Running out of adjectives

Nilesh Surana
5 min readSep 22, 2023

This blog was published on my Substack.

Defensive frailties, Onana howler, lack of intent and fight…I could go on and on about Manchester United’s (better-looking score than the performance) 3–4 loss to Bayern Munich last night but to be honest, I’m out of adjectives to describe United’s start to this season. 4 losses in the first 6 games do not bode well for the remaining 8 months and I’m out of explanations.

So, I will analyze the goals conceded and you will know how badly we played in case you just checked the score in the morning and got giddy.

1st Goal: Leroy Sane 28’ (Onana howler)

This was a pure goalkeeping error. Onana had a howler reminiscent of how DDG has let in some goals in the last two seasons. On any other day, he catches the ball easily.

Until the 1st goal, it looked like Ten Hag had a playbook to beat Bayern or at least get a point (if only Eriksen or Pellistri could have taken those early chances). Or maybe Bayern were lazy, knowing they could quickly turn over this United side when needed.

People on social media have been asking if have we replaced a goalkeeper with poor distribution but great shot-stopping with one who has great distribution but… (fill in the words). They are not wrong to think so because Onana has faced about 30 shots on target and we have let in 14 goals in 6 games with only one clean sheet. But do remember that even De Gea took time to settle when he came to United. Onana will get there too. His distribution and ball-playing abilities have already made us quite press-resistant.

But don’t forget Eriksen’s sloppy defensive game that led to the shot being taken. Here’s a sequence of images to show you how easy it was.

Eriksen attempts a nothing tackle despite very well knowing Sane could be in the box if he does not get the ball
Sane easily passes the ball to Kane for a 1–2 and Eriksen is just ball watching
Eriksen does not even try running towards Sane. He is just walking at this point.

2nd goal: Serge Gnabry 32’ (Musiala Magic)

Casemiro, Dalot, Lindelof, and our bad luck combined for this blunder but not before Eriksen helped in starting the run that led to this. Watch for yourself.

Eriksen (14) just ball watches instead of doubling up on Musiala who goes on a crazy run into the United box
The ball bounces after Dalot attempts to win it and lands right at Musiala’s feet (bad luck) but look at Casemiro on the left. He is ball-watching instead of marking Serge Gnabry who is waiting for the cutback.
When the shot was taken, look at Casemiro, Lindelof, and Dalot just ball-watching. No one tries to stop or block the shot.

3rd goal: Harry Kane 53’ (Handball rules + bad luck)

United pulled a goal back in the 49th minute thanks to Rashford, Bruno, and Hojlund combining for Hojlund’s first goal for United. This only woke up Bayern who got a corner and Eriksen conceded a soft penalty which could have easily gone the other way (bad luck continues).

Eriksen looks guilty if you look at this frame. His left hand is not where it should be. But this is not the whole picture.
But in this frame, Eriksen is trying to pull back his left hand. It happened in a split second and he was too close to Upamecano’s attempted header to react any faster.

The referee gave it as a penalty because the handball rules are different in the Premier League and the Champions League.

According to the Premier League guidelines, a player will be penalized for handball if:

  • The hand/arm is clearly away from the body and outside the “body line”
  • The player clearly leans into the path of the ball
  • The ball travels some distance
  • The ball touches a hand/arm that is clearly raised above the shoulder

The third point would have meant this was not a penalty (reference: United’s shout for a penalty when Garnacho’s shot hit Romero in the Spurs game).

However, UEFA follows the International Football Association Board (IFAB) rules which state that it is an offence if a player:

  • touches the ball with their hand/arm when it has made their body unnaturally bigger. A player is considered to have made their body unnaturally bigger when the position of their hand/arm is not a consequence of, or justifiable by, the player’s body movement for that specific situation. By having their hand/arm in such a position, the player takes a risk of their hand/arm being hit by the ball and being penalized.

This rule was used here, especially the part in Italics. It means that the player has taken a risk with movement, even if not done with the intention of handling the ball.

4th goal: Mathys Tel 90+2’ (Bruno mistake + no fight left)

United scored in the 88th minute via Casemiro to make it 3–2 but we gave away a cheap goal yet again. It all started with Bruno Fernandes’s mistimed pass. Bayern’s right back Laimer intercepted the ball and lobbed it in the path of substitute Mathys Tel. Tel made a telling run and it ended with Tel scoring the 4th goal.

Laimer intercepts the ball and lobs it
Tel makes a run into the box and passes it to Muller (25)
Muller hits the post and the ball comes to Martinez (circled) who can’t clear the ball
The ball is recycled to midfield and Tel makes a run into the box unmarked as Casemiro (18) is looking the other way
Lindelof attempts a tackle when the shot is already taken. Dalot is ball-watching.

We did score again in the 95th minute but we were never in the game.

Drop in an adjective in the comments to describe the game as I’m out of words now.

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Nilesh Surana

Marketer at Fyle | Writer at Hacker Noon, The Startup, picksaas | Manchester United fan | Instagram: foodie.kismet