Manchester United Review: The Promise of Youth?

Manchester United 2 – 1 Arsenal

The ending was so late-era Arsène as to be totally expected, although having seen Fellaini’s effort rightly disallowed moments earlier, I thought we’d got away with it. The Belgian struck though and we left Old Trafford without the point we deserved.

It was a match we weren’t supposed to get anything from – other than a royal spanking – yet were comfortable for most of the game. We created a few good opportunities as well. Indeed, the passing was smoother and more incisive than it has been in most away games this season. OK, so that’s a low bar…

There were other positives about the performance. The irregulars, young and older, played well. Mavropanos was unfazed by his surroundings and while the marking for United’s opener was poor, I thought he and Chambers both settled well after that. For a pair who hadn’t played a competitive match together, they could teach the Chuckle Brothers a thing or two.

Maitland-Niles was another part of the reason we matched them for long periods of the game. Tenacious in midfield and acting as a fulcrum between defence and attack, he rightly earned the Man of the Match accolade. A good confidence boost for him, if he needed it.

While we were better equipped to deal with United, I found their attitude to the game peculiar. Certainly, it wasn’t one Alex Ferguson would have tolerated; it wasn’t a clinical performance, with no sense of them going for the jugular despite taking an early lead. In years gone by, that was the prelude to a four or more goal thrashing. United seemed complacent, a genuine case of turning up would be enough.

They won in the end, but I wouldn’t feel optimistic that Mourinho is going to make them title challengers again if I were one of their fans. That’s not based on yesterday alone, either.

The Crew were Mostly Kids

Of course, we turn our attention to Thursday night. The return of Henrikh Mkhitaryan came with a few scares, but he recovered from what seemed to a game-ending knock to produce a fine finish and suggested he will bring a better balance to the attack in Madrid.

There was one moment in particular where Pogba was determined to foul him, before the Armenian turned inside the Frenchman and Valencia, leaving Pogba to reduce his own team-mate to a crumpled heap on the floor. Small delights in matches such as these make them bearable.

The stats were carelessly thrown out yesterday. United haven’t lost a home game in the Premier League era when they led at half-time, which seems both incredible and believable at the same time. Fergie Time, Mike Dean, Mike Riley; all contributing factors, I’m sure.

Arsenal, as well, possess the club’s worst away record since 1965/66 when Billy Wright was manager. And we are guaranteed to be worse than that season’s four wins and five draws. At best, we can equal on or the other at Huddersfield on the last day of the season. For once, I wouldn’t be unhappy if we didn’t win; provided of course, Stoke are relegated as a result.

Which means nothing to us, of course…

Our attention turns to Madrid, and a Mission: Impossible. You wouldn’t put it past us dredging up a performance to find a draw which puts us into a penalty shootout, but you wouldn’t bet on it either.

Sometimes He goes Too Far. He’s the First One to Admit it.

One of the dilemmas to be resolved is the goalkeeper. The prospect of penalties doesn’t fill me with joy; Cech might have saved one against Watford, but that’s no guarantee he’ll save another before he retires. And Ospina? Well, if he’d been a few inches taller, he might have said Fellaini’s header yesterday.

Finding a solution is this summer’s biggest test for Sven and co., as well as the new manager. More for the former, I’d suggest.

Finally, at least The Guardian managed to put a smile on my face:

And save of the week

Argentina: Viajantes de Pergamino coach Luciano Susin, “grateful” to referee Dario Cid for saving his life with chest compressions. Susin, who had a cardiac arrest while abusing Cid about a disallowed goal, says Cid’s help was “welcome” but “it is clear that the ball crossed the line”. Cid told local media: “First I resurrected him, then I expelled him. I was doing my job.”

So, you disallowed a goal, bringing on a heart attack, save the coach’s life and then send him off. All in a day’s work.

’til Tomorrow.

28 thoughts on “Manchester United Review: The Promise of Youth?

  1. We did not get undressed

    Big game needs big game players so would be good to see Mkhi play

    AM-N to start too instead of Jack??

  2. Thoughtful post as ever – that away statistic mentioned just before the great ‘cardiac arrest’ quote is really damning. Imagine what gooners would be saying now if Wenger hadn’t fallen on his sword already? We’re just ticking off the days now.

