Man Utd 2-1 Spurs: Jose Mourinho takes no point back in his return to Old Trafford as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lives to fight for another day

With the Premier League midweek games truly kicking in once again ahead of a busy December schedule, the main focus was solely on the feisty and interesting fixture between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, where Jose Mourinho would be making a return to take on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men. A victory for either side would help them push towards the top four positions.

Going into the game, Mourinho would have mainly wanted the three points to get his side to at least fifth-place in the league, as well as to prove himself to the United board and Ed Woodward, who actually sacked him this time last year. Meanwhile, Solskjaer’s situation was a difficult one, as it looked like his days at the club are numbered and he was on borrowed time, so a win for him was required more than ever.

Overall, the host were more effective and productive with the ball despite not dominating the possession, and were able to get attempt and complete more shots on target. On the other hand, the visitors had some good periods with the ball in United’s half, but were lacking the cutting edge and the final third quality to break down the opposition.

United were on the front foot from the start, winning the key battle in midfield whilst using their pace and movement on the flanks through the likes of Daniel James and Marcus Rashford. Fortunately enough they took the lead through the latter and his high confidence of shooting from different angles, as his quick snap shot took Paulo Gazzaniga by surprise and went into the net.

The home side continued to pile on the pressure and were looking quite determined to doubled their lead, but did not find great success in getting past the Tottenham defence. Spurs managed to complete only two shots on target in the first half, with the most important one coming from Dele Alli in 39th minute of the game, where he created a moment of brilliance by beating both Ashley Young and Fred to the ball in the penalty box before calmly slotting it passed David De Gea.

After the half-time break, it didn’t take long for the Red Devils to take the lead again, as Rashford was fouled in the penalty box Moussa Sissoko and went to confidently taking the penalty to score his ninth league goal of the season. With most of the main action being covered by the hour mark, there wasn’t much to it in the final third of the game, as both sides became sloppy and poor on the ball.

In the end, Spurs were enjoying the fair share of the ball were could not do much about it, as United were being patient defensively and were looking for some moments to counter successfully. Though, the game came to an end with Solskjaer picking up the much needed victory and also doing a number on Mourinho, allowing United to move up to fifth-place as Spurs went down to eighth-place.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Marcus Rashford is a man on a mission

Since the final days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Old Trafford, no player has scored more goals for Manchester United than Marcus Rashford (57), which is more than impressive from the 22-year-old who was only given his official debut two years after Sir Alex had went into retirement. And both his goals were well-taken last night, with one being from a tight angle and the other from the spot.

The questions were raised about the key chances he has missed this term and his ability to be a clinical goal-scorer, which he is now proving to the critics and to those who doubted him, as he has bagged nine goals and four assists in 14 league games. Given the lack of attacking options and depth within the department, Rashford will be heavy relied on from now till the end of the campaign.

The midfield duo Fred and Scott McTominay continues to impress

When looking at Tottenham’s midfield compared to United’s quality in the middle of the pitch, one would have thought that the control and dominance in the midfield battle would have been one-sided and in the favour of the away side. However, it was the midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay that came out on top, as they were constantly outstanding on and off the ball.

Looking into Fred’s performance, it was arguably the best one he has completed in a United shirt as far as the Old Trafford faithful were concerned, as he was progressive with the ball at his feet and was getting into the defensive duties when required. On the other hand, the return of McTominay was huge for the side and the manager, as his physical presence and ability to protect the ball in midfield was much needed, as the United midfield in recent weeks have been poor and deficient.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer continues to fight for another day at Man Utd

For sure, the main focus has been on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and how much more longer he will be at the club for, but the credit has to be given where it’s due, as he managed to overcome a strong side in Tottenham Hotspur that is managed by Jose Mourinho. Surprisingly, Solskjaer’s record in the big games have been more positive and effective than in the games against the middle-table sides.

If he wasn’t able to recently get a result against Spurs and one potentially in the Manchester derby on the weekend, he would have surely been sacked by Ed Woodward before the December fixtures had kicked in. With the United fanbase being fairly even on if they want Ole out or not, they will want him to motivate the players to perform like they did on a more regular basis, where they play with urgency, fast tempo on and off the ball whilst having the mentality of being on the front foot.

