Juan Mata said in an interview this week “I strongly believe that the team is on the right track”, despite mixed results, but is he right? The Red Thoughts team offer their opinion.
REX: We’re ok. Other than two absolutely poor games, we have been the better team in all other games and we would have won quite a few of them if it wasn’t for a misfiring striker. All we need to do now is reassess Zlatan’s position. When he first came we were all excited about how much experience he could give to the young players, but no-one anticipated how much he would feature for us. I understand he doesn’t look or play like he’s 35, but he is, and so he needs rotation. But Mourinho prefers to play him game in, game out. To top that off right now he’s in a bit of a slump and he can’t seem to score to save his life! So a serious reassessment of that position needs to take place for us to actually reap the benefits of the good play that we’ve been producing in the past couple of games.
DAN: For me, part of the problem is egos. We have too many, we also don’t yet have a Mourinho side. For the past two years we have been building a side to pass on to Giggs, now we have three of the biggest egos in the game within the ranks in Mourinho, Pogba and Ibrahimovic.
HEMOR: We should start closing down the gap between us and the teams at the top if we want to really fight for top four. Even though winning the league is still possible, I won’t pin my hopes on that. However, if we can win either the Europa or FA Cup and finish in the top four then that’ll be a good season. If we win Europa without finishing top four that’s still a good season, because we’ll play in the UCL.
BETS: I think we’re 90% on the right track. I like the formation. I’m seeing a lot of players becoming the player we knew they could be, and going from strength to strength – Herrera, Mata, Blind, Rashford, Valencia, to some extent Carrick and now Darmian – it was a joy to see his performance against Burnley. Bailly could turn out to be one of the best signings in the history of the club. Pogba is also beginning to adapt to the Premier league.
Some of the interplay between Herrera, Pogba, Mata and Zlatan against Burnley was absolutely sublime. It’s the kind of football you pay your ticket money to see. The fact that we can create more chances in one game than the side under LVG created virtually all season – and not concede – is surely a sign we’re doing well.
Mourinho could not have reasonably expected Zlatan to lose his scoring boots so completely and that single fact alone is the difference between where we are now and top, or near top. All strikers have a dip in form and I think it’s just a matter of time before he’s banging them in for fun. My only criticism in that regard is that there is no plan B, because plan B is Rashford and Rashford is stuck out on the wing (and plan C is presumably Rooney, who has been woeful).
Which brings me to the 10% where we’re off track. The wingers. I don’t know what’s going on with Mkhi but it needs to be resolved. I’d like to see Memphis given more game time in Europe or the League Cup, to see if he can be brought back to the form he showed at PSV. I also think there’s work to be done on Martial by the sports psychologist, because he is an amazing talent but needs to get some fire in his belly, show some emotion and take games by the scruff of the neck.
The other aspect that’s still off track, for me, is the persistent use of Fellaini. He is just not good enough. We have far far better defensive midfielders in Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger and I’m baffled as to why Mou sees things the way he does.
TOM: I think all the ingredients are there for a successful team (a bit of strengthening in a few areas aside), it’s just finding the right recipe to get them firing. Some of the play has been beautiful to watch, just lacking end product. It’s good to see Basti training with the first team again. I would like to see some rotation up front with Rashy and Tony Martial getting some time as the front man.
REX: I understand Zlatan is the “specialist”, but at the moment he’s not scoring. I don’t understand why Mourinho is so patient in not making the change, especially with his knowledge of how unforgiving the league is. It’s also very unfair to others who accommodate him there. Martial barely gets a look in, when he was our main man last season, Rashford has to go out wide to also accommodate the big guy when he tops our goal scoring charts this year! So all in all, there needs to be a shuffle in players because the football we’re playing is magnificent at times.
RICK: I agree we are playing some great stuff and what is letting us down is our finishing. Zlatan has been poor in front of goal for the past few weeks now, and for a player of his standing it’s not acceptable. However, as a team we need to finish off our chances. On the plus side, we are keeping clean sheets, so that is a bonus. The performances are there for everyone to see, we just need to find a way to convert those into wins and we will be well on our way.
