What the papers say
- Manager wants trophy and Champions League qualification
- Solskjær says United have ‘got to move on’ from De Gea errors
Frank Lampard urged Chelsea to build on their potential by qualifying for the Champions League and winning a trophy after they took advantage of a poor goalkeeping display from David de Gea to join Arsenal in the FA Cup final thanks to an impressive 3-1 victory over Manchester United.
Chelsea head into the final week of the Premier League campaign on a high after Lampard ended a run of three defeats this season to Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side, who were left with concerns over De Gea’s declining form after the Spaniard allowed shots from Olivier Giroud and Mason Mount to squirm past him.Continue reading...
The Spanish goalkeeper handed Chelsea at least one goal at Wembley and his manager may soon have a decision to make
Amid the chaos of Spain’s World Cup in 2018, perhaps the greatest casualty was David de Gea. The days when his heroics repeatedly papered over the cracks at Manchester United feel a long time ago. It can be debated whether De Gea was at fault for the first and third goals, but he was clearly to blame for the second and, in those two moments, United’s long unbeaten run disappeared, and Chelsea’s passage to the FA Cup final was secured.
Frank Lampard had left out Kepa Arrizabalaga for his Cup keeper Willy Caballero, although given no goalkeeper has conceded a higher proportion of the shots on target he’s faced since Opta began collecting the data, he may have done so with a sense of relief. Ole Gunnar Solskjær will perhaps wish he had done something similar. Although he made a number of changes to a putative first-choice lineup, both a reflection of the fact his side had played Crystal Palace on Thursday and an indication that Champions League qualification remains the priority, he preferred De Gea to Sergio Romero, who had played in the four previous rounds.Continue reading...
Of all the selection decisions Ole Gunnar Solskjær made for this FA Cup semi-final, the one to persist with David de Gea rather than call upon Sergio Romero looked the safest; the least eyebrow-raising.
The Manchester United manager named Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood among his substitutes but, in goal, he went for continuity and the promise of stability, which spelt disappointment for Romero, who had played in almost all of the club’s cup ties this season. The notable exception had been both legs of the Carabao Cup semi-final lost to Manchester City.Continue reading...
- Updates from the 6pm BST kick-off at Wembley
- Lampard wary United will punish Chelsea’s flaws
- Any comments? You can email Rob
46 min Chelsea begin the second half. No news on Eric Bailly, who presumably has been taken to hospital.
“Much has been said (by far cleverer people than me) about De Gea, but he’s a real conundrum,” says Matt Dony. “It wasn’t a case of him having a bit of a purple patch a few years ago. He was genuinely, inarguably one of the very best goalkeepers in the world. He seemed to pull off amazing saves regularly. During a period where United had the worst bunch of defenders they’d had for years, he made them respectable. It wasn’t even that long ago, was it? These days, he’s a liability. Ok, maybe that’s an exaggeration, he still makes some good saves, but the ball goes through him far, far too often. On balance, he’s now an adequate keeper. No more, no less. I don’t understand the change. I can’t think of many other sportspeople who have gone from being consistently so incredible for a few years to consistently so average for a few years. Does Ole stick or twist before next season? Surely he has to twist...”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a keeper with better reactions than de Gea, so I’d be loath to sell him unless I was nigh-on certain he was past his best. He’s 29, which is young for a keeper, but he also started as a teenager. My hunch is he’ll never get back to his 2012-18 level. But how can you be sure?
“A quick look at Project Restart shows Man Utd having a game on average every 3.3 days,” says Ben O’Connell. “That’s not counting the possible final of the FA Cup or any Europa League games. That’s an incredible amount of game time in a short period of time after a gap longer than most off seasons with no preseason. Add to that a shallow squad and you’re likely to get decreasing standard of play.”
“De Gea is not elite with the ball at his feet and never sweeps up,” says Digvijay Yadav. “His redeeming quality - pulling off ridiculous saves - has waned considerably. And now he’s on a massive wage. Oh well.”
It’s hard to fathom, isn’t it? For four or five years he was astoundingly good. Maybe he never got over that slightly miserable 2018 World Cup.
I can’t decide whether de Gea was at fault for the goal or not. Giroud was only six yards out so his reaction time was almost nonexistent, but having got a hand to the ball he probably should have saved it. I think he pushed it onto his leg and back over the line, in which case he was a little unlucky.
Peep peep! That was a strange, subdued first half, but Chelsea were the better side and probably deserve to be ahead.