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.

Sheffield Utd 3-3 Man Utd: The points are shared out between both sides in a six-goal thriller

The main focus of gameweek 13 was the huge clash between Man City and Chelsea, two sides who are looking to catch up to the Liverpool, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had a difficult trip and a crucial match away to Sheffield United. Chris Wilder’s men have been on fine form since being promoted to the Premier League and have prove themselves to the top teams, which cannot be said about the other new boys in Aston Villa and Norwich City, who are badly struggling.

Focusing on the game as a whole, the hosts without a doubt outplayed and dominated the visitors, in terms of chances created, shots completed and where most of the possession was played on the pitch. The Blades were magnificent and untouchable in the first half, importantly taken the lead through John Fleck whilst playing comfortably with the ball and with a really good level of tempo.

They managed to continue with that straight after the half-time break, in terms of winning the ball in the right areas and pressuring the opposition time and time again through their movement and intelligence. This is how they doubled their lead, as they were able to force Andreas Pereira to lose the ball in the central area with his team-mates high up the pitch, allowing John Fleck to find Lys Mousset on the quick counter attack, who perfectly placed his shot into the corner of the net.

Meanwhile for the Red Devils, they were all over the place for 70 minutes of the match, unconvincing defensively, completely anonymous in midfield and the front three were slouching around in the opponent’s half with nothing to feed from or work with. Even in the first half alone, they only completed one shot on goal, showing how they lacked the required desire and urgency.

However, after Solskjaer made a tweak to the system in the second half, the team were able to have more time and space on the ball whilst having the numbers to get into the final third of the pitch. From the 70th minute till the 80th minute, the attacking-minded and ruthless United side showed up, as United pulled out three well-worked goals from nowhere, with them coming from Brandon Williams, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, three players that came from the academy.

With just a couple of minutes to go, the neutral supporters of the Premier League got what they wanted for a special Sunday evening, as the substitute, Oliver McBurnie, saw his shot to be too powerful for David De Gea and went into the back of the net, leaving the points to be shared out by both teams. In the end, Sheffield United sit comfortably and proudly in sixth-place, whilst Manchester United find themselves in ninth position, nine points away from the top four spots.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

The Red Devils do not have the foundation for a top four finish

Majority of the Old Trafford faithful would have felt that the chances of finishing in the top four would have been very slim a month or so ago, and now they would be thinking to themselves if the side are capable of finishing in the top half of the table. This is what happens when a squad is lacking the required depth and quality, something that the board and Ed Woodward have failed to repair.

Because of this unfortunate situation, the side have been forced to rely on the youngsters time and time again whilst there are not that many experienced players within the midfield and forward department to look up to. With there being no project and system put into place on and off the pitch, United are forced to work on individual quality and counter-attacking football, leaving them with a huge amount of uncertainty on if they can win games consistency and be successful at all.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to show that the job is too big for him

If we are being brutally honest, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would have been sacked by now if he wasn’t a former Manchester United player that is seen as likeable person by the club and its loyal supporters. For sure, he understands the club’s style of play and the history of the football club, but he hasn’t shown the intelligence and the tactical flexibility that he is made to manage one of the biggest clubs in the world, on top of the fact that he failed to be successful at Cardiff City and Molde previously.

With the likes of Marcelino, Mauricio Pochettino and Max Allegri available and seeking for a new club, the pressure is definitely on Solskjaer to start picking up the much needed performances or results, as the board and Ed Woodward will not be able to bare another season without Champions League football. If things do not end well with this campaign, it may be ideal for the 46-year-old Norwegian to step down from the job, in order to save his reputation as a legend of the club.

Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United continue to outdo everyone’s expectations

Sheffield United are proving to be one of the best surprises of the Premier League so far this season, as they have been able to show their quality on both sides of the pitch whilst playing in a unique system under manager Chris Wilder that involves the use of overlapping centre-backs. Within this style of play, the team are able to attack effectively and are in full control on and off the ball.

