Man Utd sucked into vacuum of negativity
Body language tells you a lot about a team, and from watching Manchester United for the first five minutes against Everton, it was obvious what kind of performance we were going to see from them.
United have got a lot of talented players but, right from the start of Sunday’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat, they showed no heart, no desire and no will to win. They were woeful.
Everyone was guilty. Even Marcus Rashford, who has got one of the best attitudes of anyone at the club, got sucked in by what I would describe as a vacuum of negativity.
It was the kind of half-hearted display you might expect to see right at the end of the season from a team that have not had a great time of things and do not have anything to play for.
That was not the case with United, because a top-four place was on the table, but there was so little intensity from them. I did not see the work ethic you would expect from a team fighting to be in the Champions League next year.
It is displays like this that make me think there were some players out there who do not care – only a few, but that is enough – and have their eyes on a move elsewhere.
They are the ones who might have the quality to be a United player but are not up to the challenge, who are thinking ‘this is not my problem because I am not going to be here much longer – this is your problem’.
That is the situation that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has got to sort out over the summer, and it will make things even harder for him if United are not in the Champions League next season.
I don’t see how they will finish in the top four now and, if they do end up in the Europa League, I can already see some of their players being straight on the phone to their agents saying ‘get me out of here because I want Champions League football’.
|Race for the top four – remaining fixtures|
|Brighton (h)||Wolves (a)||Burnley (h)||Man City (h)|
|West Ham (h)||Leicester (a)||Man Utd (a)||Chelsea (h)|
|Bournemouth (a)||Brighton (h)||Watford (h)||Huddersfield (a)|
|Everton (h)||Burnley (a)||Leicester (a)||Cardiff (h)|
‘United should have gone toe-to-toe with Everton’
Solskjaer has to take some of the blame for Sunday because, tactically, part of the way United played was his fault.
They should have gone toe-to-toe with Everton from the start, like Tottenham did before Christmas when they went to Goodison Park and destroyed them 6-2.
Spurs were in Everton’s faces and gave them no time on the ball. They played like they believed they were better than Everton, and said ‘we are going to press you and dictate the tempo of this game’.
Instead of doing the same, and trying to impose themselves on a weaker team, United sat off Everton – which made no sense to me at all.
I know that kind of counter-attacking football has worked for them in the past under Solskjaer, and got them results at Arsenal and Tottenham when he first took charge, but I did not really see what they were so afraid of that made them play that way against Everton.
They were up against a team with Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Bernard at the top end, who are not the quickest.
Yes, Richarlison has the pace to cause some problems but United should still have been squeezing higher up the pitch and putting the pressure on.
‘No tackling, and no bite in midfield’
It is possible that Solskjaer sent United out to play in a more positive way, then they fell into a little spell where they were thinking ‘we will just sit in and let them have the ball’, which lasted until half-time.
I cannot believe he did not try to change their approach at the break, though.
Along with his coaching staff, Solskjaer will have seen what we all saw and, when it is as obviously bad as that, he will not have said ‘right, let’s do the same again’.
He made two changes, with Scott McTominay and Ashley Young coming on, and the plan would surely have been to increase the tempo and make life more difficult for Everton. Whatever he tried, though, the players did not respond to it.
Everton were brilliant, and deserve some credit too, but I did not see a United player lay a glove on anyone. There was no tackling, no bite in midfield, and no-one seemed angry.
They were being out-run by a significant distance – the Everton team covered 8km more over the 95 minutes of play – and if there was any sprinting, it was not co-ordinated.
It did not seem as if the United players could sense what was wrong out on the pitch either, which is another worry.
The best teams have one or two players who can tell when something is not working and get the others going – by telling them to stay tighter, or get about more.
Rather than applying themselves, however, United seemed to have a negative energy on the pitch and it never felt as if they were going to be able to rescue themselves.
‘You can smell this sort of performance coming’
By the end against Everton, United were basically going through the motions.
That is not a trait usually associated with United sides but Solskjaer seems to already have sensed there is an issue there, and is trying to do something about it.
He spoke this week about how some of United’s players “need a reality check” and questioned their attitudes, so he had obviously smelt this sort of performance coming.
When you been in dressing rooms, you can feel those sort of problems brewing and he will also have seen the signs in certain games – even their defeat at Barcelona last week, where they almost gave up.
As well as talent, having the right mentality is a key component you need to be a United player and part of Solskjaer’s job this summer is working out which members of his current squad have got what it takes.
The only positive United can take out Sunday is that they were so bad that it will help in that process. He will have learned a lot about what he has got, and what he needs to change.
In massive games like the Manchester derby, there is no place to hide so I am sure we will see a different United against neighbours City on Wednesday.
You will see a reaction there just based on the fact that their players will want to perform on the biggest stage against the biggest team, even if it is just for selfish reasons.
But, even if United win, then it will not be a sign of good things to come – it will just be a result that glosses over the underlying problems in the squad that Solskjaer has to solve in the summer. – bbc.com
Jermaine Jenas was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.