Not the greatest performance, not the worst either. Should we be happy with a point? Not really. They truly are terrible. But we’re not exactly flying either.
As far as the line up goes, it’s no secret I’d rather Xhaka didn’t start but this United team isn’t good enough to capitalize on his weaknesses so I was ok with it.
It wasn’t a bad “away” line up. The quality was mediocre and the ratings are based on the fact that the playing conditions were pretty awful. It’s annoying to hear someone as experienced as Graham Le Saux say they had no bearing on the quality of the game. Anyone who’s ever played knows that’s just not true.
In the first half we actually looked to have a defensive shape and seemed happy to work hard all over the field. We didn’t have much in an attacking sense but again, I don’t expect this current team to go up to the Toilet and play them off the pitch. We certainly didn’t but 0-0 after 44 mins was ok for me.
We just needed to get to half time then ramp it up in the 2nd half. We didn’t make half time. A break from a corner where Kola and Gwen both went for the same ball on the edge of their box resulted in their goal, a well struck but ultimately deflected shot that left Leno no prayer. Annoying for sure.
The second half left us trying to chase the game but in the conditions, creating clear cut chances was difficult. Remember, we are not City or Liverpool. We have a group of good, young and improving players who deserve credit for clawing a goal back. Saka was probably our brightest attacking threat. The commentary kept swooning over the Manure left back but I thought Saka was every bit as good playing a much more difficult role. Our midfield, including Xhaka played responsibly as a unit. I was happy to see Ceballos and I thought Torreira struggled anyway. It seemed as if he was playing as our furthest forward midfielder and if so, Ceballos is much better at that role. I commented to Liam that ‘this is it” when he came on. And a few minutes later we equalised.
Saka had a great chance to put us ahead and hit the target – rule #1. It was a good if somewhat fortunate deflection from Mr £80m that stopped it. Then later some bloke who had a lucky shot at the end of the 1st half showed his true finishing potential with an unchallenged header from 4 yards which he blazed over. That was the best chance we gave up.
We never really looked like winning it, they did but only based on our potential for slapstick defending. But the game “petered out” into a barnstorming end to end Spuds like match littered with errors and fouls more than well created chances.
A couple of takes:
In OGS’s post match interview, he said Manure were not cynical or clinical enough. Someone needs to explain the difference to him because AGAIN, they were plenty cynical. Some of their challenges were borderline ridiculous. It always happens at the Toilet and refs don’t give us any protection. I don’t mind making allowances for a slippery pitch but it made me sick when the comment after their cheating dirty bastard captain held Saka back and nothing was given was “that was clever play”. That Knob is a cheat, always has been, always will be.
Ceballos’ work rate was very evident tonight. I think he’s as hard working a creative player as I’ve seen. I don’t think we’d have been defensively any weaker if he’d have started ahead of Torreira.
Xhaka had a good game for the most part but his attitude seemed much better to me. Apart from the begging for yellows which I hate, I thought he gave as much as I’ve seen of him in recent times. If being named Captain is all it took, I wish Emery had done it sooner. However with the Koscielny and Ozil situations, that is definitely a case of hindsight. I’m not sure he won’t be exposed by better teams or in better conditions but it was a good start.
Ratings (I’d have given 5’s for our average players but I thought it was a difficult game to shine in so not making mistakes was crucial – therefore 6 is an average for this game) :
Leno: Made a couple of crucial saves and didn’t make any mistakes both with keeping and distribution. Maybe could come off his line occasionally on crosses – 7
Chambers – I thought he may get taken apart by James. He didn’t he was awesome. Crossing wasn’t stellar but his overall attacking play was very good. Defensively very solid – 8
Kolasinac – Really good, especially as he spent a lot of the game defending. He has pleasantly surprised me over the last few games. His form will allow Tierney a gentle introduction which will help prevent re-injury. – 8
Sokratis – Solid and dependable – no bonehead decisions or mistakes – 6.5
Luiz – Apart from one attempted dribble that nearly cost us in the first half, more of what you’d expect from him. Played well – 6.5
Xhaka – Somewhat inspired performance. Tracked back with purpose and pace. Can’t tackle worth a lick but with this application and effort, could be an asset. A solid performance by your central midfielder will make our defenders look better, (which seems kinda obvious UNAI !!!) – 7
Torreira – Worked hard and played well positionally. Got forward a lot but he isn’t a goal scoring midfielder. If Unai thinks he is, he’ll have a lot of average games This was one – 6
Guendouzi – Yet again our best player. Was everywhere and made things happen. He takes a lot of risks and will get caught out. But his plus % over a season will far outweigh the negatives. Going from strength to strength. – 8.5
Pepe – Complete crap. He deserves criticism when he’s this bad. Doesn’t mean he’s not a great player or a bust.He will get better. But how he lasted 75 mins is beyond me. – 3
Aubameyang – Led the line well. Still looks like he’s having fun while working hard. Will benefit from a strike partner that doesn’t play like me. Took his goal brilliantly. – 7
Saka – Was awesome. He’s doing for us what I expected Pepe to do, taking players on and beating them. Held the ball up really well too, especially considering the tool he was up against. Made one or two errors but for the most part, awesome – 8
Ceballos – I like this guy. Maybe that makes me biased but I lost count of how many times he tracked back at pace to help the defence. It means a lot to us as fans. He didn’t get a chance to shine creatively but he will if we build on this stepping stone and start defending as a team. – 7
Nelson – Wouldn’t have made this substitution, would have brought Willock on for Pepe at the same time as Ceballos came on. However, Reiss played well, worked hard to help Chambers and got forward well too. Had a chance but snatched at his shot. – 6.5
Willock – No time to make a difference but every time this kid comes on, I can’t believe he’s not starting. Probably my bias but I don’t think so.
Unai – I wish he’d give his form players a chance. Until he does so, I have reservations about him. However for this game, did a competent job. – 6
Overall, not a great performance but in the scheme of things, we may look back at a good point gained. Hopefully a turning point for Xhaka and the overall mentality of the team. Along with Xhaka, players I’ve recently citicised and doubted played well namely Luiz, Sokratis, Kolasinac. Mostly their effort and application was evident and is appreciated by us fans. Now we need to move forward instead of stepping back.