After losing to champions elect Chelsea, Manchester United were looking to get back on track against a rejuvenated Everton side. Everton’s form has significantly improved since being eliminated from the Europa League. United in recent years have struggled at Goodison Park, this time last year David Moyes’s United lost to his former club in what proved to be his last game in charge for Manchester United. Under Van Gaal, United seem to have gradually improved and there has been cause for optimism for the Old Trafford faithful in recent weeks due to a significant upturn in performances. However the sluggish, lethargic United which had consistently disappointed for such large parts of this season returned at Goodison Park. United’s build up play lacked cutting edge and Everton picked United off with ease on the counter attack. Van Gaal’s team looked lost for ideas and simply didn’t have any tempo to their play, United were toothless in possession and fully deserved to get beat 3-0 to the Toffees. Martinez set up his Everton side to perfection, allowing United to dominate possession but never allowing the Red Devils to carve out any clear cut chances. Defensive deficiencies were again apparent within United’s backline and there were constant individual/collective errors. Van Gaal and his backroom staff seemed perplexed by United’s poor performance, with four games left United need to overcome this blip fast and ensure they don’t throw away Champions League football. Here are some talking points from Sunday’s clash at Goodison Park:
United too reliant on Carrick
The worry for Manchester United is that it is becoming more and more evident that they are a completely different animal without talismanic figure Michael Carrick. Teams don’t fear United when Carrick is missing from the starting line-up. Since the elation of Derby day, United have suffered back to back Premier League defeats for the first time under Louis Van Gaal. Daley Blind returned in the anchor role which allowed Wayne Rooney to return up front, Blind simply doesn’t possess the same passing weapons as Carrick. United’s football without Carrick is far too pedestrian and predictable, Martinez knew that United’s midfield was vulnerable with their star midfielder absent. Everton’s midfield dominated the affair, Fellaini endured a frustrating return to Goodsion and was hauled off at half time. Herrera and Blind simply couldn’t contain the physicality that the likes of Barry, McCarthy and Barkley posed. Rumours continue to circulate over United’s pursuing of Borussia Dortmund midfielder IIkay Gundogan, Van Gaal is reportedly a keen admirer of the young German. United’s record without Carrick needs to be addressed and the rumoured interest in Gundogan indicates that Van Gaal is looking for a long term replacement for United’s midfield jewel.
Valencia not a long term right back option
Antonio Valencia has been a crucial part of United’s upturn in form recent weeks, Valencia has conjured up a fantastic understanding with Spanish duo Juan Mata and Ander Herrera. Valencia has been rampaging down United’s right hand side and proving an outstanding attacking outlet. However if United want to get back amongst the elite, signing a right back this summer should become a priority. For all of Valencia’s attacking flair, his defensive frailties against Everton proved that he shouldn’t be considered as a long term option for the right back role moving forward. With Rafael Da Silva heading for the exit door, Van Gaal will look to splash on a talented right back this summer. Nathaniel Clyne is a man that has been constantly linked with a move to Old Trafford, Clyne has stalled talks over a new contract and is keen to test himself at Champions League level. If United manage to secure the services of Clyne then Van Gaal will arguably possess the best upcoming full backs in the Premier League for club and country (Luke Shaw and Nathaniel Clyne).
Everton will benefit from no Europe next year
The hindrance of the Europa League has effected Everton’s domestic form massively this season. Roberto Martinez isn’t blessed with a massive squad and the rigours of playing/travelling midweek for European action took its toll on The Toffees. After being eliminated to Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League, Everton have reaped the benefits and recaptured the form that they consistently set last season. With Everton having no European football next year, Martinez will be able to concentrate his efforts on a successful season in the Premier League. Martinez’s immediate plans will be to keep his star assets in the forthcoming summer transfer window. If Martinez manages to keep his young starlets and spend shrewdly in the window then he will believe that Everton can launch an assault on the Champions League places once again.
United need world class acquisitions
It could well be another whirlwind summer for Manchester United fans, with a return to the Champions League looking a possibility United will look to attract big names this summer. With Van Gaal’s Holland going deep into the World Cup last summer, United’s transfer business last summer was rushed and abrasive. Van Gaal has revealed that United have been working on summer targets since January, Van Gaal will want his signings implemented ahead of the pre-season tour of America. With United scheduled to make a return to the Champions League, United will have to improve the standard of the squad in order to challenge on multiple fronts. The likes of Mats Hummels, Nathaniel Clyne, IIkay Gundogan and Memphis Depay have all been rumoured with moves to Old Trafford and becoming part of Van Gaal’s revolution. After an inconsistent season, Van Gaal will continue to stamp his own imprint on Manchester United this summer.