Manchester United’s shortcomings against sides in the bottom half of the table continued with an embarrassing 2-0 defeat to Watford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side failed to test Ben Foster’s goal in the opening stages as Jesse Lingard missed a glorious chance to give his team the lead.
Ismaïla Sarr gave the hosts the lead after a blunder from David de Gea before Troy Deeney slammed a penalty home a few minutes to double his teams lead.
Here is a look a five things we learned from the game…
This team needs Pogba
We were back to our tepid ponderous best in the first half against the propping up the bottom of the table.
Solskjaer’s side look clueless when it comes to playing against compact defences we look lost for ideas on how to break them down.
Paul Pogba was on the bench after 3 months on the side-lines, but it mustn’t haven’t been pleasant viewing for the Frenchman.
He was gesturing to fellow sub Nemanja Matic on numerous occasions clearly indicating what he felt was wrong with United’s lacklustre build-up play.
Pogba was introduced as a substitute just after the hour mark and he was at the heart of everything United created during his time on the pitch.
Yes United have picked up some big results in Pogba’s absence, but there is no denying they possess a significant addition of attacking threat when they have their number 6 pulling the strings.
Full-backs have to offer more
The Norwegian picked Luke Shaw at left-back with Brandon Williams not even on the bench as Ashley Young was the preferred option.
Both Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka need to significantly improve their decision making in attacking areas, but also their willingness and desire to surge forward and be a constant outlet.
It is no secret that a huge percentage of Liverpool’s goals come via the creativity of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson.
With United lacking quality and creativity in the midfield areas, we need our full-backs to play high up the pitch and galloping past the wingers offering an overlap option.
Wan-Bissaka is United’s best tackling defender and his rash challenge, which led to the penalty was out-of-character, but he doesn’t have the same thirst to get forward as our academy stars Williams and Ethan Laird.
Clean sheet wait continues
Despite strengthening at the back in the summer we’re on our longest run without a clean sheet for 48 years and haven’t kept one away from home in the league for 14 games.
While some of our attacking play has been fluid and exciting (at times) some of the defending has been a little suspect and we need to tighten up at the back, especially with us struggling to create chances.
Watford’s opening goal meant that they were leading at home for the first since April.
If our frailties at the back continue then Solskjaer may have to consider making further defensive acquisitions to improve our leaky defence.
De Gea form a real concern
United’s number one had barely been called into action before he made an absolute clanger to gift the hosts an unlikely lead.
De Gea looked like he was juggling a hot potato when trying to collect Sarr’s tame effort.
The ball slipped through his grasp, hit him in the face and spilled into the back of the net as De Gea fell to the ground crest fallen knowing what he had done.
But the warning signs of De Gea’s fragile confidence were evident earlier in the match. After last week’s error in the build to Everton’s goal there was a repeat at Vicarage Road, which was luckily ruled out.
Craig Cathcart barely touched De Gea, but the Spaniard spilled the cross and the ball ended up in the back of the net.
Solskjaer will no doubt stick by his man as he has done previously, but De Gea’s form is a real concern.
Have to respond
With the festive season now in full swing, United can afford to feel sorry for themselves.
Solskjaer will have to pick his troops up for the Boxing Day clash against Newcastle United, a side we have already lost against this season.
For every step forward it looks like we take, we find a way to produce a result, which puts us back to square one.
The challenge for Solskjaer is trying to instil a change of attitude in his players against the sides that are below them in the table.
We didn’t start playing until we were 2-0 down and that was a similar issue against Sheffield United.
There has to be a significant and urgent uplift in the way we start football matches.
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