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Lazy Manchester United lack the courage in title chase

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The last week of January 2021 will be remembered as the seven days in which Manchester United returned to type and fell behind in a title race that they realistically shouldn’t have been a part of since the start.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have stumbled to the top of the table in recent weeks, taking advantage of Manchester City’s poor start to the season, Liverpool’s terrible Christmas form and Tottenham Hotspur’s inability to score more than one goal per game.

The Red Devils impressive winning streak saw them leading the pursuit pack ahead of their clash with Sheffield United on January 27. Well, Man Utd had one of their worst performances of the season, losing 2-1 at the bottom of the table and simultaneously losing ground to Man City.

This disastrous loss saw the Citizens regain the top spot, and judging by the form they find themselves in, their competitors can afford to do very little slippage throughout the campaign if they wish to catch up with them.

Pep Guardiola also put pressure on his neighbors on Saturday afternoon, doing exactly what Solskjaer failed to do: beat Sheffield United. It wasn’t easy for Man City, but they snuck their way to a 1-0 victory, returning the ball to Man Utd’s side in this upside down title race.

The challengers had to show their worth against Arsenal on Saturday, and all eyes were on this high-profile clash, to see if they could bounce back from their major midweek setback.

In short, they haven’t really shown any signs of a tough outfit for the title. The Red Devils lacked the quality, composure and edge needed to cross the line in these close encounters. They created and wasted multiple chances in either half, but it’s hard to say they really deserved all three points considering how hungry us viewers were for genuine quality.

Both teams performed well below par in the first half, losing assists time and time again and rarely finding the right ball in the final third. It was a frustrating watch. Man Utd in particular worked in possession, and slowness crossed the team.

There was no great urgency in their game – and for a team hoping to prove their credentials to the title, that’s one trait that can’t be missed. The Bruno Fernandes talisman was not at his best and he was frustrated with the lack of leadership or ingenuity around him.

It’s in these big games that we see how much his teammates depend on the Portuguese star and how unrealistic it is to expect him to lead a team in every game.

Regardless of the average performance, Man Utd had a chance to win the game. Edinson Cavani missed two brilliant chances in the second half – although the latter was a difficult acrobatic effort.

Marcus Rashford summed up his indecisive and hesitant demonstration in the first half, finding himself with the ball at his feet six yards from the net. He was dragging around, twisting one way, then the other until the luck really passed, and when he found a teammate it was too late.

Overall not good enough. A lack of quality, a lack of killer instinct and a lack of desire to win. The Man Utd Afternoon Story.

Mikel Arteta, Fred, David De Gea
They couldn’t be separated at the end | Pool / Getty Images

All of this against an Arsenal side sitting six places below Man Utd in the table. Maybe both sides will be happy with the point, all in all, but one team should definitely be happier than the other.

For the Red Devils, it was not a terrible 90 minutes of football – but it was not a performance of champions. Not over a long distance.

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