Can Manchester United recover from shock Brighton defeat and challenge City?
After beating Leicester City in unconvincing fashion in their opening game of the season, last Sunday, Manchester United travelled to Brighton for a game that they were favourites to win, in spite of succumbing to a surprise 1-0 loss the last time the two sides met, just three months prior. However, United were lacklustre and negative for most of the match and once again were defeated by Chris Hughton’s side, this time by three goals to two. Although this season is still in its early stages, there are already big questions over Jose Mourinho and his team about whether or not they can put this type of performance behind them and attempt to stop their ‘Noisy Neighbours,’ Manchester City from retaining the Premier League title.
Issues at the club not new
Even though Man United losing last weekend was a shock to most, problems at the club both on and off the pitch have been clear to see for a while now. In early August, after losing in a pre-season friendly to Bayern Munich, Mourinho stated that his side would face “a difficult season” unless they signed at least one more player before the transfer window closed. Despite the club seemingly being linked with every top centre-back around Europe including Toby Alderweireld, Jerome Boateng and Diego Godin, as well as attacking players like Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic, they failed to bring in any additional new blood; leaving Brazilian midfielder Fred, right-back Diogo Dalot and veteran goalkeeper Lee Grant as their only summer signings. Because of this, Jose Mourinho has continued to look downbeat and unhappy whenever speaking to the media. I’m old enough to remember the Portuguese’s first stint at Chelsea, when he always looked positive, collected and some would say even arrogant at times and I have to say, Jose now looks a shadow of the man most people grew to love back then.
The ‘third-season syndrome’
One of the things worrying Manchester United supporters is ‘Jose Mourinho’s third-season syndrome.’ This is the phrase used to describe Mourinho’s experiences at some of his previous clubs. In his third season at his first and second long-term managerial roles, the 55 year-old achieved remarkable things at Porto by winning the domestic double along with the Champions League and won both cup competitions as manager of Chelsea. But, after enjoying huge success and leaving Inter after two seasons, in his third campaign at Real Madrid, Mourinho won only the Spanish Super Cup and left the club by mutual consent. Meanwhile, in his third season during his second spell at Chelsea, Mourinho was sacked before Christmas with ‘The Blues’ sitting just one point above the relegation zone. Even though the chances of something like that happening this season to Man United are unthinkable, it is a timely reminder that problems behind the scenes like Jose Mourinho had back in 2015 at Chelsea and the ones he has now at United, can lead to reoccurring, disappointing results on the field.
The Paul Pogba situation
Most people would agree that on his day, Man United’s best outfield player is Paul Pogba. Last Friday, his manager said that he “couldn’t be happier” with the French World-Cup winner. This came just days following Pogba saying “If you’re not happy, you cannot give your best. There are things I cannot say otherwise I will get fined.” For United fans, this must have been difficult to hear, but they can take comfort in the fact that the Frenchman is still at Old Trafford, after strong rumours in the summer, linking him with a move to Barcelona, didn’t come to fruition. Pogba has been given the captain’s armband this season and showed exactly why against Leicester, producing a classy performance. Against Brighton though, Pogba, along with most of his team-mates was not at his best. In his post-match interview, the 25 year-old claimed that ‘the Red Devils’ didn’t show the right attitude. His manager backed this up by stating “We made incredible mistakes in some crucial moments. Mistakes that killed us.”
Unless Man United can cut out these silly mistakes and Jose Mourinho can get players such as Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw, 100% on board with what he is trying to do and players like Alexis Sanchez, Juan Mata and Marcus Rashford to start performing at their highest levels consistently, I believe that they won’t have a chance of bridging the 19-point gap that separated them and Manchester City last season and thus, stopping their biggest rivals from winning the league for a second successive year.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!