As Manchester City celebrate a record-breaking title win, the red side of Manchester have been left with a lot to work on to shorten the gap between themselves and their ‘noisy neighbours’.
Manchester United produced one of their worst performances of the season last Friday with a 1-0 defeat to Brighton. It may have been a relatively meaningless game for the away team, with Champions League qualification already secured for next season, but the fringe players failed to stake a claim for the upcoming FA Cup final.
In fact, the game may have sealed the fate of a number of players at the club judging by Mourinho’s post-match interview.
“Not good enough, because the players that replaced others did not perform at a good level, and when individuals don’t perform at a good level it’s difficult for the team to perform at a good level.
So maybe now you understand why some players play more than others, and you don’t ask all the time why A, B and C don’t play more.”
United are likely to finish second but sit a whopping 16 points behind Pep Guardiola’s newly-crowned champions with a game more played. It is similar performances against the likes of Newcastle, Huddersfield and West Brom that has cost the red side of Manchester dearly.
There is a lot of work to be done at Old Trafford if they are to put up any serious title challenge next season.
It looks very possible that Mourinho has lost his patience with the likes of Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw and even Anthony Martial who could all depart.
Perhaps the biggest gripe the fans have is Mourinho’s desperate plea to hang on to 30-year-old Marouane Fellaini. Despite his obvious uses, the Belgian midfielder is often a lumbering statue in midfield who severely limits the team.
As long as Mourinho is begging Fellaini to stay and using two aging wingers as full backs, United do not have a prayer of winning the title any time soon.
It is those areas where United need to significantly strengthen. Full backs are increasingly important in the modern game and it is there where the club needs to invest heavily.
In terms of left backs, the club have been linked to the likes of Alex Sandro, Danny Rose and Kieran Tierney. Options appear to be more limited in terms of right back.
The central midfield trio against Brighton were stagnant where we saw the bad side of Paul Pogba. That in turn limited the attack.
Mourinho will want to bring in at least one, if not two. central midfielders. Shakhtar Donetsk’s Brazilian midfielder, Fred, has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford.
There is also the chance that a forward could be brought in particularly if Anthony Martial leaves. A certain Gareth Bale could be on the move this summer.
However, it is not all about recruitment either. The players need a drastic improvement in attitude which has been poor particularly against weaker opposition, resulting in major inconsistency.
Jose Mourinho likes to escape the blame but he has been at the club two seasons now and has failed to find his best starting XI. For example, the central defence is chopped and changed on a regular basis.
Premier League-winning sides always have a settled team starting with the defence if you look back to Ferguson’s great United teams and Mourinho’s own Chelsea, for example.
Most importantly, this United side can be effective but they are dull and uninspiring most of the time. In the modern game, they need to be more dynamic and exciting in attack.
It will be Mourinho’s third season and the pressure will be on. He needs to get it right in terms of recruitment, player attitude, team selection and style to have any chance of overhauling Manchester City.