Paddy McNair has performed admirably in the past couple of games, putting in solid performances, and his ability to step up with the ball has impressed many Manchester United fans.
But his inclusion has also cost us dearly, and though he certainly hasn't been the only under performer in the last two games, he has made crucial mistakes which in both matches proved damaging.
Against West Brom on Saturday he gave away the free-kick from which they got their goal. It was a needless and clumsy foul, in an obviously dangerous position, while Chris Smalling was covering and would have comfortably snuffed out the danger and intercepted the ball if McNair hadn't bundled the opposition player over.
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Poor decision making
What's more, an experienced centre-half would have been aware that against a team playing as defensively away from home as West Brom, a set piece in such a dangerous position is the worst possible gift to award the opposition, and he would have been wiser to risk pulling out of the challenge and letting his defensive partner deal with the situation.
Perhaps he was trying to atone for pulling out of the challenge on James McCarthy against Everton the week before for the first goal, but this significantly backfired here, and the moment the free-kick was awarded it felt almost predetermined that it would fly in.
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He also missed our best chance of a game in which United's finishing and chance creation was poor. A free header from five yards out needs to be put on target at the very least, and yet he put it wide. It was an easy header, and nerves probably got the better of him in the moment.
While there is an element of sympathy here, he is a young defender learning the game and can't be expected to be a clinical finisher, it was still a frustrating moment.
Then the week before against Everton, he (and Daley Blind to be fair) were culpable for the first goal, both pulling out of a tackle letting McCarthy through. This was terrible defending on both their parts: the ball was there to be won, and though a mistimed challenge would have led to a penalty, it would have been better than simply letting an opposition player step into the penalty box unopposed.
Though not directly at fault for the second goal, responsibility for conceding from a set piece must be levelled at the centre halves. It is their responsibility, along with the keeper, to dominate and organise the defender's box, and clearly this was not done well enough in this situation.
Everton tried the same corner routine three times consecutively before the fourth went in, and still no one took enough responsibility for the front post.
Not the only one
But I do not wish to solely lay the blame for the last two defeats on Paddy McNair's shoulders.This would be far too harsh, and would ignore all the positives he's shown. He looks like he has a fantastic future ahead of him if his rapid development continues.
And also, solely blaming McNair would also be letting the other poor performers over the past two weeks off the hook. Juan Mata has been pedestrian in attack, being too fearful to play incisive forward passes and lacking enough pace to threaten opposition. Ashley Young has been far too predictable on the other flank. Wayne Rooney hasn't shown enough attacking menace and the absence of Michael Carrick has left a gaping hole in midfield.
But regardless, McNair was responsible for the crucial goals in both of the last two defeats, and though otherwise he's played well, Van Gaal must revert to the Smalling-Jones partnership, or bring in Marcos Rojo to partner Smalling.
McNair's inexperience has cost us dearly in these past two weeks, and he should be given some time away from the spotlight to work on his decision making.
Manchester United fans: do you think Paddy McNair should be dropped? Let us know below!
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