Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher believes that Manchester United still need to prove themselves in big games under Jose Mourinho this season.
Man United’s slump to sixth spot last season was largely predicated by only two wins over the top five all season, with Mourinho’s men only scoring once on the road.
And their first clash with one of last season’s top four ended in another stalemate last weekend – a 0-0 draw at Anfield that strongly mirrored last year’s meeting.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Carragher made it clear that United needed to show greater levels of intent and panache against their rivals to mount a title challenge.
“Jose Mourinho has always been lauded – and rightly so – as the man for the big occasion, the man in a big game, a ‘Mourinho masterclass’ winning these games,” he said.
“His way, of late, is not working.
“I go back to when Peter Schmeichel was winning titles with Manchester United and they possibly had six big games – Liverpool home and away, Arsenal home and away and someone else challenging, whether it was Chelsea or Newcastle.
“That’s 18 points. With the top six now that’s 30 points. That’s a big part of the season. You’ve got 10 games home and away. If that doesn’t improve they won’t win the league and that’s when the criticism will come.
“I won’t criticise him for the way he played at Anfield because you can still win a game playing like that – but if those results continue I think it will be very difficult to win the title.”
Mourinho’s approach at Anfield, whilst essentially cautious, made complete sense. There is only so much you can do with a midfield pairing of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera, after all.
But this will not suffice further down the line. Manchester City have already thumped Liverpool at home and skilfully brushed the champions away on their own patch. Pep Guardiola has set an attacking benchmark, and while Mourinho won’t need to be as emphatic, there is no doubt that United, sooner rather than later, need to start controlling these games with the same kind of precision.