After spending more than 300m pounds over the last 2 transfer windows, Ed Woodward & the Manchester United Board along with the fans are looking towards the sky wondering where is it going wrong.
Is Jose the right manager to take Manchester United ahead, is the team that he has taken over in the right frame of mind or has he bought less in the transfer window?
The game against Manchester City, the last weekend, gave the United players & Jose a lesson in football. The high pressing, accurate passing, possession based football is what Pep Guordiola has brought to City, as expected. However, the way Manchester United played in the first half at Old Trafford, was nowhere close to what a title chasing side should play. Not even Pogba – a 100m buy nor Zlatan could rescue United at the end of the day, even though they salvaged some pride in the second half. The manager brought on 2 players – Henrik Mikhitariyan & Jesse Lingard, in a big game against their city rivals. The former started his first game & didn’t have a memorable one, with Jose hooking him off by the break.
Manchester United then, moved to Rotterdam to play Feyenoord – who are on a roll & are unbeaten in the Eredivisie. Both teams started off cautiously trying to take the initiative but not retaining possession. The first half displayed boring football, where neither team had the urge to win it, but in the second half both the managers made changes, with Jose substituting 3 players – Rashford, Mata & Martial with Zlatan, Young & Depay respectively. But it was Feyenoord who grabbed the opportunity, when it arose, with the United wingers not tracking back & Feyenoord scoring a goal.
Now, the question arises, looking at these 2 matches, what is really wrong with Manchester United?
- Is there a lack of leadership within the team – Doesn’t seem so, with Zlatan & Rooney the quintessential leaders, who are supposed to guide the team through thick & thin.
- Lacks quality players – well, after you spend 56m on Martial (the next Henry), 100m on Pogba (the next big thing in world football), 30m on Bailly (a brilliant defender, who harassed Ronaldo last season with his man-marking), 32m on Mkhitaryan (top assists in Bundesliga) – You cant complain with the quality of players, can you?
- Is it the manager then? – Well, Jose Mourinho, can’t be doubted in this case at least. He has won title, in every stint that he has had with clubs he has managed & surely he will win it with United too
If all the above is what usually ails most clubs during their season, apart from form, injuries etc. then what is wrong?
Well, Jose Mourinho is trying to fit in the puzzles, trying to figure out players & their best positions, their mentality & if they will suit his philosophy. Jose recently said in the aftermath of the Manchester derby defeat, that he made a wrong decision starting Mikhitariyan & Lingard instead of Martial & Mata respectively, who had been playing well until the derby clash.
In the defeat against Feyenoord too, he didn’t have Rooney in the squad, while Zlatan was on the bench, given Rashford’s form with the England under-21s, he was bound to start him. Given both, Zlatan’s & Rooney’s absence from the squad, the players lacked a strong personality on the pitch who could guide them through the rough waters & the result apparently was a loss. Jose also complained that the mentality of the players wasn’t right after the derby loss & the players are low on confidence.
Given time, of course, Jose may turn this around & Manchester United may become a winning machine, who may go on the win the English Premier League & qualify for the ultimate Champions League. However, currently he needs to get his man-management skills up to the fore & get the team together like he has done in his Chelsea days, with each player fighting for the team. The team spirit needs to be built rather than the skills, the skills are evident, the hunger is missing to win games. Manchester United is much bigger than 1 player or 11 players, its about the pride of wearing the red jersey, the pride to play for the biggest club who never gives up winning. Until Jose gets this spirit up, such losses will keep on hitting the club & their fans.
The steely urge & strong will to win is what made Manchester United different from all the teams during the Sir Alex Ferguson days, can Jose bring the fear factor back to Old Trafford, is what needs to be seen.