Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s mission at Manchester United is becoming evident

According to manchestereveningnews, Sir Jim Ratcliffe was not lying when he stated that he wants Manchester United to be the best team in the world again; however, in order to do so, they must first become the top team in their own city. The sad fact is that Manchester City are still well ahead on the pitch, as seen by the two styles of play on display on Sunday afternoon.

True, it would have been foolhardy for United to try to defeat City at their own game, but the fact that it is universally acknowledged demonstrates the fundamental problem and how much work will be required. United embraced the underdog moniker and were once again at their best on the counter-attack, demonstrating their team’s creative limitations. Erik ten Hag undoubtedly deserves some sympathy considering the injury troubles he has had to deal with this season, but even when totally healthy, their lack of control in games is concerning.

To offer them some hope, practicality was stressed above enthusiasm. Bruno Fernandes began as a false nine for the second time in his United career, Scott McTominay was moved to attacking midfield, and Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho were urged to roam out wide and use their scorching pace on the counter-attack. Adopting such a strategy would always give United the best chance of winning, however it would require a lot of circumstances to fall into place for it to work.

They would have to defend doggedly throughout, seizing whatever opportunities presented themselves, and then hoping that City squandered the multitude of assaults that would undoubtedly befall them. It worked for half of the people, but it was extremely unlikely to work for the other half. When you go back on Ten Hag’s finest results as a United manager, they all follow a similar formula. Last season’s home triumphs over Liverpool, Arsenal, and Barcelona stand out because they sat back, absorbed pressure, and caused pandemonium on the counter.

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Two years later, United’s breakaway brilliance has an Ole Gunnar Solskjaer-like quality to it, especially given how frequently they come undone against teams they are expected to dominate and break down via patience. United performed like a lower-league underdog in an FA Cup match, but their chances of qualifying for the Champions League will be dependent on finding a means to break down deep-lying opponents that try to deploy such a setup against them.

United recorded the fewest shots against Manchester City in a Premier League encounter this season. Despite the injuries and concerns with the team, the approach just isn’t good enough. Ten Hag may refer to all of those difficulties as much as he wants, but he can’t avoid the legitimate examination of his position and the reality that United still lacks a defining style of play under his leadership.

They put up a good fight to dig deep and endure as long as they could, but by the final whistle, it was all for naught on an afternoon when City’s supremacy was evident once more. ‘The best team in the world and the land’ wears sky blue, not red. Ratcliffe will have to do a lot if he ever hopes to change that.

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