Manchester, like the sea Moses crossed, is red. But like that sea, Manchester’s red community is parted. Divided if you like. Some Manchester United fans blame the players, claiming they don’t deserve to wear the shirt. Others accuse Jose Mourinho of not making use of the talent he has available, and that he has lost control of his dressing room. The rest have lambasted Ed Woodward for remaining dormant during the second half of the summer transfer window. So, who’s right?
Who’s to blame?
Maybe we’re all right? Maybe this is an accumulation of multiple issues coming alight at the same time. Hell, some of these issues have been there all along, but ignored for whatever reason. Heading into this season expectations were low, but with only three points in three games, this is a start even the most pessimistic Manchester United fans couldn’t predict.
We know who’s fault it’s not. It’s not Brighton’s fault and it’s not Tottenham’s fault. True, Brighton probably deserved to win, but they shouldn’t have been given the chance. Tottenham were far from dominant on Monday and capitalized on United’s ignorance towards defending. We could, nay we should, have nine points going into week four, but we don’t.
What’s the most frustrating thing? The potential is there. Like a beautiful bride covered by a thin veil, Manchester United’s ability to dominate opponents has been teased. In the first thirty minutes of the match versus Tottenham, United bounced back from their worst performance since Ferguson left. Chances were created. Spurs were on their heels. There was hope. On the edge of my seat, I would have bet a fortune on United to strike first.
When Lukaku brought the ball around Lloris after a frightening back pass from Rose, I let out a sigh of relief. It’s funny how quickly we can change our emotions. As Lukaku’s shot flew wide of the far post, I knew what kind of a game we were in for. A frustrating battle against ourselves.
At the end of the match, United finished the game with 23 shots, more than double Tottenham’s nine. Of those shots, 20 came from open play and three from set pieces. None came from counter attacks. With the pace in United’s team, counter attacks could be a huge opportunity for the likes of Lukaku, Lingard, Sanchez and Pogba. Everyone remembers Lukaku’s role in that magic counter attack against Japan in the World Cup.
At the end of the day, Manchester United’s inability to finish chances and adapt to going behind killed them. A decent performance was completely overshadowed by a lack of character by certain individuals on the pitch.
What do fans think?
As I mentioned before, fans are divided. But what exactly are they saying? On Twitter, an abundance of opinions can be found, but here are just a few of the tweets that stood out.
Some blame players who just aren’t deserving of a spot on the team.
Too many individual errors cost Manchester United last night. As soon as the first goal went in, they crumbled. No belief whatsoever to get in back into the game.
There’s also too many players who are at the club that, quite honestly, shouldn’t be anywhere near it.
— Liam Canning (@LiamPaulCanning) August 28, 2018
Some call out the hypocrisy of fans, who demand the impossible from Jose.
We are MANCHESTER UNITED. We have a history of playing proper attacking football from the days of Busby. It’s in our DNA.
And yet we have fans who now say “Oh see, this is what happens when you play attacking”
Do you’ll have any idea what this club represents?!
— Junaid Mehkri (@JunaidMehkri) August 28, 2018
In total, the ball only spent 21% of the game in Manchester United’s third, compared to the 30% in Tottenham’s.
Others remember far worse times and offer perspective.
I've seen United crowned as Champions of the World and relegated to division Two so a period like the present one isn't going to knock me off course really. The manager and his players need support at this time. Get behind the boys starting at Burnley on Sunday Reds.
— Gary Thompson (@gary302) August 28, 2018
But Eric and Makie perfectly sum up how all United fans feel right now.
Hi everyone, my name is Eric
I'm a Manchester United fan 😭 pic.twitter.com/vWlssbfu9N
— confused child (@EricKissi) August 28, 2018
Actually… Manchester United is an abusive relationship
— Makie Masuku (@Daddy_Mack) August 28, 2018
But the Manchester United fans in the stadium believe, as even after such an embarrassing result, they chant Mourinho’s name. The applaud him, and he applauds back.
