No Premier League team has made more changes to its starting XI on a week-by-week basis this season than Manchester United under Jose Mourinho.
46 – Manchester United have made a total of 46 changes to their starting XI in the Premier League so far this season, including 7 changes tonight – more than any other team in the competition. Tinkering. pic.twitter.com/gn9TxHpVEB
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 5, 2018
Against Arsenal, in an attempt to enforce some reaction, he dispensed with high-profile pair Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba, while at the same time sticking with the three-at-the-back system which toiled during the 2-2 draw with Southampton.
Following another disappointing 2-2 draw at home to Unai Emery’s side on Wednesday, leaving Man United without a win in four league games, Mourinho will certainly make further changes for the meeting with Fulham on Saturday.
And so it will continue indefinitely, as it has done since August – and, let’s be honest, since July 2016. The 55-year-old did appear to settle on a back four of Luke Shaw, Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling for some time. Apart from that, though, the starting XI for each game is anyone’s guess. Even high profile players like Pogba, Lukaku, Fred and Alexis Sanchez are flitting in and out of the team.
For a club embroiled in a wider sense of chaos and dysfunction, the ever-changing line-up is only alienating supporters further. Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal all have a best XI of sorts, allowed to evolve through playing together frequently, and as a result enjoy consistency in their performances and results.
Under Mourinho, United players look as if they have trained together for the first time only last week. Look at when David Silva gets the ball for Man City in the middle: immediately, without even thinking, a perfect pass to Leroy Sane or perhaps Raheem Sterling, because those passing sequences are hardwired through this called coaching, which Mourinho ignores when it comes to attacking. United are light years away in that sense.
What they need, more than anything, is a manager with the knowledge and courage to find a best XI within his squad – a formula which optimizes the skills and minimizes the weaknesses of the players available – and, most importantly, sticks with it, even if the first few weeks yield poor results.
Eventually, with time, those players will start forming relationships all over the pitch, and perhaps – just perhaps – start looking like a team again.