After the final whistle of Manchester United’s 2-0 defeat against Burnley on Wednesday night, the home side trudged off of the pitch with their heads facing the floor after another damaging result. Although perhaps more damaging for United’s players will be the amounting pressure onto such an inexperienced side with little room for reflection, as the FA Cup and Carabao Cup again come into focus before the month ends.
It looks like not only supporters are begging for new additions to the squad, but that the players are too. The likes of Daniel James, hooked after 70 minutes against Burnley, must be wondering why he is being forced into playing so many matches. In the 2018/19 season, James played 43 matches in all competitions, he’s already played 35 this campaign and it’s not even February.
James has not scored since August and that is seeming to be getting to him, snatching at chances against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup and looking nervous on the ball at Anfield against Liverpool. Despite this, he can hardly be afforded a rest with the lack of options in wide positions, so therefore he will have to sink or swim. Worryingly, with the amount of time James is kicked in matches, it might not be long until he picks up an injury.
Similarly, Mason Greenwood was once again brought on off of the bench to try and turn around a game, as he has previously this season in games against at home to Crystal Palace and away to Bournemouth, Sheffield United, Watford and Arsenal. His goal at Bramall Lane helped form a comeback but to expect Greenwood to perform miracles every time is unreasonable.
When looking across the city at Phil Foden, Pep Guardiola is often criticised for not giving the youngster from Stockport many starts. However, what Foden is afforded is the luxury to come on in games where Manchester City are already winning four or five nil, therefore allowing him the freedom to express himself and showcase his talent without the pressure of getting a result on his shoulders.
Also, plenty of United’s players seem drained from simply playing too many minutes. For example, Fred has started the Reds’ last 17 league matches, many of which came over the festive period. For a Brazilian player in only his second season after coming over from Ukraine, this must have been difficult for him and it is a testament to his ability that he has been impressive in almost every appearance. With injuries to Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, how Fred must be wishing he could gain some help or even be able to be given a few games off with a midfield signing in this January transfer window.
Phil Jones is a player so derided he is judged before even starting the game, with the mere sight of Jones’ name on the team sheet often filling United fans with a sense of dread. Jones is a good professional and it is certainly not his fault that he is still starting games for the club, blame should be directed instead at a failing recruitment system over a number of years.
Jones stated that only his mum and dad would turn up for his testimonial and having this lack of confidence in yourself and knowing the relationship with the fans is at such a low must be tough for him.Plenty will say that footballers are paid handsomely to play so frequently and to take heavy amounts of criticism but there is no doubting that rotating the squad and keeping minds fresh and bodies active is a key part of a successful team, how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wish he could do such right now.
Written by Alex Metcalfe