The Blades have been really successful against the big boys, having beaten Arsenal at home whilst taking one point each from the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and now Manchester United, with their only defeat being an unfortunate one against Liverpool. If both Chris Wilder and Sheffield United are able to keep this up, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them finishing in the top half of the table, something they would have never dreamt of at the start of the Premier League campaign.

Why Paul Pogba’s return is needed badly for both Man Utd and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s Manchester United are not enjoying a good season at all so far this term, as they currently sit in tenth place and are nine full points away from the top four spots. Despite the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire, the side have seen quite a few players leave Old Trafford too, which leaves the squad lacking the quality and the ideal depth.

Twelve games into the season, the Red Devils have been unable to find the required form and consistency to help them fight for a Champions League position, with the likes of Chelsea, Leicester City and Sheffield United being more dominant and proactive. Both Liverpool and Manchester City have not been mentioned in comparison to any other team in the league let alone in regards to United, as the pair have enough quality and individual brilliance to guide them to the league title.

Focusing back on United, they will need to start picking up their performances and most importantly their win ratio once the international break is over, or they will fall far behind from the rest, as sides such as Arsenal, Spurs and Wolves are yet to hit their ruthless streak. With the team having eight league games to play from now till the end of the year, there are still a lot of points available to be won and lost, before the league positions shape up and become more clear of who will finish where.

However, for Solskjaer and United, the return of Paul Pogba will be badly required if they aim to dominate matches on a regular basis and are hoping to pick up three points week in and out. The Frenchman hasn’t played a match since the 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the end of September, as he has been on the sidelines with an ankle/foot injury that has kept him unavailable from playing.

Without his presence in midfield and in the team, the side’s best chances of creating and scoring happen to come on the counter-attack, which does not come quite often when playing against an opposition that prefer to sit deep and are not attacking-minded. Not only that, a midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay is not good enough when it comes to playing against one of the top-six sides, as an extra bit of pure quality and spark is needed from the players in the middle of the pitch.

Not only that, the other midfielders within the squad are not capable of producing the range and types of passes that Pogba is able to complete without any effort. Also, he is the type of individual that boasts with a positive mentality and does not hide or ghost away through the match, as he likes to be at the centre of each attacking movement and is always spreading out the ball with urgency, something that cannot be easily stated for the likes of Fred, Andreas Pereira or Nemanja Matic.

Also, he is the one that is coming up with the high number of goals and assists from the midfield department, completing 13 goals and nine assists as well as a number of Man of the Match awards last season, whilst the other midfielders were unable to score or assist on more than five occasions.

In the end, United have always been more dangerous and on the front foot when Pogba is in the team, and they will want him back at least before the December fixtures kick in. Whether his mind is on joining either Juventus or Real Madrid, he has always remained as a true professional and gives his all when stepping onto Old Trafford, so his intentions and mindset cannot be questioned at all.

The Red Devils will be facing Everton, Man City and Tottenham as well as a difficult away trip to Burnley next month, which means that Solskjaer will not be able to think about giving Pogba enough time to get to full fitness or perfect condition. Given the side’s current league position and recent form, the 45-year-old Norwegian will be doing everything to turn the season around sooner rather than later, or he could be sacked by the board and Ed Woodward before the campaign is over.

Manchester United have to be flexible to get the best out of Anthony Martial

There is no doubt about the scary potential that Anthony Martial has. Even if the last two to three seasons have been really difficult for him at a personal level, where he has had issues ongoing off the pitch and has not been a regular starter under either Jose Mourinho or Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

However, after receiving his number nine jersey once again and following the departure of Romelu Lukaku, he is expected to play on a more regular basis and will be hoping to reach 20-25 league goals this season. The Red Devils will be hoping for a much better season as a whole, as they failed to be constantly effective on both sides of the pitch last season, from being defensively reckless to limited and predictable on the attacking area of the game. And if they can do that, their hopes for a top four finish is surely not impossible.

Focusing more on Martial, he’s been scoring on a few occasions over the last couple of weeks, with two goals in two games against Partizan Belgrade to help United qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League, as well as a crucial and much needed goal away at Norwich City. He’s come in at the right time with the goals as both Daniel James and Marcus Rashford have gone quiet recently.

