Manchester United summed up their woeful season in 24 minutes against Leicester City – Tyrone Marshall



A weak surrender

There were 24 minutes still to play when Fred’s prompt equalizer for Manchester United gave them a chance to make sure their season didn’t die a death on the first weekend of April.

It had been another average performance from Ralf Rangnick’s team until then but equalizing three minutes after they had gone behind got Old Trafford back onside and the volume was briefly raised.

In classic United teams, these scenarios would lead to a siege on the opposition goal and an air of inevitability to what was coming. The 24 minutes this team produced on Saturday was as clear an indication as any as to how far away from those glory days this current crop are.

READ MORE: United player ratings vs Leicester City

United simply had to win to keep alive their faint hopes of a top-four finish, but in the final quarter, they offered barely an attack of note. It was Leicester City who looked the most likely side to win it and but for a well-spotted VAR intervention they would have done just that.

Rangnick will point to the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani as a significant impediment to his attacking options, but for all the urgency there was never a sense that a goal was coming. Or even a shot.

With their season on the line, United produced 24 minutes of sloppy passes, poor decisions and wastefulness in the final third. It was a fitting way to wave the white flag on this season.

Careless passes

It’s been too easy to take pot-shots at United’s midfield this season but the carelessness with which they treated the ball against Leicester City was a pretty good summation of why change is required there next season.

Too often United’s build-up play would fall down via a loose pass from Fred or Scott McTomimay, or a poor touch during combination play.

While Leicester lacked an end product the quality of their central midfield play was far beyond United’s. Youri Tielemans and the impressive Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall were neat and tidy on the ball, moving it quickly and accurately into dangerous areas, and James Maddison was skilful and inventive.

United are desperately lacking a player who can pass with that kind of quality. Fred showed his skills when he intercepted a Wesley Fofana pass to create the biggest chance of the first half for Bruno Fernandes and then when he pounced on Kasper Schmeichel’s weak save to equalize, but his quality of him is in winning the ball, not always distributing Item.

Both Fred and McTominay can pass well, and they have at times this season, but it is far too inconsistent for them to remain a partnership in the United midfield for long. It was no surprise that McTominay was hooked early in the second half, his radar was particularly inaccurate on Saturday.

Passive Pogba

It felt like Paul Pogba was a little fortunate to start this game on recent form and he was pretty blunt during his usual international break interview in France, over his own role and how disappointing this season had been.

On Saturday he certainly played like someone going through the motions. There’s long been a debate about what his best role is, but against Leicester he played in an advanced midfield position and a holding midfield role and looked equally average and uninterested in both.

It was hard to escape the idea that this is now a player going through the motions. trying to avoid injury before a money-spinning free transfer at the end of the season, and on this evidence, he’s got little to offer United between now and May 22.

Rashford’s role

Marcus Rashford has had some low moments this season but few can have been as dispiriting as finding himself on the bench for this game.

Having been dropped from the England squad in March it’s been a two-week block of training for Rashford, something from which he should have benefited from.

With Edinson Cavani and Cristiano Ronaldo unavailable Rashford would have felt a certain starter against Leicester. Instead, he found himself on the bench, behind a teenager on the wing and a midfielder as a false nine.

It was a hugely damning indication of Rashford’s current form. When he made his comeback in the reserve fixture in October and scored off the bench it felt he was one of the few positives, but very little has gone right for him since.

This is shaping up to be a defining summer for the 24-year-old, who either needs to be a major beneficiary of United appointing a new manager, or has to consider the drastic and unwanted solution of looking for a new club.

Maguire’s defensive switch

Most of the Harry Maguire spotlight at Old Trafford was on the support he was always going to receive from the United fans, but there was a much more interesting tactical switch on the pitch.

Maguire has long been considered a left-sided center back and he’s spent virtually all of his United career in that role, but against his former club he was switched with Raphael Varane.

The former Real Madrid man moved to the left, forming a link with Luke Shaw on that side of the pitch, and Maguire switched to the right.

It also felt like Varane was the center back stepping into the play more often, while Maguire was often the last line of defence. His defending him was certainly secure, there was one excellent tackle on Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and another vital interception to stop Kelechi Iheanacho from racing clear.

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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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