Pellegrini’s men put in a very decent performance at Old Trafford, and if it wasn’t for poor officiating, combined with more clinical forward play and David De Gea’s right hand, the boys would have left Manchester with at least one point. There are numerous frustrating aspects to yesterday’s result…
Lanzini, I felt, was ineffective in the first half. However, when he pulled up with a groin injury and was replaced by Diangana, some momentum was lost as the Argentinian had begun to link up nicely with Anderson and Snodgrass. Let’s hope he is not out for long because despite some of his less impactful performances in recent weeks, he can create opportunities out of very little.
In addition, the team worked so hard to contain Manchester United and were creating decent chances, but were let down by two very questionable decisions in the first half. Much like my Dad, I try to avoid blaming the officials as much as possible because sometimes it can simply be a cover up for a poor performance. However, Anderson’s thumping finish past De Gea in the ninth minute was not offside and should have stood, United got away with one. Snodgrass simply nudged Mata later in the half and it was debatable whether or not the action was in the penalty area. Nevertheless, at half time I looked at twitter only to see the phrase ‘big team bias’ crop up and I’d have to agree.
Furthermore, in the attacking areas, I felt at various points we made the wrong decisions or delayed passes on one too many an occasion. Lanzini held on to the ball for too long sometimes when we were on dangerous counter-attacks. It was good, however, to see Anderson take control and progress the ball for the team, as well as score his first goal since the dismal loss to AFC Wimbledon in the FA Cup. Hernandez worked hard for the team once again, and with Lanzini likely to miss upcoming games combined with Nasri’s continued fitness concerns, Antonio I think brings a different option to the side. Michail was unfortunate with his brilliant effort that hit the crossbar, and his header that saw De Gea make a fantastic save saw me shout frustratingly at my computer screen!
The most exasperating aspect to this team is the worrying inconsistency. I’ve often been told and subsequently become accustomed to this side’s ability to play and battle with the Premier League’s elite, and then lose against teams around and below us in the table the following week. How do we go from putting in a stellar team performance against Arsenal in January, and then the next week turn up against Bournemouth and put in a dreadful display? If we can play like we did against the likes of Arsenal at home, Liverpool at home and Manchester United both at home and yesterday more regularly, then we could be battling the likes of Wolves and Watford for the European places. At the moment, I believe we perhaps aren’t quite as good as we think, because we rely too heavily on the likes of Fabianski, Rice and Anderson to save us, protect us and create for us.
Moving forward, I hope we see Lanzini return soon as well as the likes of Sanchez, Wilshere and Yarmolenko feature towards the end of the season to add competition. The summer window will be crucial for Pellegrini, as he can sell some of the players who, to be polite, are either far too inconsistent or simply not good enough anymore, and add to what could be an exciting side next campaign. There has been suggestion that moving forward in terms of transfers, the club will aim to sign younger players who might cost more but have more time to grow plus be on smaller wages, as opposed to the classic signings of players who are the wrong side of 30 on high wages.
My day of football was in the end very disappointing. I went to watch my local team, Tonbridge Angels play against Dorking Wanderers in the Bostik Premier Division. Dorking are already promoted but Angels are still in the hunt for the playoffs. Unfortunately the boys lost 0-2. I hoped West Ham could upset Manchester United’s ambitions of top 4, and the team’s valiant performance definitely deserved more. I’ll be ready for a rollercoaster of emotions next Saturday against Leicester. I hope we show the same application as yesterday!