With Arsenal, Chelsea and Man City all dropping points in their respective games, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a big chance to towards the top four positions if they could beat Aston Villa, a side who have been struggling for form and are just outside of the relegation zone.
Looking at the end-to-end match as a whole, the hosts were in control of the possession but did not create many chances or complete enough shots on target as the visitors were able to defend with composure and prove to be dangerous on the counter. The Villains shockingly took the lead in the 11th minute of the game, as Jack Grealish picked up the ball in the final third of the pitch and cut through from the right to the middle before firing a shot straight into the far corner of the net.
The Red Devils did not show enough urgency and failed to provide composure on and off the ball, making it look like Villa would be more likely of doubling their lead than seeing an equaliser coming through at all. However, with just a couple of minutes away from the half-time break, Andreas Pereira was met by the head of Marcus Rashford, which got a touch off the post and Tom Heaton before going into the net. Both sides were tied at 1-1 as the first half came to a fortunate end.
After the break, United were on the front foot, utilising the ball at a higher tempo and were finding the attackers in the right areas of the pitch, but the opposition’s goalkeeper did not have much problems and nor did the backline when it came to dealing with any potential threat through the middle or the flanks. But once again, the cutting edge was missing when it was needed the most.
Though, there was an interesting turnaround just after the hour mark at Old Trafford, as Grealish had a great chance to score his second goal of the day and give Villa the lead once again, but he scuffed his shot wide off the target. A few moments later, United won a set-piece, which somehow got to Victor Lindelof at the far side of the post, who kindly headed the ball into the opposite direction and into the corner of the net, giving United the lead for the first time in the whole game.
Unfortunately, normal service was resumed for Solskjaer’s men, as they went on to conceding a goal straight after Lindelof’s goal, as Matt Targett’s perfectly-timed ball over the top was followed by a first-time finish from Tyrone Mings, who managed to get his first goal in the Premier League. In terms of the marking and the defending, United could have done much better than what they actually did, as the full team attempted to rush out from the penalty box to keep the Villa players offside, but because of the lack of communication, Brandon Williams get the opposition onside.
After the two goals for each side, not much was happening as United did not have the much needed creativity and quality whilst Aston Villa did more than enough to hold onto the well-deserved point. In the end, with the points being shared out, Manchester United now sit in ninth-place as Dean Smith’s Aston Villa find themselves in fifteen-place, just a few points above the relegation zone.
Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…
United’s current issues in midfield cannot get any worse
Just by having a look at the midfield options, majority of the Manchester United supporters do not feel confident or positive when they see their team play, no matter who it is against, whether it’s one of the best teams in the league or it’s a mid-table side. Even without Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay, who are currently on the sidelines, the midfield department are still not able to dominate either Aston Villa or Sheffield United, who do not have the greatest of midfields.
Even when looking at the two mentioned team, who were promoted to the top-flight half a year ago, they have the likes of Jack Grealish, John Lundstram and John McGinn, who would easily get into United’s midfield, which sums up the lack of quality and options they have at this moment of time. Given that the players can easily be injured or be suspended, the board and Ed Woodward will have to invest in the January window for a midfielder, or a lot of rising problems could occur.
The football at Old Trafford is no longer exciting or mind-blowing
Football supporters see the beauty of the sport in different ways, most see it as just winning at all costs whilst the rest would like the football played in an exciting style of play whilst being successful. At this moment of time, Manchester United are unable to do either, a team that have had their dark and gloomy days under the likes of David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho, are still finding it difficult to see a certain style of play being placed and a range of tactics that are quite effective.
So far this season, the Red Devils have only won three out of the seven league games that have been played at Old Trafford, which is not good enough for a team that wants to finish in the top four positions. If United are looking to change their ways and make amends before it is too late, they will need to play with freedom and a more positive mind in the games at homes, in order for them to start winning the league matches on a regular basis and for them to turn Old Trafford into a fortress.
Solskjaer does not have the intelligence and in-game management to succeed
Since making that memorable comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League back in March, that arguably made him the permanent manager of the club, the rollercoaster of a ride for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has not gone the way he would have imagined as he is now seen as the next Premier League manager that could get sacked. A lot of things have not gone well for United on and off the pitch, which could leave Ed Woodward with no option but to sack the 46-year-old Norwegian.
United have only won four out of the 14 league games they have played so far this season, and despite the current lack of quality and depth, Solskjaer’s limited intelligence and lack of in-game management has been the decisive factors to the side’s poor run of results. But the board and Ed Woodward himself should have known what they were getting, from someone who has only managed Cardiff City and Molde, with his time at both clubs not ending in the ideal of ways.
The problems at the club lie deeper than the manager and the players, but there is no doubt that the sacking of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will happen once the people in charge see the value of the club is decreasing and the possibility of Champions League football is definitely ruled out. Although it hasn’t worked out for Ole as well as for the previous managers, it will surely not work out for even the best managers within Europe, as the lack of planning and required ambition from the owners and Ed Woodward is what is preventing Manchester United football club from moving forward as a whole.