Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson at the end of the 2012-13 season, it is no exaggeration that Manchester United have greatly underachieved for a club of their stature. Despite winning three major trophies in the last three seasons, which is more than some of their closest rivals, fans of United have feared and are still fearing that their club is not what it used to be. This is not helped by Jose Mourinho’s apparent lack of ambition in certain matches and very cautious style of play despite having several attacking threats in the team such as Alexis Sanchez and Anthony Martial with the latter possibly on his way out. This is in stark contrast to how it used to be with Sir Alex’s teams being famous for their bold attacking style.
Following on from Ferguson’s final season, in which the club won their 20th top flight title, came disaster as his successor, David Moyes endured a torrid time as United boss, managing only a seventh placed finish which led to him ultimately paying the price as the Scot was sacked less than a year into the job. The next man given the assignment of firing United back to glory was Dutchman, Louis van Gaal who had vast amounts of experience on his CV. However, his questionable style of play led to many United fans turning on him and he was sacked after just two seasons in charge, despite winning the FA Cup in his final game in charge in May 2016.
Step forward, Jose Mourinho. The man the Red Devils had sought after for most of van Gaal’s last season after his sacking from Chelsea in December 2015. It began very positively for Mourinho as he claimed his first trophy with United as his side beat Leicester City 2-1 to win the Community Shield in August 2016 as well as sealing the signing of veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic and highly-rated midfielder, Paul Pogba from Juventus. Then, an indifferent start to the 2016-17 season in the league meant United were barely making any progress since sacking Moyes. United would go on to finish 6th and win the League Cup and Europa League during this season which gave them passage to the Champions League group stages for the following season.
The start of the 2017-18 season was brought with much anticipation for United fans. Their ever-maturing squad appeared to be getting stronger each year, despite the failures in the league and this was bolstered by the signings of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic from Everton and Chelsea, respectively. This meant that United had an attack force consisting of players like Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata, with Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic in midfield among others. Not to mention having a world-class goalkeeper in David de Gea as well. Many fans and pundits alike thought that this team was finally good enough to mount a serious title challenge.
The season started brightly for United; with the club winning six out of the first seven games and being joint top with Manchester City with their city rivals only topping the table on goal difference. However, a mundane 0-0 draw at Anfield against Liverpool (a carbon copy of the previous years’ fixture) led many people to question Jose Mourinho’s ambition to really go for the title. Many games in the league following on from this followed suit and were completely unmemorable from a fan perspective, including the toothless and gutless 2-1 defeat to Manchester City at Old Trafford in December which all but quashed their genuine title prospects.
Alexis Sanchez then arrived in January from Arsenal at the expense of Henrikh Mkhitaryan who went in the opposite direction which seemed like good deal for United. However, Sanchez is yet to really impress in a United shirt and again, many people are wondering whether Jose is getting the best out of players like him. United were then spinelessly knocked out of the Champions League by Sevilla who won 2-1 at Old Trafford after 0-0 in the first leg.
One shining light from that season was the 3-2 to win at Manchester City to stall their title celebrations, after trailing 2-0 at half-time, only for United to come crashing back down to earth the following week with an embarrassing 1-0 defeat at home to bottom club and relegation-bound, West Bromwich Albion, which ultimately handed the title to City. United would finish the season in 2nd place, which on paper, is progress from the previous couple of seasons but the manner in which they have got second place really doesn’t strike as making progress.
There is no genuine attacking intent from Mourinho in the vast majority of games United play which shows no real ambition to win the major trophies. It is no great surprise that players like Anthony Martial are wanting to leave the club because it seems like he, amongst others, is being held back and not playing to his strengths. This begs the question whether this Manchester United squad is good enough to challenge for the Premier League title. Are these players not living up to their potential, or are they being stifled by Mourinho?
Is Mourinho the man holding United back? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us @AllOutFootball_ with the hashtag #AOF!’