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Crippling Egotism: A Blunt Assessment of United’s Current State

Losing 3-0 at home is never easy.

Fans become aggravated, pressure mounts upon the management and the media explore every possible avenue to undermine the potential for any success – despite it being only three games into a 38-game campaign. Multiply this ‘crisis’ by 100 and you’ve got Manchester United.

The Red Devils currently find themselves in their worst start to a Premier League season since the inaugural campaign in 1992/93, with questions now being asked of the competence of manager Jose Mourinho to get the club out of its current landslide.

However, despite his petulance and outbursts which have seen him fall out of favour with the Old Trafford faithful – one thing above all is clear, it is difficult for any manager to achieve success and win football matches of any kind when he is not supported at board level, on the pitch or by the owners.

Mourinho’s moaning in pre-season regarding his squad, World Cup fatigue and a lack of transfer activity was laughed at by most corners of the press – it was seen as an early attempt by the Portuguese to provide reason as to why United could not prove capable of mounting a serious title challenge this campaign, before a ball had even been kicked.

If you’ve watched Manchester United play in their opening fixtures against Leicester, Brighton & Tottenham – whether you’d like to admit it or not as a supporter, it’s quite easy to see why Mourinho is so frustrated.

The defeat by Brighton was an embarrassment for the club, but it was an even bigger one for Mourinho himself – given how quick fans and pundits alike were to blame his tactics for the defeat.

A right-flank partnership between Juan Mata and Ashley Young left the Reds exposed and lacking pace in an area which the Seagulls duly exploited, helped by a complete lack of communication between Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelöf – in a backline that cried helplessly for some form of leadership.

The first person pinned for the team selection and the attitude of his players was Mourinho, the immediate consensus emerging from the Amex being that Manchester United’s dressing room simply do not want to play for him any longer, rather than anybody analysing the crippling problems which exist on the pitch – a lack of leadership, complacency and in some instances – plain egotism. 

The performance of Paul Pogba, Manchester United’s captain on the day in question spoke volumes. Rather than being the instigator who would pull the strings in midfield and act as the transmission between defence and attack, the Frenchman chose to solely focus on his own problems rather than helping out his team-mates, playing lethargic sideways passes, overambitious efforts that came to nothing and cutting a frustrated figure in the difficult moments.

Rather than rallying the troops when they had a mountain to climb, the so-called leaders at United in fact gave themselves an even tougher ascent to the level they aspire to be at.

What was expected of United in last night’s clash at home to Spurs was a response – and for the opening 45 minutes that is what they offered the supporters, but again it did not last for the full game.

The moment the ball left Harry Kane’s head to give Spurs a 1-0 lead you could hear a pin drop at Old Trafford, and the heads soon followed, a blatant lack of character and desire culminating with defensive inability handing Spurs probably the easiest three points they’ll pick up on the road all season. Now, United lie 13th in the Premier League table, and fingers are being pointed in one particular direction – Mourinho, but he is far from the only problem at the club.

Not knowing your best team after two full seasons is a worrying factor, but not being supported in the transfer market when the signs are as apparent as were on display in the first three games of the campaign is much more worrying.

Long gone are the days in which Manchester United could pursue players and ask clubs to name their price, and the player would jump tooth and nail for the opportunity to play in front of the Stretford End.

Now, United’s rivals offer more promise and grow in stature while the reputation of United as a club to be feared diminishes into the past, as the dust settles on the ‘transition period’ into a full-blown media circus the like of which would never have been before tolerated.

Questions must be asked of not only Ed Woodward but also the Glazer family. Why are they refusing to support a manager financially when the funds are available? Why are they so keen to assure supporters that everything is running smoothly behind the scenes and that there has been no breakdown in relations?

In truth, the fans deserve better – but thanks to their indifference and desire for an instant solution in recent seasons coming to no fruition, it seems they have told Mourinho to go it alone or find the door, with the cash being locked away in the meantime. 

The signings of Alexis Sanchez, Nemanja Matic and Zlatan Ibrahimović among others are signings that in the past Manchester United would probably have never made – they were seen as world-class stars capable of providing an instant difference rather than keeping in line with tradition of blending talent with youth and nurturing through the next generation of stars.

What Manchester United now have is a team with an ageing spine and youngsters with a world of potential yet devoid of confidence largely due to the incompetence of those above them to integrate them into a proper playing environment that will get the best out of them.

The likely solution to the ongoings at Manchester United should not improve will be the departure of Jose Mourinho. His football at times has been boring, United have been a tough watch, players have not reached their full potential and there has been embarrassing defeats.

His press conferences ooze an egotism that frustrates supporters further, they say he lives in the past rather than addressing the present – but Mourinho is a born-winner, he was backed by Roman Abramovich financially at Chelsea, flourished and the media fell in love with him, but at Manchester United things are different – the stakes and the pressure are a lot higher.

Manchester United’s fanbase do not know what it is like to underachieve given how many years winning the Premier League title seemed all but a formality in the Alex Ferguson era. Second place finishes were often compensated by a good European run and a domestic cup success, but now nothing will suffice only a league title – and people don’t have faith in Mourinho being the man to deliver it any longer. But who is capable under current circumstance?

United are being dominated by egotism – on the pitch, they play with complacency. Mourinho’s arrogance and referral to his previous achievements provide him with a ground to ignore the disaster he is faced with given the indifference of the board and the owners. Manchester United need to improve or Mourinho will be shown the door – but the reality is this, the days of unity and togetherness at Manchester United are dead and buried.

Everyone is out for themselves rather than focusing on the good of the club, and appointing a new manager is not going to change that. Manchester United fans need to stand by Jose Mourinho as long as he remains manager of the club, whether they like him or not – because increasing frustrations will only further increase the toxic atmosphere at Old Trafford, and that will do them no favours.

Heads lie in the sand while answers refuse to be provided. Instead of taking to Instagram to plead for support and promise they will be better, United need to give their fans what they deserve and display a united front – and pray that with hard work the results will come, rather than point the finger of blame at one another when things go wrong.

However, in modern football – that seems highly unlikely, and the circus will likely be there to stay for the foreseeable future at Old Trafford, regardless of whether Mourinho does or not

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Author: Jordan Norris

Mostly covering football and GAA - Jordan is currently studying a BA English in UCC, and can be contacted through [email protected] .