What’s going on with Manchester United?

‘Retain the hurt’ says Guardiola to his players after City’s UCL defeat against Spurs

Two more points dropped against new boys Wolves leaves Manchester United gasping for breath in the table, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at the predicament faced by Jose Mourinho’s men.

Having claimed three away wins on the spin with some efficient performances, Manchester United fans would’ve been forgiven for thinking their team was all but out of crisis following their midweek win in the Champions League against Swiss outfit Young Boys. True to their name, the dressing room and the fans stood united with the gaffer in what were possibly the most rumour-laden weeks of his three year tenure in Manchester. Romelu Lukaku spoke of Mourinho deserving more ‘respect’ while even Paul Pogba, who had previously hinted of his unhappiness with the manager, thanked him post his two-goal salvo in Switzerland.

On a day when Sir Alex Ferguson returned to a roaring reception at Old Trafford following his emergency surgery for brain haemorrhage, Mourinho would’ve wanted a far better welcome for the Scot from his own players.

Manchester United Fergie

Fortunate to be level following a fast start by Wolves, United scored against the run of play with some sublime play between Pogba and new signing Fred. It wasn’t to last, however, as Wolves deservedly equalised early into the second half. Both sides could’ve won it but the the United manager’s assessment following a stalemate at full time was surprisingly honest, saying they deserved no more than they got.

But what exactly is the issue behind this exasperatingly poor start by the Red Devils?

Mourinho will point the bill straight upstairs. Having been denied the luxury of signing another defender this summer, he has had no qualms in showing his contempt at the lack of backing by his board this summer, in stark contrast to the previous two windows. It is an issue with clear implications on the pitch, however, with United keeping only a single clean sheet from six matches this season, against a struggling Burnley team at Turf Moor.

Defence isn’t the only problem for United though, with Alexis Sanchez still struggling to make an impact following his mid-season move from London. The Chilean was subbed off on the 63rd minute mark and following another sub-par performance, he is doing little at the moment to justify his tag of being the highest paid player in Premier League history. Indeed, he is yet to open his goal-scoring account in the league this season. An overhit freekick just prior to halftime summed up his United performances so far. Expected to be the final piece in United’s jigsaw, he has instead unsettled the team who by all accounts seemed far more cohesive prior to his arrival.

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford both form another part of an increasingly strange conundrum with Martial in the form of his life prior to Sanchez’s arrival, having scored all of his 9 goals in the Premier League last season before the former Arsenal man’s arrival at Old Trafford, the French forward was then forced into a positional change before being relegated to the bench altogether. Rashford, on the other hand, has yet to justify his enormous potential with both manager and the player himself being culpable of slowing his progress down, Mourinho often using him only as an impact substitute, owing largely to the fact that he has failed to take the opportunities afforded to him, the latest roadblock being his red card against Burnley.

The lack of a clear vision and identity is another major worry with players unsure of their roles in the final third. Against Wolves, they rarely looked like they knew what they wanted to do with the ball and conceding an equaliser only made matters worse as the team resorted to playing hoofball, Marouane Fellaini the chief protagonist in what was an unwatchable last half an hour. Each of their top six rivals are associated with a distinct philosophy but for all their resilience and grit, this United side seems far more reactive than pro-active in it’s approach to football.

Truth be told, defensive vulnerabilities and the lack of attacking fluidity are only the first hurdles to clear in what looks likely to be another below-par season at the Theatre of Dreams.

Public outbursts, ego clashes, a want-away superstar and an under-performing team all form part of the larger problem in what can only be described as the Manchester United soap opera.