From bad to worse, is the best way to describe Manchester United’s situation and the position in the table at the given point in time. After all the farcical last week, where the media sacked Louis Van Gaal before the board did, one thought the players might turn up, as the captain said in an interview couple of days back. However, Wayne Rooney did not find himself on the starting team sheet while other players continued their shambolic performances as in the past few games.
With 2-0 down well within the first half and no real fighting spirit from the players, it was as good as a finished game. This is something which has been alarming with this team, they never really looked like making a comeback. But one thing is certain, there cannot be finger-pointing in just one direction. One cannot defend Van Gaal’s tactics but neither can they put the players behind his back. The players are equally responsible for the state of football, if not more than the manager.
The former red’s forward, Dwight Yorke too, was of a similar sentiment, while finding it difficult to see any spark in the team.
“I have to say it was painful to watch Man United. I felt that it was a team lacking in confidence. No sparkle whatsoever in that team.
“I look at that bench to see if someone can come on apart from Wayne Rooney, who can bring something, who adds something different to the team. They seem to be short in every department.”
The stand in captain for the game, with Rooney not starting, Michael Carrick put forth a figure of a broken man, at least on the face of it. He said:
“We gave ourselves too much to do again. It’s a horrible run, a horrible feeling and it hurts a lot. We have to stick together and win football matches. We all have to take responsibility for that.”
He went on further to say:
“We’re not playing well enough as a team, as a squad, and do a lot better. It’s Manchester United we’re playing for, it’s a special club.
“When you’re on a bad run, it’s tough. It’s hard to take. I look at myself first of all, see what I can do better. Everyone’s got to do that.
“You can single anyone out in this situation as a club, a group of players, staff, manager – we have to stick together and win football matches.
“We’ve all got to take responsibility for that. We have to work hard, stick together and keep believing that it’ll turn for us. It’s got to come the next game.”
The manager on the other hand did not have much to say apart from some tactical analysis of the game. When asked about the defeat he said:
“My thoughts are that we didn’t dare to play football in the first half and then we gave a very bad goal away. That was too much.
“They scored from a free-kick and then it was half-time. We have spoken with each other and I have to say the second half was much better, we created one or two chances and you have to score.”
He also expressed concerns on how would he be able to raise the confidence and motivate the side after what has been an unprecedented slump in form for the team, at least in the recent history.
“That is now the big issue, I have tried to do everything but the pressure shall be higher and higher with every match. That is the problem now.
“It is more difficult because I am also part of the four matches we have lost so people are looking at me and I have to deal with that, but more importantly the players have to deal with that because they are the ones who have to perform.”
Looking forward, United only have a couple of days to get themselves ready for the next game, against Chelsea at Old Trafford. By the looks of it, Van Gaal did not sound too confident about it, understandably so. When asked about his reaction on the coming game, he said:
“You can say we can quickly get revenge for this defeat against Chelsea but in the time in between, you have to recover because the players have given everything and then you have to manage that you are very confident to start the game, and that you dare to play our football – our football! It is very difficult to do that in just two days but we shall try.”
When asked if the current run of form and results affect his standing and his future at the club, he iterated
“That is something I discuss with [executive vice-chairman] Ed Woodward not you.
“It is not always the club that has to fire or sack me. Sometimes I do that by myself, but I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United and my members of staff and my players, not with you.”
But he also reiterated that the board still supported him, however, with this loss, things might change.
“I have received [the club’s backing] all the time but we have lost so there is a new situation.
“I feel the support of my players and my board. The fans will be disappointed but that is logical after four defeats.”
These have been real testing times at United, such that did not occur, even with David Moyes in charge. It will be a real challenge for the board and Woodward to handle the situation but things are not looking very bright for the current manager. These are going to be some long days and nights for Van Gaal but with the festive season around, neither he nor his players have a lot of time to give these things a thought. In a couple of days, United will host Chelsea, a slightly rejuvenated one, one might say. A win is the least that would be expected of this team. Five defeats or a stretch of eight games without a win will further affect Van Gaal’s plans of completing his contract at United.