brings in a central defender of experience, class and expense in January.

Although Blackett was rash in conceding the penalty that led to Leicester’s fifth goal and his red card, and was also culpable for staying too far out to the flank for the fourth and was also guilty of not closing down Esteban Cambiasso quickly enough for the equaliser, he earns the benefit of the doubt for being extremely raw. He has also looked a decent prospect in the games he has played this season. In contrast, Evans, Smalling and Jones’ persistent injury problems pose an alarming cause for concern, both for their development and their United futures. That trio would give Samuel L Jackson a run for his money in the role of the villain Elijah Price if they ever decide to do a remake of Unbreakable.

3) Shawly time for Luke to shine

Our defensive crisis might, at least, see summer signing Shaw thrust into the limelight.

After an expensive, dream move following an impressive season with Southampton, Shaw appeared to have the world at his feet. But since then, it’s all been a bit stop start for the most expensive teenager in world football.

Criticised by Van Gaal on the pre-season tour to the United States for not appearing to be up to the standard of fitness required for a United player, Shaw then picked up a hamstring injury, ruling him out for a month and the start of the season.

There have been fears circulating that his Dutch boss doesn’t rate Shaw, an opinion held by former United first team coach Rene Meulensteen.

However, it is unfathomable to imagine that United would have splashed £30m on the left back, which although finalised when Van Gaal was with Holland at the World Cup, you feel would have to have been checked with and approved by him.

With United low on numbers at the back and low on confidence, let’s hope Shaw can step up to the plate.

4) Top 4 looks a tall task

At the moment, United don’t even need to be talking about the top four, they need to sure up at the back, hope the new signings gel very quickly, and concentrate on sorting out the mini-crisis we’re in.

Of course though, the top four is the most realistic aim this season (forget challenging for the title) but it is still early doors. Titles and the top four are not decided in September, and with most likely challengers for the top four, Tottenham and Liverpool, also going through testing times, time is on our side. That is not to say though that time is not of the essence, because it is.

Van Gaal has a major leak and he needs to plug it, fast. He is lucky that we have no major fixture list concerns thanks to no European or League Cup prospects this season, so he doesn’t have to juggle midweek fixtures with Premier League weekend duty.

But with defenders injured or suspended, not to mention a serious lack of experience and quality, you have to be concerned for our Champions League return next season, which is looking very ambitions right now.

5) From the sublime to the ridiculous

If nothing else, this season doesn’t look like it will be uneventful, and could be monumentally insane to watch.

Of course, if United are going to be tussling in eight goal thrillers with the likes of Leicester, West Ham, Stoke, West Brom et el for the next eight months, then count me out. I’d rather settle for the drab displays of Moyes’ United last season.

After a glut of goals at the World Cup, the Barclays Premier League season has already seen a flurry scored in the opening month. High scores and drama aplenty, it’s almost like we’re watching the home straight madness unfold before the autumn draws in. Let’s hope that by the time autumn is here, so are United’s prospects this season.

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8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Well…Liverpool and Arsenal aren’t exactly defensively sound. Chelsea look unsure at the back as well. So if United can their attack firing (it’s nearly there), then they should be able to at least challenge Arsenal and Liverpool for 3rd/4th place

  2. Avatar

    He does have the option of Blind in the back 4. Shaw might have been in need of grounding following big move. And finally a shock [y’all love shocks] we are probably looking at the GK position too !!!

  3. Avatar

    I think the players were all too naïve. The refs played their part by giving dodgy decisions against us and Clattenburg had a horrible game.

    But the players all went gungho every single time. It will be a lesson. At 3-1 we should have taken out Falcoa for Fletcher or Van Gaal should have atleast instructed the fulbacks and Blind not to adventure too much.

    Westham’s game is crucial. The way we are conceding goals, I miss Rio, Vida and Evra. As old as they maybe that Liecester situation wouldn’t have happened in their time.

    I actually want to go back and see where everybody was during those goals conceded, midfeilders and defenders.

  4. Avatar

    Completely lost our heart and heads after that first penalty.Yes it was a foul on Rafael and I honestly think there was minimum contact in the area but they should have kept their composure and kept the ball to take the sting out of the game and the crowd. Can’t help thinking Ferguson would have done anything to stop or slow the game down. Poor team discipline and poor managerial skills too.

  5. Avatar

    Good article, although we knew most of this was gonna be a problem in the summer. Baffled we never signed at least one CB. Even someone like Vlaar would have been good cover.

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