Azpilicueta played a give and go with Willian down the right and curled a fast cross to the near post. Giroud got away from the sleepy Lindelof and flicked a neat shot with the outside of the left foot that went through de Gea and into the net.
Olivier Giroud scores in the 56th minute!
45+11 min Bruno Fernandes suddenly reverses a brilliant pass through the Chelsea defence, but the alert Caballero gets to the ball just before James.
45+9 min We’re in the 54th minute of the first half. What day is this?
45+8 min United appeal for a penalty when Martial goes down after a clumsy challenge from Zouma. VAR decides Mike Dean didn’t make a clear and obvious error. It was definitely a foul - Martial got to the bouncing ball first and Zouma booted his leg - but I reckon it was just outside the area, so maybe that’s why VAR didn’t intervene.
45+8 min Five minutes of added time were scheduled but I’d imagine it will 11 or 12.
45+7 min “Afternoon Rob,” says Tim. “City unarguably have strength in depth up front and in midfield, but it’s fair to say they didn’t cope marvellously well with Laporte’s injury this season.”
Yeah but wait until this summer, when they buy Koulibaly, Upamecano, Skriniar, Maldini, Beckenbauer and Baresi.
45+6 min Bailly is being wheeled down the tunnel and play will resume.
45+5 min Bailly is being moved very slowly onto a stretcher. The BBC commentator Steve Wilson said that Bailly had a delayed reaction to the clash of heads with Maguire, which is worrying.
45+3 min Bailly is now lying on his back near the touchline. He is in a neck brace and a stretcher is being prepared. Play has been stopped because Bailly is being treated right by the touchline.
45+1 min Bailly is on his feet, but he’s clearly concussed and is going to come off. Martial replaces him, so I imagine United will switch to the usual 4-2-3-1: de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Williams; Fred, Matic; James, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
45 min While Maguire has his head bandaged, Anthony Martial is getting ready to come on for Eric Bailly.
44 min Maguire is sitting up while his eye is stitched. He looks okay but Bailly is probably concussed; he’s clashed heads twice in the space of three minutes.
42 min Now Bailly has clashed heads with Maguire, who has a bit of blood coming from his right eye. Both players look very groggy. If United do have to make a change, they might take the opportunity to switch to a back four.
41 min Zouma and Bailly are okay to continue.
40 min “United resting Pogba, Martial and Greenwood has exposed the lack of quality in the squad,” says Stephen Carr. “Same with Liverpool if any of the front three are missing (and god forbid van Dijk gets injured). Only City have genuine strength in depth - a squad which we now know was assembled using only entirely legitimate means.”
You say that about Liverpool, but one of the most astonishing things about that 4-0 win over Barcelona is that they were without Salah and Firmino for the whole game and Robertson for the second half. I agree that it’s not sustainable over a longer period though.
39 min Mount’s deflected cross from the left is headed over by the diving Zouma at the near post. It was a half chance at most. Zouma and Bailly clashed heads as they dived for the ball, and both are still down.
38 min “I blame the pace of this game on two things,” says Matthew Richman. “One, the way United set up with five across the back; two, the congestion of this schedule. Fernandes especially has been a presence in both boxes I think every game since the restart. The man needs a rest.”
Yeah, that’s going to be a big problem at the start of next season (!) as well, especially for teams who go deep in the Champions League/Europa League.
37 min Rashford’s free-kick hits the wall.
36 min Kovacic fouls Fernandes 35 yards from goal, to the right of centre...
33 min Mount’s long-range shot is comfortably held by de Gea. It was a shot on target, though, and I think that’s enough to move this game from ‘stinker’ to ‘mediocre’ on the anygoodometer.
32 min Fernandes hammers the corner hard and low towards Matic, arriving late in the box, but the ball is just too far in front of him. Chelsea broke broke three on three, only for Willian to overhit his cross.
32 min Fernandes’s free-kick is tipped over by Caballero. It was fairly central and thus a comfortable save.
31 min Fred is fouled 25 yards from goal by Kovacic, just to the left of centre. That was a silly tackle, and this is a chance for United. It’s probably more suited to Fernandes than Rashford, who scored from further out against Chelsea in the League Cup.
30 min United are enjoying their first sustained spell of possession since the first few minutes.
29 min United have been very poor in possession. They have some good attacking options on the bench: Greenwood, Pogba, Martial. At this rate they’ll need them.
27 min Maguire fouls Giroud on the left wing. Mount overhits the free-kick. This could be a long night.
25 min Fernandes is fine to continue.
24 min Bruno Fernandes is down after being studded in the phallus by Azpilicueta, who was trying to reach a bouncing ball to stop a United counter-attack. It’s a good time for the drinks break.
