In many ways, the result against West Brom on Saturday was inevitable.
Imagine Chelsea missing Eden Hazard, Diego Costa, N'Golo Kanté and Cesc Fàbregas or Manchester City without Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho or even Tottenham without Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Mousa Dembélé and Vincent Wanyama. Imagine these 3 teams having those absentees and coming up against an inform Tony Pulis side.
Let's be honest, that has banana skin written all over it. In all three scenarios, either side would do well to come away with all three points.
A difficult game for reds
Given that this current Manchester United side are not quite possessing the pedigree of a title winning team who are able to pick up 3 points where mere mortals would fail, it is surprising that anyone is aghast about the result at home to a well organised West Brom side on Saturday.
The team were without their primary source of goals in Zlatan Ibrahimović , their most creative outlets in Paul Pogba and Juan Mata and their most dynamic midfielder in Ander Herrera to mention a few, this game was always going to be tricky. I dare say that remove Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar and Andrés Iniesta from the Barcelona team and even they would struggle to break down a Pulis side that is in form.
This is a side that just beat a full-strength Arsenal team, Alexis Sánchez and all, so some perspective is perhaps needed.
However, with Manchester United, perspective is usually in short supply and news around the biggest club in England and one of the biggest in the world, is often more sensationalist than it is accurate.
Defeats are made out to be bigger than what they really are and success is normally over analysed to remove any merit whatsoever.
Don’t blame the attackers
This more than the form of the young United attackers Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford is why United are where they are right now. Mourinho's criticism of the pair amongst others (Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan) came from a sense of de ja vu, a frustration he could no longer contain and you would imagine or at least hope, that the United manager is partially regretting it now.
The inconsistency he complained about is the norm with young, developing players. Even Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo went up and down in games and seasons in their early years. Therefore, the criticism was like criticising nature. Even the likes of Kylian Mbappé, who is the most talked about young star at this present point in time, drifts in and out of games and doesn’t produce a 10/10 performance every weekend. To criticise their inconsistency is a bit pointless as they are young players, they are going to be inconsistent, for now.
And Wayne Rooney
Another regret he may have is Rooney. When Mkhitaryan was taken off for the United captain, it was because the Armenian was consistently getting into dangerous positions but missing his final touch. The manager threw on Rooney hoping he would get in similar positions but have the end product the Armenian was missing, Rooney did neither.
It makes you wonder, if had Mkhitaryan stayed on, would he have eventually taken one of the chances his brilliance kept creating for him. Some would argue the Rooney regret goes further than Saturday but also relates to the managers’ stubborn insistence on sticking with the United captain earlier in the season but that is a whole different story.
The reality is that the only attacking player United had on their bench to turn to, due to injuries and suspensions, was a player they are only too happy to discard in the summer, for free if rumours are to be believed.
It shows what the team was up against on Saturday. It was always going to be difficult with 4 key attacking players missing, even at home. Yes, United have dropped crucial points at home this season but each game should be judged on its own merit. There needs to be some perspective.
No perspective in Moyes era
United's problem since Sir Alex Ferguson retired has been perspective and until that is resolved the team will continue to struggle.
The club, a high proportion of its fans and even ex United players such as United legend Gary Neville lacked the right perspective during the David Moyes era to recognise that such a season was unacceptable for the reds. Instead of writing that season off as an anomaly, it was accepted as inevitable, even by people who should know much better. Such an assessment would never wash at Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. It is no wonder those clubs which United once counted as peers continue to flourish while the reds flounder.
Same mistake with LVG
This poor perspective led United to accept Louis van Gaal’s last ditch 4th place finish the following season. A season where United only had the league to focus on and had spent millions in the transfer market.
Antonio Conte's Chelsea have similarities to the team van Gaal took over. Champions who had lost their way, finishing mid table and with no European competition in the following season. But look at Chelsea now, 7 points clear at the top of the league. This brings the Dutch man’s failure into perspective.
But again, van Gaal’s first season was seen as a success.
Ryan Giggs was honest enough to admit the van Gaal led team lost their way in the second season and rather than move the team forward after spending more millions in the transfer market, the Dutch man managed to make the team worse. Any other team with big objectives and goals would have sacked the Dutch man in December of 2015, United stuck with him and finished fifth. You imagine what this season would look like had Mourinho been in charge from December 2015 rather than in the summer when the European Championships was taking place.
The Portuguese would have had six months to properly judge and asses the team and would have had them flying for the start of this season. One of the big problems Mourinho faced during the first half of the season was that it took him till December to figure out what his best team was. A problem that could have been fixed the previous season.
Whatever happens at the end of this season, if United want to get back to the top, Jose Mourinho must admit that the team has under achieved. A Europa league win, a fourth placed finish or both will not make this a successful season if the right perspective is being taken. If United are to get back to the top, they must raise their standards on how they measure success and failure.
The fans are allowed to be patient but the manager, board and players alike must be desperate to get back to the top and not adopt the attitude of waiting for a tomorrow that may never come.
United only need look to Mourinho’s adversary at Arsenal to see what happens when a club loses perspective on what defines success and what matters the most. Arsène Wenger and the board set the bar really low for his team, consistently season after season. It is no surprise therefore to see where they are right now and the animosity and frustration around the club. The reality is if you aim for fourth and a cup win, eventually you become a mid-table team because there will always be others scrapping and fighting to achieve greater success, who have set for themselves a higher bar.
United must correct their perspective, this is their fundamental problem. It is not about changing managers, it’s not even just about buying new players. The club must go back to the basics of what success looks like and that is winning the league or Champions league or at the very least coming really close. That is the perspective of champions.