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Yesterday both the big Manchester teams were playing in the English premier league and it is fair to say there will be a lot of Manchester United fans and Manchester City fans who will feel disappointed by their team’s performance. On the balance of the play against their respective opponents, City fans might feel their point against their direct rival is a very decent reward. Only the final table in May next year will tell us if that is the case. Manchester United, on the other hand, imploded against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.
After being put in the hot seat at Manchester United, not as the “chosen one” like David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal has found going a bit tougher than what everyone expected. The Dutch master is a tough cookie but results by his own lofty standards have not improved and nor has their defensive performance. Last week a lot of the pundits were saying they have, maybe, turned the corner. Angel Di Maria, Daley Blind and Herrera had a fantastic game against Harry Rekdnapp’s Queens Park Rangers. At home and playing fluidly seemed like the United of old or at least couple of seasons ago. Remember, bigger teams once in mediocrity, every season seems very long to the paying fan. Manchester United is a big team and some argue it is the biggest sporting club in the world. Two Spanish clubs and a couple from America might want to disagree but that is a debate for another time.
Yesterday Reds played a Leicester city side that had players like Drinkwater, James, De Laet and Schlupp. All of these, at some point of their careers, had learnt some of their trade at United. Jamie Vardy was playing with Fleetwood only 3 season ago. The hunger, desire, industry and fight are the key components of this Leicester City team. They showed plenty of it.
Di Maria started the game like the previous one and a pin point ball found Van Persie on the far post and he headed it home. Di Maria then showed some genuine class to chip Kasper Schmeichel for a great second. Even LVG jumped out of his seat and pumped fist. Leicester’s record signing Ulloa pulled one back straight away. It was all about the industry shown by Vardy on the right flank and then his cross was well met by Ulloa. After Herrera put United further ahead with a deft back flick to wrong foot Kasper the game looked all but over. Vardy had other ideas. He rode his luck and won a penalty, which Nugent blasted in through the middle to convert. Vardy first fouled Rafael and then went down easy in the box and both times he was lucky. He then ran on to a De Laet pass to slot the ball himself. In between those two goals, Cambiasso scored his first goal for his new club and had equalised. Ulloa calmly converted the second penalty to put the final nail in United’s coffin. United had imploded and Leicester had shown that a lot of grit and fight goes a long way in English football.
United made mistakes and Leicester punished them. While in control of the game they were still playing expansive football and lost possession when the team was in attacking formation. Vardy was a handful all game and his physical approach created a lot of problems for United defenders. He ran through the channels and fought for every lost cause. A little nudge here and a little nudge there was all he did but it worked for him and the foxes today. United were outsmarted by the foxes in the middle of the park. The home team won every ball that was 50-50. Reds defence will be more under pressure now after Evans went home in crutches and Blackett was shown a straight red and therefore will be suspended for the next game. Some of the United players will have to show a bit more of spine in the coming games. One thing is for sure and it was clear last season as well, the aura of Manchester United has gone and the teams are not afraid of them anymore. It took a long time to build it and it went missing very quickly.
The biggest difference in Reds from last season is that they look a big threat going forward after the addition of Falcao, Di Maria, Rojo and Blind. Herrera and Blind, in the middle of the park, have the technical ability and the composure required to play the ball on the ground and to the feet, which their new manager will appreciate very much. Di Maria on the other hand is a world class addition to this squad. He has the change of pace, vision, technical ability to glide with the ball in crowded space and also the final ball that the likes of Falcao and RVP will love to finish. They have added a lot of quality in the team but have let some very experienced defensive players go and the void is there to see. The new additions will take a bit of time to gel and with every setback the time seems longer and longer. Rooney will have to play a major part if this team has to reach any heights. He will have to guide the new additions and remind them of the United’s tradition before the teams go out on the pitch, every time without fail.
It is a very long season ahead and I genuinely believe, in Louis Van Gaal, United have got the right person who will take the bull by the horn and drag it to the heights that Manchester United supporters are used to. He can either use the players into his formation or make them play a formation which suits the players. He can play either 3-4-1-2, which he played with Holland at the World Cup or 4-3-3, which his earlier teams had played. He can also make them play 4-2-3-1 similarly to what Holland played in the WC qualifications games. Formations and Players apart there is a mental battle being played at the club. He quickly needs to find a way to restore the confidence that eroded this club last season. The quicker that happens the better everything will be at Manchester United.