Manchester United scraped past Leicester City in the first match of the season. But what are the areas they need to improve?
Paul Pogba, the World Cup winner, gave Old Trafford a reason to celebrate after a seeming eternity of shattering hopes. Within 75 seconds, Manchester United were leading, the crowd was singing, and the signification that the shining lights of Old Trafford have slightly pierced through the gloomy clouds of transfer summer became apparent. The Premier League was back, and Jose Mourinho’s men managed three points from the first ninety of 3,420 minutes.
Mourinho’s rants throughout the pre-season tour had almost become a norm for the Manchester United supporters. His snide comments at the United board during press conferences were almost like an infinite, tiresome loop of pessimism. And yet, it might not be entirely so for Manchester United as the season progresses. The game against Leicester City yesterday night may have not set the world alight for Mourinho, but it was a positive start which was a dire need for the Red Devils.
But even when United scored three points, there were five major aspects where they need to improve. theSportsRush takes a look at areas where United can be more efficient as the season progresses.
Compensation might be an overstatement, but the introduction of Andreas Pereira into the starting XI is a rare delight amidst the lack of in-bound transfers at Old Trafford. The midfielder worked like an engine throughout the match, covering up spaces during the times United lost possession. And United lost possession many a times during the match. Alexis Sanchez and Juan Mata in particular played in a manner which makes their pre-season performance a distant memory.
Andreas Pereira gained possession on 11 occasions. Alexis Sanchez alone, however, lost it 23 times during the match.
Another of Manchester United’s issue relates to their newest signing, Fred. The midfielder’s work-rate is enormous, and he boasts of an exquisite touch especially in tight situations, but discipline is one of his major issues. Fred conceded three fouls alone in the first 55 minutes of the match. He also escaped a potential red-card offence in the first half. Manchester United may have strengthened their midfield with Fred’s arrival, but his indiscipline may cost United in big games, where Jose Mourinho’s side is likely to concede more ball-possession than yesterday.
Andreas Pereira may have covered for possession losses at time, but Fred and Pogba may need to improve their positional sense while defending the ball. Both the midfielders failed to identify the attacking threat near the half-hour mark of the match, which provided Leicester’s attacker James Maddison an ample space to shoot. If not for David De Gea’s heroic save, the supporters might as well be lamenting a 2-2 draw and Lukaku’s missed opportunity, which takes us to the next area United needs to improve at.
It is one area where Manchester United have had issues for quite some time. Missed chances resulted in many dropped points for United last season. Romelu Lukaku came late in the second half and missed a one-on-one against Kasper Schmeichel, which could’ve easily been the final blow for Leicester. Instead, Jamie Vardy raised tensions among the Old Trafford faithful with an extra-time goal, which forced the United attackers to prevent an equalizer for the rest of the final minutes.
The central-defence may have been a position where Manchester United could’ve made drastic improvements in this transfer window. However, the duo of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof pulled out a solid performance in the first match of the season. The key, however, for both the players, is to maintain their fitness levels.
While Luke Shaw also impressed Mourinho and the supporters, Matteo Darmian was the weak link. It was a tactic which almost worked for Claude Puel. The duo of Harry Maguire and James Maddinson worked themselves towards isolating Mata and Darmian on the right, which allowed a plethora of breathing space for Chillwell and Gray to lead attacks. While Darmian is currently filling for Antonio Valencia, the departure of Fosu-Mensah on loan provides less options for Mourinho on the position.