23 min Willian’s corner is overhit. As a piece of entertainment, this game stinks.
22 min Mount’s shot hits Maguire and goes behind for the first corner of the match.
20 min Pass pass pass pass. It’s all Chelsea.
18 min Chelsea continue to dominate possession, although they haven’t got behind the United defence yet.
15 min: Chance for Alonso! Azpilicueta, in a narrow position to the right of centre, floated a lovely cross to the far post. It went over the head of Wan-Bissaka and reached Alonso, who thumped a header over the bar from six yards. He might have done better, though it was difficult for him to get over the top of the ball.
14 min United move the ball nicely from right to left before Williams is dispossessed by James. It’s like a bloody chess match out there!
12 min Chelsea are having more of the ball, though that isn’t always a good thing in these games. It’s still very cagey.
10 min A fierce, swirling long-range strike from James is punched away by de Gea.
8 min “Let me tell you what I think would be a good week for United,” says Digvijay Yadav. “Win today, pump West Ham to make the Leicester game redundant and qualify for CL proper by finishing third. Don’t think I am asking for much.”
7 min It’s all very cagey at the moment. Both teams have plenty of knowledge of and respect for each other.
3 min A slow start, nothing to report except that Brandon Williams has a black eye after that clash of heads against Southampton.
1 min Peep peep! United, in red, kick off from right to left. Blue is the colour for Chelsea.
The players emerge on a cloudy evening in north London. This really is a biggie.
It’s already been a good day for these two sides, because Spurs are hammering Leicester.
“Not happy with the defensive set up just announced by Solskjaer,” says Neil Carter. “Essentially seven defensive players on the pitch! It’s clear where his priorities lie for the run in.”
And quite right too, in my opinion. Also, the 3-4-1-2 worked very well in the league at Stamford Bridge (and also against Liverpool and Manchester City). I think it’s an understandable team selection, particularly in view of the schedule.
Both manager have made multiple changes, and it looks like both have switched to a back three. United used that system successfully when they won at Stamford Bridge in the league in February.
Manchester United (3-4-1-2) de Gea; Bailly, Maguire, Lindelof; Wan-Bissaka, Fred, Matic, Williams; Fernandes; James, Rashford.
Substitutes: Romero, Pogba, Mata, Martial, Pereira, Fosu-Mensah, Ighalo, Greenwood, McTominay.
Hello and welcome to the final part of the catchily titled Manchester United v Chelsea FA Cup Business End Quadrilogy. They met in the quarter-finals in 2017, the final in 2018 and the fifth round in 2019. Now they will complete the set by playing each other in the semi-finals.
It’s a fascinating match for all kinds of reasons: United could beat Chelsea for the fourth time this season, both clubs are rebuilding under a club legend and are two steps away from a first trophy, they are in a simultaneous battle to finish in the top four and qualify for the Champions League. And, best of all, there’s been just a hint of needle in the build-up. One way or another, this should be fine Sunday evening entertainment.Continue reading...
‘We are working on how to cut out the defensive errors at crucial moments,’ the Blues manager said as he prepared for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against in-form Manchester United
Frank Lampard admits Chelsea have given too many goals away through unforced individual errors this season and after three defeats against Manchester United already he does not need to be told that Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side approach Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final full of confidence.
“We know we will be playing a very good team in great form,” the Chelsea manager said. “Their front three are very potent and behind them Bruno Fernandes has given United a huge boost since joining in January. The way they are playing United have the individual quality to beat almost anyone, so we have to be at our best and make sure we keep our concentration.”Continue reading...
Chelsea under their former player are regularly being undone on the counter, leaking goals in a manner that suggests Manchester United could take advantage in FA Cup semi-final
On the opening weekend of the Premier League season, Chelsea went to Old Trafford, controlled possession for long periods, hit the woodwork twice and were beaten 4-0, shredded on the break again and again. The pattern for Frank Lampard’s first season in the Premier League was immediately set: Chelsea, good with the ball; not so good when they lose it. They have lost twice more to Manchester United since and, on Sunday afternoon, face them again in an FA Cup semi-final.
Lampard is widely considered to have had a decent campaign. Even with the competition’s diminished status, an FA Cup final and perhaps a first trophy would augment that – perhaps more so this year than for a while, given the oddity of the season restarting with the league in effect already won, leaving the Cup as the one domestic trophy still available. But doubts still remain, notably about Chelsea’s defensive record.
