It doesn’t seem too long since Manchester United were the most feared side in Europe- the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra, Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Carlos Tevez, Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and of course, Sir Alex Ferguson, put them alongside Barcelona in terms of the worlds greatest sides. With that being said however, it now seems they’ve become a team content on challenging for a Europa League spot, even if the players they possess are being paid astronomical amounts of money to join and remain in Manchester under the guidance of their new manager, Jose Mourinho.
It can’t be easy being a Manchester United fan. After the years of success with Ferguson at the helm, the stability has been completed eradicated from the club and it wouldn’t surprise me if a section of the fanbase were questioning their loyalty. The likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Anthony Martial were seen embracing rival players and smiling after suffering a humiliating 4-0 thumping at Stamford Bridge- I can’t think of a time in history where any United fan, player or manager would deem that as acceptable. Many fans on Twitter vented their fury and echo’d the same statement made by Ryan Giggs after the match.
“If you get beat 4-0, you don’t stand around on the pitch, swapping shirts and laughing, with the team that’s just beat you.”
If you’re a fan of United or even a fan of football in general, you have to sometimes face reality- and the reality is, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic aren’t going to be truly saddened a defeat like the one we witnessed on Sunday. The Swede joined the club from France in the Summer after being offered a monstrous contract and a sensational signing on fee- if the rumours are to be believed, Ibrahimovic is receiving a weekly wage in the region of 300k a week, while the signing on fee was around 6 million pounds mark. Manchester United, for Ibrahimovic, must have been seen as a good place to receive a final payday without having to relocate from Europe to somewhere like China or the United States. Wise on his behalf, but not so much on the behalf of Manchester United who are hoping to rebuild their squad and become one of the most feared sides in Europe once again…
Ibrahimovic isn’t the only issue at United however, many fans and much of the media alike have been labeling Wayne Rooney as “The Problem” for a majority of the season, but even without the England star, United seem lost and uneasy, especially against Chelsea this past Sunday. It would be extremely naive to think relegating Rooney to the bench or selling him to another club would solve the issues at hand, but with that being said, I don’t believe Rooney warrants a first team spot in the number 10 role behind the lone forward when the likes of Juan Mata and Henrikh Mkhitaryan are waiting in the wings or being played out of position at Rooney’s expense.
Everybody is aware of what Juan Mata is capable of. The Champions League winner in my opinion, is one of the best central attacking midfielders in the world and it’s a shame when he’s being wasted on the flank or even worse, the substitutes bench. The same could be said for Mkhitaryan, who signed for United in the Summer. Mkhitaryan was an absolute star at Shakhtar Donetsk when given the freedom he desired- the Armenian scored 38 league goals in just 3 seasons at the club, while conjuring 23 league goals for Dortmund in the 3 years with the German outfit. His best position is most definitely through the middle, but he’s shown capabilities of playing on the flank, but it’s not even something Mourinho is entertaining.
It’s not just Mata and Mkhitaryan that have a right complain about their positions at the club however- Marcus Rashford, one of the brightest young prospects that has emerged over the last few years seems to be playing on the flank at times, despite his best strength being his finishing ability.
Playing players out of position isn’t the only thing Mourinho should worry about- the fact he has yet to find his ideal 11 is one of the more damaging things that could effect his sides season as the games continue to come. The likes of Marcos Rojo, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Anthony Martial, have yet to be given a real run of games in their favoured positions to prove their worth, highlighted by the fact Martial was drafted into the fold on Sunday when United were already 3-0 down and out of the game. Pogba being moved further up the field into a more advanced position against Fenerbache (and then Chelsea) also indicates to me that he’s yet to find a perfect role for the Frenchman. A settled squad is a must for Mourinho and he should be doing his best to find the right players for the right positions in his formation, rather than chopping and changing by playing certain players out of position just for experimental reasons.
Unfortunately for United, more bad news after the Chelsea game filtered through, with one of the bright stars of this season, Eric Bailly, being ruled out for several months after suffering a severe knee injury. Can Mourinho pick himself and his players back up and continue to fight in the Premier League and Europa League? Only time will tell, but he has a great opportunity to inject life back into Old Trafford this coming week when Manchester City visit in the English League Cup.