Manchester United Can Close the Gap on Manchester City

Jose Mourinho
Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho points as he leaves the pitch after winning the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Bournemouth at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Coming up to the halfway point in the season the question now has to be asked – how do Jose Mourinho’s men improve in order to close the gap on Manchester City?

Manchester United lost the Manchester Derby to leave them 11 points behind City in the title race.

Squad Improvement

Jose Mourinho has spent close to £300 million since arriving at Manchester United. However, the gulf in class between them and City is there for everyone to see.

While proven quality players such as Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic have been signed, overall, the squad still has many gaps that need to be addressed.

United are in desperate need of another central midfielder to supplement Pogba when he’s out of the team. The side seemingly forgets how to play football without him. Nobody else in the current squad seems capable of playing through the midfield in Pogba’s absence. This problem needs to be fixed as soon as possible as United simply cannot rely on one player to make them tick through a 60 game season.

Transfers In

In the summer window, Mourinho seemed to lack a Plan B if his main targets couldn’t be acquired. Ivan Perisic was a rumored target but the deal never materialized. United ended up not buying anyone to fill the role. Players such as Alexis Sanchez and Riyad Mahrez were reportedly available but United never moved for either.

A case can be made for not just buying for the sake of buying but having a Plan B when the first choice target becomes unattainable is smart planning and a good way to do business.

Centre-forward is also another area of concern that has recently cropped up. Romelu Lukaku has only scored two goals in his last twelve appearances.  He is trying but is lacking the confidence in front of goal that you need to be the main striker at Manchester United.

The side needs another top quality forward to come into either play alongside Lukaku or rotate with him. This would be similar to the way Manchester City rotate Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

Big Game Woes

Games against a squad’s biggest rivals are often the difference between winning and losing the title.

The recent win against Arsenal was United’s first win away from home against one of the other top six in the league. Before that, they’d only managed one goal from these games. That record simply isn’t good enough for a team that wants to have a real push for the title.

At Old Trafford the record against the top teams is slightly better, however, United have still only picked up four victories against the top six since Mourinho has taken charge.

The tactics in these games have been questionable, especially by supporters. Often being branded as negative. While there is nothing wrong with playing a counter-attacking style, this current United team lack the personnel to do it consistently.

United lack the midfield depth to play three in there so have often gone with wing backs away from home. This has worked on occasion but overall it has not proved effective enough to be used in a more long-term way.

The Sir Alex Ferguson days are long over but if Mourinho wants to start seeing better results in big games he may want to consider adopting the approach that served Sir Alex so well in big games.

Squad Clearout

Many have suggested that Jose Mourinho inherited a weak squad when he took over. The squad has arguably needed a major overhaul since Sir Alex Ferguson retired. United have spent a significant amount in the last four seasons but a lot of the same players still remain.

An upgrade in quality is still needed if United want to push Manchester City for the title next season.

Players such as Luke Shaw are a prime example of keeping players who are surplus to requirements. Shaw has only started one game all season and barely makes the bench most of the time. Mourinho though keeps him around with very little intention of playing him.

If he doesn’t think he’s up for the job then he should ship him out and bring in a quality replacement to fill the gap. This could be said for a number of players in the squad.

Understandably it takes more than one or two transfer windows to complete a squad but Mourinho hasn’t been aggressive enough with his outgoing deals.

The January window is fast approaching and this is the perfect time to get rid of three or four players that don’t meet the standards of the club.

 

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