    I didn’t watch the game as I don’t watch Wenger games anymore, but I’m sure that the boys will put in a big shift on Thursday. Not sure it will help in the end though. Kos’s error last Thursday is almost certainly going to be fatal.

  3. Morning all,

    Just looking ahead to Thursday. After last week’s 1-1 draw I was despondent, putting our chances at less than 5%.

    Then I remembered a similar result in the Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final in 1990. We drew with Juventus 1-1 then, I was on the North bank, on one of those nights when the crowd was so packed your feet weren’t always on the ground.

    We went to Turin expecting nothing. Fortunately Juventus, with a formidable defence, played for 0-0 and little happened in the match until put over a cross in the 87th minute and Paul Vaessen (remember???) scored.

    We went to the final – in the Heysel – against Valencia, Mario Kempes and all. Nil-nil but lost on penalties with Brady and Rix missing. I spent a disconsolate nigth sleeping in Brussels main station….

    Let’s hope the first half of that story is repeated… I’ll up my estimate to 6%!

  4. AMN really looking the part the past few times I’ve seen him play. He looks suited to midfield. Reminds me of Paul Davis.

  5. Good call, Pete. I will most likely appropriate that comparison at some point and forget to credit you, so I do so now.

  6. Good stuff

    Not making excuses or any of that tosh, but I will certainly enjoy the positives such as Maitland-Niles continuing playing well when called upon and not just this match but more or less the whole campaign. Mavropanos really did have a calm forcefulness about his performance.

    Mkhitaryan getting a goal and putting in a performance was good to see and he certainly goes straight back in the XI for Athletico at the expense of Jack probably. It was also good to see Bellerin put in that type of defensive performance as well, sure his final ball was hit or miss but defensively he was switched on the whole match and his save of Sanchez header deserved better but it happens.

  7. Andy, James

    To be fair we weren’t anywhere as good a side as Juve or Valencia but the penalty misses were heartbreaking. I think it might have been Liam Brady’s last kick as an Arsenal player.

    Oh – typo – it was of course 1980! Not sure Athletico will make the same mistake of playing for 0-0, so chances of history repeating itself are slim….

  8. Great review Yogi

    I have never been a big fan trying to find positives from a loss. Unfortunately finding the bright side after a loss has become a cottage industry in the Wenger era and it feels like we have been here done and this about 1000 times in the past 10 years. That said Mkhitaryan looked good and will certainly compete for a spot on the team Thursday in Spain which probably means sacrificing Welbeck. I thought Maitland Niles did quite well and next season he deserves a chance to compete with Elneny for a spot on the bench in league games and in defensive midfield on next years cup teams. I am not sure how high AMN’s ceiling will be and time will tell. Mavropanos should be sent over on loan preferably to a PL team. So far Reiss Nelson looks like looks like the next Ryo Miyachi and needs to learn how to figure out how to produce some sort of end product and hopefully he can go on loan to a championship side.

  9. I agree that we want fresh legs for the games thursday but I thought we went over board. It would have been nice to win yesterday and I thought we should have had Lacazette, Ozil, Ramsey and Wilshere and perhaps Mustafi on the bench. We could have used 1 or 2 of them in the last 20 minutes which might have made a difference and who knows but we might have won. I know I single out Ozil a lot but he makes $350K/week and I don’t think he has even been on the bench in any of the last 3 league games. Its not like all of the rest helped him to be more effective against Atletico last Thursday. Hopefully this sort of thought process will go away with the new manager. The first test of the new mans resolve will be seeing how many of our players are actually ready for game 1 next season instead of the extra long summer vacations after a summer tournament that they have been getting from Arsene.

  10. Bill,

    You had me questioning myself as to why I felt there were positives to be had out of a loss.

    Having thought a bit about it I came to the conclusion that in the past there have been attempts to find “positives” in order to gloss over Wenger’s failings.

    For me this was about the future, not the past, and so I’m feeling positive about some promise that a new man will be able to work with, and to me that’s the difference.

  11. Afternoon all,

    A plucky, but ultimately doomed performance from the Arsenal youngsters. A story oft repeated in the Wenger area.

    As per usual we defended deeper and deeper when under the cosh late in a game, rather than try to catch them out. This time failure came down to an inability to go to the man on the ball, giving them the freedom to ping it around until they could deliver the killing cross, and Ospina’s slightly strange decision to take a couple of steps to the right as the cross was fired over.

