Juventus come away from Old Trafford tonight with a 1-0 win, but in truth that scoreline flattered Man Utd. It was embarrassing at times. We saw another very poor performance throughout, but at least in the second half they put in some sort of effort.
The first half was a weak, scared and cowardly performance. After the match, Luke Shaw rather tactfully said he thought “we paid them too much respect” but that is obviously the understatement of the year. United were shit scared. They backed off and let Juve play, seemingly content to try to keep them out. That cannot be acceptable.
Yes, of course Juve are a very good team. But this is Manchester United! We’re talking about one of the biggest clubs in the world, and certainly the richest. Playing at home. A club that’s spent hundreds of millions over the last few years, looking like a Championship side trying to keep the bigger team at bay.
It was quite poignant listening to Paul Scholes at half time. Never one to hold back, his honesty is refreshing. “You have to ask, is Mourinho happy with that? Maybe he is” said Scholes, and he might just be spot on. This attitude has to come from the manager. It keeps on happening, game after game, and that can’t be by accident.
But who is to blame?
Some people like to point the finger at Ed Woodward for not backing Mourinho over the summer in the transfer market. There’s some merit in that, although he’s been backed massively in previous windows and not managed to improve the squad at all. If a manager has squandered so much money before, would you keep giving him more?
Others blame the players. Again, there is some merit in that. It’s not their fault that some of them aren’t good enough though. All you can ask is that they do their best. That said, it was another lazy and disinterested performance from some, particularly Romelu Lukaku.
You can’t blame him for not being able to control the ball, and causing so many attacks to break down due to his awful first touch. But you can ask him to be more aggressive and use the attributes he does have to better help the team.
It’s not only down to Lukaku, but he’s a major factor. His stats are good and he’ll score plenty of goals against weaker Premier League teams, but against the best he’s found wanting time and time again. He is not a top level player and not good enough for a team like United.
Of course, it was Mourinho that signed him, and also several of the other players who he has since undermined, stripped them of their confidence, and left them out of the team or the squad.
A manager’s job is to make the team greater than the sum of its parts, and then to work on improving those parts in training or replacing them in the transfer market. What Mourinho does is create a team that plays well below its potential, and then seeks to buy his way out of the situation, complaining to anyone who’ll listen when he doesn’t get his way.
So it’s hard to put your finger on the cause of the problem when it seems that all components are contributing. Something needs to change, but perhaps everything needs to change. If things continue this way, expect a big clear out and major changes at the club next summer.
Because this just is not good enough for a club of this size, and it can’t continue.