It has been a mixed start for Jose Mourinho at Manchester United. TEAMtalk picks out the five players who’ve struggled most under the new boss…
United fans will be hoping that Martial’s goal, moments after coming on against Stoke, will spark a revival from last season’s brightest star.
The 20-year-old has not looked happy of late – understandably so. Since bursting on to the scene last term when he finished with 17 goals, Martial has endured a frustrating European Championship, watched his private life unravel in the full glare of the public, and seen his status at United fall as Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived and took the No.9 shirt of the Frenchman’s back.
Martial has failed to impress in any of his appearances on the left wing for Mourinho, who dropped the former Monaco youngster after three ineffective Premier League performances. He certainly would not be the first youngster to struggle in his second season, nor would it surprise his manager.
“He had no pre-season. He was the last one to arrive apart from Paul Pogba. Some guys take more time. I think he’s doing fine.
“I think he’s going to have a normal season. And for a guy of his qualities, a normal season is a good season so I think he will have a good season.”
It’s difficult to come up something original to say about Rooney’s struggles, given the column inches the captain’s form has dominated recently. Quite simply, the player, manager and club have a major problem, unless the skipper can somehow reverse a slide that shows no sign of slowing.
As club captain, Rooney is an important cog for Mourinho, who is well aware of the 30-year-old’s influence. As previous managers have discovered, an unhappy Rooney can be a less-than-positive presence, which is not entirely down to himself. But Mourinho has already found himself going back on his pre-season vow. “For me, he will be a No 9 or a No 10, or a number nine-and-a-half, but with me he will never be a No 6, not even a No 8,” the manager said in his first press conference. Fast forward three months, and we’ve already seen a square peg trying to squeeze into round holes.
Statistically, Rooney has two assists in his last two appearances as a substitute. Neither, though, were intentional; one was the fluke result of a shanked shot at goal while Sunday’s against Stoke came after the captain was dispossessed after what has become a characteristically poor first touch.
It remains doubtful that a player of Rooney’s age and shape, with such a vast amount of miles on the clock, can suddenly turn around form that has been declining for too long for it simply to be a blip. That being the case, all parties have some major decisions in the coming months.
The big Belgian surprised everyone by working his way into Mourinho’s midfield for his first few games in charge, and further more when, initially, he wasn’t dreadful as a holding midfielder. But Fellaini has already been found out.
It is one thing to sit in a midfield at home to Southampton and away at Hull and Bournemouth. But Manchester City ruthlessly exposed Fellaini’s lack of mobility, when they made him chase Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva around Old Trafford, before he got another chasing at Vicarage Road.
It’s not entirely his fault. Alongside Paul Pogba as a pair in front of the back four, Fellaini gets little back up, with the world-record signing often caught out while trying to influence the game at the other end of the pitch.
Fellaini’s height is a nice commodity at set-pieces, which Louis van Gaal appreciated. But with Ibrahimovic and Pogba’s aerial prowess added to last season’s squad, there is no longer the desperate need to cram Fellaini in the side.
It is very harsh to view Pogba a disappointment at such an early stage, but there are undoubtedly some teething problems Mourinho must soothe to get the best out of the world record signing.
The £89million man has been played at the base of the midfield alongside Fellaini and Herrera but the position doesn’t get the best out of his attacking instincts, which often leave his partner exposed against high-quality opposition.
Pogba has certainly shown glimpses of his quality. He was very impressive on his debut against Southampton and versus Leicester last week, but Mourinho has to find a way to use his prize asset in such a way that allows him to thrive.
The disappointment for Shaw is that his return from a broken leg has not gone as smoothly as anyone would have wanted. His form, when he has played, has been satisfactory. But other injury niggles and the controversy over his treatment by Mourinho at Watford has cast a shadow over his comeback.
Shaw pulled out of the England squad for the qualifier in Slovakia seemingly with an abundance of caution over a calf niggle. He was back for United’s next match against City, when he part of a back four given a torrid time by their rivals’ front three. Then, after being hauled off at Watford, Shaw was berated by Mourinho for not getting tight enough to the opposition for their crucial second goal.
The media had United in full-on crisis mode, with Shaw at the centre of it. Worrying dressing leaks said the players were furious with Mourinho’s treatment of Shaw, who hasn’t played since. Daley Blind has moved to left-back and performed as reliably as you would expect from the Dutchman.
Shaw again missed out on being named in the England squad this weekend, with Gareth Southgate saying the left-back was ‘not quite yet fit’. Shaw has work to do to get himself back to full fitness and remain that way. Only then is he likely to earn Mourinho’s trust.