This weekend’s home game against Hull City was particularly interesting. At times, Manchester United’s build-up play was exemplary; they looked confident and decisive. But, has normal service resumed? Hull City was devoid of confidence and looked like they were beaten before they crossed the white line. The current Hull City squad is considered to be the best squad the club’s ever had; an unsatisfactory performance from a talented Hull City team who played as if they were strangers to themselves.
Hull City are also one of the few sides that regularly play with a three-man defence, which meant Van Gaal should’ve been tempted to use a back three himself. Against a deep defence of Hull City, Manchester United couldn’t depend upon counter-attacking. Instead, they tried providing incision and creativity from the centre of midfield playing a more patient possession game – Mata, Herrera and Fellaini certainly provided that creativity and incisiveness throughout the match. Di Maria was clutching his right-hamstring as he was substituted-off for Herrera earlier in the first-half. Today’s Manchester United line-up was assuredly the most attack-minded XI manager Van Gaal had ever played; consisted of only two defenders (Smalling and Rojo). Van Gaal’s previously played a 3-4-3 system with Ajax but, unlike to that XI Manchester United’s XI consisted of wing-backs who were wingers and two number 10s. His Ajax XI was much more balanced where F. de Boer, Blind and Reiziger forming the defensive back-3 with Davids, Litmanen, R. de Boer and Rijkaard in the midfield.
The festival season’s on the horizon, and this week’s victory not only provided a platform to build upon, more the Arsenal victory but, also, meant Manchester United go into a busy December month on the back of 3 back-to-back Premier League wins; a mark they haven’t achieved since December 2013.
Robin van Persie started the match despite the fans’ unwillingness. But, that disinclination and lack of trust in the striker was restored by the time he was substitute-off for Falcao later in the second-half with a bullet-shot into the net with his mean left-foot, faith restored. Apparently, Robin van Persie was channeling his inner Adriano by not being to active and then blasting a ball with his left-foot. Robin van Persie was criticized for his lack of involvement, contribution in the team, and for his mere 13 touches against Arsenal topped the lot, showcasing his ‘unsatisfactory’ performance to which Van Gaal replied, “Mario Gomez touched the ball 9 times and he did OK.” Robin Van Persie’s start suggests he is more a target-man – Players can look forward to, and play into and off. 6 – Robin van Persie has had a hand in six goals (two goals, four assists) in four Premier League games against Hull City (via: @OptaJoe). A standing ovation from the Old Trafford faithful suggested the Dutchman’s paid-back the value for the faith the fans had in him when he was under-performing every week.
Hull City could’ve avoided all the 3 goals scored by Manchester United. An own-goal by McGregor as he carried the ball over the goal-line as he tried to save Smalling’s shot; Rooney’s world-class finish wasn’t questionable but, Davies shouldn’t have let the ball bounce – Van Persie’s misplaced control rolled the ball towards Rooney. Hull City again weren’t able to clear the ball from a dangerous attacking-area as Herrera intercepted the ball and guided it into the path of Van Persie who blasted the ball pass the Hull City goalkeeper. Another commanding performance by Carrick in the central midfield as he commanded Manchester United’s plays – a leader-figure which Manchester United is lacking this season, timely. Smalling and Rojo looked particularly fluent and settled in their individually-allotted roles. Fellaini created spaces and did his job successfully (defensively and in the attacking-half). Herrera and Mata should gain most of the praise for this Manchester United victory: interchanged passes, got into spaces as they created passing options for themselves and for their teammates. Hull City was sloppy in possession, and gave the ball back to the opposition as-soon-as they retained possession (which isn’t often). Manchester United completely dominated the possession and midfield. The game-plan perfectly worked-out for Van Gaal as he tried to push Hull City deep into their half and didn’t give them any space to operate in the midfield as Manchester United loaded the centre of the park.
Herrera looked fascinating. Always looks over his shoulder surveying to see where he can move; got into spaces and with a quick-feet plus decent first-touch Ander Herrera, was that something Manchester United were missing and in so many ways. It was another fine performance by Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia as they try to settle-in their new roles.
Rooney struggled as he walked-out of the field as Anthony Taylor blew the full-time whistle. It was the 42nd different injury since the campaign started for Manchester United. Maybe, training? Cannot be bad-luck for 42 times!
Manchester United (4th) goes into the busy December on a positive note. Manchester United face Mark Hughes’ Stoke City at Old Trafford on 3rd December ’14 with Southampton (away) and Liverpool (home) on the horizon. But, has normal service resumed?