1) Another 0-0 at Old Trafford
There have now been 6 goalless draws this season, 5 in the last 9 games, 4 of those coming at Old Trafford. The result of a side set up to not concede and then hopefully nick a goal through some individual brilliance in attack. Unfortunately we don’t currently have players capable of doing so on a consistent basis, the likes of Memphis and Martial are probably a couple of years (if not more) away from potentially being this player. Whereas the player Van Gaal probably pinned his hopes on being that player, Rooney, was once that player but no longer is. It all points to more signings being made, possibly in January.
There was a difference in this 0-0 and the 4 that had preceded it recently, in the previous 4, chances were few and far between, against West Ham, chances were there but not being taken. If this had been a one off, it probably would have been passed off as “one of those days”. The 21 shots we had at goal is probably up there with the most attempts we’ve had in a game this season, with only one on target though shows that finishing was a problem here. Not good enough from the manager or the players so far this season, improvements need to be made, especially with a big game to come against Wolfsburg in midweek.
2) Time running out for Mata
Seems strange to say this, as he’s our leading goal scorer and assister but his time as a regular starter on the right flank is coming to an end and unless he can make a switch to a central attacking position his time at the club may come to an end too. Van Gaal has himself said that he needs more pace in attack especially in wide areas, so an addition seems likely in January. In the mean time, Mata may find himself out of the side with Memphis coming in to the side to add more pace. Having been effective in this role at the back end of last season and at the beginning of this season, his effectiveness has vanished since a couple of man of the match performances against Sunderland and Wolfsburg back in September where he scored and assisted in both games. Since, he has just the one goal, a penalty in the 2-0 win against West Brom. His form has not been good enough and a change perhaps needs to be made now.
3) Decent debut for Varela
Guillermo Varela was the first signing to be made after Sir Alex Ferguson had retired. Halfway through his first season at the club he returned to Uruguay after his parents had been in a car accident. There were then reports that he did not wish to return to Manchester having struggled with homesickness. He did return but was loaned to Real Madrid’s B Team, managed by Zinedine Zidane who was said to be very impressed by Varela. 2 and half years after making the move from Uruguay, here he was making his debut at Old Trafford coming on as a half time sub for Paddy McNair, and he did well. With Valencia injured, Varela will now maybe get more opportunities, especially if Darmian is to continue on the left.
4) Memphis arrival too late
With less than 20 minutes remaining, Memphis was brought on to the field for Schweinsteiger, a rare positive substitution from Van Gaal in taking a holding midfielder off for an attacker. It nearly paid off for him too as Memphis created a couple of really good chances, one of which saw Martial agonisingly put the ball just the wrong side of the post. His work rate when he came on was also impressive, winning the ball back on a couple of occasions. Personally, I’d have liked to have seen him start and I’m certainly not alone. Van Gaal has said that he wants more pace in his attack, yet is starting Fellaini and Mata over him. Memphis is young, he will be inconsistent but he’s also one of few in the squad capable of a moment of magic to win a game. Let him play.
5) Lack of players getting forward
There are certain games where playing 2 holding midfielders would be acceptable, I’m not convinced it’s necessary in every game however. Having ended last season with one holding midfield player in a 4-1-4-1 formation, we now play 2 holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1, for games like Saturday I think it’s unnecessary. I’d like to see one of them given more freedom to get forward and support attacks. The attackers need to be doing more to get on the end of crosses in to the box too, we’re not getting enough players in to the box and no one is attacking the 6 yard box at times. There were a few occasions during the West Ham game where crosses were put into the box and no one was near it. We need to commit more men in the box.