It’s becoming something of a recurrence since last season. Manchester United coming to Brighton and Hove Albion’s home, The Amex stadium, only to leave empty handed.
Only two games in and United already look like a side with plenty of problems getting from bad to worse. Them being runners up last season is looking like an absolute flattery to the football they’ve been showcasing on the pitch. With one of the world’s most valuable squads, Mourinho’s men look like a side with nothing going right.
So, why is this happening to them? What is plaguing the ‘Red Devils’? Today, we take a look at the top five reasons why United are in for a massively troublesome season:
1. No identity
To be brutally honest, Jose Mourinho was never really known for a certain brand of football. He’s this popular because of his expertise in grinding out results. He doesn’t have the philosophy of Guardiola’s ‘Tiki Taka’, Klopp’s ‘Gegenpressing’ or ‘Sarri Ball’.
Some might jokingly say Jose’s favorite tactics is ‘Parking the bus’. Whenever United has taken to the field, they’ve looked like a side lacking ideas. There was no intricate passing, no pressing, no urgency to get the team playing properly. No one seems to know their actual roles. Two games on and they’ve scored four goals which is a decent enough return. But let’s not forget, two of them are penalties. It just goes to show how little Jose’s men have created from open play.
2. Lack of leadership
When Brighton took a 2-0 lead to everyone’s surprise, United were absolutely shell shocked. The faces told the story. Jose was angry. Pogba, Young were at a loss on what to do. Despite Lukaku’s goal to bring back some hope, United were never really in it.
Manchester United is one of the world’s biggest clubs. Look around the big shots of Europe and one can easily find some serious leadership materials in everyone of them. For instance, Sergio Ramos for Real Madrid, Manuel Neuer for Bayern Munich, Chiellini for Juventus and so on. But United doesn’t have that. The most experienced, Ashley Young looked like a youngster himself yesterday. Confused on what to do, let alone inspiring the team to fight back. And this has been an issue for United ever since Giggs, Vidic, Rooney left. They’ve lost that cutting edge of the nickname ‘Europe’s comeback kings’.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) August 19, 2018
3. Pogba being wasted
When you have a midfielder who was once the world’s costliest player, the entire team is supposed to build around him; or at least the midfield. But ever since Pogba has come back, Mourinho has failed to use him to his maximum potential. And if anyone has doubts over Pogba’s footballing ability, they should take a look at what the French superstar did for France in the World Cup.
An attacking minded midfielder, Pogba’s been used as a deep lying midfielder or even a central one. Brazilian midfielder Fred’s arrival signalled Pogba pushing further upfield but that hasn’t been the case. He’s still extremely confused on what to do, on how to impress his gaffer. And the possible reports of rifts between the duo hasn’t helped.
Pogba reportedly was desperate to leave for FC Barcelona. And judging by what we’re seeing of him at United, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a player wants to leave after being almost wasted.
4. No undisputed back line and front three
Three seasons in and it looks like Jose still doesn’t know who are his undisputed starters at the back. He’s always seen chopping and changing the back line. While this might be a healthy competition of sorts, it actually ended up destroying any kind of potential chemistry between the center halves. Take the Brighton game for example. Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly were almost the worst two players on the pitch. No chemistry, no combination between them cost United dearly. Jose needs to find a way before it’s too late for the defense line.
Ever since his arrival, Jose has opted for a 4-3-3 formation in most of his United matches. With the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Romelu Lukaku in the squad; it looked like Jose’s hands were full. But that’s not the case at all. Like his back line, Mourinho has opted for a change in personnel in attack almost on a weekly basis as well. And that tells on the team. The attack looks disjointed as well. No real combination and penetration has cost the supporters of the Red Half of Manchester fall out of favour of their very own team.
5. Grumpy Jose
When United signed Jose as their head coach, they knew he came with the baggage of getting into trouble. And one of those troubles were rifts with his own players. That wasn’t the case in the last two seasons that much. But during the pre-season of this one, it has almost exploded. Jose has publicly criticised the likes of club captain Antonio Valencia, Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw. He even went to such lengths that he took a swipe on Martial just because he went to see the birth of his newborn.
Brighton 3-2 Manchester United
Jose loses his 100% league record after the second game of the season 💀 pic.twitter.com/6psYmA2V5F
— JOE.co.uk (@JOE_co_uk) August 19, 2018
With all these and a team looking demotivated as ever, Jose has his hands full, but with problems – a huge lot of them. And in a time he was supposed to be beside his players, he decided to almost pick a fight with them.
With United already reeling, the lack of trust from the coach hasn’t helped the players. They’ve almost always looked out of sorts. If United needs to pull things together, everyone needs to be on the same page. And that includes having a healthy relationship between Jose and his players.