Jose Mourinho applauded Manchester United fans following their 3-0 loss to Tottenham. pic.twitter.com/h6hHLKPbnB
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) August 27, 2018
Even within our writing team, opinions differ. We’ve asked writers to share their emotions three games into the season. Here’s what they had to say.
Am I allowed to be anti-Mourinho, yet both see the positives in our performance against Spurs and also have some sympathy for Mourinho??! I’ve never hidden my belief that Jose Mourinho should never have been appointed the manager of Manchester United. We have no other choice but to stick with Mourinho and get behind the team. We are, after all, supporters. No other sane manager would want to come into the club at this present time, especially under owners whose main (only…) aim is to milk the club for as much as they can. Longer term, United cannot truly move forward until the cancer that is the Glazer family are removed from around its throat. So, even though I despise the man, it’s “in Jose we trust” for now. We are Manchester United and we’re bigger than any owners, manager or individual players. We’ll come through this difficult period; we have done before.
The overall feeling I have is apathy. It feels like at every level of the club: the board, the manager and the players are either not good enough or don’t know what they’re doing. I find it very difficult to do anything but wait until that is resolved. I don’t believe Mourinho will ever be the right manager. He was never the manager I wanted United to hire and I don’t want him to continue. But replacing him won’t fix the deep-rooted, organisational problems present at the club. As long as the club puts commercial success above footballing success we will never improve. Whoever is next needs to come with a long-term plan (that is a good plan for football in 2018) and given the trust to see it through. I doubt this will happen and we’ll be writing this article again in 2020, 2021 and every year after that.
It’s been a horrible start to the season for the club, dating back to pre-season and Mourinho’s continuous gripes about transfers. Thankfully, the defeat to Spurs wasn’t as bad as the loss to Brighton, even though the scoreline suggests the exact opposite. We were really poor on the south coast, while we could have easily gone into the second half with a one or two-goal lead against Spurs. There was a sense of purpose and intensity which hopefully indicates that all is not lost; however, the individual mistakes in defence across both games were what did us in, and Mourinho bears some blame for not improving the defenders at his disposal. Let’s see if this is truly the beginning of the end of Mourinho at Old Trafford. Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time, and I would be very surprised if he is still in-situ come January.
Playing Red Devil’s Advocate
While I don’t think things are fine and dandy, the picture painted by fans isn’t true. How do I know? Because there are thousands of versions to the story. Not everyone can be correct. Not everyone is an expert. Most importantly, none of them are Jose Mourinho.
Love him or hate him, he’s what we have. The football at Brighton was dreadful, and within a week, it was better. The decision to start Herrera at centre back was an odd one and might have cost us the game. In 55 miserable minutes, the Spaniard’s only defensive contributions were a single clearance and interception. He recorded zero tackles and was dispossessed once. But it was a chance the manager took. It didn’t pay off, and it likely won’t happen again. Live and learn.
The beginning of the season has shown our weaknesses, which Mourinho will fix, but it’s also shown us our strengths. Luke Shaw looks ready to turn his career around for the better, providing an additional dimension to United’s attack. In three games he has scored a goal and maintained an 80% pass accuracy. He averages two successful dribbles a game, which isn’t bad considering United’s lack of force going forward lately.
Lingard walked back into the team and looked like he actually cared to wear the United shirt, putting on a performance the offers hope for United. While his statistics leave fans wanting more, it was clear that his work ethic closing down the Tottenham backline led to turnovers in possession.
Fred, despite an indifferent start to his United career, has hardly looked out of depth. He may still need time to find his feet, but with three games under his belt, he should only continue to grow. He averages 54.3 passes per game with an 86% pass accuracy. In order for him to fully contribute to United’s campaign, he will have to improve on his physical presence in the midfield. The Brazilian has only won 22% of duels this season.
Look – If Lukaku scored his first half chances we might have seen Tottenham crumble the same way we did. That’s just the reality of football, regardless of who you support. Once you look past the result, you can see hope. We can’t excuse a 3-0 loss, but we can move on. Forget it. Let it go. Let’s go to Turf Moor and turn this season around.
So, my message to Manchester United fans is to get a grip and hold on for the ride. We’re not quite Arsenal yet.