Another game, another solid home performance in the Premier League, another draw. It’s becoming a pattern. José Mourinho’s side performed well against Arsenal at the weekend, but a failure to take chances and the Gunners‘ late goal means that the Reds have dropped six points in the past three home league games.
As far as international breaks go the series of games this week could not have been timed any worse for Manchester United. Fresh from victory against struggling Swansea City, the Reds desperately need a run of positive results to build momentum in a stop-start season. Instead, José Mourinho’s players return from activity on three continents ahead of a must-win fixture against one of the club’s oldest enemies.
It’s international week so very little football of consequence is going on. In other news José Mourinho eviscerated two of his players while planning the sale of, perhaps, half-a-dozen others. Good work. Oh, and there’s a game against Arsenal at the weekend!
It was telling that even after a morale-boosting victory over Swansea City last weekend, José Mourinho still felt compelled to address what he believes to be the biggest problem at Manchester United. The Portuguese alluded to what he believes are “some cultural issues, influenced by a situation that has been going on for a few years,” before controversially singling out some members of his squad. Simply put, Mourinho feels that some players aren’t giving him enough.
Chris Smalling, Luke Shaw, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan: six players, almost £100 million in transfer fees, and one big falling out. For differing reasons each of the sextet could be headed out of the club, caught in José Mourinho’s demand for total commitment. Once again the Portuguese has demonstrated a single-minded drive to do things his way, one that will cost the club millions in depreciating player values. It had better be worth it.
Was José Mourinho’s side much better or Swansea City the worst team Manchester United has faced this season? Either way the Reds gained three absolutely vital points in Wales, Zlatan Ibrahimovic two goals and Paul Pogba a worldie strike. For once, supporters went home happy!
No one said it would be easy. But no one said it’d be this hard. As José Mourinho’s side fumbled its way through another disappointing night in Europe, the few remaining onlookers who thought everything would be back to normal this time around suffered a rude awakening. There is, apparently, no quick fix to the problems facing Manchester United, the self-proclaimed “biggest club in the world.”
These are strange times at Manchester United. Strange and unsettling times. The worst that could be said about United’s defeat at Fenerbahçe on Thursday is that the result wasn’t unexpected. Victory would have been met with relief such has been United’s form and poor away record in Europe. Instead, José Mourinho will have to pick through the wreckage of this latest set-back and try to steady the ship.
August 2014. Cast your mind back to Louis van Gaal’s Premier League first game as manager, against Swansea City at Old Trafford. The take away from the match was United going down to the Swans, but it also marked Jesse Lingard’s competitive début. Like Van Gaal, Lingard suffered a match to forget, though for completely different reasons, with the youth team graduate heading off after 24 minutes because of a knee injury. It’s a metaphor for Lingard’s career.
There were times during Louis van Gaal’s regime at Manchester United when the Dutchman’s team couldn’t record 37 shots in a month, let alone a game. Fast forward a few months and the current vintage has few problem creating chances; it’s the finishing that is letting the team down. Indeed, it seems churlish to complain about United’s draw with Burnley at the weekend despite all those failed efforts on goal. After all, José Mourinho’s team actually produced a fine attacking display, save for the lack of chances taken.