United Preview: Night Fever

Hmmm…

Dare I go for the ‘jumpers for goalposts’ of Sundy-sundy-Sunderland or an eclair would have taken a better penalty than McClair? Nothing like a few moments reverie…

The hope is that reality won’t grab us by the lapels this evening and deliver a ‘Kirby Kiss’. Talking heads tell you United are resurgent under Solskjaer; we were too under Emery when we played a run of ‘easy’ fixtures. The impressive result – a win at Tottenham – was the exception; he’s had six other ‘gimme’s’. It’s up to us to make sure that we don’t roll over tonight.

Which might have been the case prior to Chelsea. Let’s be honest, the performance was at odds with anything seen since the North London Derby. It was a very welcome jolt to the system; dynamic, energetic, and every other ‘ic’ including the ‘hic’ of too many post-match beers.

The expectation is that there won’t be any changes to the starting XI beyond those enforced. Ainsley Maitland-Niles has a big job to replicate Hector Bellerin’s energy down the right whilst not leaving us overly exposed on the left. That’s a big ask of a relatively inexperienced player; will it influence Unai Emery’s thinking?

I hope not. The back four worked well against Chelsea although the obvious difference tonight is that United will play with a recognised centre-forward. Lukaku, Martial or Rashford; none are unplayable with a pair of experienced central defenders in Sokratis and Koscielny at the helm.

Sadly, if you put Mustafi into the mix and there is an unpredictable element which undermines that experience. I jest, of course. Don’t I..?

I am looking forward to this evening’s game if last weekend’s Arsenal turns up. Not if we don’t; it could be a bloodbath if we revert to our nervy selves.

Staying Alive In The Cup

Emery found an unlikely ally in Gary Neville, who believes he needs four or five transfer windows to resolve this squad’s weaknesses. The Spaniard, immediately, is clear about what he wants:

The idea is firstly to find the quality and this quality can help us. We need, if he can come here, a winger for the right or left or some players also at centre back.

That’s a fairly damning indictment of the current squad although he offered a glimmer of hope:

Dinos Mavropanos is coming back after his injuries and I think I can use him in the next matches.

The younger Greek is an interesting prospect. He made a decent start in his Arsenal career but the red card and subsequent injury mean he is something of an unknown quantity. I can see him starting against Cardiff City with Koscielny unable to physically cope with three games in eight days; certainly not when both Manchester clubs are the bookends of that trio of matches.

Emery spoke of the team’s defending being equally as important as the back four:

I think against West Ham we can work better defensively also and we conceded one goal but we still didn’t concede a lot of chances. The last two matches I think we have been better defensively. Against Manchester United against big and great players, we do the same work. We can be defensively strong and I think we need every player to defend, not only the defensive players, the attacking players can help us too. Defensively in the last match against Chelsea every player worked hard offensively and defensively with good spirit. We pressed against them and I think we can do the same on Friday and our objective on Friday is to keep another clean sheet against Manchester United.

You’ll Win Again

That element of tonight’s match. Lacazette, Aubameyang and Ramsey all tracked back well against Chelsea. We conceded a few chances in the second half but that’s only natural in football.

Even in the most one-sided of games, you expect chances for the losing team so I’m not concerned by that, simply because we were content with our lead. The reaction had they scored is what would have counted but that is the stuff of ifs, buts and maybes.

It was also interesting that Emery mentioned wide players which suggests he is not happy with the performances of Iwobi and Mkhitaryan. Does he see them as useful squad players or are they on the way out? The latter is certainly a highly-paid squad player if that is his role. There is a lot of work to be done this summer to stabilise the wage bill.

But that is for then, this is for now and tonight’s XI is likely to be something like:

Cech; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny, Kolasinac; Torreira, Xhaka, Guendouzi; Ramsey, Aubameyang, Lacazette

It isn’t, sadly, an occasion when the youngsters who shone at Blackpool get a runout. I can’t see United fielding a weakened team and for us to do so would be politely described as ‘foolhardy’. Impolitely, two words with the ‘f’ remaining intact…

Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it.

