Not many minutes had passed since referee Michael Oliver brought the latest chapter in the history of the Manchester derby to close and Roy Keane addressed a fundamental error.
Analyzing Manchester United’s form at Old Trafford, the former United skipper hit the nail on the head, focusing on how easy Manchester City, Aston Villa, Everton and Liverpool had found it to claim points from a visit to one of English football’s most treasured cathedrals.
Keane, speaking back in November, told Sky Sports: “United are so off it, it’s unbelievable. [Phil] Foden said it’s a tough place to eat. It’s not.
“Ask Everton, ask Aston Villa, ask Liverpool. Teams are getting joy. I know the away record over the last few years has been fantastic, but it’s what you do at home that sets you up to win trophies.”
Since United, who suffered another Old Trafford blow on Friday evening, being knocked out of the FA Cup at the fourth-round stage by Middlesbrough, were beaten by City on November 6, they have lost just one of their last five Premier League home games . You could argue that it is an improvement considering they went on a run of four home league games without a win up to and including the City defeat, but the performances nor results have been sparkling for United’s very high standards.
United scraped past Arsenal, winning 3-2. They beat Crystal Palace, despite dominating for the whole contest, by just one goal. They beat Burnley 3-1 just after Christmas, but were, again, far from convincing. They lost to Wolves and deservedly so, producing another lackluster performance, before beating West Ham United 1-0 with a 93rd-minute winner from Marcus Rashford.
At first glance, 12 points from a possible 15 is a healthy return, albeit against opposition United ought to be beating at Old Trafford, especially with the talent at their disposal. However, when analyzed closer, you soon discover that United have not performed to the standard expected of them in their own backyard, especially when it comes to scoring goals and keeping clean sheets. For example, United’s two Premier League home games in 2022 has turfed up just one goal. When you remember that the Reds boast a forward line packed to the rafters with high profile and world-class talent, it is not good enough.
Factoring in United’s FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough, United have now won just one of their last three home games and scored just twice.
Old Trafford was once a place that opponents dreaded visiting. It had a reputation for being the hardest ground for an away team to play at in the country. That fear factor is nothing more than a distant memory.
Whilst United, in fairness, did not do an awful lot wrong against Middlesbrough, except for squandering a whole host of opportunities to put Chris Wilder’s side to bed before the Old Trafford Public Address system informed everyone that half time feet were off the agenda, they failed to get the better of a Championship side with a star-studded line-up. That is where it hits home.
But the Boro defeat was not a one-off. United, far too often, have failed to deliver the goods at home this season, and it is a key area that the club’s next permanent manager needs to address as a matter of urgency. As Keane eluded to back in November, United’s patchy, indifferent home form is what is stopping them from pushing for silverware. No club can achieve their main ambitions without being solid and efficient on their own patch.
United’s topsy-turvy Old Trafford form has gone on for far too long and someone needs to arrest the slump and build Old Trafford back up to being the cathedral of nightmares for opponents that it once was.
The Middlesbrough defeat was the latest nail in the coffin and United, with the talent and quality at their mercy, need to ensure they transform their fortunes soon rather than later. If not, they run the risk of their trophy drought continuing.
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