It happens occasionally. A player who once dazzled for one team comes to United and falls flat on their face, unable to carry the weight of the shirt. Or a young starlet makes their way to Old Trafford and simply can’t perform.
Nottingham Forest goal machine Garry Birtles is the biggest example of the former and Diego Forlan not a bad example of the latter. There have been a few others down the years too. World Cup winner Kleberson never did it, Memphis Depay looked a shadow of his former self. As did Angel Di Maria, Massimo Taibi and Mark Bosnich.
Jose claimed after the latest dreary performance that too many of this current squad are “scared” of the shirt and the weight of expectation of playing for United.
You have a pretty good idea of who he’s referring to.
Luke Shaw seems to always take the brunt of the manager’s unhappiness. Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez didn’t even make it off the bench against Brighton. You can probably throw Anthony Martial and potentially Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard into that mix too.
Why not Juan Mata too while we’re at it? Basically, most of the attacking players who rely on talent, instinct and trust to thrive.
The manager praised Nemanja Matic, had a moment with Romelu Lukaku after the first goal and praised Scott McTominay for his application, despite criticising his performance. The rest felt his disdain.
But surely these aren’t players who fear the shirt. Having both come through the youth ranks, Rashford and Lingard have dreamt of playing for United. It’s their destiny. They’ve also both grabbed their opportunity with everything they had. Rashford when he first came in and Lingard most memorably at Wembley.
We’ve seen Martial do it time and again for United. Just not so much under the current management. Or in fits and starts at least.
Pogba has played for the biggest team in Italy, winning three consecutive championships, Sanchez has turned out for Barcelona, while Mata has won the Champions League, Euros and World Cup.
Shaw isn’t scared. We’ve seen that from how he first took to Premier League football, the glimpses in a United shirt before his horrific injury and in playing for England from a very young age. Shaw is confused. When he roams forwards he doesn’t seem like he knows what he should be doing. And it doesn’t help the manager berating him from the touchline.
The young full back is endemic of the problem of Mourinho’s United. Not scared. Just confused. Confused at what our style is, at how we attack, at what our actual offensive game plan is.
And to be honest, he’s not alone. There’s 76,000 people inside Old Trafford for every home game just as confused.
We’re not asking for scintillating Fergie-esque (or dare I say it Guardiola-like) football. We just want to see what the plan really is. To see a cohesive unit getting at a team with an idea of how they’re going to get the ball in the net.
I guarantee it, if the players start to get that everyday in training we won’t see anymore “scared” performances. We’ll see an actual team. And that’s all we want.
Saturday was cold, dark and, for some reason, we were made to kick off at 7.45 on a Saturday. I must have missed it when this became a thing. The fans deserved better. They deserved some attacking verve, a couple of pot shots and a team playing without the shackles on.
The principle of entertaining the fans on a Saturday seems to have been lost in amongst the big money signings, huge corporate sponsorship deals and American ownership. The disconnect has never been felt more keenly.
Give us a plan and some entertainment and we’ll start to be happy. I can guarantee we’ll also see the best of Pogba, Sanchez and Martial.
But will it ever be any different under the current manager? It doesn’t look like it.