Where does the blame lie for Manchester United’s bumbling form despite a wealth of talent? WADE PRETORIUS explores.
The Theatre of Dreams is an apt name. These days more than ever after Jose Mourinho’s men put the fans to sleep with a dreary performance against bottom of the log and relegation shoe-ins West Bromwich Albion.
The same West Brom that has a new coach – who’s not in the ‘super coach’ calibre of Mourinho – and who’s away from was, simply put, horrific.
But it wasn’t the Baggies who started Monday with a case of the blues but instead it was United. They lost and handed the title to the same team who they beat just a week by coming back from 2-0 down. Sunday’s United performance wasn’t the first of its kind. It was on par with the worst of Louis van Gaal’s team.
The difference? This team has Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku. And Mourinho. It also has Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial even Jesse Lingard.
So how can a team that has so much star attraction fail so miserably in unlocking the bottom feeders defence? The papers in England are screaming about Paul Pogba’s possible exit after his mediocre campaign. Too many haircuts and too few goals they will say. They’re not wrong but in what world does the blame lie squarely on his shoulders?
He hasn’t been great but many around him have struggled too. Armchair critics and the Twitterati would put forward a number of suggestions that appear obvious. Play Martial and Rashford in their preferred position. The same case for Pogba and Sanchez.
When will the questions of Mourinho’s management become front and centered like Pogba’s indifferent form? When last did he win a league title? How on earth did he set up his side to defend at home against Sevilla? Why can’t he get the best out of Pogba? And Sanchez? Why does he seem intent on destroying Luke Shaw?
Where is his tactical brilliance beyond the bus? The thing with playing defensively and setting your team out to grind away and then counter-attack is that you can win six or seven games in a row like that but when you lose, you end up looking like a fool and the fans of United will never appreciate such dull football. The performance and indeed the approach against Sevilla, who in fairness is a middle of the road La Liga outfit, especially in the second leg said a lot about how Mourinho plans to get things done.
Ask 100 fans who should go first, Pogba or his manager, and I bet the latter will be up for sacrifice. Mourinho is replaceable – we’ve seen how City have won the league with three different managers in recent years. Is Pogba as replaceable? Especially when that story will drag United further down into the comedy scrapheap.
Mourinho, and not money, needs to account for this season’s failure. Pogba should not be the scapegoat. The Portuguese mentor is playing a dangerous game – one where attack, not seen by the team on the field, could result in an own goal.
Then again, for all the problems at Old Trafford they remain second behind runaway leaders Manchester City. The avalanche of criticism hasn’t snowed Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal or Chelsea under. United have lost to Huddersfield away, West Brom at home and suffered draws during the festive season program. Positive results there were expected but didn’t materialise and still, the Red Devils remain the closest challengers. The closest challengers without the scoring prowess of Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane.
Sure things are far, far from ideal in the red half of Manchester but at least, they are aware of their shortcomings. What will it take for Liverpool and Spurs to win the league?