Yet again, another week and more points lost as the shaky start to the Louis Van Gaal era begins. While, it’s not surprise the team has struggled, with the number of injuries to its side, a new manager and five new signings lacking chemistry, albeit only one of the five featured on Saturday, and nobody expected the team to come out on a tear as they did during their pre-season tour, but Manchester United was gifted a easy start to the season. Dropping points in back-to-back weeks to Sunderland and Burnley hurts no matter how you slice it.
The debut of winger Angel Di Maria did not figure much in the match. The newly acquired attacker left in the 70th minute, as precaution, as this was only his second time in a competitive match since his injury during the World Cup. Three minutes later, things got worse for United as Robin Van Persie left.
These are valuable points that Manchester United is losing. Even a half-full squad, should have minimal problems against a bottom feeder club such as Burnley, who will surely be fighting to stay up all season long. After the week off for international break, United can re-focus on the task at hand. The transfer market closes Monday evening, so players will have some stability to know if they are going or staying, which will make it easier for them to produce. And after the break, United still gets to play two weak clubs in QPR and Leicester City before their schedule begins to shift towards clubs who are likely to contend for a top half spot.
Now, let’s take a look at this weeks winners and losers.
WINNER: David Moyes
The former manager has got to smiling, thinking he got a raw deal with Manchester United. Van Gaal brought new hype and hope to the fan-base, but the results are just not there. David Moyes, with mostly the same squad, started the season 1-1-1. The difference is, the loss came to Liverpool, who were contending for the league title all season long and the draw was to Chelsea. Van Gaal-led United has only produced two points while facing very poor opposition. Moyes won 18 matches in his first season in charge, which was more then Alex Ferguson or Sir Matt Busby won in their first season in charge, and one has to wonder if Van Gaal can surpass the 18 win mark this season?
LOSER: Wayne Rooney
The club needs him more then ever right now. They need him to produce. He was named the captain of the team during pre-season by Van Gaal and scored in the opening match against Swansea City. But since he was been mediocre. He didn’t force a foul once, was dispossessed a team-high three times and it took 78 minutes for Rooney to register his first shot of the match. It wasn’t even on target and that was his only shot of the game. For a team who is desperate for their leader to lead them on their shoulders, Rooney was a dud. He did nothing to help United earn the full three points.
WINNER: Phil Jones
For the second week in a row, Jones has been fantastic in defense for United. While United was struggling, Jones has been a rock on defense. Not only was he the best player in the match for the Red Devils, he was the best player on the pitch period. Jones finished the game with 3 tackles, game high 6 interceptions, and team high 9 successful clearances. He didn’t commit any errors and was David de Gea’s best ally. On top of his superior defensive effort, Jones completed 94% of his 54 passes. Also, among the best in the entire match.
LOSER: Referee Chris Foy
Has Manchester United gotten away with calls in the past? Sure. It has happened. As opposing fans like to joke around about Howard Webb refereeing any United match. But, the fact is, a foul is a foul. A referee is only human. But to miss two calls on Ashley Young in the box is a bit too much. A foul is a foul and for whatever reason, Foy did not call any for United when Young was blazing down the sidelines. The first was hard to tell, so Foy gets the benefit of the doubt, but the second was a clear foul that any referee on that stage should be able to see live. It’s a shame.
WINNER: Juan Mata
Another strong game from Mata, who now has Di Maria on his side to take away some pressure and allow Mata some space. But Mata did his best to try to generate any type of offense for the team. He was a team high 98% passing, on 40 attempts. A very impressive numbers. Mata controlled the midfield and gave the ball to playmakers who were unable to produce. Of his 40 passes, he was also a perfect 7 for 7 on long-passes.
LOSER: Danny Welbeck
He has the size and the athletic ability and a following like no other prospect. Fans just love to believe in Welbeck. Van Gaal keeps giving him chance after chance to prove to the world that Welbeck can help United win matches. Saturday was his theatre. With Van Persie leaving in the 73rd minute of a scoreless draw, the team needed a goal. Welbeck’s # was called and he did absolutely nothing. Zero shots, zero chances created, forced turnovers and was only a 83% passer. One has to wonder if Welbeck will still be on the squad when the team plays QPR in two weeks.
STAT THAT I LIKED…. Possession 64-36 United. Despite not being able to score, United controlled much of the play.
ANOTHER STAT THAT I LIKED… As a team, Manchester United was successful on 82% passing. Burnley, for example, was 67%.
STAT THAT I DIDN’T LIKE… Antonio Valencia wants to prove he is capable of starting in the 3-5-2? He’ll need to do better then go 0-13 in crosses.
MAN OF THE MATCH…. Phil Jones.
NEXT UP…. September 14th, home vs. QPR.