Manchester United learned which players really care in Arsenal defeat – Richard Fay

Manchester United players did not need to consult their media representatives or analyze ‘fan sentiment graphs’ to know the mood would be low after their latest defeat to Arsenal in the Premier League.

A week in which United had the chance to revive their dismal season instead confirmed the mess Ralf Rangnick’s side are in, with a humiliating loss at Anfield followed up by another damaging defeat in their weak fight for a top-four finish.

In a weird way, the loss on Tuesday night was a bit more understandable. Liverpool are one of the best sides in Europe and are chasing an almighty quadruple. It’s hard to remember a time in recent history when the gulf between the two teams was quite so big.

READ MORE: Erik ten Hag reacts to Manchester United defeat to Arsenal after leading Ajax to victory

Losing to an Arsenal side who have hardly blown the world away — despite a steady improvement under Mikel Arteta this season — raised questions not necessarily about a difference in quality between the two teams, but rather, about squad unity and which team wanted it more on the day.

United might well point towards questionable officiating as a key factor in the defeat. Rangnick questioned four incidents after the match, but his players of him ca n’t ignore their own errors, with some disastrous defending and a real lack of team cohesion on show.

In desperate times you need your biggest stars to stand up and be counted. But at the Emirates, supporters once again felt detached from the performance they saw on the pitch and the lack of heart on display.

Playing for United should be the pinnacle of a player’s career, yet right now there are a whole host of individuals wanting out and others who simply take for granted the incredible responsibility bestowed upon them.

For all the criticism he has received this season, Cristiano Ronaldo once again proved he deeply cares about the club, putting in an impressive solo display as he fought valiantly to drag his side back into the match. To do so after what he has endured this week is incomprehensible; at United’s time of need, he ensured he was available and up for the contest.

At the other end of the pitch, David de Gea once again cut a frustrated figure as he was let down by the defense in front of him. The Spaniard will win United’s Player of the Year award this season, though not even his superhuman stops have been enough to save this season from disaster.

That’s just two players at the club whose commitment matches their talent right now, with other stars appearing nonchalant about the chaos around them, while others like Scott McTominay — who are admittedly less talented — bridge the gap by at least giving their all when they are out on the pitch.

There will always be room for effective squad players who put their hearts on the line at United, though hard work alone is not enough at a club of such elite stature, and it must be married perfectly with superstars who have the right intentions.

With a mass overhaul expected at the end of the season, incoming manager Erik ten Hag should have a good chance to mold a side into his vision, though success in the summer transfer window might rely on the personalities he signs rather than their reputations.

Arsenal are so often cited as a blueprint for United to follow, and after Saturday’s defeat, they proved that a collective effort is far greater than the sum of its parts.

The summer clear-out can’t come soon enough.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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