The Problem With Manchester United
At the moment, Manchester United are in a dark place. They had an awful pre-season, and after two Premier League games, they seem to have somehow gone backwards from last year. There is a negative aura around the club that does not bode well for the season ahead; they need to figure some things out.
A seasoned manager like Mourinho should have no problem teaching his team how to get the ball forward and create attacking plays. Now, his teams have been notoriously defensive and stubborn in the past; however, they haven’t traditionally been unable to attack and score goals.
At Manchester United, it honestly looks as though they have no attacking game plan whatsoever. The movement on and off the ball is poor, and they seem to be unable to pressure their opponent by keeping the ball in the final third for an extended period of time. If you watch teams like Manchester City and Liverpool play, they put an emphasis on defending from the front; if they lose the ball in the attacking third, every player is hungry to win it back in order to stop their opposition from advancing.
There is no hunger at Manchester United, everything is slow, from buildup play to attempted counter-attacks, no one has a desire to make things happen. Fred had a particularly difficult game against Brighton in United’s 3-2 loss on Sunday, his play always looked forward, and he was genuinely trying to play positive, but his passes never seemed to come off. If they can get Fred to a place where those forward-thinking passes start coming off and move the ball up the pitch, that could be the first step towards an attacking game plan. Overall, Mourinho needs to realize that attack-minded training is just as important as the defensive side of things.
Manchester United’s defense was all over the place on Sunday; mistimed tackles and poor passes ultimately cost United the game; they were unforgivably sloppy. The entire defensive line tends to sit still when passing around the back, instead of making runs into a safe area to receive a pass, the players stagnate and seemingly hope the ball doesn’t come to them.
This regularly puts the back line in awkward situations when trying to get the ball forward, they either boot the ball up the field for the attackers to most likely lose the header, or they make a risky pass, which doesn’t always come off. This has to be addressed, and it isn’t only down to the defense, either. Every single outfield player should be moving and trying to open space to receive the ball or allow a teammate to receive the pass; somehow, they make this look impossibly difficult. All of these areas should be able to be trained, bringing up the question, yet again, what are Manchester United actual accomplishing in training?
Crossing and Wide Play
If Manchester United are going to play a system that involves wingers looking to service the big center forward, they need players who are able to put in consistently good crosses. The reality is that they don’t have a single player on their roster who is able to do this simple task. Not one of their wingers has shown any crossing ability and their fullbacks seem to always overhit their balls. Yes, they could have pursued crossers in the summer, however, is crossing not also a trait that can be worked on and trained?
Players like Marcus Rashford and Alexis Sanchez reportedly stay behind after training to work on their play and, as wide players, you would think they would have improved by this point. Pogba should not be their only player able to consistently hit good crosses into the box, the wingers and fullbacks need to step up and help their team.
From day one, there have been many fans pointing out that Mourinho loves to play defensive football while Manchester United has been well known for their attacking play over the years. While Mourinho is right to solidify defense and put a focus on defensive weaknesses, he needs to understand that attacking is equally as important. He has always relied on individual talent to bag his teams' goals. From Ronaldo at Madrid to Hazard at Chelsea, Mourinho has never had to teach his attackers too much about scoring goals and dribbling past opponents. Manchester United simply doesn’t have a world-class talent to consistently create chances and push the team forward. The fact that Mourinho hasn’t necessarily acknowledged this fact is worrying, to say the least.
Overall, his style doesn’t really fit in with the way Manchester United should play and, if he wants to avoid being slaughtered by the fanbase and the media, he needs to adapt. Teams have figured Mourinho out; if he continues to put his ego before the team, he won’t last much longer. Overall, it might even benefit United to part ways with the once-great coach.