Chelsea have leaked 12 goals from crossed set pieces this season, more than any side other than Norwich and Aston VillaContinue reading...
- Manager hits back at idea United have had ‘lucky’ VAR decisions
- Let referees do the refereeing, he says before Chelsea semi-final
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has hit back at José Mourinho’s claim that Manchester United have been lucky with VAR decisions by claiming his Tottenham counterpart and other Premier League managers have an agenda to influence match officials.
United face Chelsea in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final at Wembley and Frank Lampard, their manager, has also said United have benefited from questionable decisions going their way. In Thursday’s 2-0 win at Crystal Palace Jordan Ayew’s goal was given offside by VAR, while Victor Lindelöf’s penalty-area challenge on Wilfried Zaha was not ruled a spot-kick.Continue reading...
- Chelsea manager warns his side about conceding penalties
- United have been given 13 spot-kicks in league this season
Frank Lampard has said VAR appears to be working in Manchester United’s favour at the moment and has warned Chelsea’s defenders to be wary of conceding penalties when they look to end a run of three successive defeats by Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side in their FA Cup semi-final on Sunday.
United have equalled a record for spot-kicks awarded in a single Premier League campaign after winning 13 this season and Lampard wants his players to avoid diving in at Wembley, pointing out how Bruno Fernandes shaped his body to convince the officials to give him a controversial penalty against Aston Villa this month.Continue reading...
Anthony Martial has formed a deadly partnership with Marcus Rashford thanks to a motivational change of shirt number
What’s in a number? Plenty, it seems, if your name is Anthony Martial. Before Manchester United’s battling victory against Crystal Palace on Thursday, the Frenchman revealed the contents of a text Ole Gunnar Solskjær had sent him last summer.
“He said: ‘Do you want to take your No 9 shirt back?’” Martial said. “I straight up said yes! He told me: ‘Now it’s up to you to show me you deserve it every time you’re on the pitch’.”Continue reading...
- Manager praises team for delivering when it matters
- Palace chairman Steve Parish unhappy with penalty rejection
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has urged his Manchester United side to embrace the challenge of qualifying for next season’s Champions League after a hard-fought victory over Crystal Palace.
Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial took their combined tally for the season to 44 goals as they scored either side of half-time at Selhurst Park to ensure United remain a point behind fourth-placed Leicester with two games to play following the earlier victory for Brendan Rodgers’s side against Sheffield United. United face Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday at Wembley before rounding off their Premier League campaign at home to West Ham in midweek and travelling to the King Power Stadium on the final day.Continue reading...
Whatever Marcus Rashford does in a Manchester United shirt, it will struggle to surpass his work to combat child poverty. But the striker could enjoy his most fruitful performance since the Premier League restart as he helped his club to maintain their push for a Champions League finish.
Make no mistake, this was not the comfortable evening for United that the scoreline might suggest. Crystal Palace were committed opponents who found that the finest details were against them. The excellent Wilfried Zaha shouted in vain for a first-half penalty while Jordan Ayew had what would have been an equaliser pulled back by the tightest VAR offside call.Continue reading...
- Live updates from Selhurst Park, kick-off 8.15pm (BST)
- Real Madrid v Villarreal – live with Rob Smyth
- Feel to free to email Scott your thoughts
A big result just in, with implications for Manchester United. Leicester have bounced back from that farcical defeat at Bournemouth with a 2-0 win over Sheffield United. That’s a fine victory over obdurate opponents, and they’re now three points clear of United in fourth. The race for the Champions League looks like going down to the wire, and a possible final-day winner-takes-all showdown between Leicester and United. One way or another, it’s going to be dramatic.
A chat with Roy Hodgson. “If you analyse runs of results, there are always things you’re not that disappointed with, and others that you are. We’ve not exactly had the best of luck, we’ve made a rod for our own back in a couple of games by giving things away, but these things do happen. It’s important that we put on a good show, a good performance. I’m not sure what playing at home means any more! But our last home game was a good one against Chelsea and hopefully we can reproduce that tonight.”
A word with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “We know what we have to do, come here on the front foot and start positive. That’s what we want to see in the beginning of the game. Timothy Fosu-Mensah has been waiting for his chance and will be ready. Scott McTominay has done a great job this season so we felt it was time to freshen up [the midfield]. We lost to Palace at home so we know how they can hurt you. Their front three are quick and skilful and can score a goal from nothing.”
Palace make two changes to the team that went down at Aston Villa last weekend. Andros Townsend and James McCarthy take the place of Cheikhou Kouyate, who drops to the bench, and Christian Benteke, who is suspended.
