Things are not as bad as they seem for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho
Life can be somewhat difficult at Manchester United. For the most part, it’s because of Manchester City's domination. With recognition brings pressure, and certain sports rosters can’t uphold their already-high standards.
In another aspect, life is difficult because United’s point haul so far would often be enough for a top spot, and would likely leave them in the title hunt at this stage of almost any Premier League season. Heading into 2018 however, their current form may not be enough.
United are not the same team without certain players, as indicated by Paul Pogba’s suspension which came at the worst possible time. Overall, Jose Mourinho is just making life difficult for himself.
Manchester United should be able to look back on 2017 as a year of progress. They won two trophies, and although success in the Europa League and EFL Cup would hardly be considered triumphs for the Manchester United sides of old, the club did represent important points on a journey back to the top.
With their progress at hand, 2018 isn’t all doom and gloom at Old Trafford, although perhaps Jose Mourinho’s greatest achievement so far this season could be in making it seem as though it is, from the outside looking in, at least.
In the current moment, the biggest mistake a team can make is to underestimate Manchester United at this point in time.
They won’t win the league barring a Devon Loch-style collapse from their neighbours, but there are still two competitions left in which we could see United revive or collapse. The FA Cup could represent a distraction from the Premier League come spring, while it shouldn’t be forgotten that United previously topped their Champions League group with the second-best defensive record in the competition.
Over the next two legs, Mourinho’s side have the capability to beat any roster in the competition, and Manchester United have a good chance of going deep in the competition. Underestimating United in Europe could prove fatal to any team in the competition, but if City are viewed as the favourites, their position could be what lures them into that false sense of security.
On the transfer front, however, things are a little less clear. United are in need of some new faces, but their transfer record over the last few years has been questioned more often than not. Given the money spent since the start of the Louis van Gaal reign, United’s entire starting back five against City at the start of the December was made up of players from the Ferguson era.
Even if United do invest in January, there’s no guarantee that it’ll work. As a pure gut feeling, there may be a defender on Jose Mourinho’s shopping list, given Eric Bailly’s injury.
Overall, Mourinho has his work cut out for him, but the objectives are achievable. There aren’t a whole lot of clubs within the same calibre of Manchester United, but they should avoid tripping over themselves as a priority.