Another home match, another dominating performance but another draw.
Manchester United completely dominated Arsenal on Saturday and could have put loads of goals past Petr Cech, but the keeper held his own for most of the match. Juan Mata got the breakthrough in the second half but United could not grab another goal to give a cushion to its lead. United played extremely well but one moment of a lapse in focus in the 89th minute, Olivier Giroud equalized. Following the match, Jose Mourinho positively spun the third consecutive home draw for his men.
“Imagine if we had the six points we lost at home, where we would be. We had three amazing performances. I am sure we are going to play other matches like that at home and we are going to win. That’s football. What we did against Stoke, Burnley and Arsenal at home, is for the people to leave the stadium with the happiness of the nine points, but instead we go with three points, which is really bad, but the performance levels make me believe a lot in the future. It is not possible that you are unlucky every game, but in this moment we are unlucky every game, which is incredible.”
United cannot drop points in this manner if the club wants to get back into the Champions League next season. With some still believing that United is in the title race, it is beginning to seem out of reach. United’s best hope for Champions League football might be winning Europa League, but that does not look promising at the moment. United need a bit of luck, which is not in their favour right now either. The only positive note is that the team is completely dominating opponents.
Playing well is one thing, but not finishing games off is troublesome. United dominate matches, which is a nice change from the Louis van Gaal era, but the lack of wins at home is no laughing matter. Mourinho has a great squad, which does not consist of players he obtained. He let Mata go from Chelsea, and the Spaniard is arguable United’s most consistent player this season. In the Arsenal match, only Paul Pogba was a Mourinho addition, and he looked comfortable. What Mourinho is doing is getting the best out of the players, but it might be exactly what the Portuguese boss is saying: United is not lucky.
The club is not struggling to create chances but not putting games away, and in some cases not scoring, is a big concern for United going forward. United should be in a much better spot on the table considering the dominant performances this season, but the Red Devils need to learn to put matches away. There is no more ‘Fergie Time’ magic that United fans became accustomed to in the 1990’s. United need to get the job done earlier in the match. Whether that is from a clinical striker or just strong build up play that leads to a goal, something has to change. United did not stop attacking after the Mata goal against Arsenal but when Morgan Schneiderlin was subbed in, the match slowed down and Mourinho’s side appeared to be content with a 1-0 scoreline. Giroud’s equalizer meant United had to show some urgency in stoppage time but as usual, nothing came of their efforts.
United needs better first half urgency. That’s the simple solution. Get goals in the first half to send the match wide open and give time to add onto the lead. United has won matches with fantastic score lines this year, and most of those wins have seen dominant performances in the first half come with goals. Bournemouth, Southampton and Leicester are amongst those wins. United needs more of those. They are capable of winning games like those again and need to do it again, and soon if a top four finish is to be achieved.