    Some good performances and some players who need some work in training. The defensive pairing did okay and AMN is good enough to get more run outs in the middle of the park. Nelson is still rough around the edges, which is no surprise. Iwobi offers very little other than enthusiasm and that is not enough to hold down a first eleven spot in a top 6 side. Xhaka had a very mixed game. Some of what he did looked useful, but the slide in front of Pogba which allowed the United player to just skip past him was embarrassing and should be beneath a first XI pick. There again, the Chuckle Brothers shouldn’t be anywhere near the pitch at all given their efforts for ATM’s goal on Thursday.

  12. HALF TIME LEMONS,

    heartbreaking for sure, but what fun those days were….before the corporate financiers ruled the world and we all had fun on the specials and my boss was understanding with all the replays etc……

  13. James,
    Indeed – in fact the 1979 final that qualified us for the CWC in the first place was an extreme example
    From confidence … to anxiety…. to despair … to elation ! All in 7 (?) minutes at Wembley.

    They don’t make em like that any more….

  14. Great debut for Mavropanos. Hope he has a great future. Senderos and Djourou also promised much so we must hope for the best. And Maitland-Niles impressed yet again. Maybe the academy is finally coming good – just as Wenger leaves!

  15. MikeSA

    You are correct that looking for positives in losses has always been about justifying Arsene or sometimes to defend players we like. I now tend to look at the glass as half empty when it comes to Arsenal and games like yesterday because I have been conditioned to do that over the years. I was as excited as anyone about the potential of project youth and early Wengerball but it has become evident over the years that the empty half of the glass has almost always been the side which provides the correct answers and it never made sense to ignore reality. May be all of that will change with a new manager but there is a reason we will finish with the worst road record of any Arsenal team since 1965. The manager has not changed his tactics or his methods of instruction so there has to be something else that has caused us to fall far. Changing the manager is obviously the critical first step and you and I have been banging on about that for this entire decade. May be I am wrong but I think its going to take some time and some significant squad rebuilding for a any manager to clear out the mindset that has developed and to get some players who can put together a full season of reasonably consistent performances and results.

  16. Mike.

    Over the last 10 years the number of games like yesterday where we performed better then expected and a couple of players like Mavropanos or Maitland-Niles did better then expected has reached well above triple digits. Every case is different and that does not mean they won’t make it but it’s clear from years of watching Arsenal and the rest of European football that the odds are stacked heavily against them being as good as we hope. We need to strengthen our defensive midfield and CB’s if we want to compete and even if they are pretty good it’s going to be hard for them to break thru. That may not be fair to them but it is what it is. I hope that makes sense.

  17. Missed the game & was surprisingly able to block it out of my mind. Well, for the first 20 minutes at least.

    Strangely , despite my current disconection with Arsenal I still love the game & actually look forward to watching teams who play good football.

    I can`t work out if it`s an age thing or I need to drink more. (Or less)

    Strange times.

  18. Bill,

    FFS mate, you know we don’t get experienced or see the talent of young playera unless they actually play and since the PL is gone, why not play some of them and enjoy their performances. Maitland-Niles has performed all campaign long no matter the competition or position. Nelson is 18 years old and thr futute looms bright for him not just by Gooners but by those in Europe as its no secret that Madrid, Barca and Citeh have been sniffing around him with his contract yet to be sorted. Mav, well he is a player that honestly was composed, assertive, calm on the ball and took no shit from Lukuka who has routinely since his PL debut made Kos look like a rag doll but we all know he is young but EVERYBODY waa young at some point.

    Enjoy the positives in performances because honestly yesterday the kids went against Manure’s first choice and didn’t lool out of place and if Ospina was taller and better he would have stopped that header and even you would have been impressed with the performance given only myself and a handleful of others would have thought we would get anything from the match anyways.

  19. .C,

    You are right, there were positives to take from the game and in the main they came from the younger players, including the Greek lad!
    Hopefully they can develop with proper coaching.
    Why bring Czech to Manchester
    The Ospina and Xhaka shit show is par for the course.
    Ospina is too small, and feigning injury when beaten, and Xhaka is just shit.
    Can’t wait for some new ideas and some bottle, on display in an Arsenal side again

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