Man Utd were unconvincing once again as they drop points to Aston Villa at Old Trafford

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.

More Premier League action coming up? Check out our match previews here!

Round seven of the English Premier League season takes place this weekend.

Here’s a look at all the upcoming fixtures this weekend.

Sheffield United v Liverpool

Key men: John Egan (Sheffield United); Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Prediction: Sheffield United 0 – 2 Liverpool Continue reading

Predicted lineups for gameweek 3 of the Premier League

It’s time for gameweek 3 of the Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Aston Villa v Everton

Aston Villa XI: Heaton, Elmohamady, Engels, Mings, Targett, Jota, McGinn, Luiz, Grealish, Trezeguet, Wesley

Everton XI: Pickford, Coleman, Keane, Mina, Digne, Gbamin, Gomes, Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Bernard, Kean

Questionable: Digne, Baines (Everton)

Out: Chester, Hause, Kodjia (Aston Villa); Delph (Everton) Continue reading

Swaggering Jack Grealish set for stardom in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt

There are certain footballers who, when watched in the flesh, omit a certain aura of swaggering superiority that can be difficult to define. The traditional metaphor says they stand a foot taller than the rest, but that doesn’t quite fit. It has more to do with time and composure than stature, the puffed-out chest and graceful ease on the ball giving the impression of an alien amused by the simplicity of human sport, calmly manoeuvring the game like a ‘Monstar’ in Space Jam.

Jack Grealish is one of these types. The Aston Villa playmaker has endured plenty of ups and downs since he first made headlines in April 2015 by weaving through the Liverpool defence in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, but in 2017/18 he finally completed an (almost) full season in claret and blue. Across 22 starts Grealish proved that he is the real deal, that the magnificent performances under Tim Sherwood during Villa’s FA Cup run were no fluke. He is a special footballer, the kind of sauntering genius that you fall in love with as a child and that, as an adult, reminds you of the sport’s most endearing qualities.

Spurs fans should feel privileged to have the 22-year-old joining their club this season, assuming Daniel Levy’s hard-ball approach doesn’t scupper the deal. Grealish has a positional intelligence and natural sense of geometry to rival the best playmakers in history to have played at Villa Park, and indeed what makes him particularly special is his old-school attributes.

Grealish plays like an ‘80s footballer, dribbling constantly through the centre of the pitch, floating wherever he pleases, jogging around with foppish hair and rolled-down socks like a number ten of old. In modern terms, he’s a hybrid between a Philippe Coutinho-style powerful runner and a delicate, small-space playmaker like Christian Eriksen. On countless occasions in 2017/18 he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck for Villa, almost single-handedly dragging the team up the pitch and forcing the ball towards goal. It is increasingly rare, at any level, to see anyone wrestle control with the cheekiness of a flair player.

If there is one thing missing from his game it is discipline, which is why learning under Mauricio Pochettino will greatly benefit the Birmingham-born midfielder. At Spurs he will learn the importance of the collective, of tracking back and doing the dirty work, not just to help the defence but to directly increase the amount of space for himself in the final third. Grealish has never played in a high-pressing system before, but there is no reason why he cannot flourish just as Dele Alli does in a Tottenham shirt.

Alli is close friends with Grealish, which can’t hurt their on-field relationship, while Pochettino could easily deploy a narrow 3-4-2-1 formation that sees both players lurk behind Harry Kane (leaving Christian Eriksen in a deeper role). The thought of Kane and Grealish together – the Villa man is an exceptional through-ball player – should terrify Premier League defences.

This ability to stroke a through-ball between a narrow defence has been sorely missing at Spurs. Neither Eriksen nor Alli tend to create in this way, which explains why Spurs occasionally struggle to break down the Premier League’s most compact teams. Grealish adds a creative sparkle – a maverick arrogance with the ball at his feet – that this often too-predictable Spurs team have been craving. The move is perfect not just for Grealish and Villa (who desperately need the money) but for Tottenham as well.

Villa fans are understandably devastated to lose their local hero, but such is his quality, and so clearly is he a good fit for Spurs, that most have already given the player their blessing. It would be criminal to force such a remarkably gifted footballer to spend three successive years outside the top flight… and it would be a huge surprise if he was not a permanent member of the England squad by the end of the 2018/19 campaign, barging ahead of Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Jesse Lingard in the creative pecking order.

