May 14, 2021

Man Utd

News

Man United might have finally answered their biggest debate

4 min read

Tactical change

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been desperate for Manchester United to prove themselves as more than just a counter-attacking side, as soon as the team news against Tottenham dropped it was clear he was looking to do it again.

A front three of Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Edinson Cavani is not one blessed with pace, but it is credit to the work the way they adapted in-game to make the selection work by the end.

The absence of Daniel James, and knock to Mason Greenwood, might have had some influence on the tactical approach over the weekend but United’s concern is that they so often find it hard to play effectively without their trademark pace on the counter-attack.

Cavani’s disallowed goal was the first evidence of what a more methodical attacking approach can bring, but it is quite clearly a work in progress given the counter-attacking sacrifice which had to be made.

The introduction of Greenwood proved to add the final piece of attacking magic required to truly unlock the Tottenham defence with added pace and trickery.

If they can strike a balance between the two tactics then Solskjaer might have found the missing ingredient required to become true Premier League title challengers.

On cloud No.9

Solskjaer has a bit of a difficulty at the moment in that it seems like Cavani will leave at the end of the season, it was a big call to start him on Sunday afternoon given that uncertainty.

However, the 33-year-old remains the only true No.9 option at the club and again he showcased what makes him so different from the other players vying for his central attacking role.

While a fluid forward line worked wonders for United in the second-half of last season the addition of Cavani has completely transformed the attack by adding in a perpetual attacking threat.

Not only does Cavani offer an attacking focal point with his physique but his movement brings others into the game and creates chance out of nothing. Even if he were to extend his stay at the club, another in his mould is a necessity this summer.

Henderson might finally solved most talked about debate

It’s almost tedious how frequently the goalkeeper debate arises at United, we might have finally found the answer to it.

Of course this comes with the irony of new debating who should be the long-term No.1 but Dean Henderson appears to have taken a massive step in the right direction.

While he has an impressive record in his appearances this season they have come at the caveat of mostly coming against ‘lesser opposition’. His display against a side fronted by Harry Kane was a huge statement of intent on his part.



Dean Henderson has become Manchester United's de facto number one ahead of David de Gea.
Dean Henderson has become Manchester United’s de facto number one ahead of David de Gea.

The Englishman impressed with a few bright saves, particularly one at his near-post, but his biggest advantage is that he is a true modern goalkeeper.

Not only does he command his defence loudly but he also backs up the vocals with world-class distribution and an ever-improving reading of the game. Twice against Tottenham he raced off his line to thwart attacks with emphatic clearances into space.

There is no way De Gea and Henderson can both remain happy in the long run at United, based on Sunday’s display the case for Henderson to get the nod is gaining momentum.

VAR system (still) isn’t fit for purpose

VAR was sold as a piece of technology supposed to make football a fairer sport, instead it has taken the soul away from the top league in European football.

With each review appears a new focus to try and look for one minor excuse to disallow a goal rather than accept the clear and obvious reason to allow it. Cavani’s first-half strike might just be the worst use of VAR we have seen yet.

There still seems no logical reason as to why the officials came to their decision to disallow the strike. They deemed the collision accidental so didn’t show McTominay a second yellow, but deemed it clear and obvious enough to disallow the goal. It just doesn’t add up.



Chris Kavanagh ruled out Edinson Cavani's goal for Manchester United
Chris Kavanagh ruled out Edinson Cavani’s goal for Manchester United

United’s impressive away form

United are now unbeaten in their last 23 Premier League away games (W15 D8) – only Arsenal between August 2001-September 2002 (23 games) and April 2003-September 2004 (27 games) have registered longer unbeaten away runs in the history of English top-flight football.

While having good home form usually holds the key to a successful title challenge, the formality of getting points on the road is another feather in Solskjaer’s cap.

The only question left, is how long may it continue?

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