Let’s face it, the season hasn’t exactly gone to plan so far. I’m sure the directors, sponsors, Mourinho and the players had all expected that at this moment of the season we would be in a healthy position and in contention with 2 or 3 other teams for the title.
United have certainly been under fire from the press, and in truth, this has often been justified. The first half against City, Chelsea away, and Watford away were particularly poor performances, but whilst it’s been disappointing at times, some of the football United have played has been of a much higher quality than anything we’ve witnessed during the past 3 seasons.
The big disappointments have been the 4 home draws against Stoke, Burnley, Arsenal and West Ham; in each case United have been the much better team, and frankly deserved all 3 points on all 4 occasions. If those results had gone our way, that would have left us exactly where we would have expected to be in the table, and just 3 points off of the leaders. The problem in all 4 of those games was the finishing, and whilst it was better on Wednesday night in the EFL Cup against West Ham, we should really have been out of sight by the time they scored an equalizing goal just before the break, and that still has to be a concern for Mourinho – against a better team than West Ham were on Wednesday, we may have paid a dear price for squandering so many chances yet again.
Mourinho doesn’t seem to know his best 11 and in truth, I don’t think us fans do either. Miki and Martial looked really good, Rooney had his best game in a long time, Mata has been playing well consistently, and Ibra has started looking sharper again, so where does that leave us when you have Rashford, Lingard and Depay in the squad as well?
At the back, I have been surprisingly impressed with Jones and Rojo, and with Bailly to come back it will be interesting to see how Jose selects his 2 in the middle of the defence. Jose will most likely shape his defence over the next 2 transfer windows, and I’m intrigued to see how that develops. The same can probably be said about the midfield – we have certainly looked good with Carrick in the team, but realistically at 35 Jose will be looking for a younger version who can fill that role and allow Pogba to do what they bought him to do.
So we can now look forward to the EFL Cup semi-final against Hull, and we’re the bookies’ favourites to lift the trophy, which Jose has a history of doing. That would certainly be a good start to his reign, but I think all United fans want to see us back in the Champions League next season, and that’s the big question right now – can we do it?
Obviously the 5 teams above us are all playing well, and realistically I can’t see Chelsea, City or Liverpool falling out of the top 4, especially as 2 of them don’t have any European nights to deal with. My feeling is that we need to hope that Arsenal get a kind draw in the Champions League and that they stay occupied in that until at least April, as well as the FA Cup, but falter in the league, as they are more likely than Spurs to finish above us. Having said all that, it’s also up to United to go on a great run of winning games and let’s hope that begins on Sunday at Goodison Park.