’til Tomorrow.

74 thoughts on “United Preview: Night Fever

  1. Jonnygunner says:

    Terry Henry has been given the boot

  2. Wailesy says:

    Jonnygunner,

    I remember taking my Aussie flatmate to the pub to watch the last game of the season, must of been 05/06? where we needed results to go our way to pip spurs for 4th. A chant for Henry went out through the pub and she said ” who’s Cherry Henry”.

  3. Jonnygunner says:

    Wailesy,

    Whoever would have thought that such a gifted player would be a complete failure as a manager?
    I wonder if he’ll be back in the Sky studios again soon……saying why teams should play this way,that way and the other……

  4. Damon says:

    I’m excited about tonight’s game. Would be ten fold if I were a neutral.

    I think we’re going to get a proper old fashioned cup tie tonight. This means more than just the cup tonight. It’s a marker for the run in. Neither team can defend and I expect both teams to Attack-Attack-Attack!

    Not sure why, but part of me thinks this could turn into a bit of a war. I hope so – again – not entirely sure why. Isn’t it just nice to feel like we’re going to compete? Might even give a few scallywags a working over on the pitch, rather than see 11 overpaid shrinking violets turn up and pretend to be AFC players?

    Fingers crossed

  5. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Nice preview YW.

    I almost caught the Mclair’s penalty on the North Bank.

    To love somebody like Mustafi is difficult but he will most probably get a game tonight.

    I was impressed with Ramsey’s work rate against Chelsea & reckon he’s a certain starter , so that would probably mean no place (again) for Ozil. Not a tragedy for me.

    You can bet Utd will have a good side whoever they pick & Sanchez will most certainly be up for it.

    I can see a draw & replay looming if we can’t sort out that defence.

    Whilst Iwobi has improved this season I’m still unconvinced by HM , so it’s not surprising that were looking for a wide player. I’d like to see some cover defensively too but maybe Mavropanos can come to the rescue.

  6. Pete the Thirst says:

    United at home in the Cup. Yeah we should beat them. Although not as confident post Bellerin injury.

    I saw United against Spurs. It was pretty basic stuff. Defend and launch a long ball for the forwards to chase on the counter. That used to be called long ball football. If we put pressure on their back line it will crumble.

  7. Pete the Thirst says:

    You must have been standing next to me Paulie!

    Paulie Walnuts:

    I almost caught the Mclair’s penalty on the North Bank.

  8. andy1886 says:

    Ornstein claims we’re after Christopher Nkunku from PSG. Can’t say that I know that much about him but apparently he can play as a winger, in midfield or as a right full back. Sounds like a good fit but who knows if anything will happen?

  9. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Haha , cheers for that Pete.

    Soft pen anyway !

  10. thrillbo says:

    thanks for the good write up YW, thanks for the classic AFC youtube footage. I love watching old sports clips on the youtubes. The game was just different back then…Tough, physical, like going to war… and the grainy footage is like a cherry on top for the nostalgia factor.

    Hopeful for a good match, havent seen much a United since the chosen jose was fired.

  11. C says:

    Really excited for the match today and with reports of De Gea not traveling, that certainly adds intrigue. I most certainly fancy us for a 3-2 maybe…

  12. C says:

    How bad of a manager must you be that the club has sacked you after 120 days(something like 15-20 matches) only to bring back the man you literally just replaced?!

  13. Damon says:

    C:
    I most certainly fancy us … maybe…

    ?????????????????????????????

  14. C says:

    Damon,

    The maybe was only for the score being 3-2, I absolutely fancy us. I just think there will be chances a plenty on both sides and if Aubameyang and Lacazette have their boots on, we could score 5 or 6 eapecially with De Gea out. But then again, we could win 3-2 wjth loads of misses.

  15. Damon says:

    C,

    Hoping for a great game, but the result and scoreline could be pretty much anything.

    Would you really be shocked if we got a 5-0 shoeing?

  16. C says:

    Damon,

    Your right, the score is definitely a toss up. I would actually be surprised if we got put to the sword.

