Football Expert & Columnist
Graeme Souness blames Manchester United's 'off-the-pace' midfield for Arsenal loss
Last Updated: 10/03/19 8:19pm
Manchester United's "off-the-pace" midfield were the biggest reason for their 2-0 loss at Arsenal, says Graeme Souness.
Whereas players including Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have regularly drawn praise for their improvement since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's arrival, they were criticised by Souness for "not getting near" Arsenal's midfield in the defeat at the Emirates.
He told Sky Sports: "Arsenal started well and grabbed the initiative. United huffed and puffed for most of the game. It wasn't the United in recent weeks and the biggest reason was that the midfield was off the pace.
"Fred, Matic, Pogba couldn't get near them. I've been critical of Xhaka but he was excellent today. He played like a senior pro.
"United were in PSG's faces, so aggressive on Wednesday. Every manager says: 'Make sure we start right', because once you hand over the initiative it's hard to get it back. United didn't start right. I didn't see high energy.
"United were passive. There was no aggression in terms of how they closed down, nothing. You can talk about systems until you're blue in the face but that's secondary - if you're closing down, if you're first to the ball, it doesn't really matter what system you've got. Get your energy levels right, get in the face of the opposition."
Jamie Carragher questioned whether United's choice of beginning the game with a flat 4-4-2, while Arsenal played a five-man midfield, had come back to bite them.
He added: "I think there was a problem with the way they set up in the first place, the fact they had two strikers who are not the type who come back and help in midfield. There was lot of space. But could the midfield have done more as Graeme says? Yes."