United’s dodgy defence in need of help


IT WAS yet another memorable turnaround as Manchester United came from behind to beat Italian outfit Atalanta on Wednesday in the Champions League group stage.

The never-say-die attitude of the players must be commended. But there are worrying signs, especially in defence, as the Red Devils conceded another two goals after shipping in four against Leicester last week.

Man United have not kept a clean sheet in 12 consecutive home games in all competitions and that is unacceptable for a side who are under pressure to win silverware this season.

Harry Maguire was rusty last week after coming back from injury and not having trained for a while. So it is a wonder why manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played him in the first place against the Foxes last Saturday.

The calming presence and experience of Raphael Varane has been sorely missed and it doesn’t get easier as arch-enemies Liverpool visit Old Trafford tomorrow.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are flying high at the moment and playing fantastic football with Mo Salah in scintillating form.

And if Man Utd’s defence continue to be careless, then it certainly looks like it will be a long evening for the home side.

The manner in which Solskjaer’s side have leaked goals in recent games via set-pieces and individual errors is frustrating. If they harbour any hope of beating a slick Liverpool side, there must be improvements at the back and the defence must sharpen up on set plays.There were a lot of positives to take from the win against Atalanta as Maguire had a steady game, scoring a goal too, while Marcus Rashford was brilliant as he scored his second goal in as many games after coming back from shoulder surgery last week against Leicester.

Calls for Solskjaer to be replaced have gained momentum in recent weeks and while I have a soft spot for the Norwegian, there are question marks on some of his key tactical decisions and game plans.

It is little wonder that pundits and former Man Utd stars Paul Scholes and Rio Ferdinand have no clue which United team is going to turn up against Klopp’s side, and this includes Solskjaer himself.

There is a pattern that is continuing and it was evident against Atalanta. BBC sports correspondent Simon Stone wrote this week that just when it seems Solskjaer’s back is against the wall and his status is becoming weak, he and his players produce a result to release the pressure.

“So, when widespread booing from a frustrated Old Trafford crowd tumbled out of the stands at the end of the first-half, with his team 2-0 down and having conceded the type of goals that have become familiar in recent matches, Solskjaer seemed like a man on the edge,” Stone wrote.

He is spot on. There are problems. With games against Liverpool tomorrow, then at Tottenham next week and at home to neighbours Man City on Nov 6 coming up, Solskjaer’s side needs to buck up and stop the slide or face the prospect of playing catch up in the league to the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Man City.

It will be hard for Man Utd against a Liverpool side that will come to Old Trafford brimming with confidence after whipping Watford 5-0 last Saturday and getting a credible win at Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

But Man Utd have shown many times when the chips are down, the team can rise and a rousing performance is needed tomorrow as Solskjaer’s side aim to inflict Klopp’s first league defeat this season.

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