Jose Mourinho insists Manchester United are not out of the running for a top four finish, but admits they are “losing too many points at home”.There was another in case in point where, I am finishing writing this article, the Red Devils missed the opportunity to move into the Champions League places, albeit briefly, after being held to a 1-1 draw by a really lowly Bournemouth.
Seven draws at home in the premier league is simply not good enough. The team is far from ruthless as the story of missing chance after chance is usually the headline of the day. In football the hardest thing is to put the ball at the back of the net and as once Solskjaer has said “there is no such thing as a good save but only a bad finish…” and this is coming from one of United’s legends.
These 10 draws, whereby seven of them have come at home, have cost United twelve points, and it could be so different had all of these draws been transformed into wins. Hull City, Liverpool, West Ham, Arsenal, Burnley and Stoke City have also left Manchester with a share of the spoils this term.
I was there at Old Trafford vs Arsenal, whereby we were denied a deserved win.Juan Mata had given the Reds the lead midway through the second half, arriving at the perfect time to convert Ander Herrera’s clever cut-back, but Giroud’s 89th-minute goal salvaged a draw for the Gunners. It was harsh on United, who had dominated the game, but Mourinho, who remains unbeaten in his 14 league and cup matches against Arsene Wenger. This performance is the very similar to the other draws, whereMourinho acknowledges that the team needs to be more ruthless, with plenty of firepower in his squad,he likes of Ibrahimovic, Martial, Mata, Rashford, Mikhi…not to mention Pogba.
I also watched the 1-1 draw with Liverpool where James Milner gave the visitors the lead from the penalty spot midway through the first half after Paul Pogba had handled in the box, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed in a late leveler to give United a share of the spoils.But the Reds’ pressure finally told six minutes from time as first substitute Marroune Fellaini’s header rebounded off the post, before Ibrahimovic headed in Antonio Valencia’s cross via the crossbar to ensure United’s second-half dominance was rewarded. Everyone thought that with ten minutes left, United would go on to score another goal, but unfortunately this would not be the case.
In the Europa league, United so far have been impressive. United have cruised to the last 16 of the competition after coming through strong in the group stages, after a shaky start and had an impressive away performance vs St. Etienne to win the game 1-0 and book ourselves a place in the last 16. The Reds contained the hosts early on and were extremely professional in quelling any initial danger. Not that it quietened the vociferous crowd but Jose Mourinho will have been satisfied his message had been understood as his strong XI showed composure and quality, which in a way in my opinion signified a typical Mourinho European performance. Obviously with the Europa league there is an automatic passage to the Champions league next year, and united are doing the best thing to take the competition very seriously. At this point, we are considered as favorites and I really do hope we go all the way to Stockholm, where Ibrahimovic will have a fantastic chance to lift a European competition in his home country, and qualify for the Champions league.
Just to mention the most expensive signing, Paul Pogba’s initial struggle following his world-record return to Manchester has been exceeded by a number of impressive performances as he continues to grow into his role in midfield. The Frenchman recently beat Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson and Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil in the race to 1,000 passes in the opposition half, and is now in a position to take advantage of another stat this weekend.
I was also fortunate enough to witness the League Cup final win over Southampton at Wembley. It was my first time witnessing a game at the new Wembley, and it is a very impressive football theatre, created for the fans. The atmosphere was electric before kick-off and it was a great occasion.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic was ultimately the Manchester United hero on another dramatic day at Wembley as Jose Mourinho claimed his first trophy as Reds manager with a thrilling 3-2 EFL Cup final victory over Southampton where the swede struck two fantastic goals including the winner in the 87th minute to deny any way back for the impressive Saints. The Swede rose to head home a very powerful header and seal a fifth League Cup triumph for United amid jubilant scenes once again at Wembley, before Jesse Lingard had put United 2-0 up in the first half. No matter how big or small a competition, and if it is Wembley, there is always a great vibe and success tasted very sweet on this occasion.