José Mourinho has spent two full seasons in charge of Manchester United. During this spell, they’ve finished sixth and runners-up in the Premier League. He’s guided them to a Europa League victory in 2017, and two domestic cup finals, becoming winner of one. United have definitely progressed under Mourinho, just not fast enough for most modern football fans, pundits and media. Here are the areas Mourinho could improve to reach the bar now set by neighbours Manchester City.
The back four that started in the FA Cup final loss to Chelsea were all signed by Sir Alex Ferguson, a manager that retired five years ago. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were originally wingers. Whilst they have improved and been brilliant in their given roles, they should not be starting full-backs. Not for a club that aspires to win Premier league titles.
The unusual thing about Valencia is that he doesn’t usually get caught out defensively. It is his crossing ability that lets Manchester United down. Many times over the last two seasons Valencia has burst down the right flank.
The problem occurs when he reaches the final third, he tends to just drill a ball across the box hoping for the best. When he doesn’t, he slows down play, passing the ball back inside, therefore allowing the defence to retreat and set up. Perhaps this wouldn’t be a problem if United had, and used, a traditional right-winger. Thus Valencia wouldn’t be utilised to attack on the right, whilst leaving space behind.
Does the United wall need stronger bricks?
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are very similar. Two average centre-backs not good enough for a Manchester United starting 11. They both display inconsistency, excellence often followed by costly error. This has happened a couple of times this season, including Jones’s penalty that gifted Chelsea the FA Cup.
José Mourinho has signed Eric Bailly. United’s best defender when fully fit. Mourinho needs to bring in a defensive partner for the Ivorian, and play them regularly to build a regular partnership.
Toby Alderweireld is a name that’s been linked to United. Currently at Spurs, he would be the ideal partner for Bailly. One of the best defenders in the Premier League for the past two seasons, the Belgian is said to be in dispute over wages. Alderweireld is in the prime of his career, and is exactly what United need against teams of the highest calibre.
Midfield issues for Mourinho?
Ander Herrera has been a great player for United over the last few years. He may lack quality but never lacks effort. However, this is not good enough for one of the biggest clubs in the world. United need an upgrade to compliment Paul Pogba and Nemaja Matic. Recently, The Red Devil’s have been linked to Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
The Serbian holds a physical presence standing at six feet three inches tall. If United signed him, their midfield would likely out-muscle any other. He has also scored 14 goals in 47 appearances for Lazio this season, more than any central midfielder United have in their squad.
The biggest issue with United’s attack is not the players, it’s their modus operandi. There simply is not enough movement. Proactive players like Alexis Sanchez and Marcus Rashford are often static.
There is no questioning the attacking talent in United’s squad, more a questioning of their attacking threat. Is it enough to match the Manchester Cities and the European giants?
This is an issue Mourinho must address. In the modern era, defenders are more vulnerable, more easily exploited. Thus United’s attack needs more urgency and intensity to cash in on this. Particularly at Champion’s League level.
The right wing is also problem. There is a lack of a decent delivery to Romelu Lukaku. After falling out with Antonio Conte, Willian has become heavily linked to United due his positive relationship with Mourinho. Willian would not only bring a decent delivery but would add urgency to United’s attack.
It would also be worth adding another striker to the squad, as a back-up for Lukaku. Perhaps someone in their prime who could offer between 10-15 goals a season, and be happy to sit on the bench. Whilst Lukaku was injured, United missed a focal point, someone to play off. Therefore Mourinho cannot rely on him for every game of the season.
Overall, Mourinho has numerous problems to fix at Manchester United. It is also important to remember that money cannot necessarily buy success. The price paid for a player doesn’t determine his value. His value is in his desire to play for the team, and ability to solve these issues. Marquee signings are little use if the player doesn’t quickly fit the Mourinho and Manchester United mould.