Manchester United earned a 1-1 draw with Stoke City after a very controversial match in which the Red Devils failed to take their chances for high portions of the match. Stoke earned an early own goal after Juan Mata deflected Erik Pieters’ low cross into David De Gea’s goal, and it took United until the 94th minute before substitute Wayne Rooney broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time Manchester United scoring record with a truly stunning free kick. United, failing to take their mass of chances, should hope to learn from this match, because there were many decisions from United’s boat that didn’t really make sense.
Marouane Fellaini shouldn’t start games
After a goal-creating performance against Liverpool, and signing a new contract after his late strike against Hull City, many fans were saying Marouane Fellaini should be a late substitute option for Manchester United. However, seeing as he should never start matches for United, it would be interesting to see how this type of negotiation would work out. I am consistently baffled by Jose Mourinho’s inability to see that Marouane Fellaini, as good of a player as he may be, does not suit Manchester United’s strengths.
Looking on the pitch for United today, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba, and Juan Mata are all passing-oriented, quickly moving players, and Fellaini is completely different. Quite often, he took too long with the ball at his feet and stunted United moving forward. Also, replacing Michael Carrick with Fellaini in the lineup had terrible implications- United’s shape was altered by Fellaini’s pressing, and Mata couldn’t cope with the added defensive responsibility of this tactic, scoring an own goal after being stretched.
United’s midfield signings played well but should have played centrally
Instead of Marouane Fellaini, Henrikh Mkhitaryan proved he should’ve started alongside Pogba in the centre of the park today. Mkhitaryan and Pogba were rampant for large parts of the match and could have used each other for added effect, combined with the fact Mkhitaryan doesn’t get involved enough in the smaller games from the wing. With Pogba and Mkhitaryan in creative roles and the pace of Jesse Lingard or Anthony Martial on the left-wing (or Mata in the centre with Lingard on the right), United could’ve had a much better chance of winning the match.
Jose Mourinho’s team selections are still not cohesive
Manchester United’s team selection was poor today, once again, in the small matches. Chris Smalling, unfortunately, does not seem to be a Manchester United defender, as he made a few big errors that could’ve cost the side. I’ve already said enough about Marouane Fellaini. Most of all, though, Mourinho’s selection was awfully lacking in pace, with Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan expected to be the wide outlets. Of the midfield four in front of the defensive midfielder (Ander Herrera, in this case), at least one should be one of the side’s wide pace outlets, Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, or even Ashley Young. Mourinho seems to be taking the right steps to figure out who belongs at Manchester United, but the job of sorting out this United squad is massive, and United fans can expect to be waiting a little while longer before challenging for the title.
Mark Clattenburg has cost United points in each match he officiated
Manchester United should have won this match despite the poor officiating, but in such close margins, this must be considered a deciding factor in the match. Liverpool and Manchester City earn penalties every other week, or so it seems, whereas Manchester United cannot buy one, and it baffles me. Marcus Rashford was held down from a clear run-in to score a goal, and no penalty was given. After that, Ryan Shawcross produced a hand-ball more deliberate than Pogba’s to control the ball and clear it, but United still didn’t get a penalty call.
Watching the other big sides in the league, they also have decisions against them, but none as many and as obvious as Manchester United. The Red Devils have now endured poor decisions from Clattenburg on three occasions, starting with Claudio Bravo and Wayne Rooney during the first derby, following up with sending off Ander Herrera and not Jon Flanagan against Burnley. Those decisions were likely not deliberate, but after months of deliberation, I cannot comprehend why Jose Mourinho was sent off and fined £16,000 for kicking a water bottle in a random direction, whereas Jurgen Klopp verbally abused a fourth official and was praised for showing passion and enthusiasm.
While Rooney’s goal was a collector’s item worth celebrating, Manchester United will feel very frustrated by a match that could’ve seen the Red Devils close the gap with Liverpool to just four points. However, after calming down and breathing easy, United still has three more matches to gain on the top four, before travelling to Manchester City with the likely hope of leapfrogging Pep Guardiola’s men. Manchester United can now only hopefully glance over at Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham Hotspur side and hope they can help reduce the gap between the two Manchester sides to just one point.