Tuesday, 18 January 2022 06:09

Manchester United can no longer hide behind their excuse in the transfer window

With the floodlights still on and the lawnmowers smoothing the divots of the emerald green turf, a stoic Ralf Rangnick took his seat in a spartan room at Villa Park.

Rangnick was self-critical, admitting he considered switching to a back three but fretted over the 'signal' it would send to the players with United 2-0 up. He remained dormant and Villa finally breached David de Gea. It was inevitable they would do so again.


A substitution was urgent with United 1-0 up in the second-half yet none of the six outfield options embarked on a warm-up until the 65th minute. As Donny van de Beek, Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho limbered up, Bruno Fernandes clinically made it 2-0.

The ideal change would have been to withdraw Nemanja Matic, compromised by a 31st-minute booking and his footwork as cumbersome as an England batsman, only United do not have another defensive midfielder.


The logical change would have been to substitute Anthony Elanga, understandably fatigued on his first truly competitive Premier League start, introduce Van de Beek and switch to a 4-3-3 formation in an attempt to gain a measure of control.

Rangnick described Villa as 'quite a central team' last Monday yet their damage came from the flank. Lucas Digne had Diogo Dalot on toast and both goals stemmed from Villa's left-hand side.

Dalot was bound to be exposed with Mason Greenwood ahead of him. Seeing as Rangnick went like for like by substituting Elanga for Sancho, Lingard for Greenwood would have been more logical to offer Dalot protection but that would have blunted United on the breakaway.

United downgraded from a controlling team in the first 35 minutes to a counter-attacking team and then no team. Villa may wonder why they did not sustain momentum and go for a winner against a team that was in defeatist mode.

The United social media team has been busy deifying Fernandes, who had his best performance since the opening weekend against Leeds, drifting to the left-hand side to collaborate slickly with Elanga and Alex Telles. Fernandes's pass completion was his highest as a starter in the Premier League all season.


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