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3 things Man Utd need to fix before visit of Chelsea

On the face of it, a 1-0 loss at Newcastle shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world for Manchester United.

St James’ Park is a notoriously tough place to go. The Magpies have made it a real fortress and the 8pm kick-off on a Saturday night served to gee up an already boisterous home crowd. If you really wanted to play the excuses game, the Red Devils had to take a three-hour coach up to Tyneside at the last minute as opposed to a cushy flight.

The manner of Saturday’s defeat was alarming, though. United were outfought on a basic level, the old and sometimes outdated adage that the other team ‘wanted it more’ was most appropriate.

It undid a lot of the good work Erik ten Hag and his squad have undertaken in the Premier League of late. But now they’re in reverse again and have dropped to seventh in the standings.

Next up for United is the visit of Chelsea, who battled well with ten men to see off Brighton on Sunday. Here’s what Ten Hag needs to do ahead of their meeting at Old Trafford.

Marcus Rashford

Rashford was horrendous against Newcastle / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

There isn’t a lot left to be said in this department that hasn’t been covered in other columns or Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher’s rants on Sky Sports’ Super Sunday, but we’re going to give it a good go anyway.

Marcus Rashford – offered nothing. Anthony Martial – offered nothing. Scott McTominay – offered nothing. They cannot be rewarded with another start in such a pivotal fixture.

Ten Hag has been quick to handle ill-discipline within the confides of his Carrington walls before. That ruthlessness can’t ignore what happens on the pitch. It’s bad when even the derided Antony can come on and have more of an impact.

Kobbie Mainoo

Mainoo had a lot on his plate / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/GettyImages

Sticking with McTominay – who hasn’t been given enough of a rough ride – he essentially left 18-year-old Kobbie Mainoo to try and stay afloat alone in a midfield battle against two of the Premier League’s most notorious hard-men in Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton.

If United are to beat Chelsea, they are going to need to match them physically. If McTominay plays for that reason, it cannot be in the same role. Mainoo needs more support.

Ten Hag isn’t exactly blessed with alternative options at the moment, but this is the perfect opportunity for the world to see if Sofyan Amrabat has a long-term future at the club after an underwhelming start to the season.

Rasmus Hojlund

Hojlund’s reintroduction will be crucial / James Gill – Danehouse/GettyImages

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to lament United for their lack of pressing, aggression and intensity already this season.

Maybe they should be afforded a bit of leeway after playing roughly 700 games last term, but this is ridiculous. There’s a difference between being knackered and languid, and too often have this United side blurred those lines.

Martial and Rashford’s main offences against Newcastle were that they just walked about the pitch and let runners by them with no attempt to stop them. Bringing in Rasmus Hojlund up front and Antony out wide should at least ensure the same doesn’t happen again.

Chelsea are starting to show the characteristics of a typical Mauricio Pochettino team, and the greatest concern for United should be they have the power and frenzy of his most idealistic sides. If the Blues win that battle, they are likely to win the game as well.


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