    It could come down to whose GK is better and I would take Cech over Romero 10/10. Maybe, just maybe Cech rolls back the clock and puts in one of those performances when we need him to.

  17. Damon says:

    Today’s game is won in midfield, with who’s goal scorers have the best shooting boots on.

    If Torreira and Guendouzi are at it and at them, I fancy us

  18. C says:

    Damon,

    I actually think this could be a match where Xhaka might do some good at the base of the diamond spraying those long diagonals on the quick counter.

    Torriera will be up for it. I actually think this could be won on the flanks, whose FB’s will be able to get forward without sacrificing too much the other way.

  19. lari03 says:

    Great post YW.

    I feel this is the match for Mavropanos to feature instead of Koscielny.

    I expect Emery to study Man Utd and cut Pogba off by playing a 4 man midfield again, it works for solid defense. Mavropanos has the pace to deal with Rashford, Martial or Lingard.

    I fancy Õzil for a match like this because in a midfield diamond, tasking him with a role as a passing option while the 3 united midfielders are occupied, then we will have the ability to spring precise counter attacks.

  20. LSG says:

    Excellent preview. I have to agree with your logic on the team sheet. My only thought is Ramsey’s role. He pressed Jorginho high up and relentlessly, clearly on instruction. Do MU play through a deep lying playmaker like that? I don’t think so, so what is the instruction for Ramsey? (And he needs a defined task to direct his energies effectively). Perhaps he should stick to Pogba. Or we needn’t coordinate the press in the same way, in which case there might be a case for Ozil at the top of the diamond.

    I am concerned defensively on the flanks when facing a mobile front three with genuine CF’s like Rashford or Lukaku flanked by trickery and pace in Martial. Also I worry about Kola and AMN both defensively. I don’t think the midfield can have an average game but will have to be very alert and energetic to help cover the cuts inside from those wide areas.

    Let’s hope Auba gets those shooting chances and finished better this time. He’s due for a big game scoring and against MU would be a sweet return to scoring form.

  21. LSG says:

    I wonder if maybe Monreal should start over Kola? He’s more solid defensively.

  22. LSG says:

    Damon,

    At home you wouldn’t expect losing 5-0. But with our defending, you can’t say impossible!

  23. LSG says:

    Damon,

    I agree completely that our midfielders are crucial today.

  24. LSG says:

    lari03,

    I was thinking about that. If we don’t have an specific press I g target for Ramsey maybe we would be ok to start Ozil. I would even play Ramsey for Guendouzi if I trusted him to be more disciplined positionally. He’s energetic and good both ways but leaves big holes and unbalances the midfield typically.

    But if Emery has instructed him clearly with what he wants and it is a tactically sound plan, Ramsey will be beneficial in the same position he played v Chelsea, but I think he’ll have to adjust to a different job in some respects.

  25. LSG says:

    Emery playing Iwobi over Guendouzi. I think Iwobi can be an effective left sided part of diamond as an 8 who can carry the ball and create. Just make sure to instruct him on defensive energy and covering that flank. This could be a good idea—I like the line up.

  26. C says:

    LSG,

    I wonder if its a diamond or a true 433 with Aubameyang and Iwobi on the flanks.

  27. Noon Gunner says:

    Subs: Elneny, Ozil, Lichtsteiner, Monreal, Leno, Mustafi, Guendouzi.
    Interestingly, the only sub within an inch of being a striker is Ozil. Unai clearly wants defensive back-up and lots of it.

  28. C says:

    Please keep feeding Iwobi! Iwobi running at Ashley Young is a site all us Gooners should want to see all match long

  29. C says:

    Iwobi and Sead look like they can get all sorts of joy down our left flank

  30. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Ramsey finally seems to have found his best position just as we let him leave for rock all.

    Sokratis struggling now. We’re jinxed.

  31. consolsbob says:

    Well, he would score, wouldn’t he?

  32. consolsbob says:

    Guess what. Mustafi lost his man. You would never have seen that coming, would you?

  33. Noon Gunner says:

    THat’s it. United now feeling and playing their expansive game and we dont have the defensive nous to match it.

