Leicester City 5 Manchester United 3

Deep breath.

The temptation is to scream, to fling things at other, more robust, things, to swear, to weep, to indulge in an undignified hyperbolic expression of excess emotion.  Well, you know, I did some of that on Sunday afternoon.  If Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary comment about football holds true, the King Power Stadium is a portal to a hell not just bloody but drenched in gore, scorching hot and staffed by demons whose principal delight lies in tormenting its denizens with a tantalising mirage of footballing competence, which swiftly evaporates to reveal the blasted wasteland of inadequacy, disorganization and miscommunication underneath.  During the second half on Sunday, United didn’t so much lose the plot as stick it on a rocket and shoot it into the nearest black hole.  Doing an analysis of this mess may well involve passing through an event horizon of madness, but I’ll give it a shot…

You won't catch this...

You won’t catch this…

“That Di Maria chap’s a bit special, isn’t he?”

Oh, Lord, yes.  He looks good value for his ludicrous price tag.  The skill required to conceive and then execute United’s second goal is something we’ve not seen in United colours for a long while.  He’s amazing and by far the most exciting of United’s summer acquisitions.  His work rate is excellent and his ability to see and play balls whose angles suggest he has more than a passing familiarity with Lovecraftian (non-Euclidean) geometry makes him a stupidly exciting player to watch.  United generally looked good going forward and it was nice to see van Persie’s name on the scoresheet, but Di Maria is something special.  I actually felt a bit embarrassed for him given the way the match panned out.  No one that skilful deserves to have even a tangential role in Sunday’s debacle.

“That Vardy chap’s a bit special, isn’t he?”

His role in that softest of penalties notwithstanding, Leicester’s £1 million buy from Fleetwood Town has pace to burn and a considerable amount of tenacity and skill.  While our defence helped him out quite a bit (more of which in a moment), the relentless pressure he put our back line under during the second half was frightening.  He had a hand in four of Leicester’s goals and scored the other one – a truly remarkable performance.  His cross for Leicester’s first was, as much as I hate to admit it, a thing of beauty, as, for that matter, was Ulloa’s header.

Too good for United on the day.

Too good for United on the day.

“Clattenburg’s a… [INSERT EXPLETIVE HERE].”

Yeah, well, he is.  Vardy fouled Rafael in the lead up to the penalty decision and the penalty itself was very soft.  It’s also fair to say that that pair of poor decisions constituted the turning point of the game.  That said, they didn’t have to.  If Rafael hadn’t decided to take the law into his own hands, if the United defence hadn’t (presumably fuelled by a sense of aggrieved entitlement) fallen apart under the renewed Leicester pressure engendered by the penalty, if our players hadn’t suddenly forgotten how to pass to one another – then we might have had a chance to come out of the game with at least a point and some sense of dignity intact.  Instead, we lost all sense of team cohesion and tactical awareness, culminating in Rojo selling Blackett short and the hapless youngster being rightly sent off for bringing down Vardy in the penalty area.  When decisions went against them, the United teams of the past generally found a way to channel that sense of injustice into something positive.  On Sunday, the team showed a startling mental fragility, something I hope is merely a by-product of so many new signings being embedded into the team.  A key factor for me is the lack of leadership in the heart of the defence.  Arguably, Evans’ injury really didn’t help in this regard and Jones’ longer term absence is really hurting us.  Prior to the international break, he was probably our best player.  It’s hard to believe he would make some of the mistakes made on Sunday.

That... doesn't look good, does it?

That… doesn’t look good, does it?

All of the above should not take away from the incredible commitment of the Leicester players and, for that matter, the King Power crowd.  They made it hard for United to play once the penalty went in and Leicester played with considerable pace and skill.  United’s response to that second half setback was simply not up to scratch, though.  According to recent reports, United players conducted an hour long inquest into the game with RVP admitting that the mistakes that led to the goals were not merely ones of defence.  Well, good, but we’ve got West Ham tomorrow and no right-sided central defenders.  To say I’m apprehensive would be something of an understatement…

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5 comments

  1. Mehster

    It must have been hard to take, and even harder to not simply blame the ref for the outcome of the game like some of your fellow fans. Well done! I can’t say that I’m enjoying the struggle you’re experiencing, and I’m sure it’ll be resolved in the near future!

    • jddunsany

      Thanks for the comment! Leicester were magnificent, to be honest. At the time, watching the game was so painful, it was difficult to appreciate just how skillful the likes of Vardy and Cambiasso were, but a bit of distance gives you the opportunity to appreciate that, in the second half in particular, Leicester were just way better organized and considerably hungrier for the victory than we were. I think some of the issues exposed on Sunday will be resolved, but perhaps not as soon as I’d like! We’ll have to see. Big Sam’s talking about a backlash on Saturday, but the new-look West Ham are also capable of playing fast, attacking football and I think, unless we’ve learned the lessons of last week, we could be exposed again. We’ll have to see. It’s certainly not dull being a United supporter at the moment, that’s for sure! 😀

      • Mehster

        Haha thanks for the nice words! It will be interesting to see how van Gaal changes his side for the game if Evans can’t play. One of the issues that stood out for me was just the lack of balance in your team, do you think that’s a fair comment? The midfield relied on Blind who has just arrived at the club to cover the other three attacking midfielders! It certainly isn’t dull! I predict you’ll win 3-1 against West Ham, if your manager adds in another more defensive player to help out Blind. Fletcher maybe? Can’t say I know the team as well as you!

      • jddunsany

        Fletcher’s a possibility but he was terribly slow against Burnley and his distribution of the ball wasn’t always great. He might be better as an emergency centre back, given our problems there. I don’t know, really. I like Blind, but you bypassed him pretty effectively by exploiting space on the wings. I think it is fair to say that we’re unbalanced at the moment, yes. The frustrating thing is that at least some of that imbalance (you can’t really predict injuries) could have been dealt with during the transfer window. Oh, well… 🙂

      • Mehster

        Sounds like an issue that can’t really be solved then :/ but with the manager you’ve got, you’d like to think with his experience that he has a solution for it somehow! Yeah it strikes me as frustrating too, the surprise arrival of Falcao must have felt great but I bet £12m on a quality centre-back would have felt greater! 🙂

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