At times this season, United have been papering over the cracks. The early form of Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Anthony Martial gave the impression of a free-flowing forward thinking attacking machine. Teams were dispatched 4-0 and it looked like we had the squad to go the distance.
The first sign of the real identity of this United team as a stodgy, blunt instrument was the 0-0 draw away at Liverpool. Lukaku was isolated and missed his one big chance. And that’s where we’re really at now. Except for the fact that now Pogba seems to have gone missing too.
There’s been times when we thought that Mourinho might have cracked it – the high intensity press at Arsenal, Pogba running the transitions from back to front, and movement from the forwards like we had a game plan. Then we fell apart over Christmas and we’ve been terrible ever since.
So where does this stem from?
I’ve always been a big fan of Jose Mourinho and I was pleased with his appointment as manager. He’s already delivered with a couple of trophies and we’ll have a big chance of another one if they avoid slipping up at Huddersfield on Saturday.
But it’s with Mourinho where the big problem lies. United are a team of two halves. Of poor defenders, defending well. And of good attackers, attacking badly. And it reflects right back at the manager.
Mourinho and his coaching staff know how to drill a back four. United’s defensive record this season has been outstanding. And especially outstanding when you consider the presence of the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones and the absence of Eric Bailly.
Jose can coach defenders and eek out ability like no one else. Just look at the improvement made by Marcus Rojo under him.
Occasionally, the coaching falls out of the defenders’ heads and their natural ability comes forward. Think Jones against Spurs at Wembley.
For the forwards, it’s the other way around. Occasionally, they break out of their shackles and do something brilliant. As individuals, simply relying on their natural talent. And there lies the problem. Mourinho and his coaching staff don’t know how to coach the forwards. Defenders yes, forwards no.
This is a huge issue for United, but one that could be easily solved – if Jose wasn’t so stubborn.
He never changes his coaching staff, there are no new ideas coming in and no new voices to tell him that maybe things aren’t really working.
Simply by bringing in a new designated attacking coach, United could start to make use of their huge options and the players can begin to improve.
Look at the way that Guardiola has turned Raheem Sterling into a goalscorer, got even more out of Sergio Aguero, and transformed Leroy Sane from talented youngster into world beater.
Our forwards are going backwards and it’s a real worry. Surely someone with United in their blood would be a good start.
Jose is more at war with the Class of 92 when really he should be embracing the traditions and listening to the ideas of former players. Imagine the improvement in Lukaku working with someone like Ruud van Nistelrooy every day?
Yes, Michael Carrick is set for a role on the coaching staff, but that seems like a token gesture.
Whilst Carrick will no doubt make a fantastic coach, we need someone with fresh ideas who hasn’t worked under Mourinho. Someone with clout amongst the players and a reputation to justify it. A man who’ll tell Jose when he’s wrong and help improve an already world-class manager.
Fergie was humble enough to do it, often changing his number 2 and using former players early in his United career. Brian Kidd for example.
For this to happen we’re relying on one thing however. Mourinho’s ability to admit his shortcomings and listening to external help.
Otherwise, it looks like the stodgy football will continue for United fans.