Since his debut for the club in August 2015, he has gone on to score 50 goals for Manchester United, more than any other player within the squad from the beginning of the period. Just on that note, one can immediately understand the qualities and abilities he brings to the team, especially in the final third of the pitch and his impressive personal composure whilst having his back to goal.

It has taken some time to find out the player’s best position, given that he can be effectively and deadly either as a left-sided winger or a lone centre-forward, thanks to his movement on and off the ball and his creativity in the dangerous areas of the pitch. On top of that, he has shown what he offers to the team when he isn’t scoring, as he notched two key assists recently against Brighton.

As long as all the attackers stay fit and in fine form, Ole will need to keep a consistent and dominant attacking setup from now till the end of the campaign, with Martial as the number nine and both Daniel James and Rashford as the wide players being the ideal idea. If this does happen, it would allow Martial to be freed from his defensive duties and be utilised within the advanced areas.

The 23-year-old’s standout attribute just happens to be his one on one dribbling and his intelligence to take on two to three players within the matter of seconds, as he has the pace as well as the trickery to be the difference on the flanks. However, when he is played in this role, he can easily be marked by two players and left isolated, forcing him to remain unknown for the rest of the game.

Given that both Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez left Old Trafford in the summer, without the club bringing in a replacement at all, Martial’s qualities and potential is more required through the middle than the flanks. His goals and assists in all competitions have come from the central position, where he has the much needed licence to roam and move around to lead the side’s attack and build-up play.

Overall, Solskjaer should not use his favouritism of Rashford and push Martial back out onto the wings, as the former is not a clinical goal-scorer and is unable to bring other players into the game whilst the latter is arguably the side’s best forward in front of goal. Martial is one of the most important players in the squad and has the quality to be a game-changer or match-winner when required, and he can start or continue to be one for the Red Devils as long as he is used centrally.

Manchester United’s fall from grace will be underlined by a lack of quality strikers

When Manchester United lost to West Ham, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked about his lack of strikers, especially if one of them gets injured like in the case of Anthony Martial. He responded diplomatically by suggesting that on the strikers department there isn’t a problem and seemed happy with that statement. His eyes seemed to say something else though and a few days later in his own press conference he mentioned that the club will be looking for a striker to come in for January.

It is hard to think of a United side who have looked so average up front. At the end of the day Anthony Martial who came from Monaco ended up being the striker that could have been and the one that got away from United was actually the other youngster coming up the ranks in Kylian Mbappe who now plays for PSG.

Marcus Rashford is a quality striker when on form and has got some important goals for the club. However he is 22 and maybe more would have been expected of him given that he has never scored more than 10 league goals in his career, and he has spent 5 seasons with the club. This isn’t to say that Rashford doesn’t deserve his place because he does and plays off well in the team.

Daniel James can attack too and he looks one for the future, and the three attackers have scored 8 of United’s goals from 9 this season. But at the same time United not only have young strikers and no stardust if you like, but also players that can perform on their day but simply aren’t consistent enough, and that will be key in thinking United may not even finish in the top six this season. At this rate top 4 looks very distant too.

It’s hard to think that this situation would have been allowed under Sir Alex Ferguson and that was to sell Romelu Lukaku for over £70m but not replace him, that seemed like an odd choice. Instead United went for defence and brought in Harry Maguire for £80m, but the club need to be in a situation where they could have afforded both targets. If one looks at Mauro Icardi for example, a goalscorer that was bought by PSG as they believed Neymar would be sold and they had injuries up front, instead of resting on their laurels the club knew they had to bring in quality, and they did.

United seemed to have taken their eye off the ball and even if they can navigate themselves until January, that is a month where traditionally the best players are not available. A penny for your thoughts, Ole?

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Manchester United and Chelsea have started the Premier League campaign in shocking fashion

The start of the 2019/20 Premier League season is almost a month underway and the early signs are not good for two giants of English football in Manchester United and Chelsea. Both teams have got off to poor starts, even if they have lost just 1 game so far this season.

