United were battered 4-0 by Chelsea on Sunday and it is high time Jose Mourinho was reminded of what it means to be at a club like Manchester United
Manchester United’s first defeat in seven games in all competitions was also their fifth failure to win in their last six Premier League matches. If Jose Mourinho had believed he could paper over the cracks with victories over the likes of Northampton, Zorya Luhansk and Fenerbahce, he knows better now.
Just as he was left looking clueless after three straight defeats in September, another week from hell has thrown his entire approach into doubt once more. Victory at Chelsea would have painted the last seven days in a positive light, but the margin and manner of their humbling in west London has a huge number of United fans wanting the manager to think seriously about adapting his style.
The 0-0 draw with Liverpool was the first true sign that Jose Mourinho was not about to change his well-worn approach to high-profile fixtures. In came Marouane Fellaini to provide the extra fight in midfield, Daley Blind at left-back became an extra centre-half with Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford, nominally wingers, sitting in as additional defenders.
If it works, it shuts people up, when it doesn’t, it can blow up in your face.
At a club for whom winning is a relatively new experience, such an approach can be passed off as a necessary evil. But Mourinho has to remember he is now the manager of Manchester United.
Manchester United should come to play all the football, not sit back and watch it. They play at the Theatre of Dreams, not the Theatre of Pragmatism. Performances like Sunday’s are not acceptable, yet they are made more possible if your approach is a cagey one and you are unable or unwilling to immediately set about a rethink once an early goal has been shipped.
The last time Mourinho managed one of the world’s great names, he left Real Madrid will a passable record and a million reasons for fans to dislike him. The second is far more true than the first after 14 matches in charge at Old Trafford, and performances like the one against Leicester have to become the norm rather than the exception if the Mourinho experiment is going to work.
“Jose is a winner, I am a winner,” crowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he became a Manchester United player in the summer. But on Sunday he not only suffered his heaviest defeat in 16 years, he also lost the respect of a lot of United fans after being caught laughing with Chelsea forward Eden Hazard as they exchanged jerseys after the game.
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