Grealish might not be the big-name signing Spurs fans were hoping for this summer, but at around £20 million he is a bargain: a player is destined for greatness; destined to become one of the biggest stars in the Premier League.

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Jack the Lad: Why Grealish Needs to Pull His Weight for Aston Villa

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He was one of the few bright spots, alongside an FA Cup final appearance, for Aston Villa in the 2014/15 season: finally, a home grown talent that had come through the youth team who was ready to make waves on the big stage.

Jack Grealish’s performances helped his side to avoid relegation, and created a buzz around a player who had joined the club as a six-year-old. Scouts from the big clubs looked on admirably, but for the time being at least the 20-year-old is very much an Aston Villa player.

And then he went and messed it up.

Grealish was photographed inhaling nitrous oxide in the spring of this year after making his first team debut. But that’s not the end of the world.

Then as he enjoyed the last few months of being a teenager, he did what plenty of teens do: went on a summer holiday with his friends, had a bit too much to drink and found himself slightly worse for wear in Tenerife’s famous ‘strip’.

Again, no problem. He’s just a young man enjoying himself in the off season.

But the third time is certainly not a charm for the young Englishman. Within hours of Villa’s 0-4 tonking at Everton, Grealish was photographed enjoying a night out on the town. Supporters were incensed – how could he be out having fun when he should be at home hurting after such a heavy loss?

Manager Remi Garde agreed and took a dim view on the matter: the midfielder has now been dropped from the first-team squad for Saturday’s crucial game with Watford, and will now be made to train with the under 21 squad.

“You have to behave as a professional and it was not the case this time for Jack,” Garde said. “He will not play with us, which is already a big punishment for a player. Now we will see the next step.”

This is the cautionary tale for any young sportsman or woman: and it is one that has been played out time and time again. We all remember Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne’s trials with alcohol that would largely curtail a young man with the world at his feet, whilst Paul Merson – another world-class talent that could have achieved anything – was doomed by booze, drugs and gambling habits.

“I’d love to sit down with him for an hour, and go through my experience,” Merson has come out publically and said. “I would say to him: ‘For the next 10 years of your life give it everything you’ve got to grasp hold of this.’ He’s got unbelievable talent. He’s a good player, but it soon goes.

“I’ll get him back on the straight and narrow.”

Let’s just hope that Grealish listens to those who have been there, done it and bear the scars. Boy do his teammates need him right now….

Why Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish should pick the Republic of Ireland over England

Aston Villa's Jack Grealish

Various reports are suggesting Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish is set to snub the Republic of Ireland to represent England at senior international level. The 20-year-old played for Ireland at youth level (U17s, U18s, U21s), and was wanted for their senior outfit as a result of his domestic form in the second-half of last season. However, he’s had eyes on England after manager Roy Hodgson admitted a n interest in having him in the squad, so it Grealish’s future looks set to be with the Three Lions. But is he making the right choice?

Grealish already faces stiff competition for a starting place in the England side, with the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) and Theo Walcott (Arsenal) – all of whom made the latest squad – ahead of the Villa man in the pecking order. Grealish also has a number of future returning stars to fight with for a place in the team, with Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Adam Lallana (Liverpool) and Andros Townsend (Tottenham) having previously been called up.

While a talented player who is not shot of self-confidence, it’s hard to see where Grealish can force his way in at present. He has stellar talent to try and dethrone, and with England currently enjoying a 100% record in the qualifiers, Hodgson is unlikely to make too many drastic changes. As for the Republic of Ireland, Martin O’Neill’s side could incorporate Grealish much easier. The competition is much weaker, and could see the 20-year-old making many more caps as a result.

Hodgson does want the youngster, however, saying: “We’ve spoken to him, and what we’ve said is that we think he is a very talented footballer. We think he could have a very good international career, and we would be more than happy if he chose that career to be England. I’m still hoping that’s what he will do. It would be nice if he says yes and then he would have a year to see if he could knock one or two of these players off their perch.”

It’s a massive season, as he’s set to play a full season under Tim Sherwood for Villa, and next summer sees the European Championships in France. Grealish will want to play, but so much could go wrong for the winger. He needs game time as soon as possible with the Three Lions to stand a chance of making the squad, and needs to shine for Villa on a regular basis, something easier said than done. The Republic of Ireland would have the 20-year-old in the reckoning to be first-teamer, while England have a handful of players better than him in his preferred position.