Four things we found out about Manchester United
Take away United’s 4-0 thumping of Chelsea on the opening day of the season, which provided their fans with false hope, and they have managed to score only seven goals this season in all competitions since.
That’s not good enough for a team aiming for the top four, let alone for one with long-term ambitions to rejoin the title race — and it’s becoming a serious problem for manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
The decision to allow both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku to leave in the summer transfer window without being replaced was a a huge mistake and it’s one which is coming home to roost, not least because Marcus Rashford is failing to fill the void. There’s no doubt the England international has talent in abundance, but there’s something not right at the moment. He doesn’t look sharp, doesn’t look confident and doesn’t look 100% fit.
He missed opportunities again at Old Trafford and despite playing a part in United’s opening goal (and contributing a late free-kick), he has now scored only once since starting the season with a brace in that victory over Chelsea.
Rashford began this match up front, was then sent to the left wing and finally over to the right, but never hit top gear. One shot dragged horribly wide, one opportunity wasted after losing a foot race to, of all people, Sokratis. This is not the Rashford we know.
With 17-year-old Mason Greenwood the only possible replacement until Anthony Martial gets fit, January and the next transfer window can’t come quick enough.
It looks like United are going to have to wait some time before former captain Paul Pogba finds top form.
Only just back from an ankle injury, there was no sign of the Frenchman’s usual exuberance as he strolled carefully through this match, clearly still protecting his injury and conserving energy at the same time.
One second-half effort did wake up his fan club in the Stretford End, but it was a brief moment in the spotlight for a man who usually craves it. United fans must hope the injury is to blame because they need more from him at such a difficult time. This was a match desperately lacking in quality and, with his pedigree, Pogba should have been the man to provide it.
When Jose Mourinho handed Scott McTominay a ‘Manager’s Player of the Year’ award at United’s annual awards night in May 2018 it caught everyone on the hop. Not surprising when you consider the award wasn’t even on the programme at the start of the evening.
But the midfielder is starting to show why the Special One had so much faith in him.
He may not be the most glamorous name on the team sheet and his style is unlikely to turn many heads — one journalist rather cruelly described him as the player who does so little but means so much.
But although he still makes mistakes in possession and much of his work goes unseen by the cameras, there’s a reason why he has now started nine successive Premier League games for United under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
What he brings to Old Trafford is heart, determination and a willingness to take responsibility even in difficult times, as proven by his crucial goal on the stroke of half time (only his third ever for United) and by a driving performance in the latter stages.
What an interesting player United have in young Axel Tuanzebe, who revealed yet another aspect of his potential with a confident performance at left-back, despite giving the ball away in the build up to Arsenal’s equaliser.
That moment was a harsh one to take for the 21-year-old, who normally operates in central defence, but it shouldn’t take away from a promising display. Up against Arsenal’s record-signing Nicolas Pepe, he showed nerves of steel in an unfamiliar position, certainly in the early stages , and you suspect manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer won’t judge him on one mis-placed pass.
It was Solskjaer, after all, who made the Academy graduate captain in the Carabao Cup against Rochdale, even though Paul Pogba was still on the pitch. “It’s just a way of telling him that we trust him,” the United manager said after that tie.
Tuanzebe , in fact, has captained United at every age level during his young career , and you’d back him to get over this today’s minor blip to play an important part in his team’s future.