In a way which is typical of modern football, Manchester United are said to be in crisis just two games into the new Premier League season. A game against Tottenham Hotspur awaits; a club whose new stadium timeline has been rife with delays and troubles and who became the first Premier League to not sign a single player in a summer transfer window. One is in crisis, the other is not.
In spite of that, Jose Mourinho has the ideal opportunity to drag his team out of the frenzy that has surrounded it since the World Cup came to a grand conclusion with Paul Pogba stroking home to help France to victory. Mourinho’s career is littered victoriously with the clichéd ‘masterclass’, often involving the theoretical bus.
Spurs is an opportunity to win fans back
Monday night football presents an opportunity to provide yet another. Mourinho has failed to deliver on many counts at Old Trafford, but the masterclass has made its way out of its rusting box on enough occasions thus far. Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp fell foul as Marcus Rashford struck twice. Pogba hit a double at the Etihad with Mourinho’s half-time influence hailed. The same was true of wins against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea earlier in 2018 and as far back as April 2017, again when facing Chelsea, as an Ibrahimovic-less United outclasses their London opposition thanks to Ander Herrera’s nullifying of Eden Hazard.
Results only way to turn the tide
The Portuguese knows he must turn the tide. That can only be done with results, hence it’s unsurprising that his pre-match press conference on Friday was conducted half an hour earlier than scheduled and lasted a total of 259 seconds. A comfortable win against mid-table opposition would go some way to doing what is required. Better for United, their players and their fans would be an important victory against a definite top four challenger and a team that player better, more exciting football than United and currently appear to have a similarly superior future.
Mourinho has had over a week to prepare his side, and much of that should have involved vastly improving the attitude and ambition of his team. A debrief of a shockingly poor 3-1 defeat to Brighton will have been needed and certain changes are needed in United’s side.
Man United must finally show quality
Early on at the Amex Stadium, Pogba received the ball on the half turn in the middle of the pitch and immediately snapped it out wide to Anthony Martial. The speed and intensity of that single motion has been absent at United for some years other than some very brief moments provided by the high-quality players brought in that Mourinho has yet to make full use of. That speed must be seen, particularly if United are to allow Tottenham to dominate possession.
Simultaneously, some kind of structure is needed. Liverpool and Manchester City play fluidly. But neither of those sides are guilty of having their best and most important players all crowded in a single zone of the pitch. United are.
Mourinho has enigmas to solve, players to motivate and fans to win back. In a way, a big game as Monday’s game is will be the ideal means to sort his problems out.