The nature in how the clubs are struggling to get results is clearly evident. Manchester United’s only win this season has been ironically against Chelsea. The score line was impressive, a 4-0 win which suggested that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had turned a corner with the Red Devils- not so. Since then United have churned out results which only mirror the clubs problems since Sir Alex Ferguson called it a day in 2013.

Look at the evidence. In the teams next game they went to Wolves and couldn’t win. A 1-1 draw was the only score they could get, and yet they had been leading that game and were pegged back. In their next match at home to Crystal Palace, United were massive favourites to win the match. Palace had started average and it seemed that United would win and win big. But they found themselves 1-0 down and heading for defeat. Daniel James who has been impressive with United in his debut season looked to have secured a draw with his goal in the last minute and even then United could not hold on as Palace found another to win. Already they had faced defeat at Old Trafford this season.

This past weekend United had to travel to Southampton, another game where you would expect 3 points, instead they took the lead and were then pegged back as the game finished 1-1. There is a lot of thinking and soul searching to do at United and it doesn’t look like it will get any better soon. The Europa League will be taxing on the current line up, and if United are struggling against mid table teams now, how will they cope when they have to play games every other Thursday in Europe?

As for Chelsea, they have won just once this season also. The 4-0 loss at Manchester United could be excused if only because the Blues played some good football and the final score was flattering on the home side. But something is missing at Chelsea, and it could be that they have the wrong manager in charge.

Frank Lampard will be a good manager just like he was such a terrific player. The problem is he has next to no experience, just one season with Derby in the Championship, that is a massive step up to Chelsea. The question that needs to be posed is, would Chelsea have gone looking for the manager of Derby had it not been Lampard, an ex-Chelsea playing legend? And there is your answer. Still one cannot blame Lampard for accepting the job, rare is it to see a British manager in charge of one of the big 4 teams in the Premier League. He took his chance because he knew it could be the only one he will ever get.

Chelsea like United have played some good football but it is a results game and both are failing. Chelsea only just managed their one win so far against Norwich in a 3-2 victory. But they were pegged back by both Leicester and Sheffield United and these games were at home.

Both clubs should have bright moments during the season, but they wil also have plenty of games where they will keep under achieving. One of these managers could be losing their job this season too, which on this evidence wouldn’t be a surprise.

The hard luck story for fans is that it is going to get worse before it gets better and there is a genuine chance now that neither club will finish in the top 4.

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Southampton 1-1 Man Utd: The Red Devils cheaply drop points once again

Although the main focus of gameweek four is between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United had a good opportunity to bounce back from the Crystal Palace defeat with the away fixture against Southampton. With the match being the final one just before the ten-day international break, it would have been the ideal chance Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to get back to winning ways.

The match as a whole, was one-sided in favour of the visitors in terms of the control in possession and the chances created, despite the host piling on the pressure for 20 to 30 minutes of the game before and after the half-time break. United took the lead very early in the 10th minute, through a well-taken shot by Daniel James, who smashed it past Angus Gunn and into the far corner of the net.

However, Southampton were able to get the equaliser in the second half as Jannik Vestergaard leaped above Victor Lindelof to head the ball into the net, leaving David De Gea absolutely hopeless in goal. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s boys continued to look for the winner, though, Kevin Danso went into a poor challenge in the 77th minute and left the referee with no option but to book him once again.

In the end, the Saints did defensively well to hold onto a draw for the last 15 to 20 minutes whilst being down to ten men, but the Red Devils will feel they did not create enough or showed the ideal amount of urgency to turn the single point into the three points they badly needed and required.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Daniel James continues to live life at the top

Throughout the game, United’s go-to-man was no one else but Daniel James, someone who was causing Southampton’s backline a serious amount of problems with his dribbling ability and his incredible burst of pace. After making it on the scoresheet once again, he has now scored three league goals in four appearances, equalling Alexis Sanchez’s dire record of the last 18 months.

Despite being utilised on the right flank in recent games, the fixture against Southampton was his first match where he was played in his favourite position, and he went on to play more comfortably and effectively than usual. Not only that, his immense work rate on and off the ball is something to truly highlight, as United’s attacking players in recent years have failed to help the team out as a whole.

