Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side lack the winning mentality of champions, while Paul Pogba’s poor finishing and Stoke’s chances of a top-half finish are also discussed.
It’s back to the drawing board for Mourinho
Frustration. Frustration. Frustration. Not the name of a new board game, or even a spin-off of a Channel 4 property programme, but very much the buzz word as fans trudged away from Old Trafford on the back of the disappointing 1-1 draw with Stoke.
Jose Mourinho will no doubt spend the international break scratching his head and deliberating his side’s best XI after a frustrating afternoon against the Potters, but regardless of the personnel on display or the formation used, it seems quite apparent already that this won’t be a title-winning campaign many expected at Manchester United
OK, so the Mourinho revolution is still in its embryonic stage, but the United manager has much work to do if he’s to ensure the glory days return to Old Trafford.
Mourinho was brave with his substitutions – his decision to bring on both Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial in the 66th minute having an instant reaction – but United are a soft touch and lack that certain ‘je nais se quoi’ that a team of champions have.
After the game, Mourinho claimed it was the best performance of his Manchester United reign “by far”…. However, even he won’t be completely unaware of what is plain for many to see: this Manchester United lack a killer instint.
It’s all too easy harking back to days of yesteryear, but a Sir Alex Ferguson side would not have allowed a struggling Stoke side back into the contest, let alone snatch a point in a 1-1 draw. For that reason alone, Mourinho has plenty to work on and improve in his players.
But if anyone is capable, then Mourinho can – it just might need a couple more transfer windows and many more millions spent to bring that back.
Liverpool are up next for Manchester United in a mouthwatering Monday Night Football after the international break, and on current evidence, the Merseysiders have very little to fear.
Pogba finishing lets him down
Paul Pogba – the world’s most expensive footballer – has it all. Or does he….?
As he approaches the 200th game on his professional career (he should, injury-permitting, reach the milestone in the next six weeks) the France star still has significant areas of his game to work on -and nonemoreso than his finishing.
The former Juventus man, who opened his account for the club with a fine header against Leicester last week, was guilty of some pretty poor misses in the first half against the Potters which, with a little more composure, could have been stuck away.
Granted, his game is much more than scoring goals, but with a record of a goal just under every 5.5 matches, its something he can clearly improve on.
He really ought to have done better when presented with a clear sight on goal, his 15-yard shot missing the target by a yard, while another chance – this time a free header – failed to force the impressive Lee Grant into a save.
Pogba’s finishing was then summed up it when in the closing stages, he missed a glorious chance to secure victory for United but could manage to direct a close-range header onto the bar with the goal gaping.
It’s clear there’s much work to be done….
The only way is up for Stoke
Jack Butland’s absence may have been highlighted as one of the main reasons behind Stoke’s struggles this season but Lee Grant’s performance at Old Trafford made, to anyone watching at least, a mockery of those claims.
However, Stoke’s problems this season cannot just be blamed on Butland’s absence alone, but more so manager Mark Hughes’ slowness in realising that original deputy Shay Given is no longer up to it.
Grant joined the Potters on transfer deadline; a six-month loan deal that among all the millions being spent, hardly received any headlines. However, after spending his first few weeks for the club on the bench, Grant was eventually given his chance in the Capital One Cup defeat to Hull on September 21. It’s a just a shame from Stoke’s point of view, Hughes didn’t realise this sooner.
That aside, Stoke’s performance at Old Trafford was in complete contrast to that of a side allegedly in dispute with one another, with skipper Ryan Shawcross saying of the claims: “We’ve got a very good group of lads, a good team spirit and that’s what will get us the points that we need to have a good season.”
With Shawcross his usual authoritative self, and with Allen impressing in midfield – I still can’t believe Liverpool’s midfield couldn’t find a space for him, by the way – Stoke inched their way back into the contest to claim a point plenty will feel they deserve.
It’s been a problematic start to the season for Stoke so far, but the only way is up for the Potters.
0 – Stoke have failed to win any of their opening seven games to a top-flight season for the first time since 1973/74. Decline.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 2, 2016
A repeat of their three consecutive ninth-placed finishes might seem like a tall order to some right now, but with the gap currently just six points right now to ninth-placed West Brom, it’s certainly not not an insurmountable one.