Rating the Manchester United Players Against Southampton
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It is all very well, him telling the world and his players that there are no easy games (as reported in the Daily Mail):
'But let's not fool ourselves into believing that we are now entering a phase against the lower teams that will present us with easy pickings.
'That would be a rubbish attitude and if we slip into that kind of attitude I can't think of an easier way to blunt our challenge, because there just aren't any easy games in this league of ours.
But it seemed to have very little effect tonight. Maybe he needs to take a long hard look in the mirror, because his tactics and team selection are starting to put United at risk.
Right now it is his world-class strike force that have got the Red Devils at the top of the Premier League. But they aren't going to stay there long if they play like they did in the second half especially.
And if they set up and play like this against Real Madrid, they will get murdered.
What is more worrying is that this was only Southampton manager Pochettino's second match, but he worked out how to play United off the park. If only they could have come up with an end product.
All the worrying signs that were there last season in Europe were present again. Sir Alex utterly failed to find a way to beat Barcelona in two Finals. Southampton's performance showed us again that he still can't find a solution to a passing, pressing team.
Even if United get past Real Madrid, they'll never beat Dortmund or Barcelona on this showing.
But half of the problem was that Sir Alex simply can't resist tinkering.
With most of his squad fit, he's found a winning formula with Vidic and Ferdinand or Evans at the back, Carrick and Cleverley in the middle and Rooney and van Persie up front.
So why on Earth change it?
Carrick De Gea
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David de Gea: 5
David de Gea will come in for some criticism again for the goal that United gifted Southampton. The truth is that Michael Carrick was almost wholly to blame.
It is all very well, commentators saying De Gea should have done something, but Carrick played him a hospital pass. If he had handled it there would have been a free kick virtually on United's goal line. If he kicked at it, he could have given away a penalty and, being last man, would have been off.
He was in general sound, but he will wonder when his luck is going to turn. Many times he had the ball at his feet or in his hands and had precious little else to do but punt it upfield.
OK, so he did spill a wickedly swerving Lambert free kick.
He did, however, make a world-class save from a Lambert free kick that somehow got around the wall, to protect United's fragile and barely deserved win.
Phil Jones: 6
He and Chris Smalling were given a run out again but not in central defence, where they had been so effective in the two Cup matches.
Why on Earth was Jones at right back again when Rafael has been having such a good season and looked much more secure when he came on?
Jones looked good in the first half receiving the ball in acres of open space, but apart from the cross that found its way to Kagawa, who hit the post, he was not very effective.
He sneaks a 6 only because he shored up United's midfield better after he was moved.
Chris Smalling: 4
Possibly his worst performance in a United shirt.
Yes, he won the ball a lot in the air in the penalty area, but why can't he be equally as effective at the other end of the pitch? He should score more goals.
What badly let him down was the number of times he gave the ball away and the fact that he got visibly more shaky. Eventually Sir Alex saved him from himself by bringing on Rio Ferdinand.
Nemanja Vidic: 7
Not a lot to fault. Commanding in the air and had Lambert pretty much under control. Directed his defence well in the penalty area. Several blocks and saving headers.
Patrice Evra: 7
One of his better performances. Got an assist for the second goal from yet another stunning header.
Won almost everything in the air elsewhere on the pitch, but still gets caught upfield too much. Luckily Kagawa helped him out more than once.
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OK, so he had a good game against Fulham at the weekend, but why on Earth didn't Sir Alex pair Cleverley with Carrick?
Anderson was too far away from Carrick for most of the time until he was taken off.
He also managed to start more Southampton attacks than their own midfield did, with misplaced passes and lost balls.
Frankly, he was dreadful, and Sir Alex will surely shift him unless he starts to produce consistently in the next few months.
Michael didn't do a lot wrong in this match and was his usual highly effective self in the main.
But what he did do wrong was terrible. He was wholly to blame for the first goal and lost the ball in possession in dangerous positions a couple of times.
But the truth is that he got virtually no support from Anderson, and when he got the ball in his own half, his colleagues ran away from him, leaving no one to pass to.
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Shinji was undoubtedly United's man of the match. He confounded any doubters and showed he was worth the money with a nonstop display of technical skill and energy.
He made up for Anderson's disappearance by covering midfield from wing to wing while managing to always be where Evra needed him.
One is only left feeling that if Cleverley had been playing, Kagawa would have driven United to a comprehensive win.
An excellent assist from a Carrick pass for Rooney's first goal. But many many other moments of class that augur well for the rest of the season.
One of Danny's better performances, and he plays where the manager wants him. But there's still no end product.
He received and held the ball well, made plenty of space and looked dangerous running into and around the penalty box. But a tame shot at the keeper let him down.
He also doesn't win enough in the air for a big man.
This was Wayne's best match for a while, continuing the form he showed against Fulham.
The finish for the first goal was every bit as clinical as his goal against Fulham. Rooney has scored nine in his past nine matches. Thank God for that!
van Persie: 7
This was a fairly quiet match for Robin, and he will be disappointed on two counts.
First, his shooting wasn't as good as normal. Second, he was denied two goals: first by an instinctive save from Boruc, and then by being a couple of inches offside.
Nothing much wrong with his performance overall. If he does have one obvious weakness, it's that he hardly wins any balls in the air. Berbatov was a better target in that respect.
But we are clutching at straws. He was tightly marked by Southampton, leaving space for Rooney to thrive.
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Brought on to save Smalling from himself, Rio seemed to add to the sense of panic in the United defence.
Made a couple of important interceptions but also a couple of potentially damaging errors.
Why didn't he start? He has energy to spare, to which he has added maturity this season. Looked more assured than Jones in defence and put in a shift all across the penalty area.
Didn't have much to do except occupy the left side of Southampton and nullify that attacking route.
Not the world's best defender but makes himself a nuisance. Hit a superb cross to the far post for van Persie, who was stunned when Boruc saved it.