It was another dismal day in the 2021/22 campaign for Manchester United fans, who saw their side slump to a 1-0 defeat to relegation-threatened Everton on Saturday afternoon.
How did Manchester United set up?
Eric Bailly, Edison Cavani, Scott McTominay, Luke Shaw and Raphael Varane were all absent from the matchday squad for the visit to Goodison Park, but there was a return to the side for Cristiano Ronaldo, with the Portuguese having missed the 1-1 draw with Leicester last weekend.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Nemanja Matic were two surprise inclusions from Ralf Rangnick, with Diogo Dalot and Paul Pogba starting on the bench.
It was a 4-3-3 that United lined up with.Embed from Getty Images
Here was the starting lineup and substitutes:
Starting XI: David De Gea (GK), Aaron Wan-Bissaka (RB), Victor Lindelof (CB), Harry Maguire (CB), Alex Telles (LB), Nemanja Matic (CDM), Fred (CM), Bruno Fernandes (CM) Marcus Rashford (RW), Jadon Sancho (LW), Cristiano Ronaldo (ST).
Subs: Dean Henderson, Tom Heaton, Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard, Hannibal Mejbri, Anthony Elanga.
How it went down
The Reds started off well in the first half, with Rashford denied by Jordan Pickford in the 9th minute after a powerful effort inside the area. The Englishman was denied again by Pickford minutes after when a good headed effort was saved down low.
The game was scrappy across the half from both teams, and this was epitomised by Everton’s opener; Anthony Gordon fired an effort goal-bound in the 27th minute, which deflected off Maguire and beyond the reach of De Gea. It was the home team’s first effort of the game so far.Embed from Getty Images
Fred made way for Pogba in the 36th minute, with the Brazilian not moving so freely towards the end of the half.
Ronaldo looked destined to get on the end of a floated Telles cross before the break, but it was headed over the bar by Ukrainian defender Vitaliy Mykolenko.
Rangnick saw no need to make changes at the interval, despite having had 65% possession and just the 3 shots, indicative of how poor his side had been on the ball so far.Embed from Getty Images
From deep, Fernandes floated one of his better passes of the day over the top of the defence and into the path of Rashford, but the latter failed to make contact in the 50th minute. Pogba was booked for a clumsy challenge on Fabian Delph moments afterwards.
Elanga and Mata were introduced in place of Rashford and Matic just after the hour mark, with the team craving some much-needed attacking impetus.
Pogba’s low, driven strike was saved by Pickford in the 81st minute, which was about as close as the team came to scoring an equaliser for the majority of the half. Ronaldo was denied in the area in stoppage time, with a claim for handball against Michael Keane waved away, but the away side weren’t worthy of a goal to be brutally honest.
Final score: Everton 1-0 Manchester United (Gordon 27’)
Man of the matchEmbed from Getty Images
In a team filled with weak mentality and downright mediocrity, Telles put in an okay shift down the left flank today.
The Brazilian was far from superb, sometimes lacking in precision, but he created some decent opportunities across the ninety minutes, and the 29-year-old was always looking to overlap Sancho and find Ronaldo in the box.
In fairness to Telles, he often receives the ball in a difficult area, either too close to the halfway line or surrounded by opposition shirts. He is effective given the right pass in the right area.
The bigger pictureEmbed from Getty Images
If there was even a glimmer of hope that United could achieve Champions League football for 2022/23, that glimmer is all but gone; it would take some serious good fortune at this point to snatch fourth place.
With credible journalists adamant that Erik ten Hag is the next manager to take the Old Trafford hotseat, many fans expected to see a reaction from this set of players, who will surely have been aware that the manager-to-be would be watching.
After all the pathetic, feeble showings this campaign, you ought to think that these weak-minded players owe it to themselves to turn on the quality with a new boss set to arrive in the Summer. If they aren’t playing for the shirt, the badge, the fans, Rangnick, or even themselves at this point, what are they even turning up for? Pay cheques, brand deals and social media followers come to mind.
As for Rangnick, the youth have to be in his mind at this point. Many of these players don’t deserve another chance, but the likes of Mejbri are sat there on the bench with nothing to lose. It could be argued that tis is too much too soon, but the young players cannot do worse than the senior ones, you would think.
Next up for Manchester United is Norwich City at Old Trafford on Saturday 16th April, 15:00 kick-off (BST). Surely a win is forthcoming, but you just never know how much further these players can fall.