With just 9 games left to play, and with United back in that familiar 6th position, it’s time for an honest appraisal of our season so far.
Mourinho’s inaugural campaign with the club promised so much, but seems to be delivering so little. Yes, we blagged our way through the EFL Cup final against Southampton, who were definitely the better team on the day, and we have got ourselves into the quarter final of the Europa League, but we are yet to play anyone of real significance who would even make the top half of the table in the Premier League.
Personally, I have believed in Jose since day one, and I am certainly not suggesting his time is up. But I also can’t deny that I’m losing faith in the way we are playing, and in the way Jose seems to be handling the younger players at our club.
He’s not exactly known for bringing out the best in young players, and the way Shaw, Rashford and Martial have performed this season following varying levels of public criticism leaves a lot to be desired. These 3 players are undoubtedly talented, and in the right conditions, surely have the potential to be 3 of the best players in the league.
Yesterday on TV here in USA, the English pundits were comparing Guardiola’s handling of Sterling and Stones at City to Jose’s handling of our 3 potential stars. Pep has publicly defended his younger stars, and they are both responding with some excellent performances. You can bet your bottom dollar that they will remain at City and become excellent players, whilst Jose is publicly humiliating our young lads who are so obviously void of any confidence on the pitch to express themselves and do the business. Personally, I can’t see the benefit of Jose’s “old school” approach, and some of his comments are nothing short of ridiculous. Unless modern managers understand how to work with millennials, whether in football or any other business, they can expect to encounter problems.
To be blunt, our football in the final third is just abysmal. I know some United fans will say we have been unlucky here and there, and, indeed, our chance conversion rate has hugely held us back, but you can’t blame bad luck for failing to score more than 1 goal in 9 separate home games. Players like Rashford and Martial appear too scared to take risks, and we’re missing that bit of much-needed attacking magic as a resilt. United are becoming boring again, with 90% of the attacking play finding its way to Zlatan. Whilst he has had a fantastic season, one could also question whether his presence has made United one-dimensional, stifling the skills of others and making us an increasingly predictable proposition for opposing sides.
The last 2 games at home against West Brom and Everton have been poor at best. Watford put 2 past West Brom this week and Liverpool easily put 3 past Everton in the recent Merseyside derby, but we couldn’t manage a single goal in 185 minutes, other than a penalty in the dying seconds on Tuesday night.
I don’t want to see United sack Jose, and am hopeful we can win the next 5 games in the Europa League to win a European trophy and gain us Champions League football for next season, but United need to be fighting for the title. We need to be playing fluid, attacking, exciting football, and if we are not challenging next season, and not winning MAJOR trophies, then sorry but it will be time to move on yet again.
Next season will be even harder; Spurs will only keep improving, Chelsea are already dominant and will most likely strengthen and improve, and both Pep and Klopp will surely have learned some important lessons this season. To truly compete with our domestic rivals and Europe’s top teams, Jose is going to have to be at his very, very best, buying the right players this summer, and getting the absolute best from all of his players, week-in, week-out.
I still trust him for now to do the job, and I hope I am saying the same this time next year.