I mean let’s think about it, when we were under LVG, even when we did win it wasn’t convincing and it was a guess as to what team would turn up or how we’d play. Plus we played poorly most of the time. Now people are enjoying watching United play again. That’s something we seem to have lost over the past few years.
So it’s still a work in progress, but at least it looks to be going in the right direction. Plus Mourinho doesn’t seem to be knocking everyone’s confidence by dropping them after every little mistake, like LVG did. But rather, he seems to be defending them and trying to give them confidence in what they do. Which is great to see.
Personally, Rex, I don’t think Martial can play up front in our league as a lone man. Not yet anyway. LVG tried it a few times last season and it didn’t work out – the stats showed he was far more effective out wide. Rashford is a different story – Ibra should get dropped to accommodate him as he’s on form whereas Ibra isn’t. Although dropping Ibra due to low confidence wouldn’t be great for his confidence, and too much chopping and changing might not help either.
All in all, I think we just need to put on a run of winning games to get back up there with everyone else and not lose track of the leading teams.
REX: Rick, I don’t think Martial should be up there regularly, but it wouldn’t have hurt to give him a chance. It would be something different. There is no harm in saying, ‘you tried Ibra, but let’s try a different approach with these 30 minutes on the clock’. Martial, Rashford, Rooney… all those men who can play there have to go to other positions simply because Zlatan won’t be subbed or rested.
I’m not campaigning for him to be dropped, just that when things aren’t going his way, he should be taken off and used sparingly until form returns. Rooney has been hugging the bench for the same reason. Why not Ibra?
FAB: We, as United supporters, have high expectations for the team and after these mixed results, somehow certain things have been put into question. It’s completely understandable when you have seen your team spend and spend in the summer and, of course, you’re waiting for the results to come.
After these months in charge, I definitely believe that United are on the right track under this manager. Look at the performances of Blind and Rojo as the CB pairing. And how can a squad not score from 37 chances? Regarding Zlatan, I have to say that his age and the fact that he is playing in the most difficult league in the world is actually affecting him. So I wouldn’t play him in every single game. It’s time to think about the team first and my first choice as no. 9 would be Martial. Yeah, he may be better as a winger, but a change is seriously needed. I wouldn’t say no to Rashford up front either.
Ander Herrera is an example of a player who works hard under the new manager. That performance against Liverpool was just amazing. Another player who according to the media was to be immediately sold is Mata. Stats may seem cold sometimes but can clearly show a player’s importance. Our winning percentage is impressive when he plays and this isn’t a pure coincidence. The media invent lies, they say that he isn’t in Jose’s plans… but look at him now. We seem almost dependent on Mata now.
When you discuss Jose Mourinho, there’s always players that he leaves in the shadows, Darmian, Mkhitaryan, Schweinsteiger – maybe because of the issues in certain positions. But all have the potential to be in the Starting XI in the weeks to come. Jose stated this week that he needed options in midfield and that’s why he’s called Bastian back. We still don’t know if that’s going to be the turning point in their relationship, but it seems to be going on the right track.
Matteo Darmian is no longer first on the list of players we may sell in January. The Italian is a great full back that fell from grace under LVG’s system and he is gaining the confidence he lost – although let’s not forget that Timbo is going to be a tough opponent in that position. A bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone though, right?
I am worried about Morgan Schneiderlin. There’s got to be some way to play him because January is getting closer and Leicester or Tottenham will be trying to sign him again.
As for Mkhitaryan, I think something must have been going on with his physicality, because Jose can be vengeful but is also smart and wouldn’t cut off his nose to spite his face.
One last thing: I wish Carrick was 25! He’s turned from a player who was about to be left with no contract to a player that has been key whenever he’s played. Jose really did a good thing when he managed to get a new contract for Carrick.
RICK: Regarding Schneiderlin, it’s been quite unfortunate for him because there are games where he might have got a chance, under Mou’s promised squad rotation, only to find out he’s injured again. Then the fact he’s not been playing means he’s just always back to square one. We are definitely moving forward under Mourinho and despite our league position, I’m still optimistic about him being our manager and getting things right.