Manchester United: An honest analysis

Manchester United: An honest analysis
Apr 5, 2017

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So far this season criticism of Manchester United has been relatively tame. It is hard to criticise a team that is on a 20 game unbeaten run in the Premier League and already won the EFL Cup this season. These factors only paper over the cracks and mask what is really going on at Manchester United, the fact of the matter is that Manchester United are underachieving massively and really are not very good to watch. It is time for honest analysis of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United.

To look at it a 20 game unbeaten run is incredibly impressive during the course of a league season. You would expect a team unbeaten in 20 league games to be top of the league or at least very close to the top, not Manchester United, they are fifth. Although their unbeaten run has propelled them to that position after being stranded in sixth place for months. However, if Arsenal overcome West Ham on Wednesday night United will once again return to their seemingly unescapable place in the league table.

Why are United seemingly destined for another season of Europa League football? The main reason is too many draws, 12 of them, the most in the league. The reasons for these draws, an aimless style of football, poor man management from Mourinho, an overreliance on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, poor team selections. The list of reasons can go on and on.

To watch Manchester United against Everton on Tuesday night was painful. The players on the pitch did not play ‘the way United should’ unless United have lost their identity to such an extent that pumping the ball up the pitch and constant aimless crossing is now ‘the way United should’ play, no it is not. It was as if we were transported back in time three years to when Manchester United were at their lowest under David Moyes against Fulham at Old Trafford.

The players on the pitch seem to have no idea as to how to play an expansive entertaining style of football. It is clueless and appears to be a case of just get the ball to Ibrahimovic and hope he bails us out, without Ibrahimovic scoring there is nothing at all in this United team. Are the players under instruction from Mourinho to hoof the ball up to the two big men in Ibrahimovic and Fellaini? Or are they that directionless they just resort to the long ball? This is not Manchester United, this is football you associate with lower sides in the league, it is not good enough. After the fortune spent in the Summer and the quality of players on the pitch is this all Jose Mourinho and his players can deliver?

Manchester United have only truly played well once this season in the league and that was the 4-1 win against Leicester in September. The other wins during this unbeaten run have been scrappy and unconvincing and have not showcased a cohesive style of football despite beating teams from the lower reaches of the table. This unbeaten run with all its draws has given Mourinho the lowest win percentage at home of any United manager in the Premier League, even lower than David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

This season has been notable for the regression of United’s young players. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford have been unrecognisable and in Martial’s case the Frenchman has often become a scapegoat and has been criticised by Mourinho on several occasions. Even in Louis van Gaal’s static robotic United team these two youngsters looked full of flair and looked like world beaters. In Mourinho’s apparently expansive United team they look flat and at their lowest eb on confidence. Is it that Mourinho’s critics are right and he cannot manage young players and has little time for them. That is certainly evident in the case of Tim Fosu-Mensah who broke into the side last season and looked an incredible talent, nowhere to be seen this season because Mourinho would rather persist with one of the most limited footballers in the league in Marouane Fellaini.

Another incredible young talent at the club is Luke Shaw. Once tipped to be one of the very best full backs in football the youngster has been chastised by Jose Mourinho this season. Many forget that this season Luke Shaw has been coming back from a leg break and getting up to speed was always going to be tough for him. The first bad game Shaw had this season at Watford Mourinho publicly slated the youngster and dropped him from the side and has hardly been seen since. It is as if Mourinho has no interest in the fact Shaw is coming back from that horrific injury and is incapable of managing the player correctly.

Luke Shaw needed the support of his new manager, instead he got public criticism and a startling lack of patience. Following Mourinho’s incredible criticism of Luke Shaw last week the youngster was in the squad for Tuesday night’s game. Ironically Mourinho was forced to turn to Shaw when his makeshift left back Ashley Young picked up an injury. If it wasn’t for Luke Shaw Manchester United would have lost to Everton, Shaw’s fierce shot was handled which led to Manchester United’s equalising penalty. Of course, Shaw was still told he needs to ‘grow up’ after the game by Mourinho who also claimed Shaw played well because Mourinho was ‘making every decision for him’ by shouting instructions from the side-line. Well done Jose, a very good way of bringing down your player after he saved your side and was probably the best United player on the pitch all night.

This Summer will be crucial for Manchester United and their future. The future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic needs to be dealt with, with the Swede talking of United perhaps not matching his ambitions. If that is the case let him go and build a team that is more cohesive and less reliant on one player, because Mourinho has set this side out to be Zlatan FC.  It could be a blessing in disguise if Ibrahimovic leaves because then Mourinho can build a side that isn’t ridiculously dependent on one player. None of the team above United rely so much on one player, they rely on their philosophy and play style, oh yeah United don’t really have a play style.

It is too early to even talk of Mourinho’s job being under threat and he should be given another season to deliver what is expected. However, looking at this season the massive underachievement cannot be avoided. It has not been good enough and Mourinho has a lot credit in the bank because he has already won a trophy this season and although the football is incredibly poor his side do have more of a go than Louis van Gaal’s United team. The United fans will stick with their manager for the foreseeable but they will demand improvement and will also demand less of the Jose Mourinho antics that have crept in as the team have regressed in 2017.

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