10 Feb 2021 12:27:14
So last night was another example of the issues we are having as a team, we just lack creativity and invention. West Ham came with an aim to be tight and sit deep in the dreaded low block and we struggled to break it down. On the whole the performance wasn't awful, but neither was it a joy to watch or particularly entertaining.

In goal I thought Henderson was good, he wasn't really tested by an uninspiring West Ham. Yet he kept his concentration levels up and didn't make any errors. It was also nice to hear a keeper being more vocal and authoritative. All that said if he is to be United's long-term goalkeeper then surely much tougher nights will lay ahead.

Defensively we were sound enough, although we did show at times our propensity to be our own downfall. Particularly when Lindelof passed the ball straight to a West Ham player on the halfway line creating a 3v2 situation that West Ham really should have made more of. Telles was creative and pushed forward, but he doesn't quite seem on the right wavelength with our attacking players, often crossing into good areas but no one attacked them.

Donny van de Beek continues to struggle, personally I think there are two main problems with Donny at United. First off if you just watched him all game you would see he has excellent movement, little runs on players blind side etc. Absolutely brilliant, the problem is none of our players are on the same wavelength as him. Either not seeing or ignoring the run or seeing it too late and making the pass only once Donny was offside. I'm not sure I prescribe to the idea that he is best played deep. His best attribute is his movement constantly finding space for himself or for other people. He should be the ideal player to break down a low block, but he needs a player behind him to be able to find him and make use of that movement. With Fred and Matic behind him there was no one to make those passes.

Playing with a front three all of which are natural strikers who will look to score first and only pass if their route to goal is blocked is extremely limiting to us. It means that by the time they realise they can't score and they lift their head to pass the opposition are back in their defensive shape and any chance that might have been is gone. Having three strikers who are mostly looking for a pathway to goal for themselves, midfielders who are more concerned with making tackles than playing passes along with a No.10 in Donny who is best at finding space rather than playing those killer passes means that the team had a severe lack of creativity, especially when you look at our full backs and see AWB on one side, a player who doesn't offer a great amount going forward currently. It means that most of our creativity is coming from LB with either Shaw or Telles.

This bares out in the stats when we see only Bruno (3), Shaw (1.9), Telles (1.4) and Mata (1.3) are the only players to make MORE than 1 key pass per game. Which when you consider that Shaw and Telles play in the same position so you won't have both in the team at the same time and Mata is a squad player who has only played 336 from a possible 2000+ minutes this season, highlights the lack of creativity in our squad. Why do we struggle to break down low blocks? Simple, we don't have anyone making the creative passes we need to pull them apart.

That lead me on to the other player I want to talk about which is Martial. It seems that the moment there is a little pressure on him his game goes to pieces. Last night he was obsessed with trying to score. Every time he got the ball, he would cut inside drive towards the centre of the goal with his head down and blast a shot at one of the 3 or 4 West Ham players between him and the goal. It was so predictable and easy to defend against and he should have been the first player hooked in my opinion. Our goal came from Rashford having the where with all to have his head up in the box and see McTominay to lay the ball off for him. Had that been Martial he'd have just attempted to shoot, most likely hitting the player in front of him.

It's very frustrating as he has all the talent in the world in his feet, great balance, pace, trickery and a great shot. However, he lacks the mental capacity to deal with competition for his place. Ultimately that is what separates the good players from the great players. Good players can play great when there is no pressure, but great players play great regardless of the pressure. Martial has sadly show time and again that although he has the physical ability to be a great player, he doesn't have the mentality to be a great player. Repeatedly cracking under the pressure of competition for a starting spot.

Last night was a typical performance against a side that set up to stop us, and it will be the same until we get players in who can create chances. But we are in the pot for the next round, so let's look forward to that and finger crossed we can win the cup this year.

1.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 13:40:52
While I can see why people think this about Martial, I'm still not convinced that this is the problem. I can't quite put my finger on what it is about him, but I have a nagging feeling that the cause of his struggles is being misdiagnosed.

With Donny, I'm more in agreement. Play him at number 10 with wide playmakers rather than wide forwards, and I think he'd shine. Playing him with Pogba behind him and Mata on the right might work. Cavani up front would probably help too, as he is the type of forward who can hold up the ball and look for those runs being made around him.

The problem with that is that we can't build our entire team around what gets the best out of one player. Maybe if you have someone like Messi or Ronaldo you can do that, but much though I like Donny, he is no Messi or CR7.

However, with a proper holding midfielder who sits deep and shields the defence (a role only Matic currently fills), Donny could play more alongside Bruno rather than behind him, and Bruno is definitely a player who could find Donny in those spaces. Hell, Bruno would love having someone alongside him with that kind of movement.

The other thought I have regarding Donny is that even without that extra creativity around him, he could do well for us in big games against big teams who don't just sit back. There will be a lot more space for him to find, and it will be easier for others to find him in that space. He also offers more than Bruno in terms of pressing and winning the ball back, which synergises well with Ole's preference for Fred and McT in these games.

2.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 13:53:51
Shappy you absolutely rinsed Maguire a few days ago, and now you say "defensively we are sound". Make your mind up.

It wasn't great to watch, but one thing I have noticed is that our slow football is now played 10-15 years further up the pitch.

That's been the case for 4-6 weeks now so I wonder if it's something Fletcher or another coach has suggested, after it was glaringly obvious to everyone else that we won't score passing the ball between our back 4.

