Man Utd news is dominated by the fixture vs Arsenal and the result makes Jose Mourinho’s transfer plans more interesting.
Tuanzebe proves his point
After he was ignored at Burnley and against Swansea Axel Tuanzebe was pitted against the world-class ability of Alexis Sanchez in a potentially corrosive acid test.
What’s more, Tuanzebe was started out of position at right-back. How admirable that he emerged as United’s most impressive defender from a back four which included Premier League champions and an Italy international.
Tuanzebe’s calmness was patent at reserve level yet it was all the more impressive that he transmitted it to a testing fixture against Sanchez. He showed awareness and adventure in a full debut which was overdue and ended the game as United’s only outstanding outfield performer.
United supporters should not be surprised if he lines up in north London again on Sunday at Tottenham.
Mourinho’s transfer plans clearer
United supporters should expect a significant transfer window after Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney ended the game in central midfield. Looking at the United XI on the pitch at the conclusion of their unbeaten run, as many as six could be jettisoned in the summer and some took the fixture too frivolously.
Mourinho had downplayed the occasion before kick-off and that was reiterated by the late introduction of 20-year-old Lancastrian Scott McTominay while Paul Pogba settled back into his substitute seat. Mourinho was also testing certain seniors’ desire to stay at the club and none of the outfield players responded resoundingly.
It is near-impossible to justify keeping Chris Smalling when he regresses constantly. Phil Jones was frightened to play a forward pass, Matteo Darmian lacked balance, Carrick was nondescript and Rooney resembled a poorly pup wheezing towards the knackers’ yard.
United need a centre half, a full-back, two central midfielders, a forward and a striker.
Herrera’s hangover continues
Ander Herrera received the United Player of the Month award for April when Eric Bailly was the best performer by a considerable distance as he started all nine matches.
Herrera was the beneficiary of the viral age. His magnificent performance against Chelsea sparked a multitude of memes online and he has dined off it for weeks, producing busy but underwhelming performances.
The hangover continued when he turned his back on Xhaka’s shot to galvanise Arsenal. The goal was fortuitous but easily avoidable and he will think twice about not facing up a shot next time.
Darmian needs to stay on the leash
Mourinho explained in January he retained Darmian at left-back since he required three defenders while Antonio Valencia foraged forward to offer United another attacking outlet. At Arsenal, Darmian was granted that license and completely abandoned his defensive duties.
Time and again, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was reduced to an auxiliary wing-back with United’s Italian barely visible. That exacerbated Jones’ jitters on his first appearance in seven weeks and Arsenal repeatedly sought the marauding Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain down the right, giving the rookie Tuanzebe a calmer ride on the opposite flank.
Darmian is perhaps the only starter who will keep his place against Celta Vigo on Thursday and the leash will have to be reined in.
Rooney warming up for Carrick’s testimonial
The atmosphere was so apathetic at The Emirates the biggest cheer that emerged from the natives before Xhaka’s strike came from the concourse before the game had started. Fraser Forster’s penalty save at Anfield gave Arsenal and United added incentives to win despite the inevitability both will finish outside the top four safety net.
Arsene Wenger shouldn’t go on at Arsenal and neither should Rooney at United. It wasn’t just the harmless effort he attempted when one-on-one with Petr Cech but his startling lethargy on and off the ball. For someone who played the second fewest minutes of any United player last month, he appeared weary again and his presence in a game Mourinho had attempted to extract any significance from continued Rooney’s malaise.
He should at least be in fine fettle for Carrick’s testimonial.