Manchester United Has To Be Sharper To Upset PSG
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Yesterday, Manchester United traveled to Leicester in the hopes of bouncing back from a shock 2-2 draw against Burnley at Old Trafford. The good news for United is they left King Power Stadium with three points. The bad news: United is trying to shake off a lack of sharpness.
The first 15 minutes of the match was pretty routine for this rejuvenated Man United side — quick passes, incisive runs and most importantly, Paul Pogba setting up Marcus Rashford for the only goal of the afternoon. After Rashford scored, it seemed like the afternoon would belong to United.
Given the result, this is true. But United really struggled to keep its foothold on the match.
Soon after the first goal, Leicester started to get itself back into the match. The Foxes created a number of chances and a rigid defensive organization prevented a lot of opportunities for United to score a second.
Credit to Leicester — that club has more than enough ability to trouble the best teams in the league but hasn't been at it's best. Still, United's approach to the match was really casual. United could've easily had two in the first half alone; a lack of sharpness is partly to blame, but that lack of incisiveness is coming at a very dangerous time, especially when United's clash with PSG in the Champions League is right around the corner.
Some other talking points of the match are that Sanchez struggled to provide anything of note, Romelu Lukaku still doesn't deserve to start and Anthony Martial has to start to make the front three tick.
Sanchez put in a great performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup, but his chance to impress in the Premier League wasn't nearly good enough. He registered zero shots, was dispossessed twice and made zero key passes. His presence in the midfield made the United attack look disjointed.
Really, his style of play doesn't seem to fit with Rashford and Jesse Lingard in the lineup. The reason he scored against Arsenal was because he was very motivated, but also because Lukaku's hold-up play set him up. (More on this later.)
Whenever Martial doesn’t start: pic.twitter.com/rW1CH4So87— (@AMxncz) February 3, 2019
When Martial replaced Sanchez for the last 20 minutes, he was more effective in causing problems for Leicester. Martial played more passes in the oposition half than his own and had a few shots on target, one of which Kasper Schmeichel had to save, and he geniunely looked the most likely to score if the game went in that direction.
The partnership of Rashford, Lingard and Martial with Pogba behind them is key to United's return to form. When Solskjaer elects to go with Sanchez or Lukaku, the United attack is not nearly as frightening — at least for the moment.
Speaking of Lukaku, he has not shown that he deserves to be in the starting lineup for Manchester United — that much is clear. Granted, Lukaku has incredible goal scoring ability, but he's really struggled to prove himself this season. When United try to play long balls for him to head down, he misses a ridiculous amount of times and has a poor first touch.
While he is fast, Rashford and Martial are faster and suit United's strengths much better. Long balls behind the back line for Rashford, Martial and even Lingard to run onto suits United much better.
Lukaku's play slows down the United attack, something that is not needed at the moment.
On top of that, Manchester United players aren't the best crossers. Shaw has a great left foot but only puts in an occasional good ball. Ashley Young, United's most frustratingly inconsistent player, can either deliver great crosses or plays in balls that can't even beat the first defender. Lukaku needs service, and he doesn't benefit from players that can't provide it enough.
On the bright side, United is unbeaten in 10 matches. Going to Leicester, the Red Devils got the result they needed to keep their top four hopes alive. Solskjaer needs to keep picking the best possible players to start and win games, and right now the best that he can do is keep his best players as sharp as possible.
Now playing with the freedom that United has, the Red Devils are certainly capable of not only reaching the top four, but clawing their way through the Champions League.