With many senior ManchestePrer United players featuring for their various countries at the world cup, pre season games did not avail Mourinho and his team the opportunity to work with most of the senior players ahead of the premier league season. The dour draws against San Jose Earthquakes and Club America did little to fuel optimism amongst fans with united not finding any rhthym to their game. Another draw with AC Milan and the 4-1 trashing by Liverpool did little to improve the mood around the club. United ran out 2-1 winners over European champions Real Madrid and were pegged back again by a 1-0 loss to Bayern Munich.
The biggest talking point of the Pre-season was Mourinho’s scathing criticism of united youngsters when he claimed Alexis Sanchez would be disappointed by the players around him, the players were mostly youngsters who were taken to the tour to gain exposure and valuable first team experience, and perhaps have a shot at staking a claim in the first team. His criticism did not go down with fans who over the years have been accustomed to seeing United breed young academy players, giving them a chance in the first team.
The only bright light of the whole pre-season fiasco being Andreas Pereira, who dazzled in flashes and curled a wonderful freekick into the top corner against Liverpool. Apart from him, there was not much to take from an abject pre season which united failed to make use of in building team chemistry and work on other aspects of their game. It wasn’t also helped by Mourinho’s unhappy mood which cast a shadow of gloom around the team. The man needs to cheer up.
Mourinho’s dour mood and lack of signings.
All summer Mourinho moaned about making signings which he claimed he had given United Chairman, Ed Woodward a list of names which he would like to add to the team. Fred, Diogo Dalot and backup keeper Lee Grant were signed, but as replacements for the retired Micheal Carrick, Daley Blind who left United for a return to former club Ajax and Joel Pereira who left on loan to Vitoría de Setúbal in Portugal. Like for like replacements which didn’t leave the squad any stronger than it was last season. Atop the list was the search for a new centre back which led United looking at the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Diego Godin, Yerry Mina and Jerome Boateng. The search was futile as United was expected to shell out huge amounts of money for players who were not worth the price or have no sell on value when purchased.
Mourinho was vocal with his unhappiness at the transfer dealings at the club and there was talk of a possible fracture in his relationship with United chairman, Woodward. Mourinho would look at cross town rivals City with envious eyes as the club last season spent €52m on Benjamin Mendy, €54 for Kyle Walker, €27m for Danilo, Laporte came in for €57m and goalkeeper Ederson cost €35m. City spent €225m on defence only, more than what 52 countries, on research have spent on their defence. Guardiola justified the huge expenditure at a press conference for Laporte’s unveiling saying “some clubs spend €300-400m on two players. We spent it on six players. To compete at the highest level, you have to spend”.
Mourinho must have been looking forward to splashing the cash this summer to bridge the gap between United and City. He must be left disappointed by Woodward’s reluctance to open the cheque book and back him in the transfer window ahead of the new season, which makes little sense considering his contract extension in January. Why extend his contract and then fail to back him up in transfers? While city can call on the likes of Mendy and Walker in full back positions, united have to make do with former wingers Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia both 33 and lacking the legs or natural force –which is in decline — to dart forward into attacking areas to whip in crosses or have effect in the final third like their City counterparts.
The horror show at the Anex stadium last week led by the centre back pairing of Eric Bailly and Lindelof was enough to justify Mourinho’s call for defensive reinforcements. One would argue he signed the pair last season for enormous prices and has failed to get the best out of them. Going out to the media to air his grievances instead of dealing with the matter internally has not done him a world of good, leading to intense scrutiny of him and Woodward by the media. Surely, not the ideal atmosphere to create by a manager ahead of a career defining season.
Last weekend showed if not for any other thing in City’s demolition of Huddersfield the unity in their squad, the whole team clamoured around the Silvas whose son took to the pitch after spending five months in the hospital having been born prematurely. On the other hand, there is talk about the falling out between Mourinho and United forward Anthony Martial who Mourinho confirmed was fined by him after returning late to the squad following the birth of his son.
Luke Shaw has also been a target of Mourinho’s in the past, the latest being Paul Pogba. Pogba has been criticised by his manager in the wake of their loss to West Brom last season claiming his superstar and other united players were ‘’masters of complication.” He went further to suggest that their many flicks and tricks were solely the reason why they lost to West Brom thereby gifting the title to city just a week after denying them the title at the Etihad Stadium. He was also critical of his star player after his successful world cup campaign claiming the nature of the world cup did not allow him to be distracted by “external matters.”
Pogba was reportedly unhappy with his managers comments and did little to quell reports of a rift between them when he claimed he wouldn’t say somethings in fear of getting fined following the 2-1 victory over Leicester city on matchday one. Mourinho has come out to blast the media for ‘’lies’’ over the report of a rift between him and Pogba but one can imagine that there is no smoke without fire.
With talks of Pogba jumping ship to Barcelona, the board cannot afford to lose a player who they broke a world record to get back and who represents a huge commercial value to the club. If the rumors are anything to go with and the board has to choose between keeping the player or manager, then fate is set to sell out Mourinho. The great Sir Alex Fergurson was respected by all because he never took matters to the press. Mourinho should copy his methods.
The loss to Huddersfield
In football, you win some, you lose some, but not the way United lost to Huddersfield. After just fifteen minutes of action, it was crystal clear that united lacked chemistry. The players were all over the place misplacing passes and failing to find Lukaku. The performance was so woeful that throughout the minutes Martial was on the pitch, not once did he find Romelu Lukaku, not once did Victor Lindelof get an interception or make a block, Fred trying to kick the ball couldn’t not make contact with it thereby comically falling over, Pogba under no pressure passed to the advertising dashboard, Rashford attempting to cross a ball totally miscued it.
It gets more worrying when we recall that it was just the second game of the season and the manager said in his pre match comments that the team has trained well all week and were in high spirits ahead of the clash. With Spurs up next, a loss for United will see them six points behind Manchester city with just three games gone, considering the ease as which they disposed Huddersfield, it will take a miracle to catch them, just as they will be playing relatively small opponents in their next five fixtures.
United are hoping to bridge a 19 point gap from last season, but from last week’s showing, top four should be the priority for Mourinho and his men.
Pogba, captain from last week’s matchday in his interview after the match said the attitude of the players were wrong, including his. If there’s one thing every fan wants to see in a match, it has to be the right attitude from players which was lacking in the last game. Fans on social media vented their frustration at the player’s lack of motivation to beat a team they famously dropped points to last season. Many would have hoped last season’s loss will serve as a lesson to the team who conceded the premier league title to city in early December following losses to promoted sides.
Now looking at it, lessons obviously have not been learnt and if united continue in their lacklustre ways, everybody associated with the club is in for a long season. Mourinho needs to sprinkle his special magic dust on this team or else his third season syndrome will haunt him again. He wouldn’t be helped by the fact that there are lots of elite managers available at the moment. Zizou has been mentioned as a potential candidate. He simply has to steer this ship right.