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EyeOnSoccer

Manchester United Draw in the New Year

Falcao Goal 2015-01-01

While I took a hiatus from reporting on games in the Premier League, I continued to enjoy watching Manchester United’s decent run of form, and the rise and fall of many of the other squads in the table. Manchester United has had a decent run since their loss in the Manchester Derby on November 2nd.

They won the last 3 of their November games against Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Hull City. Their continued good play in December’s fixtures saw them win 4 and draw 2. Their draws were against Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspurs and were hard fought, but you felt United could have done more to get all the points. On December 28th they had great opportunity to advance on the leaders, Chelsea and Manchester City who also drew, but were unable to manage more than the point.

Regardless, United has done well considering they’ve been learning a new system and having a constantly changing roster due to injury. United’s defense has been suspect since losing their pillars Vidic and Ferdinand. Van Gaal has alternated between using a back three and two wing backs, and a back four, depending on who is available. All the full backs have been injured at one time or another, as well as their holding midfielders.

Of course it hasn’t just been the defense that has had a revolving door, it’s also the offense that have had problems. Falcao’s lack of fitness has led to spotty play time, RVP and Rooney’s tepid scoring in the start of the season, and Di Maria’s injury problems. Herrera and Blind were expected to contribute to the offense but have seen little time on the pitch due to injury. Mata has had to earn his way back into the side, and in recent games his skill, assisting, and scoring opportunities have been on the rise.

United doesn’t lack for quality except in the defensive side of the squad. Rafael has returned in the last two games, and while I like his play and runs up the wing, he fouls a lot and is prone to injury. Smalling and Jones are just flat out scary when defending, especially Jones who often displays rash challenges and poor decision making. McNair is young and shows promise, although often seems slower than those he’s defending.

De Gea save vs Sterling

De Gea stops Sterling shot.

The gem in the defense however, has been De Gea who has valiantly and aggressively defended his net, keeping United in the game, and winning it for them with his smart and acrobatic goal keeping. His six saves against Liverpool (Dec 14, 2014) was a performance nothing short of brilliant, saving a clean sheet in a 3-0 win.  He has continued to react extremely well to save blistering shots on goal, and as of this week he ranks at the top of the EA Sports Player Performance Ranking for goalkeepers.  Of course, that is one of those rankings that indicates you may have a problem defending in front of your keeper.

While they started today with another come from behind draw, 1-1 against Stoke City, there is lots of optimism. They’ve shown they can piece together a side and come out victors the majority of the time. Players such as Mata, De Gea, and Rooney have stepped up when needed.

We haven’t lost a match since I last wrote an article for the November 2nd match against City.  That string of 10 matches were enough to pull us up into a solid third spot on the table, which feels good after last season’s disaster.  But three of the last four matches resulting in draws have prevented us from putting distance between us and the rest of the table, much less closing on the top two.

Can’t wait until everyone is healthy.

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