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Worrying signs for Manchester United in Champions League

Michael Djordjieski Roar Rookie

By Michael Djordjieski, Michael Djordjieski is a Roar Rookie

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    Manchester United came away from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium with a scoreless draw against Sevilla, which gives Jose Mourinho’s team a slight advantage heading into the second leg.

    However, their performance did not really warrant that stalemate and they have goalkeeper David de Gea’s heroics to thank yet again.

    Sevilla were fuelled on by a loud and vibrant home crowd, so to leave proceedings without finding the back of the net through a total of 25 attempts on goal, with eight of those being on target, is a missed opportunity.

    Vincenzo Montella was left frustrated that his team could not take anything into the return leg, mentioning Sevilla created enough to score a goal or two.

    In saying that, United’s man between the sticks stole the spotlight, producing eight saves, but it was one in particular right at the end of the first half that has the football world talking.

    The hosts’ striker, Luis Muriel, peeled off the back of United defender Chris Smalling and found himself free just inside the six-yard box.

    But De Gea stook firm, reaching out with a strong right hand to tip the Colombian’s header over the crossbar.

    The extraordinary save had the 26-year-old in disbelief and his head up against the Spanish international’s goal post.

    It certainly is not the first time the former Atletico Madrid goalkeeper has produced an exquisite save or saved Man United from the jaws of defeat. His performance is the reason the Red Devils hold the upper hand against Los Rojiblancos as he showcased just why he is considered the best goalkeeper in the world.

    Over the course of the game, the English giants failed to cause the Sevilla defence problems, hence why the team had just six shots all game and only one on target.

    While Mourinho’s team did come away without conceding, and are still favourites to gain qualification into the quarter-finals, there are some worrying signs.

    A big talking point prior to kick-off was the exclusion of Paul Pogba from the starting XI.

    Scott McTominay started only his second Champions League match in the United midfield, but it showed the faith Mourinho has put into the 21-year-old, the Portuguese manager praising the English midfielder’s performance as “fantastic”.

    Pogba made an earlier-than-expected appearance off the bench, coming on in the 17th minute for the injured Ander Herrera, but the Frenchman did not have a huge impact.

    Smalling looked shaky throughout the encounter, as displayed when his positioning for Muriel’s header was shocking – not what should be expected from an England international.

    The fit-again Eric Bailly should be integrated back into the team before the second leg to take the former Fulham man’s place, as United have missed his no-nonsense defending and aggressiveness in the backline.

    United’s struggles in attack were highlighted when Alexis Sanchez was hauled off after 75 minutes. This raises the question as to whether the Chilean and other United players lack a sense of freedom under Mourinho.

    Numerous times in the match Sanchez and Juan Mata were seen dropping deep to track the runs of the fullbacks, leaving Romelu Lukaku isolated up front.

    A player of Sanchez’s quality thrives off having the freedom to float around in attack and be the sparkling player everyone knows that he is.

    Mourinho likes to install defensive responsibilities into his attacking players and over the course of his managerial career, it has seen players shine or struggle to adapt.

    The fact is, when you see Sanchez dropping behind the halfway line to pick up the ball or tracking back so deep, you realise this does not get the best out of him. The sooner Mourinho allows his system a little more freedom, he will see an improvement on the one goal his new signing has managed in six starts so far.

    Not only would this bring out the best in Sanchez, but also players like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who love to attack in the final third, but are still getting to grips with having defensive duties as well.

    Looking ahead to the second leg, in three weeks’ time, United need to be more assertive and should look to call upon the likes of Bailly, Luke Shaw, Pogba and Martial.

    Their showing in Spain hinted that the team is not ready to compete for the Champions League trophy, especially given that Manchester City and Bayern Munich have all but ended their ties already, with demolishing 4-0 and 5-0 first leg victories respectively.

    If United consider themselves one of the best in world football – and I’m sure Mourinho feels confidently about that – the team need a more attacking system that will undoubtedly have the backing of 75,000 thousand spectators at Old Trafford.

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    The Crowd Says (6)

    • February 24th 2018 @ 9:10am
      Kangajets said | February 24th 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      Yep mourinho is boring, who would have guessed that . No one who supports united thought a champions league final was in the radar this year though
      One would guess his plan is always not to concede away from and win the home leg 1-0 . He’s been successful at it many times before.

      But Time will tell , I think he’s got until end of next season to win an epl or c l .

      City and Bayern beat far inferior opponents then Sevilla, hard to compare those games .

      I like your writing abt the epl , can we have more Asenal in crisis articles though . I like them more ??

      • Roar Rookie

        February 26th 2018 @ 10:13am
        Michael Djordjieski said | February 26th 2018 @ 10:13am | ! Report

        Yes you’re right in saying Bayern and City may have opponents that are not of the same quality as Sevilla, but I think Besiktas were having a good campaign up until their loss to Bayern in the first leg.

        Thank you for the kind words, haha those Arsenal articles will come around soon again!

    • February 24th 2018 @ 2:52pm
      shirtpants said | February 24th 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

      I wonder if Mourinho’s complete lack of confidence in his back 4 plays a part in the defensive tactics. Bailly’s injuries certainly haven’t helped.

      On paper, they have the attacking talent to match just about anyone in Europe, though Martial and Rashford are still quite raw. Lukaku has just about confirmed pre season doubts that he would struggle against teams who sit back with 10 behind the ball.

      But his tactics in Europa and the Champions League are classic Mourinho knockout football.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 26th 2018 @ 10:23am
        Michael Djordjieski said | February 26th 2018 @ 10:23am | ! Report

        I agree that we have great attacking talent and it can match the big sides in Europe, It’s just finding that right balance in attack to put teams away.

        Although United did not play great, they did come away with a draw and there is no doubt Mourinho will be confident heading into the home leg given he has been in this situation many times in his career.

        The back four is a little worrying as well, I’m hoping Bailly returns to the team in time to start the second leg, hopefully Luke Shaw gets back into the team as well.

    • Roar Guru

      February 24th 2018 @ 5:16pm
      Cousin Claudio said | February 24th 2018 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

      Everyone is after Man United and Sydnet FC this year like bleating sheep.
      So what exatly are the “worrying signs”

      Did you see anything positive about getting a point away to Sevilla in the first leg of a champions league match.

      The biggest worry is that they can only fit 75,000 fans into old trafford. Sold out before the first leg even kicked off.

      • Roar Rookie

        February 26th 2018 @ 10:19am
        Michael Djordjieski said | February 26th 2018 @ 10:19am | ! Report

        Of course gaining a draw away from home in the first leg is not a bad result, but United’s performance I felt did not warrant that.

        United did not do well enough in the final third or create many goal scoring opportunities, if it had no been for De Gea, United would be heading into the second leg behind.

        There is no doubt United have to be more aggressive in the second leg, I want to see Alexis be given more freedom in the final third, getting closer and trying to link up with Lukaku because too many times this season I have noticed that he is often left on his own and isolated up top.

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