Connect in the back of the net

Vishakh’s latest “The Manchester Musings” column.

Another 3-game week with Manchester United, another win/loss/draw.

A 0-0 stalemate at home vs Burnley was followed by an abject away showing against Fenerbahce with redemption coming in the form of a 3-1 win at Swansea.

 

Burnley

In reflection, this was just one of those days.

37 shots, 12 on target, over 70% possession – on another day this would have been a dominant 3-0 win.

Tom Heaton was in inspired form, making some saves he would expect too, but some outstanding saves as well – most notably one from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The Swedish striker had 12 shots in total on his own, and while it was notable that he was getting into good positions and creating chances, he was just not able to find the back of the net.

Burnley hardly threatened David De Gea in net, leaving Luke Shaw to operate more like a winger in the second half.

Juan Mata hit the post, Paul Pogba shot from far, shots were cleared off the line, but it was just not one of those days.

A thoroughly frustrating draw left United in 8th position at the end of the weekend.

 

Fenerbahce

It is officially a worrying position in the Europa League, with United sitting in 3rd place and elimination as it stands.

A shocking away display now mean the Red Devils have not won away in Europe since December 2013 – coming up to three years now.

Fenerbahce took the lead through a stunning Moussa Sow bicycle kick, and United had no response.

Slow, ponderous play reminded many viewers of previous years, and what was noticeable was a lack of a coherent plan/idea.

Wayne Rooney started up front but continued to show signs of decline, with one particular opportunity in the box that an awful first touch negated.

Paul Pogba came off injured in the first half, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic came on and provided some fireworks.

It seemed to galvanise the home team, and they dug in resolutely.

A Jeremain Lens free kick put them 2-0 up and from then on it was game over despite a Wayne Rooney consolation strike from 30 yards.

United now need to win away at Zorya (and finally put this away curse over) and at home vs Feyenoord to qualify for the next stage.

 

Swansea

Swansea is normally a tough place for United to go to – having struggled in previous years with both teams scoring.

When teams were announced, many fans were left confused. Ashley Young at RB, Phil Jones at CB, Wayne Rooney on the left wing, it just seemed like a team thrown together.

What United fans failed to account for however, were Swansea themselves.

A team that looked bereft of any confidence, the Welsh team failed to press United or put any pressure on them.

A team with Michael Carrick and Paul Pogba (fit after Thursday’s knock) took complete control of the first half, the latter striking a stunning goal after 15 minutes to put the away team in the lead.

The second goal came soon later, with Ibrahimovic ending his goal drought with a strike from the edge of the box (that Fabianski should really have done better).

It was 3-0 after 30 mins when Ibrahimovic got his second.

The Swansea fans did deserve better, and Bob Bradley will really have his work cut out if they want to avoid relegation this season.

Swansea did get one back through a set piece, but it was too little too late.

 

Crunch time

Another tough week for United leading into the international break, but it is now coming into crunch time.

6th in the Premier League, 3rd in the Europa League group, and with a League Cup semi-final coming up against West Ham, the games will come thick and fast.

It is also time for certain players to step up and be counted, and the squad depth will be tested.

The next game is against Arsenal at home – a good result/performance there will set the team up in the best possible position going forward.

 

Written by Vishakh Chandrasekhar

Follow Vishakh on Twitter @VishC24

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