Manchester United’s transfer priorities are clear after Southampton draw
Manchester United hadn’t really got into the game at St Mary’s when Daniel James fired them into the lead in the 10th minute.
Sloppy passing led to the hosts having the majority of the possession and nothing was clicking for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side as they looked to bounce back from that disappointing defeat against Crystal Palace at Old Trafford the weekend before.
While James’ goal had come against the run of play it was clear that any opening United were going to get was down the left.
During a brief break in play Ashley Young, who replaced the injured Luke Shaw, was instructing the 21-year-old and it was the link up play between James, Young and Scott McTominay on the left hand side of United’s midfield that really caused problems for the Saints.
Before his goal James had danced his way into the box but was unable to create a chance for himself. That chance came when his powerful strike beat Angus Gunn and he put United into the lead.
His third league goal already this season, matching Alexis Sanchez’s league goal tally for his 18 month spell at Old Trafford.
But while United caused problems for the Saints down the left they were having little impact down the right. A familiar story for United which meant their attack was lopsided and the Southampton defence could focus their efforts on where the real danger lay.
Solskjaer has spent the summer trying to create a fast flowing fluid attacking side which threatens on the counter but at the moment it’s lopsided.
Andreas Pereira came in for his second start of the season and started on the right. The Brazilian played the majority of his season on loan at Valencia on either the left or the right wing so it was a sensible decision by Solskjaer to start him there over the No 10 role which was given to Juan Mata.
But, he yet again failed to have an impact. United don’t necessarily need a designated right winger but they need to have a squad that doesn’t involve putting so many square pegs in round holes. The Brazilian struggled again and his performance was summed up by an embarrassing moment in the second half where he tripped over the ball in the area to jeers from around the ground.
The signing of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and his ability to get forward means United should be threatening down the right but the England international has nobody to link up with which means the familiar tale of relying on the left to create chances.
With the way United set up and the pace in the team, if United could find a right sided attacker they’d stretch defences and create more chances for themselves. Instead it becomes predictable where their threat is going to come from.
And that’s not the only problem for Solskjaer.
In midfield there are problems which were yet again exposed. The mistake in the summer window was not bringing in another midfielder and it was debatable not to enhance the forward line after the departure of Lukaku.
At times the United midfield found themselves overrun and Paul Pogba had one of those games where he lost possession three times in 90 seconds. It’s unfair to put all the responsibility onto the Frenchman but the level of performance in the middle is the difference between a good team performance and a bad one.
The midfield lacked creativity as a unit and as Southampton went down to 10 men and United went searching for a winner, there was no obvious clue as to where that creative spark was going to come from.
There’s still a lot of work to do.
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