Three things that Manchester United should or shouldn’t do over the coming week.
Wow! I mean where do I start. A hugely impressive away win at Watford, at a ground in which United were tumbled 3-1 last season. Messi Lingard, proving to the doubters that Jose Mourinho is bringing the best out of the England international. Despite Watford nicking two late goals to bring a nervy finish, United would spring back into life and make sure of the points with an 80 yard run from Lingard, culminating in the forward slotting the ball past the hapless Gomes, after dribbling past three or four defenders.
What was to follow next was an absolute throwback to United in their swashbuckling pomp. Two goals in the opening ten minutes were enough to put Arsenal on the back foot and reminded everyone just what the glory years of Sir Alex Ferguson used to contain. Except that all the players remembered that they were in fact playing for Jose Mourinho and as soon as the net finished rippling, following Messi Lingard’s fine first-time finish, the United team dropped deep to defend. Arsenal would heap wave after wave of attacking misery onto United, only for a superhuman display from David De Gea keeping the scoreline below a rugby score. Lingard again nicking a goal on the break after a decent counter-attack, this at a time when Arsenal were looking to equalise.
That result was massive, especially with City once again leaving it late to win. If United have any aspirations of winning the title, then they really must deal with City at home on Sunday.
The following fixtures are on this weeks’ calendar.
5th December: Home – CSKA Moscow (Champions League)
10th December: Home – Manchester City
1 – Replace Pogba
With Paul Pogba being suspended for the Manchester derby, Mourinho has a conundrum to solve. Does the boss replace Pogba’s fair with a like for like replacement in say Juan Mata, or go for a more conservative approach and stick in his countryman, Ander Herrera. Pogba’s tackle on Hector Bellerin was a little naughty albeit somewhat unfortunate. Bellerin had decided that to tackle Pogba, he would use the most unorthodox means of tackling that anyone has ever seen. Pogba will be feeling aggrieved but can only have himself to blame for not pulling out of the tackle after the ball had run away from him. I expect Herrera to start and attempt to do a job on Kevin De Bruyne.
2 – Don’t Park the Bus
Playing at Old Trafford this week means that Mourinho will be expected to come out and attack. To be honest anything less and United can pretty much kiss goodbye to their title credentials. An eleven point gap will be far too much for the Red Devils to claw back. In fact, it’s not just a case of United clawing it back, it’s the fact that City will have to lose the equivalent of four matches. Even a blind man can see that the chances of this will be slim to none. Jose will need to muster up an absolute masterclass to get a result. Is it beyond the manager? No way!
3 – Squad Players
With the Champions League tie against CSKA Moscow the appetizer before the main course which is the derby, Jose must make sure that the players he selects for the game not only get the job done, but also get valuable minutes and hopefully remain injury free. Nemanja Matic, who had tweaked a muscle against Watford but heroically managed to play the full 90 minutes against Arsenal, must surely be given the night off.
A chance to give 90 minutes to the following players: Rashford, Mata, Blind, Darmian and Lindelof. Why Lindelof you ask? Well, he missed a large part of the beginning of the season and now has stepped up in recent weeks. Mourinho needs to keep his engine ticking over and let him establish himself in this United defence.
I am not even going to mention the fact that Chris Smalling will still be selected at the weekend. Let’s hope that he proves me wrong. The title race really could be decided this weekend, the middle of December!