Give Pogba more Roo-m
> Mourinho has to drop Rooney and let Frenchman be the official No. 10 to inject more life into lacklustre Devils
THE SWAGGER didn’t last very long and nor did the honeymoon. Even more worrying for Manchester United is what’s happening to “the Mourinho effect”. It used to guarantee trophies before wearing off after three years: now it’s just wearing off – after three games.
The deserved defeat at Watford completed a calamitous week and earned their manager his first hattrick of losses since he was at Porto. The bookies have slashed their odds on a divorce by Christmas.
But let us not get ahead of ourselves – he would surely have to poke one of the Glazers in the eye for that to happen and they all wear glasses. In football parlance, September is still early doors, it is not yet a crisis and the fixture list has been kind.
After lowly Northampton away in the League Cup tomorrow, they have three winnable home games (Leicester, Zorya Luhansk and Stoke) before a trip to Liverpool. If they haven’t sorted things out by then, Anfield is not the place to go pleading for mercy.
The sudden collapse is one that no one saw coming. The pre-season talk was of a two-horse title race with the Manchester derbies as likely deciders. But now we know such lofty expectations were built on fame not form, as well as the fortune spent.
The Special One looked the right “fit” – massive name, massive club – just as Zlatan Ibrahimovic did and Paul Pogba. United made a big thing of being the club to buy the world’s most expensive player, announcing it to the New York Stock Exchange almost as if it were a trophy in itself. Real Madrid were nowhere.
Mourinho impressed in his early weeks. Clearly he was not daunted by the task, as David Moyes had been, and was more in tune than Louis van Gaal ever was about United’s standing in the scheme of things. He had always coveted the job after all.
His signings looked astute – Ibra on a free and Hendrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly for around £30 million (RM159m) apiece. And he was not overawed at paying £89 million (RM471m) for Pogba – it didn’t seem to be his decision anyway, but a corporate “statement”.
What no one imagined was that Mourinho, of all people, wouldn’t be able to get them to play. Or to get Wayne Rooney to play or the rest of those left over from previous regimes.
It didn’t have to be the transformation that Pep Guardiola has wrought with so many of the under-performing apparent mediocrities that Manuel Pellegrini left him, but an improvement on the stilted stuff of LVG was a minimum requirement.
But it hasn’t happened. There are so many questions and so much to fix. Midfield is a mish-mash where Manuel Fellaini is the most reliable performer!
Rooney, as he does with England, is dropping back into it as his legs and lungs fail him, and merely cluttering the space.
Mourinho made a big deal about Rooney’s best position – “a No. 9 1/2 maybe” he quipped. But like Sam Allardyce, he’s allowing his skipper to do what he wants. Apart from taking set-pieces and trying to ref the game, all he does is spray the occasional long ball to the wings. Not for him the quick, instinctive pass you see City making and he is slowing United down.
You feel a big decision has to be made soon and the Mourinho of his Chelsea and Inter pomp wouldn’t have been shy in making it. Pep wasn’t shy to show Joe Hart the door and even though his replacement is yet to convince, the team looks better off without the England keeper’s ego and poor kicking.
Mourinho tried hard to sign Rooney at Chelsea and remains a fan, but he can no longer pretend that age hasn’t caught up and the team may be stronger without his brooding presence.
Then there’s the small £89 million matter of Pogba. Didier Deschamps was blamed for playing him too deep in the Euros but even in the No. 10 role, it has been the same non-event. Mourinho says he may be “trying too hard” while to many, he’s not trying hard enough.
The manager must find a way of getting him to play more frequently than at 15 minute intervals. It may require dropping Rooney and letting Pogba be the official No. 10 with no interference from an aging wannabe 9 1/2.
Ibra has done OK, Mkhitaryan has been injured but he’s surely too good to fail, while Bailly might not be as good as first thought. As for the existing troops, Bastian Schweinsteiger is banished, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Michael Carrick ignored.
You feel Mourinho still doesn’t know his best team or how they should play which is surprising for a manager of his stellar “Mr Fixit” credentials.
He’s also taken to criticising players – which is something he never did the first time at Chelsea, nor at Inter. It seems the internecine warfare that he stirred up at Real Madrid changed him forever: he’s certainly not had the same success since.
There may also be something in the theory that he is too “old school” for the younger players whose attention he does not grab as he did that of the Drogbas and Terrys or the Sneijders and Zanettis. Now, only 30-somethings Ibra and Rooney listen.
The pressure is certainly on him and despite the money spent, he may not have bought enough players. Indeed, the club’s insistence on the “statement signing” has backfired spectacularly as there is still a journeyman quality to many positions.
Marcus Rashford and Timothy FosuMensah must start as youthful hunger is badly needed and he should decide on what style and formation he wants to play.
Because up to now, it doesn’t appear as if there is a style while the formation changes. This is partly why the world’s most expensive player is, in the words of Paul Scholes, “all over the place.” He’s not the only one.
Watford’s Jose Holebas (left) Etienne Capoue (right) vie with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba during their English Premier League football match at Vicarage Road Stadium on Saturday. – AFPPIX