After our 2-0 win against then-perfect Manchester City, I think most of us were ready to start thinking more seriously about a title chase. But the three games since that impressive showing have been rough: We drew to Tony Pulis’s West Brom. We were incredibly lucky to draw against Bayer Leverkusen. We were then lucky (again) to draw against... Bournemouth.
It’s been a bad run for us.
That said, the good news is that this league campaign, though it hasn’t featured a big six team suffering a Chelsea-style collapse, also does not yet appear to have a plurality of elite, amongst-Europe’s-best caliber teams. This weekend is a good example of that.
We drew to Bournemouth. Manchester City drew against Southampton. Arsenal drew against Middlesborough. United were thrashed by Chelsea. Really, besides Chelsea, the only one of the big six to have a successful weekend was Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. And they, once again, looked very sharp in their win against 2-1 win against West Brom.
But if one red team from England’s northwest had the best weekend, another had the worst: Manchester United looked poor (again). It’s too soon to say they are out of the top four race, but it is reasonable to note that a) if these results continue, they will need a bit of help to get back into the hunt, and b) if their form is to improve, they need major contributions from players who don’t look much like making such a contribution anytime soon.
Zlatan looks old. Rooney looks old. Mkhitaryan is taking classes in the Juan Mata School of Mourinho Exile. Mata himself has been inconsistent. World-record signing Paul Pogba has been tentative and seldom looked like the world-class midfielder he was at Juventus when playing for Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
And, of course, there is the growing question marks hovering around United manager Jose Mourinho. Mourinho’s stint at Chelsea ended horribly as the defending champion Blues not only failed to defend their title, but failed to even finish in the Europa League places last season. Now the Portuguese is struggling at Old Trafford.
His eye for player talent seems to be slipping—Daley Blind has no business playing left back. Likewise his mercurial man management style seems to be costing the Red Devils as he continues to bizarrely leave big money signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan out of his squad for reasons that he alone knows.
It’s a long season. But while Liverpool look legitimately Good, and City, Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal look good but with some issues to hammer out, United are a team still searching for an identity, searching for leadership, and languishing below their rivals in the table.
On to the links:
This profile of Poche is a great read.
Howler’s take on Florentino Perez is exactly right.