Five Thoughts: Fulham 0-3 Manchester United

Cameron Ramsey 11th February 2019

If you squint at a picture of Claudio Ranieri, you’ll notice that he resembles a certain someone. An individual that also dons thick framed spectacles with a shock of grey hair. Twigged it? No matter what angle or perspective you glance at the dumbfounded Italian, shuddering comparisons of Felix Magath creep into the forefront of our vision.

A doppelganger indeed, but his uncanny likeness isn’t the only defining similarity between the two witless tacticians. Ranieri, like the desultory German was in our technical area, is completely out of cards to rest on the table. The ‘risk free’ appointment has not implemented sustainability or fortitude since Slavisa Jokanovic’s dismissal and we, as a collective, are vacant of heart, desire and identity.

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s Manchester United held an unrelenting grip and ruthlessly condemned us to a dejecting 3-0 loss. “We want our Fulham back” reverberated from every inhabited seat at Craven Cottage and that is devastatingly poignant. The atmosphere in the terraces was poisonously crestfallen, and the sumptuous sense of elation that was felt by all in May is now a toxic cocktail of cynicism and despair. Are there any rational reasons why the ‘Tinker man’ should remain in the dugout after our brief domestic break? In the sternest of sentiments, Claudio, get out of our club.

Denis ‘The Menaced’ Odoi

Denis Odoi was methodically terrorised by Anthony Martial for the aching duration of Saturday’s Premier League encounter, and if it wasn’t transparently obvious to Ranieri already, the Belgian is not a right-back and is certainly not robust enough to withstand the exerting pressures of the English top-flight on the parameters of the turf. Scuttling after the rampaging Frenchman, the perilled 30-year-old was systematically violated by the Red Devils.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah was not eligible to face his parent employers and Cyrus Christie, who seemingly sustained a knock against Crystal Palace, was subsequently named as a substitute. Odoi was selected as an improvised right-back against West ham United earlier in the season, although his overall performance against the Hammers was inexcusably deplorable. Though options were thin, Odoi was visibly alarmed and intimidated by United’s majesty in the final third.

We’ll explore this later with greater insight, but Odoi’s a much more competent competitor as part of a back three. Safeguarding the right channel is not his forte and his composure, which eventually settled centrally, was mauled and gouged by the visitors’ electrifying prowess in momentous areas. Odoi was manipulated and extorted, epitomising the noxious frailties that plague our defensive quarters. We have an U17 World Cup winner in our ranks in Steven Sessegnon. An overlooked starlet that conquered alongside Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Rhian Brewster amongst others. Any foreseeable debut at this level for the forgotten twin will be a baptism of fire, but it surely can’t get much worse than Cyrus Christie TFM, and indeed, Odoi.

Look Away, Le Marchand

Illuminating his incompetence, Maxime Le Marchand portrayed himself in a disgraceful light and was at fault for all of United’s killer blows at the Cottage. Stomach-churning compulsions to laboriously stumble with the ball at his feet, snatching at routine, elemental passes, bundling into innocuous, sapless instances, the substandard Frenchman was sheer inadequacy in motion.

Le Marchand continuously ambled down blind alleys in possession and that’s not a newly formed trait of the 29-year-old auxiliary defender. Constricted by Luke Shaw, the former OGC Nice representative was mugged and Paul Pogba, having been slipped through by Martial, broke the deadlock from an acute angle within the 18-yard box. Charging towards the Whites’ penalty area, Martial bypassed his fellow countryman’s feeble attempt to dislodge possession. Le Marchand’s half-measured, vapid hip thrust was tremendously lamentable, an erratic impulse that enabled United to net their second of the afternoon. Wretched defending at its unsavoury worst.

Catastrophe befell Le Marchand, again, in the 64th minute. Frantically scrambling to quash United’s attack, the compromised defender plunged into Juan Mata to award Solksjaer’s men a stone wall penalty. Alexis Sanchez was presented with a golden opportunity to widen the deficit soon after, following Le Marchand’s reckless header. The Chilean anticipated Le Marchand’s indecision but couldn’t nestle the ball beyond an onrushing Sergio Rico. It was a truly torrid showing from the lackadaisical defender, who’s strangely perceived to be one of our more trustworthy centre-halves. What have we been smoking?

