Obstructed View – Reflections on the Man Utd (A) Game

It’s all a bit raw isn’t it? Another defeat, on paper at least it looks like a thrashing, and 4-0 could hardly be anything else, but it doesn’t tell the story of this fascinating match, nor the Everton hyperbole that has followed amongst the fan base afterwards.


I was one of those after the limp, pathetic, embarrassing defeat to Atalanta, that said another defeat like that and Koeman could lose his job. The defeat was ‘like it’, only worse in terms of scoreline, but at least we can say that the manner of the defeat was different, and there were crumbs of comfort, nay encouragement, in certain individual performances. It may be clutching at straws, but at the moment that seems the best option we’ve got. No point saying “we need a striker” – yes, of course we do, but it’s over 3 months before we can actually recruit one; likewise, another Central Defender or two, and maybe a Full Back. Or at least use the ones we’ve got better.

If you don’t want to wallow in defeat and self pity any more than you have already, I imagine you haven’t even opened this article; if you’ve got this far and you want me to rant and rave at Koeman, Williams and the Moon to make you feel better, you might as well leave the page now, because I’m not going to do that. I’m as frustrated and frankly mystified with our performances in the last three games, where we have singular failed to build on the excellent result at Manchester City, and even the tie against Hajduk Split, both of which seemed to tell a lie to the “it’ll take time to settle a new squad” argument. Recent results give that theory more credence.

The reality is that if we’d played City yesterday, they’d have despatched us with considerable aplomb, and we were perhaps lucky that we played them before they were completely in their stride. Until yesterday, we’d turned in to an Everton side with no fire, no fight, little creativity, and a defence as robust as a non-existent Mexican wall. Oh, and no goal threat. None.

But as I reflect back on the 90 minutes yesterday, I think of two chances Rooney and Sigurdsson could easily have converted, a slammer from Sandro that was superbly saved, and we can at least believe that we can create chances. Not a hat load I’ll grant you, but about 3000% more than Chelsea, Spurs and Atalanta combined (don’t do the exact maths please, I’m just continuing the hyperbole….). Whilst we’re dwelling on the positives up front, Rooney did OK, not brilliant, but a decent leader of the line; what worried me more was that when he dropped deeper, he gave the ball away more often than any other player, but he won’t do that many times in a season. Calvert-Lewin had little time to impress, but he did OK as well, and I really like Sandro’s movement, and once again, even repeating my message from the Stoke game, we don’t seem to have grown used to a front man with movement, and we’re not picking him out with simple balls along the carpet with which he can turn and run at defenders; I’ve seen enough that I know he’ll do that, we just need to supply him the ammo. Even Mirallas looked a threat, briefly, and then briefer still when he passed the ball out of play. But signs, and we need signs. We also need Lookman on the bench, and use him. He wants to play for us, whereas Mirallas wants to play for Olympiakos.

We may well have found a winger/wide man in Martina. There’s one thing for sure, Martina’s defending is not good enough, a worrying statement about a Full Back, but he rarely tackles, rarely stops crosses coming in, and rarely intercepts. I will admit he was better yesterday than he has been, but Right Back? No, not for me. Instead, the rather marvellous Trevor Edwards (@blackrodblue) has suggested that one option might be to try Cuco wide right midfield. The two things we can see from Cuco so far this season (the positives I mean) is that he has pace, and can cross. Can’t stop crosses, but can put them in. Curious. Overall yesterday, credit where it’s due, he was less dreadful than he has been, and I’d even go as far as say he was “satisfactory”, and if that isn’t damning with faint praise, I don’t know what is.

The performance of Tom Davies also gave me heart. He’s been off the pace so far this season for me, and RK even said he’d lost a bit of his swagger, his confidence (not better way to rebuild it by drawing attention to it in the national media, Ronald), and his general sheer joy of playing the way he does. But yesterday he provided some bite in the tackle, some energy in midfield, and got forward to support Rooney too, so again, some positive signs. Schneiderlin was also far better than of late, Sigurdsson also showed up better, and Gueye was his usual terrier like self (oh how we missed him against Atalanta). And we should also complement Koeman for attacking substitutions that actually tried to win us the game, or at least salvage a point, but sadly only then witnessed a late leaky bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza (only older readers will get this….). If we’re looking for positives, we have to say that up until an horrendous cock up, and it was truly awful, Williams had a good game, clearly relishing the task of roughing up Lukaku. There aren’t many that can stand up to Lukaku physically, but Williams certainly did, as well as contributing the odd late challenge or block. But then….

And Captain Jags. He must be exhausted, poor old fella. Unlikely to be asked to even go to the game on Wednesday I’d expect, just put your feet up lad, or whatever it is you do in an Ice Bath, and get ready for the weekend. He was solid and dependable, and you could see him nurturing a strangely bewildered and hesitant Keane. I rate the lad, but yesterday he was not at his best. Not sure he excels in a three.

That’s it, maybe too positive a spin for some, but frankly can’t see the point of focusing on the negatives all the time. After an horrendous first 10-15 minutes, we were very much in the game, even looking most likely to score next, but then we had a book-end of a last 10 minutes, and the wheels came off. Final note on ‘that’ celebration? He lacked class with that, but if we give it out, we have to expect it back. I’d just have preferred a bit more recognition about how we’ve helped make Lukaku the world-class striker he undoubtedly is, and not resort to “a bit of banter”.

Ross Crombie


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