United lack clinical quality on both sides of the pitch

One could say Solskjaer had the perfect plan at St Marys Stadium, where they created a decent amount of chances and had hardly concerns over the opposition’s attacking threat. Southampton actually had one shot on target, which was the goal they achieved in the second half, other than that, they were missing a playmaker and a dominant forward to open up United’s defence.

Meanwhile, on the attacking side of the game, the likes of Ashley Young, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford were lacking the intelligence and the required quality in the final third of the pitch to help the side to achieve the winning goal. The trio were failing to do the basics rights and were making mistakes after mistakes, allowing Southampton to sit deep with no rising issues to worry about.

Southampton are expected to go on to big things under Ralph Hasenhuttl

Majority of the English media and the Premier League experts were expecting the Saints to have a difficult season and see themselves experience most of the campaign around the relegation zone. However, that hasn’t been the case, as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton have proven to do well with their high-pressing style of play and their mentality to constantly break on the counter-attack.

With the club failing to bring in a number of players throughout the summer transfer window, the supporters of Southampton will be hoping that either of the 3-5-2 or 4-2-2-2 setup will get the best out of the current squad. And once the winter window arrives, the manager will surely be hoping that the board and owners are more than able to invest into the team, allowing them to potentially push for a mid-table finish, which they had experienced on a few occasions before the previous season.

Man Utd 1-2 Crystal Palace; Ole’s men suffer their first league defeat

Although the main focus of gameweek three was between Liverpool and Arsenal, Manchester United had a good opportunity to bounce back from the Wolves stalemate with the home fixture against Crystal Palace. As majority of the top-six sides have failed to be effectively convincing, it would have been ideal for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men to pick up another early win in the season.

As a whole, the match resulted in a way that not many ahead predicted before kick-off, where the hosts dominated possession and apparently had the game under control, when all of a sudden, the visitors went direct on the counter and scored through Jordan Ayew in the 32nd minute. Throughout the first half, United’s footballing style was constantly sideways and was played at a really slow place, allowing Roy Hodgson’s men to sit comfortably deep and with not much to worry about.

Things went from bad to worse for United in the second half, as a couple of big chances went down the drain and Marcus Rashford’s attempt from the penalty spot in 70th minute hit the woodwork. However, the side’s goal and equaliser finally came in 89th minute as Daniel James well-placed shot went past Vicente Guaita and into the far corner of net. In the final moments of the game, United’s overload of players allowed Crystal Palace to break brutally on the counter and to shockingly get the winner.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league fixture…

Lack of creativity and urgency

Throughout the whole game, United failed to cause a number of problems for Crystal Palace’s backline and Vicente Guaita, as they went on to complete the same amount of shots on target as the opposition. The Red Devils actually completed zero shots on goal by the half-time break, which more or less implies that the side’s lack of creativity and urgency is starting to show when they are desperately in need of it.

After the break, Solskjaer’s men did take things up a notch by raising the tempo on the ball and in terms of looking to progress more forward whilst in possession, but they were seriously in need of a playmaker that can pull the strings with ease and open up the opponent’s defence without trying. United’s main options within this position is either Jesse Lingard or Juan Mata, though, they are not the ideal individuals that can produce the final third goods on a consistent and effective basis.

Ole needs to begin experimenting more tactically

Solskjaer kept the same line-up as the one that faced Wolves last week, but majority of the Old Trafford faithful were hoping that a couple of changes were made in order for the squad to know that no one’s place in the starting line-up is guaranteed. On the other hand, the manager himself will need to experiment into new formations and tactics, in order to get the best out of his own players and work around the opposition’s system.

A potential plan B may include the back-three/five setup, which would allow Axel Tuanzebe to play more regularly and in the backline along with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, giving United the defensive stability they need and the licence for the wing-backs and Paul Pogba to constantly advance high up the pitch. As Ole does not have strength in numbers within midfield and attack, they currently have no option but to focus on dominating possession on both sides of the pitch and take their limited chances.