United make two changes to the side that conceded a late equaliser at home to Southampton. In come former Palace loanee Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Scott McTominay. Nemanja Matic drops to the bench, while Luke Shaw is injured.
Crystal Palace: Guaita, Ward, Dann, Sakho, van Aanholt, Townsend, McArthur, Milivojevic, McCarthy, Zaha, Ayew.
Subs: Meyer, Kouyate, Hennessey, Schlupp, Kelly, Woods, Mitchell, Pierrick, Riedewald.
Manchester United: de Gea, Wan Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Fosu-Mensah, McTominay, Pogba, Greenwood, Bruno Fernandes, Rashford, Martial.
Subs: Bailly, Mata, Lingard, Fred, Dalot, James, Romero, Ighalo, Matic.
Ah yes, Crystal Palace against Manchester United. We’re all thinking about it, aren’t we, so here goes.Continue reading...
Managers can make five subs in Premier League games. Long gone are the days when players battled on with broken bones
More than 170 years have passed since the first football substitutes were used on the playing fields of Eton College. Back in the 1850s, when schoolboys did not turn up for games, replacements were drafted in at the last minute. The first recorded mention of substitutes came in 1863. “The Charterhouse eleven played a match in cloisters against some old Carthusians but in consequence of the non-appearance of some of those who were expected it was necessary to provide three substitutes,” reported Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, a weekly eight-page broadsheet.
It took the professional game almost a century to catch up, finally introducing substitutes in qualifying matches for the 1954 World Cup. The honour of being the first substitute in top class football was accorded to Richard Gottinger, who came on for West Germany in their 3-0 victory over Saarland in Stuttgart on 11 October 1953. West Germany qualified for that World Cup and went on to win it – the first of their world titles – but those 37 minutes were to be Gottinger’s only involvement. He never played for his country again.Continue reading...
- Manchester United forward ‘developing and improving’
- Manager pleased with defence despite Southampton draw
Ole Gunnar Solskjær has pointed to Anthony Martial’s growing maturity and praised the striker for working harder for the team.
The Frenchman’s goal in Monday’s 2-2 draw with Southampton was his 21st of the season. Yet his manager is just as pleased with Martial’s all-round contribution.Continue reading...
- Award recognises Rashford’s campaign against child poverty
- Manchester United striker says it is a ‘proud day’ for him
Marcus Rashford will receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Manchester for his “remarkable campaign against child poverty” which caused a government U-turn and the granting of free food vouchers for the poorest families over the summer.
Boris Johnson had initially rejected the Manchester United striker’s move before the prime minister reversed his decision last month.Continue reading...
Chelsea, Leicester, Manchester United, Wolves and Sheffield United are battling for two Champions League places
The race to qualify for the Champions League has become a lot more intense in the last few days. Now that the court of arbitration for sport has overturned Manchester City’s ban from Europe, the clubs below them in the Premier League will have to finish in the top four to reach the Champions League next season. The results over the weekend ensured that this fight will go right to the wire, with Chelsea, Leicester and Manchester United all failing to win. Those slip-ups allowed Wolves and Sheffield United to re-enter the picture. With three rounds of games to play, there are five clubs vying for just two Champions League places. Game on.Continue reading...
- ‘We never got the rhythm in our passing,’ says United manager
- Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhüttl says they earned the point
Ole Gunnar Solskjær admitted Manchester United were below their best as Southampton’s equaliser in the sixth minute of added time cost them the chance to leapfrog Chelsea and Leicester into third place in the Premier League.
United stay fifth as a result of Michael Obafemi’s scrambled late effort from a James Ward-Prowse corner and though Solskjær described it as the worst possible time to concede a goal he conceded his team had not played as well as he had hoped.Continue reading...
In the race for a Champions League berth Manchester United faltered – Michael Obafemi’s late equaliser grabbing a draw for Southampton that keeps Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side in fifth.
Until then United had been heading third, their highest position since opening weekend. But with Leicester as final day opponents, a top-four finish – at least – remains in the hands of Solskjær’s team.Continue reading...
- Live updates from the 8pm kick-off at Old Trafford
- Live scores: keep up with all the goals from around Europe
- Drop Rob an email with your thoughts
64 min Fred comes on to replace Paul Pogba, a reflection of how relatively vulnerable United have been in midfield. And Southampton bring on Shane Long for Che Adams.
63 min This is a good spell for Southampton. Walker-Peters, on the right of the area, drives a fine low cross that goes through Maguire’s legs and across the six-yard box.
