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Manchester United’s lack of fight in the derby battering has me very worried

I was screaming at the telly, “foul someone, take a yellow card, do something, anything” to slow the match down as the home team assumed total control. Frankly, it was an embarrassment at the end.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 05: Manchester United Head Coach / Manager Erik ten Hag answers questions from the media during a Press Conference at Carrington Training Ground on October 5, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)© Manchester United via Getty Imag

Paul McGrathSunday World

The way the team has played over the first three months of the season brings Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates to my mind, ‘You never know what you are going to get.’

Disasters in their first two Premier League matches were followed by some excellent efforts in a charge up the table.

And then, after the international break, we were embarrassed by Manchester City, and then clung on for victory against Omonia of Nicosia last Thursday night, who, as I write, are only fourth in the Cypriot league.

Fair dues to Neil Lennon, he set up his Omonia team to defend and to have a go at the heart of United’s defence, where the weaknesses are.

And so, despite dominating the match, Manchester United were vulnerable right at the end of the game. When Omonia had two good chances to score for a famous draw.

Manager Erik ten Hag can at least claim he got his substitutions right, with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial changing the course of the game.

But that’s about all that went right on the night.

Clearly the name and aura of Manchester United is not worrying any club anymore.

It’s certainly not bothering City, who came out and blew their neighbours out of the water last Sunday with a whirlwind start.

United must have expected City to come out with all guns blazing, they surely spoke about coping with that in the dressing room pre-match?

Instead, the early minutes saw the Red Devils like a rabbit in a car headlights.

I was screaming at the telly, “foul someone, take a yellow card, do something, anything” to slow the match down as the home team assumed total control. Frankly, it was an embarrassment at the end.

A final scoreline of 6-3 doesn’t even do Manchester City justice.

Yes, I know, Pep Guardiola’s charges, now with Erling Haaland running rampant, can do that to any football team.

But, on the worst of days as a professional footballer, you put up a fight.

Your personal and professional pride alone demands that much.

I didn’t see any fight in too many Manchester United players a week ago today.

And that worries me going forward. Any more displays like last Sunday, and the club is going to be at a terrible crossroads.

Erik ten Hag© AFP via Getty Images

The one where Ten Hag tells his board that ‘you either give me half a billion Euro to buy new players or I leave, because to turn this team into domestic or European winners I am going to need about eight new players’.

And having already spent a billion euro on transfers in the last decade, what will be the Glazer family’s answer?

On another topic, having wished Shamrock Rovers well as they embarked on their Europa Conference League adventure, I was very disappointed to see the Hoops wave the white flag in Norway.

What is the point of being in a European match, on the telly, and you leave quality players like Jack Byrne and Graham Burke out of the action?

This Conference League was created to give clubs of Rovers’ stature a stage to play on.

And, instead, they prioritise winning the League of Ireland title again? For what, to turn up in European competition again next season and prioritise winning the 2023 league?

The League of Ireland is going to stay a summer league.

Shamrock Rovers players trudge off after Molde defeat© SPORTSFILE

So this issue is going to arise again and again – not just for Rovers, but for Dundalk, Derry, Bohs, Pat’s and whoever else might be in the running for the domestic crown in any given season.

I mean, if this time next year, Rovers and Derry are both in the Conference League, travelling across Europe on a Thursday night, do they draw stumps again and concentrate on winning the big prize at home.

I know enough about the League of Ireland to know that Shamrock Rovers are a better football team than they showed against Molde.

Apart from the omitted players, the likes of Andy Lyons has already secured a move to Blackpool in the Championship come January.

Last Thursday night should have been a showcase for Irish football to prove that our best clubs belong at this level.

But no, every game Rovers lose now will hurt all the League of Ireland clubs’ seeding for next season. Our teams will keep getting harder and harder draws.

People were criticising the TV companies for having no pre-match and half-time pundits on their programme on Thursday.

Why should they if Rovers did not think it was the most important match they were playing this week?

All in all, Rovers’ 3-0 loss was a real chance squandered by League of Ireland football to promote itself and to engender a feel-good story.


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