Either way we are in the hat for the QF draw.

3.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 14:13:12
It was a very forgetful game. Touching on your part about Martial, Rashford and Greenwood all being natural strikers? I don't think any of them are. Greenwood obviously is the closest to a striker simply because his finishing is his best attribute, but the few games he's been up top he's looked a little lost. I do think he'll end up there but right now he's not a striker.

Rashford is a winger to me. His best games are on the left. Martial is also a winger. None of them have decent hold up play, they don't make good runs into the box, they don't score the scruffy goals you need your striker to get.

The two of them just put their head down and dribble into the box. Often down alleys they shouldn't run. I don't know if it's a lack of football intelligence but neither of those two fill me with any confidence when they play as a striker.

4.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 14:55:01
Wazza, You've misquoted me there. I said "Defensively we were sound enough", were not are, as I was clearly referring to this game in general where West Ham only had 3 shots on goal in two hours of play.

I also go on to say that it was mostly due to how West Ham set up to almost intentionally avoid our penalty area. Even then I point out at least one situation where our defenders gave the ball away giving West Ham the advantage in a 3v2 situation which they failed to capitalise on. I still think our defence is nowhere near good enough, last night however, West Ham decided to give them a free pass.

Mumbles I think it depends on what your definition of a striker is. Some people think it means being a traditional centre forward leaning in to CB's winning headers and and goal hanging for the tap ins. While others think differently. I'm not saying anyone is wrong, just different view points. Personally for me what distinguishes a striker from a winger or a No.10 is a single tracked mind to goal. Always looking to score when they are on the ball and either ignoring or not even seeing where their team mates are. That is why for me someone like Rooney was never really a striker even though he played a lot of games at CF. RvN however couldn't play anywhere else as he did nothing but score goals.

In that respect I see Martial, Greenwood and to a slightly lesser extent Rashford as strikers. Players who's first instinct when they get the ball is to think how they can score and not how the team can score.

Martial has never got more than 6 assists in a season, mostly because he doesn't look to pass to anyone else and keeps looking to shoot. His best seasons for us in terms of impact have been when he has played as a striker as although he doesn't get many more assists for us from that position he goes from scoring 3 or 4 goals a season to 11 or 17 making a much bigger impact.

Sadly the pattern of the moment someone come in to challenge him for his place he goes off the boil, Zlatan, Lukaku, Cavani. It's no coincidence anymore.

5.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 15:28:29
I’m must be in the minority but I thought we played reasonably well last night against a decent team. We completely dominated possession, played higher up the pitch and won the ball back quickly. We created a few good chances and looked in total control.

West Ham sat incredibly deep with at least 8 men behind the ball, creating chances was always going to be difficult against an inform, motivated and well organised team. I think we missed Cavani’s movement and presence in the box and as the game opened up in extra time we looked a lot more threatening.

On VdB he will never play consistently at No10 for Utd because Fernandes is our best player. He’ll only play in that position if Fernandes is injured or rested.

In my opinion VdB is a neat and tidy footballer best suited to a possession based team that play with precision and rotation. A team that creates chances by the movement and rotation of its players. He likes to play quick, short passes, with players in and around him all moving off each other and into space. We play a more direct style and require our attackers to be more dynamic.

His best chance of securing regular minutes in my opinion is part of the midfield pivot. I don’t see him playing that much in the bigger games where Ole prefers the energy and industry of Mctominay and Fred but against lower placed opposition where we will enjoy the majority of possession I think he could do a good job of keeping the ball moving quickly, linking with Fernandes and making runs into the box. I think he will have to change his game slightly to become a bit more combative and he might have to look for longer passes on occasions either to switch the play or pass in behind when we find ourselves in quick transitions or on the counter.

Once Pogba leaves in the summer I expect he’ll find more opportunities to play. Had Pogba been sold I’m sure he would have got significantly more minutes although I’m not entirely convinced he’ll ever really be considered an automatic first choice starter whilst Ole is the manager. I think Ole see’s him as quality back up for Fernandes and a different, more offensive option in the double pivot.

6.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 15:55:45
I’m with you DLIB, I thought we did ok against an in form team. It was laboured at times, we made some poor decisions in the final third but too often I have people seen us lose those kind of games.

Rashford worries me, I think he is very talented but he seems distracted. As for Martial, I think he has been here long enough and not contributed far too often. Greenwood is looking frisky so I’d keep him in and I’d have Cavani in as often as we can.

We rested a couple, have a game to a couple, and we’re through. That’s fine by me.

7.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 16:10:49

Totally agree, Moyes tactics were to sit back so we couldn't break them down and I can only assume try and win on penalties, it took a while and we had to be patient but our squad did well, being able to change the full backs and not lose too much quality is what City have done so well over the last couple of years, whenever we change one (or both last night) we seem to score not too long after. After the good performance against Everton and disappointment of not getting the result last night was all about getting the win and into the hat for the next round which we did and I never really felt like we were in any trouble and always felt our subs would change it for us.

8.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 16:23:55
Dlib i tend to agree West ham sat deep with 2 banks of 5 restricted room and made it hard and a dire game .
But there really was only 1 team in it .

9.) 10 Feb 2021
10 Feb 2021 18:28:09
Apologies Shappy I read that wrong. I should become a journo.