5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 0-1 Southampton

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1) Fellaini has got to go

He just isn’t a Manchester United player and he never should have been. He should not be starting games and certainly not as a holding midfielder. His one strength is being a nuisance to defenders, the only defenders he was annoying yesterday were our own. He’s also considered to be very good in the air but often loses out to players who are shorter than him but can jump higher, when he does win a header he gets penalised for smashing his elbow in an opposing players face. His work in the tackle is also poor. His transfer from Everton was hugely underwhelming but it was thought that he’d at least bring some physicality to our midfield, he’s not done that. Technically, he’s not good enough either, considering Van Gaal wants to play a possession based game, it’s strange that he’s happy to have a player of Fellaini’s lack of ability in the squad never mind the starting lineup. He’s not the problem, he is part of it though and if we are to get back to anywhere near the side we were before he arrived, he must go.

2) Never even looked like scoring

8 shots at goal, just one on target, a speculative 30 yard effort from Daley Blind that went straight to the keeper. Unbelievably poor and the worst thing about it was that it came as no surprise. Old Trafford has not seen a first half league goal since September and that is the only first half goal scored by a United player at Old Trafford this season. A goal scored by Memphis in the 3rd minute of stoppage time against Sunderland. The only other first half goal this season came on the opening day of the season against Spurs when Kyle Walker put the ball past his own keeper. An awful record but not even the worst thing about it, what’s worse is that in most of those first halves/games, we never even looked like scoring, just like Saturday.

3) Van Gaal too respectful of opposition

I’m still trying to work out the reason for it, 3-5-2 with 2 holding midfielders at home to a club in the bottom half of the league, who were playing with 1 upfront. It was another absurd decision to add to the list of absurd decisions Van Gaal has made as United manager. A criticism often levelled at Van Gaal is that he gives the opposition too much respect when considering his own tactics. Whether we’re playing the best teams or teams 3 or 4 leagues below us, he pays the same respect, against better sides his tactics have often been spot on, something that was seen during March last year when we beat Spurs, Liverpool and City. Against the smaller clubs he pays too much attention to what the opposition are doing instead of concentrating on our strengths.

4) Poor initial selection followed by poor substitutions

I’ve already covered the return of 3-5-2 and Fellaini starting but it’s been a common occurrence during Van Gaal’s tenure that Van Gaal has struggled to change the game while it has been ongoing and has had to use substitutions to try and make up for his poor starting selection and/or tactics. Fellaini was rightly hooked at half time but should never have started in any case, effectively a wasted sub, with the injury to Darmian we were left with just one sub and despite calls for it to happen from sections of the crowd, Januzaj was brought on, despite not playing a lot recently, over Memphis, who has recently become a very effective impact player off the bench. The most bizarre thing about the final sub however was that Januzaj was brought on as a wing back. Yet another poor decision from an experienced manager you’d expect better from.

5) Van Gaal’s time is up

A year and half in to the job, Van Gaal’s time is up and it has been for the past month now. The football has never been good to watch but it’s got worse since October and is somehow still getting worse.  Many older fans who saw United get relegated in the early 70s and play dull football under Sexton later in the 70s, now consider Van Gaal’s United as even worse to watch. The atmosphere in the ground is also getting worse, having grown up in the Fergie years, I’d not seen a crowd turn against a manager, I don’t recall it ever being this bad under Moyes either.

For some reason the decision to sack him has not been made by the board but it’s only delaying the inevitable. Perhaps it’s blind faith, or a hope that Guardiola will choose United and become the manager in the summer. There are lots of possible reasons for why it hasn’t happened but from the outside it looks an absolute mess and Van Gaal’s management of the team seems to be just one of a number of problems at the club.

There have been reports that Van Gaal handed in his resignation in December and his body language suggests he’s a beaten man. Put him and us out of this misery and move on.

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