Jose Mourinho can interpret the 2017/18 however he wants, but claiming a second place finish in the league as success, will not wash with many supporters. Even if United had come out on top at Wembley, the season was still full of a team playing with no plan, no attacking ideas and possibly on Saturday, with no commitment. The successes of their closest rivals is one thing to swallow, however, the football that is being played at Anfield and the Etihad just adds to the pain and I am not sure how much time Mourinho has to turn his United career around.
No comparison with rivals.
The frustration doesn’t stop just at City and Liverpool as the majority of the top 6 have a clear identity, with only Arsenal looking as lost as United, but even they have a clear way of playing attacking football. Chelsea have their 3 at the back system, which may not have been quite as efficient this season as it was last, but their players all look comfortable playing that way. Spurs have a clear style and transfer policy whilst also placing faith in youth in the likes of Deli Alli, Harry Kane and Harry Winks. Their limitations come in the financial department but there is no such excuse at Old Trafford, yet they are still unable to produce a side that shows any real sign of improvement on the pitch.
The summer saw Romelu Lukaku, Nemanja Matic and Victor Lindelof come into the club, with Alexis Sanchez arriving in January. Matic and Lukaku have had decent seasons, the same cannot be said for the latter 2. Lindelof has barely started a game and when he has, he’s looked weak and lacking in confidence. The centre-half position did need strengthening but with a proven, world-class player, Lindelof ticks none of those boxes, instead just adding to the list of average centre halves already at the club. The risk for the club is making the same mistakes again by looking to foreign leagues for a cheaper alternative to those possibly available in England, you only need to look at the Virgil Van Dijk transfer for evidence how a proven defender can improve a clubs defence as drastically as he has at Liverpool.
The Sanchez deal has never sat right with me from the second United became front-runners for his signature and it is this deal that should worry many United fans when it comes to this summer as it epitomizes all that is currently wrong at the club. United currently have a Chief Executive who is obsessed by adding to the club’s commercial value, over success on the pitch and a manager who is obsessed with boosting his oversized ego and add short terms success to his resume. Jose Mourinho has always been and always will be a short-term manager, his past career highlights this. With the mixture of the 2, the club is moving in a concerning direction and the Sanchez deal a perfect example.
The left-wing position did need strengthening, but United signed Sanchez anyway, for huge weekly wages and a reported huge performance bonus. The result will likely result in the club losing one of, if not both Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, 2 young, quick and hugely talented players who could make this club great again for years to come. Not only this, the pathetic sums involved with Sanchez will cause huge issues when either renewing current player contracts and any new players they wish to sign. I don’t for one minute doubt that Mourinho feels Sanchez is more of a player that suits his management style than Martial or Rashford, but the deal stinks of Ed Woodward adding even more global appeal to the club by adding a South American star to the ranks rather than the club building a side that can dominate for years. Don’t be fooled by the mention of Sanchez choosing United over City for anything other than money, the money that City quite rightly saw as a recipe for disaster for the future of the club.
The club has lost its identity and direction over the past few seasons which started when David Moyes was shown the door. I agree that Moyes was not quite the right choice, but I do feel he was closer to the right solution than Mourinho is. The club wanted Moyes to continue the Sir Alex Ferguson mantra of building all facets of the club, for long-term success, that includes promoting the youth players through into the first team, buy players to build another successful period for the club and stabilise the club going into a difficult period. The club were always going to go into a period of transition and probably lack of trophies and when this inevitably happened, the club have been in panic mode ever since. Firstly under Louis Van Gaal and now Mourinho, the focus has switched from longevity and building the club with the values expected at Old Trafford, to getting the club back to winning trophies by buying as many top names as possible for as much as necessary. Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and now Sanchez are just those that the club were successful in buying, the list of names they have been linked with and missed out on reads as long your arm. The successful few have so far all flopped and the club is as disjointed and lost now as it was when Moves emptied his drawers at Carrington.
Huge summer ahead
The talk is of a big clear out at Old Trafford this summer, but it is the plan for arrivals that need the biggest transformation. The club need to focus on building a side to a plan and system, unfortunately this clearly doesn’t exist. The way United attack compared to that of Liverpool, City and Spurs is chalk and cheese, but how the club’s conduct their transfer business is too. Pep Guardiola identified where he needed to strengthen to make his side champions, full backs and goalkeeper, he filled all 3 and although Benjamin Mandy was injured for the majorly, a further summer sticking to his philosophy worked wonders for the club and they romped to the title. Judge Klopp knew Philippe Coutinho was likely to leave the club at some stage, but rather than panic and use his huge fee to bring in another huge name to replace him, he stuck to his plans and instead brought in Virgil Van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mo Salah, with Naby Keita joining the ranks this summer. I would argue that all of these players would improve the United 11, but highlights how these clubs have a clear plan to move forward, not only in the next couple of seasons, but for 3,4 or 5 seasons time. The biggest key is 4 out of the 5 all had Premier League experience and whilst not even Klopp could admit he thought Salah would have the impact he has, the risk was minimal.
There is no doubt this is a huge summer for the club and if they are sticking with Mourinho, which is almost certain, it is imperative that the failures of the past 2 seasons are not repeated. He needs to identify the areas of weakness and buy to that plan. The main concern with the Portuguese is that he prefers ready made players over youth and the potential loss of Shaw, Andreas Pereira, Martial and Rashford could have a serious impact on the club in the long run. The club need a direction and get back to the ‘United Way’ as soon as possible, unfortunately I’m not convinced that is possible under this management. The Scott Mctominay excuse is purely a facade, I’d be surprised if he makes more than 5 starts next season after United buy yet another late 20 something foreign star to fill that position. These are worrying times as a United supporter, the club has no direction, no plan, no idea and now no success.