Matchday 5 of the UEFA Champions League saw Manchester United host Swiss side BSC Young Boys in a match that could see the Red Devils progress to the knockout stages of the competition. United left it late, and it seemed that they would have to be satisfied with a draw before Marouane Fellaini scored the winner in the 91st minute.
Though the win sealed United’s place in the knockout stage, it was not the most convincing of wins. Then Manchester side did dominate possession but had nothing concrete to show for it for the better part of the game.
Here are five things that were made evident by the match and United must work to improve on these areas at any cost.
1. No Real PLAN B
Jose Mourinho has been lauded as a tactical genius during the course of his managerial career, well known for his ability to neutralise his opponents.
His style of play, however, does not seem to agree with the Manchester United faithful. His tactics have been labelled as boring, and he has repeatedly been urged to play more aggressive football.
United’s style of play has become one dimensional under Jose. In fact, it seems that their plan A is their plan B. Under Mourinho’s management, United has heavily relied on crosses and long balls into the box. That is how United set up in every game, and the height and physicality of players like Lukaku and Fellaini might justify the tactic. However, it seems like the only way that United can play.
Mourinho decided to the leave out Lukaku from the starting line up in their tie against Young Boys, opting to play Rashford instead. The tactical approach, however, remained the same. Player looked to try and get the ball to Fellaini’s head in their bid to break down the Swiss side’s defence.
Jesus Christ!! Fellaini again???!! He should be used as our Plan B. Fred , Herrera and pogba/Pereira should be used tomorrow.
— Richardson_thewriter (@RichardKyalo7) November 23, 2018
The introduction of Lukaku and Pogba in the second have did not change their approach to the game either. They still kept playing in the same style as they did from the start of the game, and they do in all their other games, aiming for the heads of Lukaku and Fellaini inside the box.
The three times Premier League title winning manager must add more creativity to the team, and bring in more players, if necessary, who can pick out defence-splitting, incisive passes.
2. United lack Experience
Manchester United heavily rely on the likes of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford to get the team victory. However, one must not forget that they are still in their early twenties. The other superstars of the club are also in the mid-twenties and are yet to experience all the highs and lows the game has to offer. The consistency of these players have been repeatedly questioned, but one must not forget that these young players have not yet reached their prime.
Rashford missed a number of sitters against Young Boys and kept getting caught off-side over and over again. It just goes to show his inexperience and eagerness to get in behind the defence.
This video here literally sums up Marcus Rashford’s entire United career. Does every single thing right except from the final decision. This is just a simple 5 yard pass, he plays it and it’s a tap in for Fellaini. He makes mistakes like this every game!
— PE (@PogbaEra) November 28, 2018
For the time being, Mourinho needs to bring in experienced players, who can lead the team on the pitch and be role models in the dressing room.
In his first season at the club, Mourinho had the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at his disposal. They were player who would not shy away from responsibility, they could lead the team, and the younger ones looked up to them. The Manchester United Management must do everything in their power to add experience to the team and bring in players who can be match-winners week in week out.
This will not only take the pressure off the younger player and give them opportunity to express themselves, but also provide stability to the team.
3. Sloppy On Possession
The men in red had the ball for most parts of the game. However, they were quite sloppy on the ball and kept giving away possession cheaply. Unable to collect passes and failed dribbling attempts were a major hindrance in United’s build-up play.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) November 27, 2018
4. Martial-Shaw Partnership
The Martial-Shaw partnership has been United’s offensive threat this season. United seemed to have missed its 23-year-old left fullback in their defeat against Manchester City, and the England International made his presence felt against Young Boys on his return to the team.
5. David De Gea is United’s Best Player
In the post-Ferguson era, David De Gea has been Manchester United’s best player. The Spaniard had a horrible World Cup in Russia and has struggled to keep clean sheets this season.
However, when his goal was threatened by the Young Boys offence, De Gea once again proved why he is regarded as one of the best in the world.
The 28-year-old shot stopper runs out of contract at the end of the season and United has to get him no sign a contract extension if they wish to really contend for titles.