Ibrahimovic is costing United
The miss at the far post against Watford, the tame near post strike against Stoke and the wayward header at Liverpool preceded Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s harmless header at Chelsea. The scoreline was only 1-0 at the time and, for the fifth successive Premier League game, Ibrahimovic spurned a routine opportunity.
Jose Mourinho dropped Daley Blind after he contributed to the derby defeat last month and his figurehead is arguably deserving of similar treatment after another costly miss.
Ibrahimovic is unlikely to be scrutinised as intensely as Wayne Rooney, whose poor form was over a lengthy period which dated back to Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season, but United are not scoring freely from open play in the Premier League and there is only so long they can countenance Ibrahimovic’s profligacy.
However, it might be time to start Anthony Martial or Marcus Rashford at the tip of the arrow.
Mourinho didn’t help himself
Marcos Rojo started on the United bench ahead of Luke Shaw, who travelled down to London but was excluded from the matchday squad. It might have been a shop window tactic, for Matteo Darmian was also named as a substitute, but attaining a few more million pounds for a defensive dud was not worth it at the expense of United’s fragile defence.
Daley Blind never recovered after he failed to keep up with Pedro for the opening goal. On one occasion, Mourinho placed a consoling arm around the Dutchman’s shoulder and offered him some words of comfort. The situation was grim for Blind yet Shaw was not even an option to replace him.
Mourinho ended up pointing to Darmian – a right-back capable of playing at left-back who has made just two starts all term – to warm-up as he pondered withdrawing Blind. Ten minutes later, he turned to the ropey Rojo and Ashley Young, an auxiliary full-back. He chose Rojo. It might be Blind who starts the next game on the bench.
Valencia could occupy right wing vacancy
As Henrikh Mkhitaryan continues to be overlooked by Mourinho, United continue to look for an occupant for the right wing role the Armenian was bought to strengthen.
Marcus Rashford began the game there, with Jesse Lingard inexplicably moved to the opposite flank. They inevitably switched but Lingard, largely anonymous, was overshadowed by Antonio Valencia, who offered genuine width down the right.
Valencia has justified his status as a United player under Mourinho after under-performing for years. His last seasonal stint on the right wing came with the No.7 on his back and it was so chastening he requested the switch back to his old number 25 under David Moyes.
He is showing more purpose under his new manager and United’s best opportunities came from his deliveries.
Lingard was a wasted starter
The purpose of starting Lingard is he is likely to complement the attack effectively with his intuitive movement and ability to dovetail with teammates. Yet United set out to stifle Chelsea, rendering his presence in the side as effectively redundant.
Lingard started in front of Blind on the left, switched flanks and was eventually substituted. His was a nondescript afternoon, neither attacking nor defending, and it reflected terribly on the Warrington midfielder that Valencia offered more down the right – where Lingard has primarily played over the last year.
If United are to start on the front foot, Lingard’s inclusion is understandable. They did the opposite at Stamford Bridge and at times Valencia did so much of the legwork it felt like there were just 10 men in red shirts.
United need a new centre-back
This is an ongoing issue that was not concluded at Chelsea, but the manner of the defeat outlined the need for another central defensive addition.
Chris Smalling and Daley Blind produced possibly their most execrable performances in a red shirt, while Eric Bailly went off injured. Beyond the trio, there is the maligned Rojo and physio room regular Phil Jones. Axel Tuanzebe and RoShaun Williams are promising academy talents and there is a need to recruit with their development in mind.
That means jettisoning two unreliables.
Source: Manchester Evening News