There were times during this dull affair when the stadium clock seemed to stop, regress even – quite symbolic of this famous old club which has been taken hostage of recently. This was no result to be proud of – a goalless draw at home in the Champions League against a Valencia side lacking in sharp edges – never mind a performance to shout home about.
But what was in many ways more concerning was trying to search for, and failing to find, Manchester United’s style of play. Once again, there was no obvious pattern of play. Whether Jose Mourinho was ever the right fit for the historically attacking United is certainly up for debate, as is the increasing realisation that he is becoming yesterday’s man. The issue is that he is now turning Man United into ‘yesterday’s team’, with little discernable style or attraction.
Trouble at Old Trafford
The director’s box was full of former stars; David Beckham, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs were all here in the theatre of dreams watching yet more compelling evidence that their old team is falling at quite a rate. Neville, especially as the analyst of the group, would have trouble trying to dissect this latest United performance and take any valuable teachings of how to approach a home Champions League game. No urgency, little ambition and inconsistent quality are becoming well-used words when it comes to United.
But trouble is what United are in at the moment. The silence was telling, as was the abrupt and short shout of “attack, attack, attack” midway through the second-half. United have not forgotten to do that – there was the odd test for Neto in the Valencia goal – but it is the lack of a plan that seriously hints at the possibility that they are forgetting how to win. There was rarely any chance of them winning this one, though at least they were lucky enough to not lose it. Better decision-making in the final-third and Valencia could have left with the victory.
Tardiness both on and off the pitch
It may be a little too much to say that United’s team bus arriving over 40 minutes late to Old Trafford – at least the fourth time that they have arrived behind schedule for a match in just over two and a half years – is emblematic of post-Ferguson sloppiness, but it certainly doesn’t bode well. It is the lack of authority, leadership and pure football enthusiasm that is so striking both on and off the pitch. Planning is nowhere to be seen.
Some in Old Trafford may have wished that their team’s bus never had turned up, given what they were served up during the 90-minutes that followed. Glancing around the spectators in the main stand and it was clear that many had completely zoned out of the action (or lack of) on the pitch. Simply staring at an empty penalty area, longing for something exciting to happen.
As it stands, United have not won in their last four games in all competitions and they surely cannot fail to do so against Newcastle United at home on Saturday evening. This was billed as a big week for United, but then again, so was last week and, to an extent, the week before. Time continues to tick with little progress or resolution forthcoming. The fall-outs off the pitch are symptoms of the wider issues higher up the club. Currently, United is floating and no one has the strength to realise and stop it.
Discontent is in the air
Matters on the pitch ultimately dictate and influence the mood of the club; at the moment the two mirror each other; a lack of vision and ambition are obvious. In the first-half here, there was more energy and a greater intensity than that shown against West Ham United on Saturday. But this is all rather elementary, energy should be a pre-requisite at the highest level, however, Mourinho seems to be trying his best to sap all of that out of the club.
It was the lack of passing options, the constant sideways passing under no pressure without even raising heads to see whether a forward option was available and the lack of dynamism that makes United such a tough watch at the moment. The absence of finesse – which has been associated with United for many years – is deeply worrying, especially when the quality of the players on the pitch is considered. It only highlights that these are players not playing for their manager.
Unity plays a big part in sport, and there appears to be little cohesion or togetherness at United currently. The sideshow stories that are currently dominating much of the football news agenda are a result of poor performances and results. The one at Old Trafford tonight will do little to make them stop.