62 min “Right or wrong: that if Martial was being managed by a Klopp or even a Pochettino, no-one would be hesitating to cite that as the reason for his improvement?” says Geoff Wignall. “It could just be that he now has a better manager than hitherto.”
Geoff, I’m afraid you’ve made the basic error of giving Ole Gunnar Solskjaer credit for something.
61 min The game is still very open, and so the next goal feels huge. You might even go so far as to say it will make it 3-1 or 2-2.
57 min “Just saying no one questions De Gea’s work-rate when he welcomes in soft goals with open arms,” says Lewis Atkins. “Maybe the reason Martial wasn’t scoring like this before is that the others around him weren’t good enough.”
That’s definitely a big part of it. But so is his change in attitude, at least in my opinion.
56 min An excellent effort from Rashford, who crunches a dipping shot into the side-netting from 25 yards. McCarthy was scrambling across his line and probably had it covered. Walker-Peters was booked for handball in the build-up.
54 min “With all this focus on Martial,” says Ian Copestake, “I wonder if Ings will continue to show what resurgence really means.”
Don’t call it a comeback.
53 min Stephens is booked for hoofing Fernandes as if he was an old sock, and has the effrontery to accuse Fernandes of diving.
52 min Ings bulldozes through Lindelof in the area and hits a snapshot that is very well blocked by a United defender. At the other end, Rashford is put through on the left side of the area, but Bednarek blocks his attempted pass to Martial.
51 min Stephens is back on.
51 min Stephens is down after being landed on by Marcus Rashford. He’s limping to the sideline for more treatment.
50 min “This whole ‘Martial resurgence’ thing is nonsense,” says Lewis Atkins. “He’s always been an extremely talented, hard-working and determined athlete, the reason his runs are paying off more in this run is that Rashford isn’t the only player supporting him. He’s got Fernandes, and now Pogba, to feed him, with Wan-Bissaka as well. The only one ‘key’ to Martial’s recent performances has been himself.”
He’s always been hard-working and determined? I agree it’s not a resurgence because, despite his obvious talent, he’s never been this good before.
49 min Redmond, found in space by Ward-Prowse, drives not far wide from inside the D.
47 min “Stuart Armstrong is an exceptional player and I’m surprised a bigger club hasn’t yet taken a chance on him,” says Simon McMahon. “He’s the midfield equivalent of Andy Robertson, who he played at Tannadice with, where he was in the first team at 16. United let them both go for a combined fee of less than £5 million, which was good money for us, but if a top six club has a spare £20 million then they won’t regret spending it on Stretch. Unless they’ve got 5 times that for Pogba ...”
46 min Peep peep! United begin the second half.
What’s (Not) Eating Anthony Martial?
“I think Fernandes is the key to Martial’s resurgence,” says Kevin Simons. “I vividly recall Fernandes chatting with Martial after they had both been subbed in a game which United won, and Martial was laughing his head off. Anthony Martial, happy? Laughing?? Scary prospect.”
Peep peep! That was a fine 48 minutes of entertainment. Stuart Armstrong gave Southampton a deserved lead, and then the elemental force known as Anthony Martial took over: he made the equaliser for Marcus Rashford and belted United in front a couple of minutes later.
45+2 min Ward-Prowse’s cross is headed away by Lindelof, only as far as Redmond on the edge of the area. He declines the shot and tries to play in Adams, who is tackled well by Lindelof. Southampton remain a threat.
45+1 min Three minutes of added time.
45 min “Hi Rob,” says Rajiv. “I think the bigger and more important question of where de Gea would finish on a podium is if it’s between himself, Romero and Henderson?
That’s so disrespectful to Lee Grant. Is he still at the club?
44 min That bit of ankle-biting aside, it’s been a quiet end to the first half. Ward-Prowse has just been booked for a wrestling manouevre on Bruno Fernandes.
43 min Team VAR are looking at a tackle by Romeu on Greenwood. “Do I not like that” says Gary Neville. It wasn’t great, studs into the ankle after the ball had gone, but Team VAR decides it’s not a clear and obvious error. I think he’s a wee bit lucky, though I can understand the argument that it looks worse in slow motion.
42 min “This Man Utd starting XI is exciting,” says Kritin Syal. “But what beyond that? Bailly doesn’t convince at CB, there’s nobody else who can spray passes like Pogba, Fernandes is the only attacking midfielder worth his salt. And is James good enough to stand in for any of the front three?”
I agree. It’s inevitable that people will get carried away, but United are nowhere near ready to challenge for the league just yet. Still, this beats watching them lose at home to relegated Cardiff.
