Lack of established partnerships have hindered Manchester United this season

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Once the home of attacking and exciting football that attracted unparalleled support from across the globe, the entertainment on offer at Old Trafford nowadays is on par with watching grass grow or paint dry.

While Manchester United remain just a point shy of the coveted fourth spot after their narrow 1-0 win over Everton on Sunday, a paltry 39 goals scored this season tells its own story.

The sad truth is that the Red Devils have devolved into an uninspiring football team crying out for an identity post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.


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During his post-match analysis of United's poor performance and victory against Sheffield United in January, Paul Scholes pointed out that the club's players are being asked to play out of position - or at least in positions where they're less effective.

While the United legend might have been leaning towards the point of players not being utilised to their strengths, Louis van Gaal's tinkering this season has seen many of his squad members shifted from position to position.

Except for the likes of David de Gea, Chris Smalling and the midfield trio of Michael Carrick, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger, no United player has a defined position.

Having started his career at Old Trafford up front, Anthony Martial has been deployed on the left flank to accomodate for Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford.

Elsewhere, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard regularly swap positions across the attacking line depending on the opponent, whilst Daley Blind has played in whatever position asked of him by Van Gaal.

Versatility is far from a bad thing, but an ever-changing line-up has arguably become a weakness for United and resulted in a lack of partnerships created between players.

The hallmark of Ferguson’s greatest sides were key relationships across the field, such as Rio Ferdinand/Nemanja Vidic's at centre-back, Gary Neville/David Beckham's on the right flank and Roy Keane/Paul Scholes' in central midfield. The list goes on.

Partnerships magnify individual strengths, nullify weaknesses and ensure that team performances exceed the ability of individual players.

Arsenal's intricate passing moves epitomise this point, whereby players know exactly where their teammates are due to run and find space having spent years together on the training pitch and alongside each other in the same positions on match days.

In contrast, United's play has been ponderous and laboured. Like a group of strangers playing together for the very first time, players often take several touches before deciding where to pass the ball - and when they try to up the tempo, passes begin to go astray through a lack of communication and chemistry. 

With coherent team performances the exception rather than the norm this season, Van Gaal should simply pick his strongest XI and stick with it, allowing his players time to gel. Only then will partnerships emerge and develop.

A Champions League place remains firmly in their grasp, but whether they rise to the challenge is an entirely different story.

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Wayne Rooney
Manchester United
UEFA Champions League
Premier League
Cristiano Ronaldo
David Beckham

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