What is wrong at Manchester United?
- The team finished sixth last season and are currently second but two defeats in three games make them look shaken to say the least
The fans at the stadium would say "nothing", and for the most part, they'd be right. Before the "Special One", Manchester United were in the Europa league and looked nowhere near winning anything, kind of like the Arsenal team of January.
Well, that is except for the FA Cup, which Arsenal FC is good at winning as well.
Then came Jose Mourinho, and United finished 6th but won two trophies (no, the Community Shield is not a trophy). One could say that the dismal performance in the league was because Jose had made winning Europe's lower tournament his primary objective and they would not be wrong.
United are a team in transition and no one can refute that claim, but what is to be expected from them during this transition? Is a sixth-place finish with two trophies alright? Is the League Cup a big enough trophy to sustain the desire of the club? What is it?
They started the 2017-2018 season brightly and there has been a solid improvement in the performances since last season after bringing in some quality talent, with Alexis Sanchez being the most recent.
January was a good month for the team but recently, cracks became evident in United's armour and the Paul Pogba situation has been one of them. While there is no doubt that Pogba is very good, he is the main man and the team's fortunes rise and fall with him. He is the governor. Without Pogba, the team does not gel, it does not perform.
We saw the pinnacle of this phenomenon in December after Pogba got sent off for a foul on Héctor Bellerín against Arsenal in which he was the main man, pulling the strings from midfield.
The game ended in favour of United but what happened subsequently was unsurprisingly the fallout from the ban which accompanied the red card.
United vs City. The game to be watched, Jose vs Pep. Rivalries of old dragged into the new. What happened though? Without Pogba, United got pushed around and lost the tie; one could say that this game also finished United's title chance for good.
City weren't invincible that day as one would've noticed either during the missed goal scoring opportunity by Romelu Lukaku or the "corner flag dance" at the end of the game by the Blues. United looked like they were missing something and it was evidently Paul Pogba.
The Red Devils have never been a team that depends on one player for too long but this is what they have become as the transition takes place.
This was clearly discernible during the games against Tottenham and Newcastle as Pogba's struggles intertwined with United's.
A team full of superstars could not contain what could only be described as a managerial masterclass by Rafa Benitez. He is another man who has shared a significant rivalry with Jose.
Jose, having never won at St James' Park, needed this victory to extend the gap with the teams below as much as he (and the team) needed the boost after the loss to Spurs. Unfortunately for Jose, it was not to be as Newcastle used a defensive lapse on United's part to their advantage.
The Magpies scored the only goal of the game and then proceeded to defend like their lives (relegation) depended on it. It was Mourinho getting out Mourinho-d.
The only common denominator in all these bad situations was Paul Pogba, either suspended, injured, or in bad form.
Even though United's defence has been in the spotlight, Smalling will not be the main central defender once Eric Bailly returns, and defensively, the problems just aren't as severe as they appear. The number of goals that have been scored against Manchester United is lesser than any other team in the league.
Instead, attacking is something Manchester United do very less of and that is where the trouble lies. Without goals and assists, confidence dries up and players like Lukaku and Sanchez become ineffective.
Jose has to stop depending on Pogba to win every game. Additionally, he'll have to come up with better tactics than throwing on some world class players and hoping to see a positive result. Until that happens, Manchester United don't seem like a team that could win the Premier League.Published 12 Feb 2018, 18:05 IST