Manchester United managed their crucial win at home to CSKA Moscow tonight. No matter how it was done, you might say, the most important thing was winning.
After all, getting out of the group is all that matters. If they play better in the future, they can still win the competition.
So in some sense it’s been a good night for Manchester United. But in other ways it’s been a terrible night for the Red Devils. The fans have seen the problems facing their team rear their ugly heads once again, and amidst anger from the terraces as well as those at home with social media access, United did manage to win the game. But we’ve learnt so much about this team.
If Chelsea are facing a player revolt, Louis Van Gaal and Manchester United are facing a fan revolt. The natives aren’t happy, the players don’t look like they can penetrate, and United are on course for another qualification to the knockout stages of the Champions League. Limply.
Manchester City, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace and now CSKA Moscow have found it out. Sitting deep against United simply forces them to pass the ball around aimlessly, drawing a perfect arc around the 18-yard box but without ever threatening to dominate. The obsession with possession means forgetting about goals.
If you want to beat United, sit deep and they can’t score. Then hit them on the break. Just before Rooney’s goal, Seydou Doumbia was clean through but only a wonderful save from David De Gea and a last-ditch clearance from Chris Smalling saved United. That would’ve been 1-0, all out fan revolt, and a very real possibility of a Manchester United exit in the group stages.
Every team – other than Everton three weeks ago – have basically realised if you sit deep United will really, really struggle to hurt you…
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) November 3, 2015
Is it that they can’t attack or that they won’t attack? That’s what the fans would like to know. Because a team with Mata, Herrera, Memphis, Martial and Rooney in there really should be scoring goals. If not scoring them by the bucketloads, at least by the espresso cups. United just can’t seem to do it.
If it’s actually the fault of the players who can’t find the net, then to some degree it’s understandable. But United have created so few chances this season that it really must have something to do with their build-up. All that passing needs to penetrate, if it doesn’t, you’re left looking very stupid. And boring.
Crowd running out of patience and chants getting increasingly irritated. "We're Man United, we want to attack."
— Daniel Taylor (@DTguardian) November 3, 2015
How does he do it? He can barely score a goal in a year, but so far this season he’s managed to break Sir Bobby Charlton’s England scoring record and he’s on course to break his Manchester United scoring records too.
He’s now only 13 goals short of being Manchester United’s all-time leading scorer and he’s closing in on Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record of most European goals for United. Even off-form, and with a team who can barely create any chances for him, he’s still finding ways to score.
Lets have this clear for the record…Wayne Rooney is no Denis Law! #mufc
— Rob Tickle (@genuinertickle) November 3, 2015