After losing in Leipzig in midweek and hence suffering elimination from the Champions League – still cannot understand how we managed to miss out after two fantastic wins in the first two direct encounters, but let’s not go there – United simply could not afford to lose against their cross-city rivals. And the United players were disciplined during the whole match. They never looked out of place and although City had more possession, United had more chances. Indeed, the best chance of the match was the penalty incident which was ruled out because of a tight offside. Discipline however was the name of the game today and that performance can serve as a platform to get on a run of wins again. Not every week, United will play against quality opposition as City and if they can replicate the way they kept their shape in that match, then against weaker opposition, United will get more chances going forward and will score goals.
The front four of Rashford, Greenwood, Fernandes and Pogba lived mostly on scraps in the match against City but they led by example in pressing high up the pitch to make it difficult for City to build up play from the back. They were effective in their defensive roles and that was fundamental for the whole team to function properly. I particularly liked the performance of Pogba. Despite all the talk surrounding his apparent unhappiness at Old Trafford and all the rubbish by his agent Raiola, the boy is playing well. In mid-week, it was his introduction which almost turned the match on its head and today, he played with intensity and showed class when in possession, particularly with a couple of splitting passes, one to Rashford and another to Bruno in the first half. A few weeks ago, I had said in one of my articles that Pogba cannot play in a two-person midfield for United, especially against top six teams and had said that he will need to fight it out with competition to get one of the front four positions. On this performance, he is winning that race. I sincerely think that those four who played today are the best quartet United can deploy at this point in time. Maybe Cavani for Greenwood is close to call, but otherwise, I like the look of them. What I like also is that Pogba – in that position on the flank – knows exactly what he needs to do when defending. He needs to defend against the attacking full back. There is no risk that he starts chasing the ball in midfield and drags out of position. That’s a big plus.
I would take a clean sheet against City all day long. I’ve said here that the defence is playing well. Forget Leipzig. Against Leipzig, United missed the dynamism of Fred. Many people underestimate the value of Fred for this United team and particularly for our defensive unit. It is time to recognise that this United team is not the best in Europe. But we did beat two semi-finalists of the Champions League just four months ago. Leipzig and PSG are two of the best teams in Europe at the moment and it is no shame to get eliminated to them. It is a reality check. We are still three or four players away from being among the best. It’s a process though and I am confident that we are moving forward. And Ole is the best man to take us back on top.
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Article contributed by Contributor Roderick. Comments are appreciated on our Facebook page.