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1. Full Speed Ahead… Europa League
Before the game I thought that we should probably start to look at prioritising the Europa League over the Premier League and the weekend’s results strengthened that thought. Anything other than winning the league is a failure and the chance to win a trophy should take priority especially when that trophy also gains you automatic qualification to the Champions League. We’ve only ourselves to blame for not being in a title race, we’re hard to beat again which is a positive but have struggled to break teams down that sit in against us. In previous home draws we’ve struggled to finish but yesterday was more of a case of not creating enough due to Pogba, Herrera and Mata missing plus the lack of Ibrahimovic as the team’s focal point. We still had the players to create and score though but they failed to deliver. With just 3 losses this season we are not that far away from the top teams but that has gone this season and we must now switch our focus to the Europa League where we have a good chance to pick up more silverware and qualify for next season’s Champions League.
2. Rashford – Winger or Striker?
All season I’ve been saying Rashford is wasted on the wing but this game suggested that maybe it’s his best position. Playing as the striker here, he failed to provide a focal point upfront and often drifted wide in search of the ball and space where he could run past players. There were multiple times during the game where the ball was played in to dangerous areas but no one there to get on the end of the cross or pass. Last season under Van Gaal he wasn’t given the freedom to roam about and was told to stay within the width of the box and would make darts in to the box to get on the end of crosses or would pick the ball up in central areas and run at defenders, leaving them on their backsides never to be seen again. But he’s a different player for Mourinho, he’s looking to be the complete forward and that was to the detriment of the team yesterday as we lacked a focal point. If his long term position is to be out wide then we definitely need to get a new striker in.
3. Lingard due some appreciation
He might not be the most talented attacker in our squad but here he stood up and was the leader amongst the attack, demanding the ball and looking to make a difference. His fellow attackers against West Brom are the players that are expected to make the difference, they are the match winners, here they let Lingard down, he worked tirelessly for them all game, making runs off the ball to create space for them time and time again. His movement is probably his biggest strength, he is a very intelligent footballer and is improving all the time. He’ll never post the goals/assists numbers we need but squads need players like Lingard to do the dirty work for the match winners to shine, he can be as important to us as Park Ji Sung was.
4. Mkhitaryan disappoints
With Pogba and Ibrahimovic out and the announcement of Mata’s injury on the eve of the game, I called upon Mkhitaryan to stand up and lead our attack as the most experienced creative player available here. He didn’t do so and that was very disappointing. It is his first season and I’m sure he’ll be much better next season having had a season to settle but we needed much more from him here. His one opportunity in front of goal came just minutes before he was taken off, a glorious chance in a game which we had few, he simply had to put this chance away. Apart from this one chance he didn’t do enough to effect the game during his 75 minutes on the pitch. With Ibrahimovic and Pogba back he may well perform better with the pressure off but it was here that his experience and class was needed, it was disappointing to see him shy away from the responsibility of being the main man in attack.
5. End in sight for Carrick
With his testimonial set for June after 11 years at the club, this performance suggested Carrick’s days may be coming to an end. After a slow start to the season, Carrick showed his class in November and December but has gone off the boil again since the turn of the year. A suggestion seen on twitter that this was his Gary Neville moment, a comment that was probably over the top but it was fair to question whether he does deserve a new contract and another season at the club. He has been absolutely fantastic for the club, his arrival at the club in 2006 coincided with the start of a great era for the club, he is one of few remaining from that era, both he and Rooney, who was named on the bench for this game, could both be gone in the summer, it would mark the end of an era and hopefully the start of a new one. Carrick is set to have a testimonial at Old Trafford in June and it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was not only his final game at Old Trafford but final game before retirement.