Manchester United: 3 headaches for Mourinho ahead of UEFA Champions League knockout stage
Problems Jose Mourinho's Manchester United face ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.
Manchester United are enjoying their best spell in the post-Ferguson era in 2017-18. They currently sit second in the league table only behind their local rivals Manchester City. United have won 17 of their 26 matches, and boast the best defensive record, having conceded just 18 goals in the league this season.
The three-time European Champions are still in the race for the Champions League and the FA Cup. If they manage to hold on the second spot and lift either of the trophies, it would be a satisfactory season for them.
However, much of the criticism has been about Jose Mourinho's tactics and the way he approaches the games against the big six. United have won just two of the six games played against the top six teams, having netted only 5 times in the process.
The problems of the Portuguese boss appear to be increasing after a shambolic display against Spurs at Wembley. On that note, we take a closer look at the issues the Red Devils seem to currently be facing:
#3 United's recent shakiness at the back
Manchester United had quite an affirming defence at the start of the new season but have been struggling in their own final third lately. Since Eric Bailly got injured in December, Jose has shuffled his defence regularly.
He has often played Victor Lindelof, Chris Smalling, and Phil Jones in a back-three and has preferred the duo of Smalling and Jones more often. Jones' flick into his own net at Wembley was perhaps the most spectacular goal he has ever scored in his entire career.
In the English duo, United have two defenders who are the perfect personification of the chasm between a good and a great centre-back pairing. In December alone, United had three consecutive draws against Burnley, Leicester and Southampton. Jesse Lingard saved the blushes against Burnley by netting the equaliser in the injury time.
Against the oppositions who fancy their chances on the ball, the United defence looks sub-standard. The problem could be exploited by Sevilla who would not be taking the foot off the gas against the English side. Defence is something, Mourinho's teams are known for.
With a hectic month ahead, Jose will have to figure out a way quickly enough to deal with the problem. United face Seville and entertain Chelsea within a five-day span. Even "parking-the-bus" may invoke some criticism but it would not be such a bad idea presently for Jose if he has any plans to enter the semi-finals of the Champions League.