Manchester United’s away fixture at Huddersfield was expected to be a routine Premier League job for the Red Devils. Instead, it has proved to be a key point in the Red Devils’ season.
No one believed that United would drop points at the Kirklees Stadium, but they didn’t just do that, they lost 2-1 against a Terriers’ side which performed very well throughout the game.
The first thing to say is that Man United have nothing to be ashamed for as the Premier League is obviously a competition in which any team could win in any fixture. Chelsea have already been humiliated twice this season – at home against Burnley and during their short trip to Selhurst Park, where the team with zero points, Crystal Palace, scored their first goals of the season and won their first points against Antonio Conte’s team.
No world-class players in this Man United side?
There are at least two major problems that Jose Mourinho has to deal with if he wants to win the Premier League. The first major problem is that Man United lack world-class players in their squad.
Against the Terriers, United played with De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Jones and Young as the back four, Herrera and Matic as holding midfielders, Mata, Lingard and Martial as offensive midfielders and one striker – Romelu Lukaku.
Does anyone really think that this Manchester United side is capable of competing successfully in the Champions League where most world-class players are? I don’t think so and the reason is very simple. Besides De Gea, there are no world-class players in this Red Devils’ squad.
Let’s use Jamie Carragher’s definition for a “world-class player”; one which he used to explain why Harry Kane is still yet to become a world-class striker.
“Too many players are given this tag, but we should pause before handing out such lavish compliments. That is why I do not agree with those arguing Harry Kane is a world-class footballer. He isn’t. Not yet. My criteria for world class status are stricter than excelling in the Premier League, no matter how long Kane terrorises defences domestically. World class players are those who deliver in the post-Christmas stage of the Champions League, shining in the quarter-finals and beyond. World class players are those who deliver at major international tournaments.”
Carragher simply suggests that a world-class player is one who has always won or is on their way to winning any major tournament. If his definition of “world-class players” is correct, then Manchester United players are either already there as they won the UEFA Europa League last season, or are at least at the final step to becoming world-class.
However, in reality, the only Man United player except for David De Gea who can be considered as world-class is Juan Mata. Mata has been part of teams who have won the Champions League and the World Cup and despite the fact that he has never won the Premier League or La Liga, he is still a top player. Unfortunately, it was Jose Mourinho who has lowered his development as a player in Chelsea by restricting his game and subsequently sold him to Manchester United.
The only other world-class player that United have in their squad at the moment is Zlatan Ibrahimović and they need him badly if they want to win any trophy this season. To be fair to United, I must say that the injured Paul Pogba is another player, who can become world-class soon
Boring, Boring United?
I have had a chance to mention in another Manchester United focused review that Jose Mourinho is killing the Red Devils aura by using very defensive tactics. It is not about a tactical decision to “park the bus” against a strong and technically superior side, as Mourinho did against Barcelona when he was in charge of Chelsea. Here in United, it is about imposing a playing style and football philosophy which is has nothing to do with United’s football culture.
Sir Alex Ferguson was familiar with his tactical decisions to play with defensively orientated formations in the big Premier League derbies. These tactics allowed his Man United side not to lose against their title rivals. Ferguson employed defensive tactics into most of the big Premier League games, but his team was attacking minded in all other fixtures.
It is the opposite for Jose Mourinho’s Red Devils. Jose’s United are a defensively orientated team who came to 20 points so far this season by exploring the weaknesses of the opposite sides. They play with two holding midfielders in the likes of Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera. The only other top Premier League side that uses similar tactics are Chelsea and it’s so far proving to be a bad formula so far this season.
It is too early to judge Manchester United and to make any major statements about their game. They have a world-class manager! However, his playing style represents a downgrade to Manchester United’s philosophy. Unfortunately for United fans, since Jose Mourinho has come to the club, he has been turning United from a team that looks forward to a defensively-minded side.