41 min A nice move from United ends when Fernandes and Martial get in each other’s way in the area.
40 min “It’s annoying when reality gets in the way of a good joke,” says Matt Dony. “I checked the score as I walked out of the shop, and saw Southampton were ahead. Great. On the short drive gone, thought, ‘Ah, maybe the red shirts are hard to see against the stadium seating. Maybe change them at halftime?’ Classic Bantz! Then, pulled up outside the house, checked the score again, and it confirmed all of our fears. United are getting good again. And they’ve ruined my joke. Annoying.”
39 min Shaw’s cross skims off the head of a Southampton defender and reaches the unmarked Wan-Bissaka beyond the far post. His touch is a bit heavy, though, and that allows Bednarek to clear.
38 min A quiet spell in the game, the equivalent of two fighters taking a round off.
36 min “Rob, I have a theory,” says Mary Waltz. “Pre Bruno and Pogba redux Martial and Rashford felt forced to create their chances from midfield to the box. They get premium service today and this let’s their talents bloom.”
Yes, that’s definitely part of it. Fernandes has improved the entire team with his quality and standards. And morale – individual and collective – is as high as it has been in Martial’s time at the club, which has to be a big factor.
35 min Despite a bit of a battering in the last 15 minutes, Southampton still look dangerous when they attack. It’s been a very enjoyable game actually.
34 min “de Gea absolutely was the best for a good few years - worth at least 12 points a season,” says Stephen Carr. “But now - would he even get on the podium when we talk about top keepers?”
No, he’d be nowhere near, though surely that’s down to his mistakes/loss of confidence rather than his sweeper-keeping? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a desirable skill, I just don’t think it’s essential for 98 per cent of teams.
33 min Martial gets a bit carried away, walloping high and wide with his left foot after a lovely flick from Pogba.
30 min “Martial has always struck me as someone who deals with a great deal of anxiety on the pitch,” says Barry Bryan. “I’m speculating, of course, but I wonder if empty stadiums allow him to be more aggressive, expressive, etc.”
It’s possible, though he was playing pretty well before lockdown. The aggression is interesting – he is starting to look like a killer, which I never thought we’d see. Perhaps Solskjaer has unleashed the beast. We’ve all got one.
28 min United are flying now. Fernandes’s classy lay-off finds Pogba, whose fierce shot from 25 yards is palmed away by the sprawling McCarthy.
26 min “De Gea - like Lloris - is reluctant to move beyond the penalty spot,” says Stephen Carr. “I’m not sure you can be a top team without your keeper playing a more active role.”
I know what you mean, but he was still the best keeper in the world for three or four years, no?
24 min Time for the drinks break. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves a lot of credit for backing Martial ahead of Lukaku as his centre-forward, a move for which he was savaged during a difficult start to the season.
That was merciless stuff from Martial, as if he had a five-second limit to score from the moment he received the ball. Fernandes played a simple ball to find him on the left wing, and he only had one thing in mind. He charged straight at Walker-Peters, zipped infield and rammed a rising drive past McCarthy. When did Martial become such a ruthless assassin?
What on earth has happened to Anthony Martial?
22 min That was a superb bit of play from Martial: the control, awareness and weight of touch to Rashford.
Pogba, on the right, curled in a flat cross that was brilliantly controlled with his back to goal by Martial. He fell over, possibly because of a foul by Stephens, but was alert enough to stretch and divert the ball further across the area to Rashford. He finished the job with a crisp left-footed shot into the far corner.
United equalise with a really good goal.
19 min Pogba is robbed again, this time near the halfway line by Adams. He moves into space but then overhits a through pass towards Ings.
16 min: Rashford has a goal disallowed for offside! It was the right decision. It was also lovely play from Shaw, who played a give-and-go with Martial, surged forward and curled a terrific pass around the defence. Rashford finished it first time but the flag went up and replays confirmed he was just offside.
14 min Redmond’s cutback is booted away by Lindelof, just in front of Adams in the six-yard box. It’s all Southampton.
13 min Southampton deserve their lead, and United look a bit rattled.
It stemmed from a mistake by Pogba, who was robbed by Ings 30 yards from goal. Redmond picked up the loose ball, ran into the area and lifted a superb ball to find Armstrong in space at the far post. He took it down calmly and slapped a half-volley past de Gea from close range.
Stuart Armstrong gives Southampton the lead!
11 min Armstrong deftly cushions a dropping ball on the edge of the area and hits a low shot that is comfortably saved by de Gea.
