What started as a derby-day-disaster has turned into a week to forget for Manchester United. A week in which, for the first time in 14 years, Jose Mourinho has lost three competitive games in succession.
Following the Manchester City defeat, the manager asked a question of his players when he made changes to the starting eleven for his Europa League debut, and after Thursday nights performance against Feyernoord, he got his answer. A lack of pressing and urgency throughout the side gave Feyernoord time to keep the ball at ease and snatch a late winner, despite the close call offside decision not going the way of the Reds. No penetration or pace from United’s front-line brought back memories of Van Gaal’s United and many players did little to show their value in remaining in the first team.
Darmian, Rojo, Schniederlin, Herrera, even Martial, Mata and £90Million Pogba were largely ineffective. Memphis did nothing from the bench to change the game – or José’s mind. Form man Marcus Rashford was clearly isolated upfront and didn’t provide the piercing runs and dribbling bursts to trouble the defense.
Mourhino’s restored first choice eleven carried on from the lackluster display in Holland, as Watford soaked up the United possession and nullified any advances on their goal, giving more evidence of a side lacking in cut-throat penetration. Pogba was again ineffective, although a 25-yard screamer that crashed against the woodwork would have silenced his critics. His performance summed up United as a whole; a lot of the ball, but nothing productive as a result. Rashford validated his place with another goal, as Rooney did indeed drop into midfield to accommodate him, but the lack of creativity from the midfield and wide areas meant United didn’t carve out any real openings.
It would appear United are lacking a sense of purpose, and more importantly, identity. The dominant Red Devil’s side of the Premier League era oozed pace from wide areas, whilst a gut busting midfield swamped the opponents penalty area, laying on chances for the forwards to score at will. The last three seasons have seen a very tepid and cautious United struggle for attacking guile, as they find themselves relying on taking limited chances and hoping to be solid enough in defence to hold a slender lead. It looks almost inevitable that if United go behind, the game is as good as gone – with all three defeats against City, Feyernoord and Watford highlighting the lack of scoring prowess to win the game from a losing position.
Next up for Jose and his squad, bereft of confidence, is the potential banana skin cup match against lower league Northampton and then welcoming defending champions Leicester City to Old Trafford. Not securing two wins in those games will only leave the fans more frustrated with the lack of progress from the team and have Mourinho scratching his head with regards to finding the answer to the current puzzle that is Manchester United.