To say things are not going swimmingly for Manchester United at the moment is hardly a revolutionary statement. Yet another drab performance may have left the Red Devils as the only unbeaten English team left in the Champions League, but the stark reality of the limp, lifeless 90 minutes against Valencia did not go unnoticed by club legends Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
Paul Scholes and takes aim at Mourinho
The duo were the driving force behind Sir Alex Ferguson’s glorious era at the helm as the perfect central midfield partnership. While they may have been poles apart in temperament as players, both have been outspoken critics since. Speaking in the build-up to last night’s 0-0 on BT Sport, Scholes lambasted Mourinho’s attitude.
“I’m actually sat here surprised he survived after Saturday the performance was that bad.
“He’s coming out in press conferences, he’s constantly having a go at players, he’s having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants and I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he’s embarrassing the club.”
In the post-match press conference Mourinho predictably responded by attempting to show he didn’t care. In his own program notes, however, he criticised his own players once again for not “losing their dignity” against West Ham. Scholes’ views have drawn a mixture of scorn and disdain from Mourinho since the former midfielder became a pundit. They are not, however, with some substance.
Mourinho targets players’ intensity
Mourinho is a man who thrives off regaling his courtiers of past records, statistics, and titles. One which he hasn’t highlighted is that for the first time in his career he has failed to win in four consecutive home matches. He at least claimed his players had improved, but still couldn’t resist a dig at their commitment.
“The players tried. They raised the level of their efforts.
“They raised the level of their intensity in spite of the fact we don’t have many with that intensity. We don’t have the technical quality to build from the back.”
It is hard to disagree with his jibe about the lack of intensity, but who is most culpable here? His very public squabbling has certainly not helped matters, but he has one like-minded soul in Keane. The Irishman fumed at the players on the pitch in typically forthright fashion.
Roy Keane attacks ‘crybabies’
“There’s a lot of crybabies out there. When you walk out on that pitch you’re playing for your pride, you are playing for your family, you’re playing for your city.
“I don’t care what fallout you’ve had with your manager, I don’t care if you’ve been at each other’s throats. That is part of the industry. People do fall out.
“Don’t get that worried about what the manager’s said about you… you get out there and play. You can follow it up after the match but when the game’s going on liven up. Play with pride, play with energy, play with spirit.”
It is impossible, of course, to quantify commitment and desire. Not many would dispute Keane’s criticism of the current playing squad’s output, even if there is a debate over the cause. Mourinho himself has admitted that he doesn’t trust his players with playing an expansive attacking style that the fans and Paul Pogba have demanded.
Mourinho’s attacking statistics
“We knew we wouldn’t create 20 chances. Our attacking players aren’t in their best moments of confidence and individual level. We thought with three or four chances we would score and win the game.”
Is Mourinho right to suggest three of four chances are enough? According to WhoScored, Manchester United attempt 13.4 shots per game, with 5.7 ending up on target. In 10 matches this season in all competitions, those 5.7 shots on target per game have resulted in an average of 1.5 goals. If we scale that down to three chances that Mourinho mentions, that would suggest on average less than a goal per game.
These margins are phenomenally slim for a team playing at home against opposition with far fewer resources. Many would agree with Scholes’ comments about Mourinho’s comments. It is hard to dispute Keane’s observation on the commitment of players, whatever the motivation. Even the briefest of statistical analysis, however, can pick holes in the Portuguese manager’s lack of ambition.