Performances like the FA Cup Final won’t be forgiven much longer and United fans will soon turn on their manager if next season follows the same pattern. Especially since the preceding four games of the season, (the Spurs semi-final of the FA cup being an exception), one could say that they were rather super dull games, lacking creativity, played at a very slow pace and most importantly, did not give any hope to the United fans watching.
Having said that, the facts are that 2017-18 campaign in which Manchester United have undoubtedly progressed under Jose Mourinho.
Their second-place finish in the Premier League says much about their increased durability, and as they look to make that next step and truly compete for a league title again they head into the new season in far better shape than they were 12 months ago, as a starting point. They will be going into Mourinho’s third season with the club already.
Yet the FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea was just the latest reminder that all is not well at Old Trafford, and if Mourinho doesn’t hit the ground running in 2018-19 then sympathy among the United fan base will be in very short supply. Especially the fact that one can say that they faced a very poor Chelsea team, coming off the back of a three-nil defeat against a struggling Newcastle side. I was present at the FA Cup final, and obviously one could see that United where playing against a lackluster and average team and should have really done much better on the day. Mourinho’s tactics, where I did not agree with some inclusions such as Sanchez did nothing to help United’s attacking play and penetration in the last third.
Most fans have been accepting of Mourinho’s need to do things his way despite the obvious drawbacks. The football is far from easy on the eye, and the cup final defeat was just another example of a game in which supremely talented players were either stymied due to tactics, given almost no time to impress because of selection, or, worse still, not called upon at all.
Mentioning the Chilean, I really do think he was extremely poor in the past 6 months. When United needed him to come up trumps (in the Champions league games vs Sevilla) and the FA Cup final, he really fell short. The FA Cup final, I believe he couldn’t have been any worse. Next six months will be important for Sanchez. Usually players coming from a foreign league usually take time time to adapt (Vidic and Evra being the stand-outs here), but as he was coming from Arsenal, everyone was expecting much better things. Chile will not be going to the World cup, and he will have a prolonged break, and we all hope that he will turn out a different player next season. It could also be the fact that Mourinho could decide to sell Martial, as it is highly unlikely that the French national will get any playing time with Sanchez around. Martial was not called up to the national squad for the World cup, and this may affect him in a bitter way, in that he may decide to leave the club.
Without Romelu Lukaku in the starting line up at Wembley, United had no direction in attack. But rather than change his plan tactically to play to Marcus Rashford’s attributes, Mourinho simply threw his hands in the air afterwards and cursed Lukaku’s refusal to put his body on the line for longer than the final 20 minutes.
It is far from the first time he has decried the lack of commitment of a player who would not commit to playing through an injury, and from the look of Lukaku’s movement when he did enter in the 73rd minute the Belgian was barely mobile enough to have made an appearance at all.
The vast majority of those who had made the trip to Wembley on Saturday headed for the exits within seconds of the final whistle, so distressed were they with their team’s inability to put together anything resembling a fight in the first half. By the time the United players went up for their medals you could practically count the number of Reds watching on.
While it’s normal for supporters to be downbeat about a cup final loss, the biggest frustration for United fans right now is that their team are not playing to their potential and that is due in large part to the decisions made by their manager.
But if he chooses to adapt the same approach next season then the United fans will not stick with him unless he delivers in a big way. They need to push all the way in the title race, and arguably win it, for him to keep justifying his tactics and his attitude. There can be no more days like Saturday, no more nights like Sevilla.
Mourinho’s insistence on doing everything his own way with complete disregard for the consequences and firing broadsides left, right and center when it all goes wrong is not in keeping with the United way.
He may have been given the backing of the board to keep doing what he’s doing, with executive vice-chair Ed Woodward admitting last week that results matter little to the club’s commercial entity, but as soon as he loses the fans he will need to go a long way to win them back and make his continued position at the club tenable.
While it should be appreciated that he has moved the club in the right direction, now is the time for him deliver on the greatest stages. He will buy another 3 or 4 players in the summer, but with the World Cup starting, this can complicate things for the United manager. Bale will be the number one target and in England only Man City and us could really afford him. United should seek to strengthen the left back, central midfield (a player to compliment Pogba and Matic), and a right wing should be their priorities. The right-wing position has changed in every game with Mata, Lingard, Martial, Rashford all having a go…After falling out with Luke Shaw, and with Ashley Young being an average player, he will go all out for a left back.
United need actions now, and with the right signings, and players settling in, they could become less predictable as a minimum, in compared to the previous year.