Article 67 — Not Just Brighton & Respect for United’s Legacy
Manchester United has embarrassingly lost their last two visits to the AMEX Stadium against Brighton & Hove Albion. About 10 days ago, Brighton had dramatically beaten a club that at one time was our closest rival for the title, Arsenal. This season they have beaten Arsenal home and away, drawn against Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers home and away and beaten Tottenham Hotspur at home. No pushovers then.
United have been unbeaten in 14 matches across all competitions while Brighton drew against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City and beat Arsenal in their last 3 fixtures. This is how the match went early Wednesday morning, Singapore/Malaysia time:
United showed a lot of hunger to chase after lost possession and close Brighton down from the front. In possession, we were sharp, smooth and incisive. We were looking to play the forward pass more often than playing it sideways or backwards. There were intensity and pace in our performance and very evidently, our tails are up, our confidence is high. We are enjoying our football and everyone has a smile on.
One thing I have learnt from the dominance of Manchester City and Liverpool in the past 3 seasons is that it is never just this team or that. Every match we win counts, every team beaten counts so we shouldn’t just scoff at the fact that it’s “only Brighton” that we have beaten. Neither should we scoff at our rivals for beating teams that they should be beating on paper. A win is a win and every win counts. Every win is worth the same 3 points. You don’t get an extra point for beating a big team or a point less for beating a lowly team.
The team that started the match against Brighton is the best eleven we can field based on current form and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s preference. If it was up to me, I would swap Victor Lindelof for Eric Bailly and that would be the only change I would make.
Mason Greenwood opened the scoring in trademark fashion, a series of quick stepovers before rifling the shot in. It works a treat at the moment but for his development, he has to have other tricks up his sleeve or he could be like Arjen Robben, everyone knows what he is going to do but it is just so tough to stop him. I still see his long-term future as a centre-forward rather than a right-sided attacker/winger. I have said this before and I am saying it again, he is the most natural finisher we have in our squad.
Nemanja Matic’s form has been outstanding. He has gone about his task quietly in an understated manner. Providing a solid base and formation on which to build attacks. His pass to set Greenwood free on the counter-attack for United’s third goal was a great pass.
We were a bit lucky that the second goal stood because it seemed that the referee and VAR didn’t catch the ball conclusively being over the line for a throw-in in the sequence of the play. Then Luke Shaw looked marginally offside when he got the ball in that same sequence. Finally, Fernandes’ shot took a deflection before going in.
Bruno Fernandes as I said in my previous post, https://medium.com/@rasfootballworld/article-64-manchester-united-qualify-for-the-fa-cup-semi-final-just-about-a4f2ecc466c3 is a player that takes risks. It didn’t quite work out for him in the last match and he is only human so he can have off-days. Today he did a lot better. I am glad we got to 3–0 early in the second half and could take Fernandes out to give him a breather. I was hoping to see Juan Mata as his replacement so was disappointed that Andreas Pereira was chosen instead.
Paul Pogba is also a lot more fired up, enthusiastic and involved in the play. He looks happier too. All that is missing is a goal for him. Marcus Rashford needs a goal for his confidence. He played better than he did in previous matches but not quite at his best yet. Anthony Martial was also missing a goal today but he did well to run the channels and made runs in behind the Brighton defence without really getting a clear chance at goal.
David De Gea was largely untroubled but was called upon to make two great saves to keep a clean sheet for us. Overall, everything is very good but it can still get better in terms of performance. At 3–0, we need to show the ruthlessness and professionalism to keep attacking and score more goals.
Daniel James came on and was trying hard to get on the scoresheet. I can sense the sincerity and endeavour in his play but in the form that he is in now, I feel he is trying too hard to make a telling contribution. I feel he should get some composure, work hard and ignore the negativity outside. Close your social media accounts or disable the comments section or just follow and be friends with select people only. The world we live in today has a lot of toxicity in platforms such as this. He doesn’t need that.
Jesse Lingard wasn’t even on the bench and after his last performance against Norwich City, I feel his time is up at the club. Perhaps, it looks like Solksjaer feels the same way too. One player, I wish to see the end of in the summer is Andreas Pereira. I really hope United sell him. We should bank in on Chris Smalling, Alexis Sanchez who are both on loan and sell Phil Jones too.
Ed Woodward and the noise around the club suggests that we are in pauper state at the moment despite being the second richest club in the world. We need to sell players to sign players but the biggest danger to our progress still comes from Woodward and the Glazers. Don’t be fooled and placated by the positive results to think all is well on that front. These idiots might even look at the positive results and think we are in a good position and don’t need reinforcements.
Positive results and form aside, we still need quality players in the squad to bring us up to the next level and bridge the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool. We have seen already this season when we had many injuries in central midfield and attack how we struggled to cope. The squad’s depth is not as deep in terms of quality or quantity. The team with the best squad depth of quality is still City and not Liverpool but that is just a squad built on the back of endless cash from their owners. Liverpool has been lucky that most of their key players, first-teamers have stayed fit for most parts of the season. When they have been injured, they have quality players to step up. This is the level we should aim at. We shouldn’t shy away from adding quality players out of the fear of curtailing the opportunities of the players presently in the squad.
Finally, the present generation loves to look at statistics and pass judgements based on that. There is no doubt that Manchester City 2017–18, 2018–19 and Liverpool 2019–20 have got the most number of points, the biggest lead over the second-placed team, the most number of goals, best goal difference etc. Those teams were and are superhuman teams, they barely ever put a foot wrong and if they did, no-one was really good enough to punish them.
As far as statistics go, Manchester United has won the most number of Premier League titles and most number of league championships overall. In the 13 league seasons, that United have won and I have been a fan of, only in two seasons did we stroll to the league title, 1999–00 and 2000–01. Those were the two seasons I enjoyed the least because of the lack of a strong competitor. Victory tasted sweeter when you know you have been in a title race right until the final days of the league against strong competition pushing you all the way.
What the statistics don’t say is how we won the league titles in three different decades, how we won the league titles evolving with the ever-changing face of football and how we faced off against challenges from different teams for the league title. We had seasons where we traditionally came from behind to win the league and we had seasons where we led from the front. We had overcome thrashings to win the league. We were always a human team. If we had an off-day or were over-confident, we would get beaten because there were teams good enough to beat us on their day. Some days, without playing well we won or draw. We won the domestic Double twice, the continental Double once, the Treble and we won the league three times in a row twice. This is our legacy and our legacy is more than just mere numbers. Respect, Respect, Respect!