Manchester United sits 16 points behind crosstown rival Manchester City with eight games remaining. Despite a pair of trophies coming to Old Trafford last year and an FA Cup semifinal date with Tottenham on the radar, the Red Devils have crashed out of the Champions League to Sevilla and were knocked out of the League Cup by Championship club Bristol City, a club that’s currently on the outside looking in for the promotion playoffs.
For most Premier League clubs that have suffered the way United has since the retirement of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, this would be seen as progress: a likely top four finish, potential silverware in the form of the FA Cup, and progression to the Champions League knockout round. Except this is Manchester United, a club that regularly progressed to the semifinals in Europe under Ferguson and has twenty top flight titles to its name. This is a club that is used to attacking football, playing with no fear and playing for the win, not hunkering down against the other top six clubs and looking for a win with a goal on the counter and the brilliance of its goalkeeper.
But that’s what this storied club has become after hiring “The Special One.” Jose Mourinho broke onto the scene by masterminding Porto’s unlikely run to Champions League glory in 2004 and then arrived at Chelsea, winning a title in his first season with a Premier League record 95 points amassed over the 38 games. He then went to Inter Milan and famously knocked Barcelona out of the Champions League in 2010, prompting Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes to take exception to his on pitch celebrations after a 1-0 loss at the Camp Nou put his club through 3-2 on aggregate.
He then led Real Madrid to become the first club in La Liga history to eclipse 100 points, once again challenging Barcelona at a time when the Catalan club looked poised to make any sort of match against them an afterthought. When Real let him go, he returned to London, guiding Chelsea to Premier League glory once again. But that is where his magic stopped. A disastrous title defense saw him sacked at Chelsea, and he then took over for Louis van Gaal at Manchester United and turned the Dutchman’s boring squad into… a boring squad with Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez on its payroll.
Now, Manchester United is considering distributing song sheets to improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford after Mourinho criticized the lack of noise at home matches. Once again, Mourinho shows his talent to shift blame onto others instead of taking responsibility himself. United supporters are used to the team playing with a swagger, to put on a show, create things.
Instead, United was outshot 23-6 by Tottenham at Wembley, lost 1-0 at St. James’ Park to a Newcastle team just three points from safety, were outshot by a Chelsea team that struggles to score, parked the bus against Liverpool at home, nearly lost to Crystal Palace, who is even closer to the drop zone than Newcastle, and were outclassed by a Sevilla side that’s in 6th place in Spain, 12 points out of the Champions League places. And somehow, Mourinho sees fit to call out the fans for a lack of noise.
Sanchez, Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and company should be thrashing the lesser Premier League clubs that come into Old Trafford. Fans cheer about goals. Instead of deflecting blame, Mourinho needs to be brave, chuck out his conservative system, and let the team attack. Manchester United should already regret the contract extension they offered, but they’re stuck with him now.