1. Movement Up Front Creates Space… Would you believe
After weeks of pressure building against Romelu Lukaku, Mourinho finally decided to drop his £75 million man. Rashford was given the striker’s berth ahead of Lukaku on Sunday and although he didn’t see much of the ball, it was his movement off the ball and his runs in behind that provided Pogba, Martial and co with more space to operate behind him – which they took full advantage of.
A lot has been made of Lukakus condition of late and the recent photo comparisons between his current shape and that of when he signed for Everton, cut two very different figures. He looks two stone heavier now (genuinely) – albeit most of it probably muscle gain. But is this gain at all necessary? Even in contact sports nowadays, particularly in Rugby Union, there is an emphasis on speed and agility over physique – with many players looking to cut down to suit.
Whether Rashford is the right man to lead the line going forward is questionable – I for one would like to see Sanchez given a go at 9 – but one thing’s for sure, Lukaku needs a spell out of the side to get his body and mind right before he can be reconsidered to be our first-choice striker again.
2. Martial Finding Form
It is perhaps no coincidence that Anthony Martial is coming into this rich vein of form having been given a prolonged run in the side for the first time since Alexis Sanchez played the piano at Old Trafford last January (pretty much all Sanchez has done at the stadium). There is no doubt that Martial was the biggest loser from the Sanchez signing – and it could even have led to his departure during the summer window.
Prior to Sanchez’s signing, Martial was in a similar vein of form to now and had been awarded United’s Player of the Month in the January of Sanchez’s arrival, to compliment his September and October awards earned in the previous months.
As dismayed as he may have been to his cold shoulder treatment following Sanchez’s arrival, in truth there have been aspects to Martial’s game and general demeanour that have needed to improve. He worked hard on Sunday and showed good attitude throughout – all of which complimented the natural talent that we all know he has in abundance. His performance was reminiscent of Thierry Henry at times and if he keeps working hard/gets his attitude right, there is no reason why he can’t aim to reach similar heights down the line.
3. Paul Pogba: Flawed Genius
Pogba was brilliant on Sunday, to the point that even Graeme Souness thought so. However, in spite of his brilliance, there were still a couple of moments that somewhat shadowed the performance (as tends to happen).
The penalty run up wasn’t a big deal for me – had he scored it wouldn’t have been mentioned (although I’d prefer he went the conventional route next time). It was more the needless flick that led to Everton’s goal and the lack of discipline in terms of an actual set role working alongside the 9 other outfield players.
When I watch De Bruyne or Silva for City, they have a similar impact to Pogba going forward, however there’s a purpose behind it & it is underpinned by a discipline within a role within a system. Pogba just seems to do his own thing. As brilliant as he was, and can be, I would like to see Pogba become a more rounded team player that can perform like this week on week, without falling short on other areas.
I don’t want to take away from his performance too much but I can see why Mourinho gets frustrated with him – his potential is such that if he did add to his game to become a more rounded, disciplined player, he could soon become the best midfielder in the world.
4. Life in Lindelof yet?
I will admit that I wrote Victor Lindelof off as a United calibre defender long ago. He didn’t look like a defender at all at times last season. His last two performances however suggest that he might be about to show us the player Mourinho invested £35 million in.
Against Juventus, Lindelof looked assured and steady, with a steel edge that was only ever showcased while playing for Sweden. He then backed this up with another very assured performance on Sunday. Now, I know we shouldn’t be lauding two performances of this nature from a £35 million defender – as it should be par for the course – however given the defensive issues we have had over the past two years and the previous difficulties Lindelof faced, it is worth talking about.
It is worth remembering that Lindelof only turned 24 in the summer so he still has plenty of time on his hands. It is also worth noting that Lindelof generally plays very well for Sweden, with the experienced Andreas Granqvist alongside him. At United, he has never had a settled defensive partner beside him. Coupled with that, none of the other defensive options are leaders in the Granqvist mould, that would take the weight off him.
I wouldn’t regard the last two performances to be a turning point for Lindelof as yet, but the signs are certainly more positive than before.
5. Mourinho Trudges On
When reports emerged the night before the Newcastle match at the beginning of the month that Mourinho was to be sacked that weekend irrespective of the result, most would have found it hard to believe he would still be in the job come November.
As with Moyes and van Gaal, the press were seemingly briefed on the prospective sacking in advance of an official announcement being made – and it seemed for all the world that Mourinho would face the same fate as the other two.
Why he is still in the job is anyone’s guess – I’m sure that report would have been founded on solid information from solid sources. Perhaps it was the reaction from former players and the nature of the victory against Newcastle that bought Mourinho time. Either way, things have improved slightly since then. United were very good in large parts on Sunday and actually were half decent on the eye too.
How much time Mourinho is actually given is anyone’s guess though. The January window will be interesting – if he is heavily backed then it would signal support. Either way, in general it has been another dull start to the season and I for one wouldn’t shed much of a tear if he was given his marching orders soon. Results aside, the entertainment factor needs to return to Old Trafford – I think most of us have forgotten what it was like to begin with.