1. No central midfield. I was really looking forward to seeing a full 90 minutes from Cleverley tonight but with Park alongside him, United struggled to get a foothold in the middle until SAF switched it up and put Scholes and Jones in the centre of midfield together. It was blatant that both Cleverley and Park weren’t match fit and it was letting Ajax dictate large parts of the game. Without Carrick, the pressure was on Cleverley to perform but he simply couldn’t provide that tonight. He needed a defensive midfield partner to allow him the freedom to bring the ball further up the pitch rather than trying to do everything at once. It did show us just how important Michael Carrick is to this United team though – quite how he wasn’t chosen for England is simply beyond me.
2. What a save, Dave. David De Gea is starting to show the sort of consistency that any top level keeper needs to have. After the spotlight that came shining down on him from that save against Mata at the Bridge, he has been putting in assured performances and when called upon, has provided the goods. An instinctive save from De Gea at 1-1 tonight was extremely important and stopped the pendulum swinging in Ajax’s favour. De Gea couldn’t do anything about their second goal after Alderweireld nodded in from four yards. I hope that now the critics have found another guinea pig to play with that Dave can settle down in England and keep up this level of performance up until the end of the season.
3. A good performance from Hernandez. For the first time in his United career, Hernandez scored in his fourth consecutive appearance and gives SAF food for thought when choosing his Premier League strike partner to Rooney. For the majority of the season, he has chosen the all-round package that Welbeck brings to the team but the predator instincts of Hernandez cannot be ignored much longer. There was never a doubt in my mind that Javier was going to score as soon as he made space and he didn’t disappoint with a fantastic finish.
4. Young and Nani. United are struggling with match-fit wingers as of right now, with Young and Nani only just returning from their injuries and Valencia still on the sidelines. Young impressed me tonight – he had a good touch with the ball at his feet and wasn’t afraid to run at defenders. He lacked the final ball but his improvement impressed me. Nani, on the whole, had a quiet game but always looked dangerous when he had the ball at his feet, such is his reputation nowadays. A fizzing shot that rattled the bar toward the end of the game was his best moment but both Nani and Young need to up their levels leading up to the business end of the season.
5. The set-piece weakness bites once again. How many times have United conceded from aerial balls that have been pumped into the box this season? Time and time again, teams have targeted our weaknesses and punished us for it. Every time we concede a goal in that fashion, I miss Nemanja Vidic more and more. We have lacked a presence in defence since his injury and will continue to do so until he returns. With the title race being so tight, I just hope that we fix up and look sharply towards amending these problems on the training ground.