By now most football fans will have heard José Mourinho’s latest eyebrow raising comments about United’s draw at home to struggling Stoke City being, “From minute one everything was beautiful. The first chance, the one Paul missed, was beautiful football.”
On reflection, after watching this video where one Twitter user compiled all of the chances United created, he may have a point and it really brings up the old chestnut of how much control – and by extension blame – can a manager wield and be judged upon?
— UtdHQ (@UtdHQ) October 2, 2016
By changing tact from the critical methods he used after the similarly disappointing result when he saw his side lose to Watford, the Portuguese may be looking out for his own skin more so than that of his players.
When one watches Paul Pogba hit the bar from six yards out and Zlatan Ibrahimovic inexplicably try to beat the keeper at his near post when he has the whole frame of the goal at his mercy, there is a feeling of what more could he have done at that point.
But, in fairness to Mourinho, this does seem like a rare day where his side were incredibly unlucky, especially to come up against a goalkeeper in such inspired form. While they received many plaudits for a good performance and a great result against Leicester the previous time out, it is fair to say that their performance against Stoke actually exceeded that one.
Remember, three of the four goals did come from corners which although a key part of the game, probably cannot be relied upon as your primary form of offence. Throw in some shoddy defending from the normally compact, solid Leicester backline and you have a recipe for an overreaction from fans and the media.
The Stoke result, in contrast, could be an example of an overly pessimistic reaction to a poor result but an excellent performance. It all depends on how much of a glass half-empty or half-full outlook one takes. For Mourinho and United the answer probably lies in the middle at the moment. They are a team brimming with exceptional individual talent who have gained more of a purpose in their play since Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini dropped to the bench.
However, they are not on the same level of cohesion as Manchester City, Tottenham, Arsenal or even Liverpool at the moment as they are further behind in their development. What is incumbent upon Mourinho is to bridge this gap as soon as possible because as it stands, United look likely to finish behind all four of those sides and be destined for another season of Europa League wilderness at best.
Vincent Whelan, Pundit Arena