Caring For Cairney’s Inclusion

Is Tom Cairney genuinely behind Luciano Vietto in Ranieri’s flawed system? Operating as a No.10, Vietto vied to incorporate Aleksandar Mitrovic, Ryan Babel and Andre Schurrle, but the Argentine attacker simply doesn’t obtain the artistry and ingenuity of Cairney. Of all the representatives that have been axed or shunned by Ranieri, TC’s demise is ludicrously unjust. If we’re to express and exhibit an expansive philosophy, which is now imperative, Cairney has to feature in the starting XI every week without fail

Vietto should have drawn first blood in the early stages of the encounter and his vibrancy was a required element within our offensive unit, although the Cottagers were famished of construction and innovation. Sequences were disjointed and predictable on the parameter of United’s 18-yard box, and though that’s not directly Vietto’s fault, a metronome such as our enigmatic Scotsman would have established a tangible fluidity, a cohesion that’s fundamentally tailor-made for Mitrovic and his aforementioned teammates.

In the 77th minute, Cairney was introduced at Babel’s expense and the skipper’s imperious influence was instantly noticeable. Cairney interlinked with his midfield colleagues and pressed sufficiently in possession. The craftsman’s unwavering confidence in his ability aids our progression because he’s undeterred in his ventures. Lacerating United’s superior structure was exceedingly strenuous and the Whites were often suppressed in their efforts, but with Cairney on the turf, a vague sense of vitality was momentarily breathed back into our lifeless cause.

Select Sess’, Sacrifice Schurrle

Other than launching a pinpoint cross in Vietto’s direction in the opening stages, Schurrle faded out of proceedings yet again and succumbed to the rigorous demands of Premier League football. The German was strangulated by an overbearing Shaw and was persistently quarantined whilst lumbering along his respective channel. Disillusioned by his tepid skill set, I’m struggling to appreciate why Ranieri favours the Borussia Dortmund loanee over Ryan Sessegnon.

Ranieri’s challenged the England U21 international to toughen up, if he’s going to prosper in the top-flight, that is, but how does Schurrle’s subservience surpass Sess’ innate hunger and tenacity? Fighting for the badge at all costs is all the teenager knows. Schurrle, to my elation, was replaced by Christie in the 53rd minute, putting an abrupt end to what was a hapless, futile outing. The 28-year-old may be second in our scoring charts, but he offers absolutely zilch in terms of productivity and support.

Odoi was targeted, but Schurrle shirked his defensive obligations and amplified our spineless vulnerabilities. Inferior in foot races, powerless in shoulder to shoulder duels, Schurrle is tediously menial in virtually every necessary aspect. Believing that he is Sess’s superior is preposterous. Sess’ is adapting to the strains of elite football but he’s an abundant marksman and provider. His pivotal prestige against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Huddersfield Town signifies his integral importance. With two goals and five assists during his maiden season in the game’s most cutthroat division to date, Sess’ aspiring application outweighs Schurrle’s encumbering shortcomings on all credible fronts. There is no debate.

Rico’s Mixed Bag

You are only as good as the players that lay ahead of you as a goalkeeper. Rico’s had to guard our target with one of Europe’s most penetrable, porous  defences in front of him for the majority of the campaign and he’s valiantly commanded his domain with a refreshingly assured, unwavering ethic. Against United, however, the Spaniard uncharacteristically marshalled his penalty area and also made a meal of simple, bread and butter instances. We know what he’s capable of between the sticks, although Rico would be the first to admit that he should have done better in hindsight.

It wasn’t a shoddy performance whatsoever and I’m often one to sing his praises like a chorister with tiny testicles, but for a ‘keeper that’s versed in his habitual responsibilities, an unnerving inclination frequently affected his judgement. Pogba’s opener was ferocious, but the Sevilla FC loanee simply didn’t cover his angles swiftly enough to thwart the revered Frenchman’s arrowed effort. Rico’s renowned for his superlative reflexes, but on that particular occasion, the agile 25-year-old was not steadied or prepared for what his adversary had stored in his laces.

Moments before Pogba added United’s third from the spot, Ander Herrera unleashed a hammer blow from 15-yards. A goal seemed destined but Rico expertly shunted his compatriot’s fizzing projectile away from danger. But, as stated, Pogba slammed home a penalty almost simultaneously following his customarily obnoxious ritual and Rico, who sprung the right way, couldn’t make contact with the temperamental star’s strike. Denying Sanchez with a typically astute block salvaged a slither of pride, but Rico’s Saturday lunchtime down by the river was conclusively marred by unflattering moments of hesitation and disparity.