Manchester United lost their second consecutive away match in Premier League, after a narrow 1-0 defeat at the hands of Newcastle United. Jose Mourinho continued his poor results at St James’ Park against Magpies, while United continued showing why they are so far from the levels of Manchester City.
Everything and everyone will now be looked at in comparison to Pep Guardiola’s side and club of Man United’s stature must strive to reach those heights in the future. Yet, there have been some problems appearing over and over again and Jose Mourinho must address them sooner rather than later.
This is the one most people have been talking about recently. That is because this is one of the most glaring, eye-catching ones. Everyone is looking at Pogba, as one of the players that get a lot of attention. And he deserves that. Yet, Mourinho is not using him in a way that will get the most out of him. Once again the manager played in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Pogba playing alongside Nemanja Matic.
That is a problem for several reasons. First of them is, as Graeme Souness pointed out on Sunday, he does not have the control in his game to be playing so deep. That is why Matic, a player who is relying more on his calmness, is doing much better than many years ago when he was attacking midfielder. Pogba also cannot be the no. 10 behind Romelu Lukaku, as he thrives when having a lot of space, not when he is congested in tight areas.
Mourinho therefore must use a 4-3-3 formation if he is to get the best out of the Frenchman. In such a formation, Pogba would have the freedom to roam around and space to do so, while having two central midfielders next to him to do the work he does not enjoy.
This is a big one, but also a basic one. Look at the top six sides. Three of them are doing amazing things this season when going forwards. Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool are those teams and they are easy to distinguish from United, Chelsea and Arsenal by one thing – attacking organization.
All three of those teams know exactly what they need to do in final third (although Liverpool can still struggle against deeper defences, their attacking results are overall much better than some other sides) and have their own style. Tottenham and Liverpool press, while City (and Spurs as well) like keeping the ball close to opposition’s box. Yet, Manchester United seem to be relying on individualism too much. The team has some great players individually, but more cohesion is necessary to be score lots of goals on a regular basis.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling had another bad display on Sunday and Phil Neville was not satisfied with what he had seen.
“The last two away games, they have been a disaster. Against Newcastle did they make many mistakes? No, but they created a nervousness and tension. They were making decisions all day where you were thinking, ‘what are you doing?”
Neville has a point. Jones and Smalling are not players United should rely on for longer periods of the season, while Eric Bailly is the only centre-back at this squad that plays constantly at the highest level. Victor Lindelof might become a great centre-back, but that is all in the future. Right now, United lack proper options and Jose must show more urge to fixing this problem.
Last summer only Lindelof arrived. This coming June and July it will be a negative surprise if the board brings in only one central defender.