Reaction to United’s game at Yeovil.
A rough debut
It was Alexis Sanchez night at Huish Park so it was appropriate that BBC appeared to play a 45-minute monologue of Martin Keown telling us all about what a terrible person the Chile international is for joining Manchester United instead of Manchester City, in place of their normal commentary.
That was nothing compared to the welcome Yeovil Town had for him. From the stands, where Sanchez was booed – maybe he turned down another little, apparently financially troubled club without us hearing about it – and on the pitch, where he was kicked all over for over 70 minutes. To his credit he shrugged it off mostly. Having said that, it was probably a wise decision to bring him off, because the referee was giving him no protection whatsoever.
Gary Lineker quipped afterwards that Sanchez gave the ball away more than any other player in the first half. Similar remarks used to be made about Ryan Giggs. It’s easy to use stats like that to be critical but the truth is that he tries things, like Giggs used to, that other players don’t try. It’s worth the risk, because it’s not wasteful.
Mourinho made a pointed remark about Sanchez making the right choice in the assist for Herrera. United were wasteful in those positions on Saturday.
Darmian gets another go
Some exercises are futile. Such as, for example, persisting with Matteo Darmian. He was selected tonight, presumably, a) to give Valencia a rest and b) because it was relatively low-risk territory. And yet, as we saw against Bristol City last month, Darmian and low-risk are two incompatible elements of a football match. He was troubled by Yeovil’s left-winger and United were quite fortunate not to be a goal down.
When a team as lowly as Yeovil identify a player in the Manchester United team as a weak link, it is time to stop using that player.
The black hole
No Matic, no Pogba, and United look dangerously like they did in 2015, with a huge gaping hole in the middle of the park. Michael Carrick is not quite in Gary Neville at West Brom mode but he is winding down. It wasn’t one of McTominay’s better nights. Ander Herrera scored but wasn’t hugely impressive.
At full strength United have a midfield that compares with any in the division. But the chasm in quality between the first choice and the quality in reserve is embarrassing for a club the size of United and you have to think this will be a priority area in the summer.
Romelu Lukaku got his 18th goal of the season. We are still in January. It’s a great return. His career at Old Trafford is roughly six months old and he has already endured a micro-climate of how intense the spotlight is. 18 goals at any other club and he’d be hailed as the signing of the season. At United, he’s judged on the quality of goals, quality of opposition, chances he has missed, timing of the goals he puts away, and the number of chances he misses. Some of that is fair, some of it over the top.
Degrees of success vary but it’s fair to say that Lukaku has been a successful signing.