So the football headlines this week have been dominated by one thing and one thing only: Mourinho and Pogba’s relationship. So I’m writing this article with one question in my mind: what the hell is going on and how can it be fixed, if at all?! Normally, I stick to just analysing the results week by week, but hearing this and being a United fan, it’s got my blog writing fingers itching so here I’m going to take a look at it.
So, really, the problems here started last season with Mourinho dropping Pogba and then giving a lukewarm response to his starring performances at the World Cup. However, those problems seemed to settle with the Frenchman being given the captaincy for the opening games of the season. This, it seems, has actually done nothing to ease the tension around Old Trafford and with results starting to sour, Pogba made a statement after the poor 1-1 draw with Wolves at the weekend questioning the team’s performance as not being attacking enough.
To be honest, I thought this was right on point, I even pointed it out in my post the day before, which is why I was happy to see a big player for United stepping up and saying the type of thing a captain should say. For me, it wasn’t just a dig at Jose’s tactics, but also saying to his teammates “hey, we’ve not been good enough and we should be doing better.” After all, he did say it “was our mistake”, “we are at home and we should play much better against Wolves.” Looking at this, I don’t believe he was solely criticising the Manager’s selection as some papers and extravagants might have you believe, he was merely trying to rally the troops to get them to wake up.
Understandably, having one of his senior players speak out in the press with a criticising view was not ideal for Mourinho. He responded to this by making a statement that Pogba would never captain Manchester United again, which I have a major problem with, especially from a player happiness point of view which is something Mourinho has a history of problems with. He was forced out of Chelsea twice by supposed player revolts, there were reports of it during his tenure as Real Madrid boss and we’ve seen him openly criticise those playing under him at United, not least Luke Shaw, who he gave a constant battering during the first two years of his time here.
It is well known that he has a prickly personality, something seen in a lot of geniuses (which I still believe he is), and this has tended to put players off wanting to play for him even despite the successes he has achieved. So then, the fact that Jose finds it difficult to get on with his players is something we cannot deny, but does that make him wrong? I don’t actually think so. At the time, he dropped the aforementioned Shaw, claiming him to be overweight and out of shape. It was a constant story about how the player we spent 35 million on wasn’t good enough, yet now Luke has been ever present in the squad and putting in some fine performances, even opening our Premier League account for the season with a beauty of a goal. So, could this be Mourinho issuing a challenge to Pogba to now back up what he says in the press on the field? I think so and I’d feel very hesitant saying otherwise.
Following this, there was “that” look in training on the cold morning following the Derby hangover. I’m not gonna stop too much on this because I think its pretty much utter ridiculous for the papers to be reading so much into a damn look, I think even Pogba saw it coming a couple days before on Twitter:
What’s The Real Problem? Why Is This Happening? Who’s Fault Is It Really?
So then, I don’t think that these news stories are getting right to the root of the problem of what’s actually wrong at United, I think it’s all a huge media circus around something very insignificant to cover up what’s really going wrong-United’s big stars and expensive buys aren’t performing as we know they should.
For starters, and this may be the tactics, Lukaku’s impact has been slim to none far too often for my liking, he’s looked lonely up top, he’s not been getting himself on the ball and his finishing has been below-par. This was evident on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup loss to Derby (something I didn’t really want to think about) when he missed a golden chance to put us 2-0 up in the first 10 minutes. First, I was fuming that he was actually playing, when really he should have been given the chance to rest after playing every single game this season. He has scored goals, to be fair, but for the most part he hasn’t looked like he was up to it, also missing an open goal against Spurs with the scores level. Which brings me onto my point – if Harry Kane is getting so much stick for looking tired and out of it, why isn’t Romelu? I don’t think he has been the demon to defences that he was last season, and I think he too is just as tired as ‘arry, but he’s not been the most significant under performer.
In all honesty, after watching our games this season, I think the biggest disappointment for me has been one Alexis Sanchez, supposedly a world beater at Arsenal turned into a wet blanket at United. I was hoping that he would maybe kick on this season, feel a little more settled and we’d finally see what he can really do in a United shirt, but we just haven’t got it yet. He’s looked highly isolated out on the left wing, and I just can’t help but think maybe we should leave Romelu on the bench just once so he can recover and chuck Alexis up top, in more of a role like he had at Arsenal when he put in some real, dominating performances.
Anthony Martial is another player who I have been rather disappointed this season, not because he hasn’t played well, but because he just hasn’t been given the chances – the Derby game being a prime example for him to get some game time as a striker (his original, natural position). Around half of his minutes this season came in the one Champions League game that he played in, and played well in might I add, but other than that he’s been limited to one start where he was subbed and two late sub appearances. When he arrived, there was a famous clause in his contract if he were to win the Ballon d’Or….what chance is there of that happening when he can’t even make it onto the pitch?
In terms of others, I shall only speak shortly about: Jesse Lingard is a man who could also be very tired after a long World Cup campaign and, as yet, disappointing start to the season full of lukewarm performances. Juan Mata scored 3 minutes into the game against Derby but, other than that, hasn’t been given nearly enough time as he deserves after his commitment these past few years. I was rather hoping to see a bit more of Andreas Pereira this year after hearing so much about him these past few years but, after a couple of early appearances, hasn’t seen much more than a whisker of playing time. The man is 22 years old now and needs to start playing sooner rather than later, although Jesse Lingard got started later rather than never so hey, we may still see him develop but so far I haven’t seen as much as I’ve wanted to.
All in all, I can see this season building (and not slowly) into what may be a rather large climax, with one big personality or more leaving before the end of the season comes. Whether that be Mourinho, Pogba or even Ed Woodward (my number 1 choice), I’m not sure the situation at Old Trafford is as dire as some papers might make out it is, but one thing is for sure: Manchester United are not a team where people are left to fight between each other, Fergie famously sent many people packing if they didn’t buy into the team, show us your fangs people! (And get Woodward OUT!)
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