Manchester United and Jose Mourinho may be the English League Cup winners for 2017 and have clinched a European spot for next season, but the team continue to lack excitement despite their results.
Thursday night’s Europa League 1-1 draw saw the Red Devils hold on to a 1-0 lead against Belgium’s Anderlecht for 50 minutes before succumbing to a late equaliser. At times in the second half, Manchester United had 10 men behind the ball as the Belgians had to work through two banks of four. It was a complete shift from Manchester United sides of the past, who would have smashed Anderlecht in the mouth while repeatedly attacking.
Manchester United may have kept 64.2% of the possession, but much of the second half belonged to Anderlecht as the team searched for an equaliser. It came in the 86th minute giving the Belgians a shot at progression when the second leg kicks off at Old Trafford next week.
In the Premier League
Manchester United haven’t lost in the Premier League since October, but why does it seem the team are completely forgettable this term? Mourinho has lost that special feeling, something that expired last year at Chelsea, and he is still attempting to bring it back.
Going into gameweek 33, Manchester United have scored three fewer goals than they did under Louis van Gaal in last season’s Premier League. Van Gaal was regularly criticised for his team’s less than impressive attack. Yet, Mourinho’s football hasn’t been much better, and it has only been saved by Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede’s 17 goals have accounted for 36% of the Red Devil’s scoring. Take away those 17 goals and Manchester United would be a mid-table team under Mourinho.
Manchester United have kept things tidy in defence, but much of that has come at the cost of the team’s attack. The Red Devils have kept 12 clean sheets, which is an impressive number; but the team’s 12 draws show a club unable to get key goals when needed. Being unable to turn those draws into wins is why the team are on the outside of the top four looking in.
Is the Champions League realistic for next year?
With the top four hard to crack, it has been apparent for quite some time that Mourinho is targeting winning the Europa League for automatic qualification into the Champions League in 2017-18. Thursday night’s draw didn’t put a dent in those plans, but it does created some apprehension for the second leg.
Premier League gameweek 33 will be Manchester United’s toughest test yet. The team must rebound from the disappointment of Thursday’s draw to play league leaders Chelsea. The Blues were the last team to beat Manchester United in the Premier League. Antonio Conte’s team didn’t just beat Mourinho’s Red Devils, rather Chelsea completely humiliated them 4-0. A repeat performance at Old Trafford is probably not on the cards nor is Manchester United getting the best of Chelsea.
Even if Manchester United win, the team would remain in fifth place. However, a loss combined with an Arsenal win could see the Gunners leapfrog Mourinho’s side on goal difference. While Manchester United would like to think they are in a fight for fourth, it really appears the team are fighting for fifth along with qualifying to the Europa League semifinals.