Swans and Swallows
Swansea were never going to be as lacking in discipline as Club Brugge when it came to their defensive work. And so we would learn whether swallows making a summer in the case of Wayne Rooney’s goalscoring form.
His first half was true to form of the season in the main so far; poor control, indecisive finishing. His second half was no better and that very late chance where he fluffed his lines saw him turn and appeal for a penalty. But he knew.
It’s safe to say that the jury is out on Rooney as far as our opinion on him is concerned but let’s throw in some mitigation; Memphis and him are learning to play together, and Juan Mata is notorious for cutting in and slowing play down. The last time Rooney played in the front of a three for United was throughout the 09/10 season, when he had a very in-form Valencia on the right hand side supplying the bullets.
The issue of whether Wayne Rooney is past his best may be a redundant one; the more relevant one is, does Rooney have the requisite quality to play as the lead striker in this kind of formation? Louis van Gaal’s insistence to try for Thomas Muller makes a lot of sense.
We’re told the rain is a leveller. It makes for more exciting games. But in the first half, that wasn’t the case, it made for a sloppy game, with no rhythm, and a platform for mistakes to be made easily between two teams renowned for their smart possession play. The bookings in the first half for pulling shirts seemed particularly harsh; though technically, to the law, correct, the situations were exaggerated by the conditions. That said, it had no bearing on the result, really, with Swansea worthy victors.
Lack of authority
You may have been watching United and wondering what exactly is wrong with them. There’s no penetration and a little concern with the lack of authority in the team. Bastian Schweinsteiger should provide it but let’s return to a point made by Gordon Hill on more than one occasion last season. When you put a world class player among ordinary or struggling players then he will invariably struggle himself.
Today, United’s abysmal use of the ball was undoubtedly the catalyst for their downfall, but you can’t blame the conditions, or the conceded fact that it’s a team still getting to know each other. Some of the bad passes were Sunday league poor.
That lack of authority gives an indication of why Swansea found it so easy to defend against Louis van Gaal’s team. It was also evident in the back line when they conceded two soft goals which set alarm bells ringing, undoing in two fell swoops all the praise that Chris Smalling and Daley Blind have received this season. If forwards know they can have physical success against our soft centre halves, it could be a long few months.
It looks as if United will play a 4-2-3-1 at home and a 4-3-3 away. Yes, Herrera played as the ten today, but conventional logic says he is a midfielder and his discipline was tested in today’s game. It ought to be remembered that in the first half of the game against Brugge, he was far from his best, yet his goal – provided superbly for him by Schweinsteiger – lead to the inevitable clamour for him to start today. One swallow, etc; let us not dismiss these underwhelming contributions from Herrera as proof that he can’t succeed in a midfield three. Let us also not say that today’s loss doesn’t mean that the system shouldn’t be played away. There are a couple of caveats with this, of course.
This is a new collection of players learning to play together and Herrera might not be the shiny new thing anymore but he was one of United’s outstanding performers last year. If United can get it right, surely, Herrera is vital to their success on the road this year…
Is Plan B better than plan A?
…but that’s a big if, dependent on whether the personnel deployed remain the same. Rooney remains the stand out name that irks supporters and today’s performance was further evidence that he should be dropped.
Some many consider it an over reaction but it does feel that United are in dire need of a top quality goalkeeper that inspires confidence in his defence and another top centre half. A goalscoring centre forward to at least not make us so dependent on Rooney, and, some pace that has been lost in the departure of Angel Di Maria.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Some may contend that United have ventured, with four senior signings. They have lost 6 players from the first team squad and that is in addition to the likes of Ferdinand, Vidic, and Giggs, players gone and not replaced. You may have noticed that with Jonny Evans’ departure, a few of those comments on social media that United’s net spend this summer is nil, which is in stark contrast to those reports that the club would spend £200m strengthening the squad.
It’s not necessarily about star names but supporters are quite rightly concerned, on the eve of the transfer deadline, that the club is lacking in quality in vital areas. This is not knee jerk on the back of one performance but since the win over Aston Villa last season, the Reds have been very poor. They haven’t improved in performance and the results, it seems, are catching up with them in the league.
Key stats –
Tackles – Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger 3, Smalling, Blind 2
Interceptions – Schweinsteiger 4, Schneiderlin, Blind 3
Clearances – Smalling 10, Blind, Shaw 4
Goals – Mata 1
Assists – Shaw 1
Shows – Mata 4, Rooney 3
Completion Schneiderlin 91.4%, Blind 87.5%, Schweinsteiger 86.4%
Number – Schweinsteiger 88, Shaw 68