The good days come with a cost. By the end of February, the Red Devils were at the season's peak, bringing the 2023 EFL trophy back home. The team defeated Newcastle United 2-0, with Casemiro and Rashford scoring a goal, respectively. It was the first trophy since the 2016-2017 season, during which the “Special One” José Mourinho lifted the Europa League Trophy. The Devils' outperformance in the past few months was unseen for years, as I discussed in my previous opinion, “The Comeback of the Reds: Manchester United’s Reunion Under Ten Haag’s Tenure.” However, the team was in profound despair in the match against Liverpool in early March, where the team was beaten up 7-0 in the North-West Derby, a term coined to refer to the longtime rivalry between Manchester United and Liverpool. In recent matches in April, however, the team quickly bounced back by recording four wins out of 5 games, remaining in several competitions including the Europa League (quarter-final) and the FA Cup (semi-final). The team is ahead of the challenging game with Brighton in April. 23, upon which the team would end up in the final of the FA Cup if outscored in two home-and-away games.
Outwardly, the team is in a solid position, having the potential of winning two additional trophies and securing the fourth place that determines who goes to the European Champions League in the next season. As of April 17, CT, Manchester United is currently in third place, outperforming Newcastle by as much as 3 points.
But the good news always entails the bad news, and that one terrible news can primarily affect the team’s performance on the pitch, particularly for a team like Manchester United in the middle of a reconstruction phase. Marcus Rashford, a 25-year-old home-grown striker, is down as of April. 8. The mature forward recorded 15 goals and four assists this season in Premier League. The striker’s outperformance after returning from the World Cup is noteworthy for its consistency, nearly recording a ratio of scoring at least a goal in every game. Marcus Rashford, this season, takes up 36% of the entire team’s scores, reflecting the team’s strong attachment to him in terms of the stream of goals. However, the player is expected to miss out on a few games at the pivotal stage of the season. Furthermore, Jadon Sancho’s years of poor performance is another concern that renders little or no hope of replacing Rahsford successfully.
The Europa League Quarter-final game with Sevilla last week ended with devastating outcomes other than the tie of 2-2 at Old Trafford. Despite Marcel Sabitzer’s two consecutive scoring in the first half, the team conceded two own goals, one that was curved by Tyrell Malacia and the other by Harry Maguire.
Two major players, Lisandro Martinez, and Raphaël Varane, comprising United’s back-four, were injured in the game, too, on top of Luke Shaw’s absence, straining challenges smoothly conveying the ball on the left to the halfway line. At this point, it is not an exaggeration to say that the defense is utterly destroyed and that we will have to rely upon the two center-back duos we, United fans, wouldn’t necessarily be pleased to see often on the pitch: Harry Maguire and Jӧrgen Lindelӧf. Maguire is arguably lost on the rise, while Lindelӧf hasn’t been able to present himself in the game for months. And it’s very nervous bout having those protecting the penalty box; mirroring from the past years, we conceded too many scores due to the duo’s sloppy defending. The only aspect the writer is holding on to is the two’s desperate attitude which may or may not turn into unseen stability and reliability.
One good news is the return of the maestro; Christian Eriksen is back on the pitch and reinforced his presence at the match with Nottingham Forest, in which the team nailed the opponent with Antony and Dalot’s scoring. The maestro orchestrated the rise, linking the back-four and the forwards and pleasing the supporters with his signature of delivering a ball at the spot ly intended to arrive at with his long passes. The transition of the attack/defense phase is now more smooth and more flexible, with Casemiro and Eriksen reading the room on the pitch. With the two experienced and aggressive midfielders, the writer is confident that the team will wrap up the season with notable outcomes, overcoming so many players’ absences.
The writer is a lifelong United fan, yet is convinced that we are not as stable and consistent as Manchester City is. Thus it will take time to expect a team to compete for first place in Premier League shortly constantly. The recent crisis caused by several injuries will be the litmus test for assessing Ten Haag’s leadership. If went well, the United fan should expect the club’s era of triumph that has been unseen since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Manchester United is scheduled to play the FA Cup semi-final against Brighton on April 23., followed by a game against Tottenham in April. 27., which would require the players to come together under the “united” mentality.
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