Danny Welbeck scored the winner against his former club to keep Arsenal’s hopes alive of retaining the FA Cup. On the other hand,this defeat sees United’s only chance of winning a trophy go out of the window. United have been playing poorly for quite some time now but have managed to hold on to the fourth spot in the Premier League. With a very tough line up of fixtures coming up,this defeat is a severe blow to Van Gaal and United’s confidence and chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
The first half was littered with mistakes by both the sides. Arsenal’s first goal was down to some horrendous defending and positioning from the United defence. Antonio Valencia is nowhere close to being a first choice right back(Although Van Gaal doesn’t seem to think so) and Chris Smalling has had enough chances to prove himself at Old Trafford and his time certainly is up. Angel Di Maria’s tracking back was non existent and the already troubled Valencia was exposed. Nacho Monreal found himself free on the left and finished with aplomb past De Gea. The whole phase before the goal was a comedy of errors by various United players,first Smalling was completely out of position as he was on the right flank trying to get the ball off Monreal. This forced Valencia to cover for the former as he moved inside,Smalling instead of taking up Valencia’s position on the right moved inside to his natural position,leaving the right free for Monreal to run.
Add to this,Daley Blind in the center was struggling to cope with Arsenal’s pace and Oxlade-Chamberlain had no problem in getting past him and a couple of other players. United responded well after the goal,with Rooney finishing a delicious Di Maria cross with a great header. Although United’s defence had an erroneous first half,the overall picture was looking bright for United with some decent attacks through Rooney and Di Maria.
Van Gaal replaced Herrera with Michael Carrick and Luke Shaw with Phil Jones as Rojo moved to left back. United were finding it tough to get hold of midfield and Carrick was put on to give United more control. But the obvious choice was to remove Fellaini and leave Herrera in an advanced position. But with Carrick and Blind,United’s midfield became static and bereft of ideas and they started playing long balls into Fellaini. Whether Van Gaal wanted United to go route one or was it a byproduct of a static midfield and a lack of creativity is a question only he can answer. Fellaini has certainly been effective in the recent past,but there is no reason why United with the attacking talents they have should resort to lumping forward to Fellaini. Ander Herrera certainly didn’t set the world alight in the first half,but was the only player on the pitch who was capable of linking United’s deep double pivot with their attack. With Carrick and Blind sitting deep and Fellaini in an advanced position just off Rooney,United had no option other than to play it long to the Belgian. Rooney who had a bright first half was now just hovering around Fellaini hoping for a knock down or two. The game was almost over with Di Maria’s sending off albeit for a few more long punts to Fellaini which resulted in nothing.
United at the moment are clearly in a bad shape all over the pitch but the concerning matter at the moment is instead of attempting to solve the issue,Van Gaal is just relying on long balls and Marouane Fellaini. Along with his ‘philosophy’,Van Gaal also has failed so far as a man manager and a motivator. Di Maria doesn’t seem motivated enough and all the defenders have actually regressed from last year under Moyes and that’s saying something. Still Van Gaal gets very less criticism from fans and media compared to Moyes at the same stage,albeit after spending tons of cash. United are now in serious danger of not qualifying for the Champions League for the second year running and the board will have a decision to make at the end of the season if the same happens.