OPINION: Top four is over with a whimper of a display


Whilst Mata can take a lot of the blame for a very poor display yesterday at Albion, when a teammate gets sent off, the other 10 need to step it up and try even harder to get a result. We just didn’t see that yesterday from a very poor United side that barely threatened the Albion goal in 96 minutes.

What was Mata thinking? 2 yellows in less than 5 minutes – both totally avoidable – and he now misses the Cup tie against the resurgent Hammers. But this defeat was about a lot more than Mata’s stupidity – personally I think team selection was a big part of the problem.

Darmian is not a Man United quality player. He’s close to useless, rarely picks out a pass, never puts in a decent cross and gets beaten too easily by average Premier League players. Varela, who had been playing really well, would have done a lot better than our Serie A flop. Rojo passes backwards and sideways, and is more suited to be playing alongside Smalling in the centre of defence . Carrick is looking far too slow, and didn’t produce one telling pass during the whole game. I believe had Van Gaal played Varela and Fosu Mensah as the full backs, Rojo in the middle and Blind instead of Carrick, the team would have had far more energy and purpose. As it was, only Smalling and Martial looked like giving United any real impetus yesterday.

We have to be realistic – our chances of finishing in the top 4 are over now; we are more likely to finish 6th or 7th at this rate. Yes, we have a slim chance in the FA Cup, but I can’t really see us beating the Hammers on current form, and if we did somehow manage to pull off winning the FA Cup, I certainly hope that alone doesn’t keep LVG in a job at United. I feel now that winning the Europa League is the only thing that should buy him any chance of saving his job for next season, and none of us should be expecting to win that when we couldn’t beat the likes of PSV, Wolfsburg and CSKA Moscow.

United haven’t performed too badly against the bigger clubs this season. In fact, out of 10 games so far against Arsenal, City, Chelsea, Spurs, Leicester, Liverpool and West Ham clubs, there’s only been 1 loss. Why can Van Gaal prepare the players to do OK against the better teams, yet so poorly against average or lower teams whether at home or abroad?

Ranieri surely has to win Manager of the Year, whether he wins the league or not. It’s amazing what Leicester have achieved, but for those who have followed this blog for some time, you may remember I called for United to appoint Pochettino when he was still on the South coast and Moyes was leading us to the wilderness. Whilst he may prove to be a lot harder to get now than 2-3 years ago, he is the man that United need to turn our club into Champions again and have those players playing week in week out like their lives depend on it.