10 min: Superb save from McCarthy! Ward-Prowse allowed Bednarek’s pass to run under his foot, and Martial nicked the ball before running through on goal, Demba Ba-style. He reached the edge of the area and tried to place a shot past McCarthy, who spread himself as wide as possible and blocked the shot with his left hand.
10 min “Hi Rob,” says Kishalay Banerjee. “If Sancho does come in, does he replace Greenwood? I can’t see Solskjaer benching Rashford, but neither is it very fair on Greenwood. Or does he bench Martial, and move Rashford to the centre?”
He’d give them more options. As nice as this current run is, they can’t keep playing the same XI, and the back up isn’t great.
9 min It’s been a really confident start from Southampton, with and without the ball.
7 min Ings plays in the underlapping Bertrand, whose driven cross is held at the near post by de Gea.
6 min Nothing much to report. Southampton are working hard defensively and, as Gary Neville observes, are very good at squeezing the game in one area of the field when they don’t have the ball.
3 min “Three players,” says Digvijay Yadav, “that you think can propel United to the title.”
Mane, van Dijk and Alisson. But of the realistic targets, Sancho, Upamecano and Thomas Partey. You?
2 min Pogba curls a brilliant long pass down the line to Fernandes, who is well challenge by Bednarek.
1 min Peep peep! Southampton kick off from right to left.
The players emerge on an overcast evening in Manchester. It will be a largely dry and cloudy night with easing winds. The odd shower may develop overnight, especially towards dawn. Feeling mild where cloudy, however skies will be clearer across Cumbria and parts Lancashire, with rural spots turning chilly. Minimum temperature 6 °C.
Another memory from this fixture - an astonishing and cruelly futile save from Paul Jones.
“I think Ferguson would have loved to develop Giggs into a central forward around that time,” writes Womancraft Publishing. “But, although his pace was dangerous, he never became a particularly good finisher.”
I never really got the impression that Ferguson wanted him to be a regular centre-forward, though he liked him in that position for centre games, particularly away from home – Deportivo in 01-02, for example, when he terrorised the best team in the Europe at the time (and then missed some great chances, which was your point).
“Thanks for the 1993 clip,” says Nick Shaw. A few trite observations: 1) How knackered Pallister always looked any time the camera was on him. Is Maguire the new Pallister? 2) Cantona’s vision and flair looking like a taste of a different type of football. 3) The slowness of Le Tiss compared with Giggs in that early foul. But what a talent.”
That’s a good point about Cantona. The first foreign player in English football who had that impact on me was Anders Limpar, though he turned out to be a half-season wonder.
Southampton have quietly had a very good season. They lost eight of their first 12, including the 9-0 against Leicester, but turned it round admirably and are now comfortable in mid-table. The win at Leicester in the return game was, for mine, the performance of the season.
“Hi Rob,” says Parameswaran. “What happened in that match on 20th February 1993? Did United beat Saints?”
No, but Ryan Giggs did.
Both teams are unchanged, United for the fifth league game in a row. I’d have to check to be sure, but I think the last time that happened was also against Southampton on 20 February 1993.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1) de Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw; Pogba, Matic; Greenwood, Fernandes, Rashford; Martial.
Substitutes: Romero, Bailly, Mata, Pereira, Fred, James, Ighalo, McTominay, Williams.
A man called Sir Alex Ferguson used to manage Manchester United. You know this, I know this, but most of all Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows this. Ferguson’s achievements will harass his successors like black dog, at least until one of them wins the league. But comparisons with Fergie’s time needn’t always be so odious. By achieving something for the first time since he retired, the current team can send a message that they are going in the right direction – that they are, in Paul Pogba’s words, a “proper team”.
In December 2018, in Solskjaer’s first match as caretaker manager, United scored five in the league for the first time since Ferguson’s final game. They won the next seven matches, too, before regressing towards the mean with a vengeance. The feelgood mood of yikesitisreallythatlongago has returned in the last few weeks, and if United avoid defeat tonigh they will extend their unbeaten run to 18 games. That would be their longest run since - you got it, hotshot - Ferguson’s last season.Continue reading...
- Midfielder points to improved balance and structure
- ‘Nothing can stop’ return to top if progress maintained
Paul Pogba believes Manchester United are now a “proper team”, the midfielder pointing to a newly achieved balance between attack and defence.
United host Southampton on Monday night, having won their past four league games in an unbeaten run of 17 in all competitions. With Chelsea and Leicester City losing at the weekend Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side can leapfrog both and take third position with three matches remaining if Saints are beaten.Continue reading...