A tale of 2 United’s.

Published: Monday, 18 January 2021

Only history will tell us. Did United drop two points - and miss the chance to all but put Liverpool out of the title race - or did they bore their way to a valuable point that might just be the difference between winning the title and missing out?

Everybody is talking about Liverpool. I get that. They’re the champions and they’re horribly out of sorts. I described them as ‘bits and pieces’ on BeINSPORTS - as I discussed the game post match with Andy and Nigel de Jong, you can see the full debate on YouTube. Those who saw it know what I’m referring to! They are ‘bits and pieces’ right now. The two full- backs are way off. They don’t have a central defender to speak of. Without Henderson in mid-field there’s no intensity and they’re mis-firing up top - but the service is awful. And for me, that’s largely down to the full-backs. When those two are firing their unstoppable crosses in Liverpool are an entirely different prospect.

So why didn’t United go for the jugular? The minute the team sheets came in - and he saw that Henderson was playing at centre-back - Solakjaer should’ve ripped up his game plan and started again.

United are better than Liverpool right now. They went into the game as the form team in the country. They should’ve been brimming with confidence.

They had more height. McTominay and Pogba. McGuire for set-pieces. The lightening quick reactions of Rashford and Martial. The cunning of Fernandes.  It was there to be won. Go and play in Liverpool’s half. Go and do what City would’ve done - and win it three or four nil. Make a statement.

Instead they were turgid. Dull. Boring. And scared. If Mourinho had served that up he’d have been slaughtered.

I know there are two sides to the game. I’ve argued that on many occasions when teams have gone into a cauldron - and sat in hoping to nick a point - or three. I get it. I applaud it when it’s done well. Mourinho is the master of it. We’ve seen his teams do it time and again - never to better effect than when he took Inter to Barcelona for a CL semi-final 2nd leg with a 3-1 lead and left with the sweetest 1-0 defeat in history. It was classic Mourinho. The benchmark. Inter played with 10 following Motta’s red card in the 30th minute. Messi, Ibra, Xavi - none of them could find an answer.

If United had gone to Anfield with Liverpool at their breathtaking best I could understand a rear guard action to protect and maybe steal. But, as I’ve already said, right now they’re not. The Champions were there for the taking and United bottled it.

Do you remember all the nonsense from the Class of ‘92 when Solskjaer got the job? ‘Never again must a manager here betray our traditions. Ignore our DNA. Try and impress on us his own beliefs’. My goodness. What was that we saw at the weekend?

By Monday Solskjaer was talking about the ‘fantastic, disciplined’ job Pogba did. Really? Doing what exactly? Why wasn’t he at the other end of the pitch proving that he can boss big games - not just games against Burnley?

And Klopp was realistic enough to be talking about ‘making the top four’ this season. There’s the key. He knows they’re way short right now. United missed a chance to blow them out of the water.

The other United I wanted to talk about is Leeds. What’s going on there? How can they be so good one week - and a limp, embarrassing version of themselves the next?

I’m beginning to wonder if a change isn’t needed. Bielsa holds a god-like status with Leeds fans. He can do no wrong in their eyes - but what does the owner make of it all? At the end of the day - his opinion is the only one that matters.

I hear tales of confused meetings with the manager. Of language barriers - erected by Bielsa to hide behind. Never piss the owner off. There’ll only ever be one winner - as Big Ron found out at Villa all those years ago - when he constantly undermined Doug Ellis.
The first chance Ellis got - Atkinson was gone. It’s the same today as it ever was.

At their best Leeds are a delight to watch. It must be fun and frustrating in equal measure to play in that side. It can’t be easy knowing that you’re going to have to score at least twice to win a game because you can’t keep a clean sheet. Here - there are arguments for caution on occasions.

I’m reading the usual suggestions of ‘tiredness’, which always come at this time of their season.  Are Leeds running on empty? Of course Karen Carney’s suggestion that ‘they wouldn’t have got up had it not been for Covid’ was clumsy - but I know the point she was making - and so did everybody else. They would’ve got up. They were the best team in the Championship by miles last season. What she really meant was that the Covid break allowed them to re-charge and she was right. There might not be the same chance this season.

I don’t believe Leeds will ever be better then 14th-10th playing the way they do. That won’t be enough for an ambitious owner like Andrea Radrizzani. It shouldn’t be enough for Leeds fans either. So what happens in order for Leeds to take the next step? I wonder if Bielsa will be in charge at Elland Road next season?