Jose Mourinho talked last week about “cojones”. While he may have been wrong to openly criticise his players, he’s right about the lack of them running through his team.
Saturday was as bad as it’s been this season. Palace are not a good side. They’re struggling and are among a group of awful Premier League teams. If they were any good, they’d have won.
United lack a leader. They lack any kind of grit and determination. It’s a squad packed with players that care more about their personal brands than their performances on the pitch. Or at least it looks that way from where I’m sitting.
And it will put pay to the manager’s time in charge.
Whether that’s a good thing or not is one for another day. But one thing that can’t be ignored is the limpness of United on the pitch at the moment.
They lay down for City and they couldn’t get themselves up for Palace.
There was a moment in the first half that said it all. Jesse Lingard won the ball and broke. He was aggressively scythed down in full flow. The ref rightly showed a yellow card but the United players did nothing. No one got in the faces of the Palace players. No one spoke to the ref. No one did anything. Clearly no one was up for the fight.
It’s no surprise the game ended as it did.
Football may well have changed since the days of Roy Keane, but there’s still a place for aggression. Look at the debate around City’s tactic of breaking up the opposition’s play. City play with style, but also aggression.
United play with no passion, no aggression and no clue.
The club is in a malaise that shows no sign of going anywhere soon. The upper echelons are a mess and more preoccupied with sponsorship than football. There’s a distinct lack of someone with knowledge of football at the helm.
The manager seems ready to wage war on anyone around him, including his own players. There’s no point in trying to develop a siege mentality if it extends to those on your own side.
It really looks like most of the players are simply waiting for the manager to be sacked to see where they’re at. Most of them are going backwards. Marcus Rashford now looks like a kid just promoted from the youth team unsure of what to do at this level, not a fully fledged England international attracting the attention of Real Madrid.
He looked more calm, composed and confident when he was a kid just promoted from the youth team under Louis van Gaal.
I wrote after the derby about how much better City are than us. A few on the blue side of Manchester chipped in to say that United are becoming like Liverpool with the fans living in the past.
I don’t actually think that’s the case.
I think most United fans are aware of just how bad we are. The chants of “20 times, Man Utd” are conspicuous by their absence at Old Trafford. It’s almost embarrassing to think about how good we were and how bad we are now.
The fans can see the problems from the top to bottom of the club. No one’s pining for Paul Pogba to stay. The sooner he goes the better. No one feels any connection with the players on the pitch. And no one has any desire to see Ed Woodward anywhere near the club.
Patience with the manager is also close to breaking point.
So what can actually be done about it?
In the short term, players should be bought on both ability and the strength of their characters, not marketing value.
In the longer term, the hierarchy of the club needs to be completely revamped.
I’d also take a few years with lower expectations and a young manager at the helm to get us somewhere close to being back to where we once were. It will take a while, but it definitely can be done.
Unfortunately, under the current ownership, that will never happen. It’s going to be a long road.