United won’t progress far with the current midfield options

At this moment of time, it can easily be stated that United will have huge and great difficulty in finishing in the top four this season and with any intentions they have of domestic cup success. Based on the last couple of games, the side have unfortunately failed to control and dominate the game in the middle of the pitch, a department that is not filled with many talented or experienced players. And the departures of both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini have not helped at all.

With the club failing to bring in a replacement for the mentioned duo or an upgrade on some of the deadwood within this area, a single injury to either Paul Pogba or Scott McTominay will ruin the manager’s balance and the side’s stability for a number of weeks. And if the side start to drop points on a more regular basis, the board will then surely regret not buying Bruno Fernandes or Thomas Partey, two well-known individuals who are seen as the missing piece to United’s broken midfield.

Wolves v Man Utd; Three key factors to keep an eye out for on the Red Devils

Ole Gunnnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United will be travelling down to the Molineux Stadium on Monday to take on Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves, a brutal team that managed to pick up a lot important results against the top-six sides last season and are now in the Europa League play-offs.

Although it is only the second gameweek of the Premier League, both sides will be looking to pick up the early three points in the campaign to ensure they move a step forward to reach their aims and objectives. The hosts will have one eye on the match and the other on the upcoming fixture against Torino in the Europa League play-offs, whilst the visitors will have the full focus on this difficult tie.

Now, let’s focus on the Red Devils ahead of their key crucial match on Monday night…

Lack of control within midfield

In their first league game, Manchester United had a lot of tough times in controlling the game within the middle of the pitch and were not able to dominate and overcome Chelsea’s midfield trio. For sure, the 4-0 result in the end is what counts, but on another day, had the opposition had the quality in defence and attack, the final outcome would have been different to what actually happened.

Despite the departure of both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, the board and Ed Woodward have failed to bring in the required replacements, leaving Solskjaer with very limited options within the midfield department. Andreas Pereira, Fred and Scott McTominay don’t have the intelligence and quality to start on a regular basis, and Nemanja Matic just happens to be on his last legs.

Not only that, Paul Pogba is the main man to guide the side week in and out, but his lapse in concentration and tendency to take the extra touch or second on the ball does not help the team’s cause. If the team are able to take more control and manage the game from the midfield, they will go on to improve defensively, dominate possession effectively and eventually create more chances.

Contributions from the full-backs

A lot of the talk has recently been about the arrival of summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka and current left-back, Luke Shaw, two individuals who are young, full of energy and are expected to be the side’s main full-backs for the next five years or so. With modern football being more advanced and the duties of a full-back being increased, the pair will have to work on their attacking ability.

With the backline being improved massively throughout the summer, the sole focus will be on how consistently they will be able to play out from the back and how often they will play a key role in the final third of the pitch. On that note, both Shaw and Wan-Bissaka will have take part in a lot of attacking drills in training, as their crossing and technical ability will be required during the season.

Having a quick look at the rival teams in Liverpool and Manchester City, they both respectively have the likes of Andrew Robertston, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker, crucial individuals who can run up and down the pitch for the whole game and be the difference maker when needed. United will definitely be in need of this as their style of play can become limited and really rigid, which forces them to play the ball more directly and without a lack of direction.

Marcus Rashford’s movement and positioning

Given the ruthless departure of Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez to receive the same outcome very soon, there will be a lot of weight on United’s attackers and the midfielders to come up with the much needed goals. With a lot of pressure being on the likes of Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Paul Pogba for goals and assists, Marcus Rashford has to be the man to personally step up.

Being a local lad that has come through the youth ranks and someone that is widely regarded as a fan favourite, it would be more than ideal for the youngster to lead by example and be seen as the player that can score 25 goals a season. As he is now on free-kick and penalty duties, it shouldn’t be a huge problem for him to reach the required figures and numbers as a first-choice centre-forward.

It is no secret that Rashford isn’t one of the most clinical or ruthless strikers in the league, but if he begins to do the basics right and has the hunger to be in the right place at the right time, then there shouldn’t be no doubts at all in him delivering the goods. And if he goes on to do that and helps the team to be successful in the long run, his name will definitely be up there with the other greats that played for Manchester United Football Club.