A friend said to me on Sunday night “I’d love to be a fly on the wall in Louis van Gaal’s office, to see what he thinks about United”. I really don’t think some Kafka-esque transformation is needed, he looks perplexed sat on the bench. Even the most ardent Manchester United ‘haters’ are going a bit soft this season, as their hilarity turns into confusion. Why are they so bad?
At Sunderland on Sunday it was incredible how poor van Gaal’s men looked. He has spoken of the confidence that sapped away following the defeat to Swansea and it was evident in the way players were on their heels, unable to anticipate chances and read a team-mate’s intentions. And then there was the passing. It is rare to see Premier League players hitting a ball to an opposing player or kicking it out of play by accident, yet at the Stadium of Light, United committed several elemental errors like this. And then there was the defense. Rojo has a big job on his hands steadying up that back line. Time and time again they looked nervous, unsure of the correct position and lacking the ability to push forward when they had the chance.
The three man defense often means one player will be free, when you play against a conventional 4-4-2 formation. Chris Smalling was that man against Sunderland, but his reluctance to take the ball forward, over the half way line was worrying. Perhaps he was under orders not to go too far forward (although that seems unlikely knowing the manager’s usual penchant for attacking play) or maybe he didn’t have the confidence to venture too far forward. It didn’t change much when Phil Jones was in that position either.
Swansea, Sunderland and Burnley is probably as kind a start as van Gaal could have hoped for, but with just one point so far, he must be dreading playing a top six side. Luckily for them, the first of them isn’t until Everton visit Old Trafford at the start of October, but that is the beginning of a run of six league games when they play Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal too.
So, to their opponents Burnley. After the opening weekend defeat to Chelsea, they went to South Wales at the weekend and looked inhibited in the first half. Sean Dyche later admitted they gave Swansea too much respect. The second half was much better though and it looked like they suddenly realized they could cope with the big boys of the Premier League. They must start to create more chances to get shots on target though, as I will continually say, not finishing chances in the top flight will cost you dear.
Despite the defeat, Dyche was upbeat in his interviews afterwards and I believe if he can keep that confidence growing throughout the week and they start well against Manchester United, they can get at least pull a draw out of the Red Devils.
My job here is to look at the soccer odds and search for the best bet and until Manchester United start to look better, I simply cannot touch them at odds-on, even against the favourites for relegation. The Clarets scored against Chelsea at Turf Moor, so there is no reason to believe they can’t score against United and whilst they look way off their best, Rooney and Co are still scoring goals, so both teams to score looks a good way in and if you add over 2.5 goals into your soccer picks, you’ll get an odds against price too.
I’m going to side with every one of Man United’s opponents until I see glimmers of improvement, so my main pick is Burnley plus one goal on the handicap at 13/8.