Connect in the back of the net

Vishakh’s latest “The Manchester Musings” column.

Another weekend passes, another draw for Manchester United, and another two points thrown away with a 1-1 away at Everton.

A sixth draw in eight Premier League matches leaves the club in 6th place with over a third of the season gone, and now 6 points away from Tottenham Hotspur in 5th place and 9 points away from Manchester City in 4th place.

Both Manchester United and Everton were under pressure going into the game; having both started the season well there had been a definite shift in results.

After a dominant showing in the League Cup against West Ham, Jose Mourinho started both Anthony Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan out wide with Zlatan Ibrahimovic up top.

The Frenchman looked lively at Goodison, whereas the Armenian struggled to get into the game.

 

Throwback

The first half was a throwback to United last season – plenty of possession (most unthreatening), with the tempo of the game really being slow.

However it was the same for Everton, who were noticeably trying to play the ball direct to Romelu Lukaku.

Michael Oliver was involved in a couple of incidents in the first 45 minutes when he failed to book Gareth Barry for a late challenge, and failing to miss what was a blatant Marcos Rojo red card.

 

Real moment

The only real moment of quality came with four minutes left in the first half.

Anthony Martial played the ball over the top into space for Ibrahimovic, who found himself free of Ashley Williams.

For some strange reason, Maarten Stekelenburg came racing off his line, and Ibrahimovic chipped it first time.

The ball hit the underside of the bar and then the post, but backspun and crossed the line before Ramiro Funes Mori could clear it.

 

Searching for that elusive second goal

United started the second half brighter, but the second goal proved elusive.

Once again there were half chances, but nothing clear cut to suggest the Red Devils should have been two up – the only one that could have resulted in a goal was an Ander Herrera sliced kick that hit the crossbar.

Everton began to create chances and the crowd fed off it – a great save from David De Gea kept it at 1-0.

 

Last-ditch penalty

United dropped deeper and deeper, and just about when most felt that they had done enough to secure the three points, Marouane Fellaini fouled Idrissa Gueye in the box in the 85th minute.

Leighton Baines stepped up and made no mistake.

Everton ended the game the stronger side, but 1-1 was probably a bit of a favourable scoreline to the home side.

 

Could the draws have been avoidable? And if so, how?

Draw 1: 1-1 vs Stoke City (H)

The first draw was (what we thought) one of those days.

Lee Grant had an inspired day in goal saving from point blank range off both Anthony Martial and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

United had 24 shots, 9 on target, but couldn’t break the Stoke defence down.

A rare David De Gea error allowed Joe Allen to sneak in unchallenged in the 82nd minute.

Verdict: Bad draw (individual mistake). 2 points dropped

 

Draw 2: 0-0 vs Liverpool (A)

This was a Mourinho masterclass, as he set his team out to frustrate a rampant Liverpool attack.

It worked brilliantly, and United came out of Anfield with a lot of credit and a well earned point.

Verdict: Good draw.

 

Draw 3: 0-0 vs Burnley (H)

If the first draw saw the away GK in inspired form, this was another level.

Tom Heaton had the game of his life back at Old Trafford, and put his name on the list for Best Individual Performance 2016.

12 shots on target, 37 overall, the ball refused to go into the Burnley net. Burnley hardly threatened though, and it was all one way traffic.

Verdict: Bad draw, but just one of those days. Happens.

 

Draw 4: 1-1 vs Arsenal (H)

Out of all the draws, this will be the one that frustrates Jose Mourinho the most.

Against Arsene Wenger, a game where United took the lead; this is where Mourinho has made his name – protecting a 1-0 lead.

While United did not create that many chances to make it 2-0, they were always going to be susceptible.

An individual mistake from Marcus Rashford allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain to stand the ball up in the box, and Olivier Giroud made no mistake to snatch a point for Arsenal.

Verdict: Bad draw. Entirely avoidable.

 

Draw 5: 1-1 vs West Ham (H)

If the previous draws hadn’t happened, this would have been acceptable.

In the context however, this needed to be a must win at home vs a struggling West Ham side.

United went down early and showed some character to equalise, but the finishing let them down badly.

There were some chances that weren’t taken, but Darren Randolph also had a good day in goal.

1-1 here was also a fair result, as West Ham laid siege on the United goal in the last 10 minutes and could have even won it.

Verdict: Fair draw.

 

Draw 6: 1-1 vs Everton (A).

While Goodison Park is a tough place for Manchester United to visit, this was another bad draw in the wider context.

United seemed to be cruising/comfortably leading at 1-0, but a rash individual mistake from Marouane Fellaini gave Everton a penalty in the last few minutes of the game.

1-0 would have been a fair scoreline, and it put even more pressure on United.

Verdict: Bad draw due to individual mistakes.

 

Conclusion

Out of the 6 draws so far, 1 was a good draw (Liverpool), 1 was one of those days (Burnley), and 1 was a fair draw (West Ham).

The other three however represent a total of 6 points missed out – and had United won those 3 games, they would be sitting on 26 points rather than 20 and well within touching distance of the top 4.

However being 9 points off with 14 games gone represents too big of a milestone to get into the Champions League, let alone winning the title.

A chance still exists – should United go on a Chelsea-type run by winning six/seven consecutive matches, they will pile on the points and ‘run the table’.

However, the time for this is running out. An interesting winter awaits at Old Trafford.

 

Written by Vishakh Chandrasekhar

Follow Vishakh on Twitter @VishC24

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