Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Manchester United 0-0 Valencia post-match thoughts

Post-match thoughts rather than a full match write-up, because the truth is that last night's game was a dull snoozefest, devoid of clear chances for each side, so I'd prefer to talk more generally. What we saw on the whole were 2 teams out-of-form, lacking in confidence and performing way below the level that they should, who fought each other to a stalemate. The first 70 minutes were an even enough game, with few clear cut chances. Manchester United were a bit better in the last 20 minutes as they became increasingly desparate to score, but a draw was a fair result.

That's 6 games out of 8 that we've drawn and I don't think that's an accident. After a shaky start to the season, the defence and Neto have really sharpened up. Only 1 goal conceded from open play in the last 6 games is testament to that. Murillo has his fans but for me, he'd be fourth choice. Garay-Gabriel are the best pairing we have at the moment, with Diakhaby a good option when there's a vacancy: usually due to Garay's injuries. The Gabriel-Diakhany partnership has kept three clean sheets in a row. Gabriel, in particular, deserves praise. He's been at a good level recently and controlled Lukaku like a boss last night. Right back, obviously remains the exception.

Central midfield has been more rather than less. Parejo has been average but Kondogbia and Coquelin have been in decent form. Last night, the latter was the only selection surprise, starting on the right, in an obvious attempt to shore up the right side defensive problem. On the whole it didn't work for me. Coquelin looked uncomfortable there and, weirdly, Soler has offered better cover when on, so that didn't work.

All the above qualities are useless if we can't score and for us the problem in this game was the one that has been blatantly obvious all season: useless in the final third with all our attack-minded players below the level we expect and have seen before, with Soler the one closest to the previous level. Rodrigo, Guedes and Cheryshev have been a shadow of the players from last season/the world cup. Guedes was mostly poor last night. Got into good space many times but poor shooting and decision making meant nothing came of it.

Batshauyi has been possibly the biggest disappointment. A less decisive version of Zaza. He's good at holding up the ball but holds it too long and either ends up crowded out and loses possession or, by the time he passes, the other team has had enough time to get men back. Not good enough for a team built on fast counter-attacks. I'd hoped that last night his English experience would lead to improved performance, but no, it was the same old. He just seems to lack any connection and understanding with teammates. I know I defended Zaza leaving but he had good understanding with Rodrigo, Guedes and Soler and did something with the ball. I wish we still had Zaza in the team.

Gameiro, with the exception of the Sociedad game, just reminds me of Mina from 2 seasons ago: runs a lot but mostly for nothing as he usually doesn't get into useful positions or have the understanding with teammates necessary to make something of it.

A couple of general points from this game and others. We seem to be shooting from outside the box quite a bit and most of the time it's well over. Guedes last night and Rodrigo, Batshauyi, Soler, Parejo and Wass, among others, have all disappointed in this sense. The wild shots from distance are a sign of a lack of confidence: patience and waiting for the chance to find a forward would work better. But it we are going to do it, at least hit the target. We might get a lucky bounce or a rebound which allows us to score.

Secondly, professionals of this level shouldn't be letting themselves be suckered into so many silly yellow card fouls. Rodrigo and Kondogbia were unjustly booked last night, but Parejo did his usual stunt of panicking when his man got away from him and picking up a blatant yellow. We can complain about refereeing mistakes (Pogba's play acting last night was disgraceful) but if we give refs the chance to card us, we can't complain.

Overall, pre-season, or when the draw was made, we'd all have taken a draw at Old Trafford, but I feel a bit disappointed. Short term. like the Villarreal game, it's a decent result, but in the overall context, it's a let down. I saw no improvement in attack from us. Man United are in poor form and I definitely feel that the Valencia of a year ago would have won by a goal or two. Conversely, had Man U been in form, I think they'd have beaten us by two goals at least.

A result better for us than them, but one which makes it very hard to reach next round. In the last game, most likely Juventus, even with a weakened team, will beat us and Man U will win at home to Young Boys. That means we need to take 6 points from the Swiss, hope Man U don't win either of the Juve games and then we beat Man U at home. Doable, but I just don't have the confidence in the team, the attack in particular, as they are currently playing to believe in this and so I think we should brace ourselves for Europa league.

PLAYER RATINGS FROM LAST NIGHT

Neto 8 - positioning always good and handled everything MUFC threw at him. Solid performance.
Gaya 7 - has been in good form and showed no weakness last night
Gabriel 8.5 - excellent game. One of his best in a Valencia shirt. Always reliable, cut out everything and gave no quarter.
Garay 7.5 - solid as a rock and dominated them in the air.
Piccini 5 - I'd give him 6/6.5 for attacking contributions and 4 for defence. Wasn't a disaster but had a couple of bad moments, including nearly conceding a penalty. Replacing Montoya with him has been pointless so far.
Guedes 5 - a let down. Poor first half when he got every decision wrong. Better in second period but still not showing enough.
Parejo 6 - passed well and cleaned up okay but loses marks for his usual silly yellow
Kondogbia 8 - best midfielder on the pitch, made Pogba and the rest of their midfield look ordinary
Coquelin 5.5 - worst game since his return, looked a bit lost at times out of position
Rodrigo 5.5 - disappointing display and still looks far off his best. Put in one decent cross which Guedes missed, but that was about it
Batshuayi 4.5 - big let down again and still not showing the ability we know he has

SUBS
Gameiro 5 - not much of an improvement on Bats and had limited opportunities
Soler 6.5 - probably would have been better to start him. Offered more in both attack and defence.
Cheryshev N/A - had a couple of good moments, but far off his world cup level