  34. C says:

    Why the FLYING FUCK did Kos try to step up at rhe very last min!!!!

  35. Paulie Walnuts says:

    Schoolboy error from Mustafi.
    This could be embarrassing.
    .

  36. lari03 says:

    Real interesting scoreline now. Well Mustafi’s presence is always a present for the opposition.

  37. Noon Gunner says:

    High risk, the overloading of the left wing, but when it works, it gets us into the 6 yard box. Nice work from Ramsey, and notice Torreira up for scoring.

  38. lari03 says:

    The ghost of Mavropanos will be much more effective than Mustafi at any rate.

  39. Noon Gunner says:

    I like the determined fight back.

  40. consolsbob says:

    Kos always has a rick in him, but Mustafi?

  41. Noon Gunner says:

    I’ll be amazed if we can keep our intensity and composure after this disruption. Kos has to come iff, surely?

  42. Paulie Walnuts says:

    We’ll be playing the groundsman’s dog at CB at this rate.

  43. Noon Gunner says:

    Paulie Walnuts,

    I’ve heard Xhaka called a few things on this site, Paulie…but that takes the biscuit (and runs)

  44. consolsbob says:

    Ozil comes on, Ramsey stops playing.

  45. andy1886 says:

    Stemmed from a careless pass between Lacazette and Ozil, sometimes you just have to be solid and we can’t seem to do that.

  46. consolsbob says:

    VAR is bollocks.

    Not impartial, not consistent, still down to bias or interpretation.

  47. Paulie Walnuts says:

    I’ve seen this game many times before.

    It’s as if Arsene never left.

  48. C says:

    Lukuka seems to always play well against and drift onto Kos.

  49. Noon Gunner says:

    C,

    It sucks for all kinds of reasons, C ,and at the same time we didn’t roll over and there were some gritty performances – we just handed them the advantage early and then they could sit back and pick us off with their array of very capable forwards. We are where we are, and our results show it.

  50. Noon Gunner says:

    Emery comes into AFC, livens things up but finds his player cupboard pretty bare to begin with and then decimated by injury. Solsjkaer comes in, livens things up and finds, let’s face it, a better stocked cupboard.

  51. theskywalker says:

    Emery is grappling with the players passed on to him by Arsene. Ozil is a prime example. Glazers, the Americans, want their Man U club brand to be preserved and want the Club to win silverware and do not hesitate to spend the money. Kroenke, the fellow American , on the other hand treats his Club as an asset, happy to be just in the PL. The squad is decimated and weak overall, no money to buy players to replace the injured. Can’t see how the Spanish duo-Raul and Emery doing much with this situation.
    I cannot see us winning any silverware and in the top4 at the end of the season.

  52. Paulie Walnuts says:

    consolsbob,

    True Bob, the injuries didn’t help but it seems the game management probem is so deeply ingrained it will need years to rectify. We got suckered big time.

  53. theskywalker says:

    We should have expected this loss given our situation all around-injuries, poor defence, poor game management etc.. Winning FA silverware may be good, but should we forget the greater silverware the EL win, hence preserve the squad from injuries as well as also the chance to displace Chelski from top4, leaving Manure behind? Should the front line players be deployed in this 4th round FA fixture at all.given there is Cardiff game waiting next week? Was it not sensible to deploy a good number of younger players , at this 4th round of FA fixture. We lost Kos who scored in Chelsea match. I think, we gave the bragging rights to Ole, who was sacked from the Welsh Club, and who desperately wants to be the permanent manager of Manure.

  54. Bill says:

    Great preview Yogi

    Just watched the game and it was certainly a disappointing result especially after the way we played against Chelsea. We can have occasional good games at home but other then pea, Lacazette and perhaps Torriera I don’t think we don’t have the talent in the squad to compete for the top 4.

  55. Dalm says:

    Season over.

    Kola body shape all about receiving and passing back…..

    Once again insipid. Unlucky with injuries.

    Pogba’s scissor tackle from behind not even a yellow.

    Roll on the 6 nations

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