The Damned United?
It’s not hard to see why Jose Mourinho draws so many comparisons with Brian Howard Clough, with his quotable witticisms and willingness to seek out conflict and of course, his success. Especially his European achievements with Porto, on small resources. Today, there is something of Clough’s ill-feted spell at Leeds United in Mourinho’s start to life at in Manchester, or more accurately, David Peace’s fictional retelling of those forty-four days. Mourinho, holed up in a hotel room, away from his family in London, looks unhappy with life and uncertain in his role. Chopping and changing from game-to-game, struggling to get the best out of his players and find a winning formula. One goal in the last four league games and six points from twenty-one is troubling form. Mourinho’s personnel problems are also numerous, especially after Eric Bailly’s injury. Chiefly, United’s focal point upfront, Zlatan Ibrahimović, is barely a functioning human being now, never mind a striker. Mourinho needs to find a way out of this rut before he drifts into the theatre of the Moyesesque.
Heroic Heaton was right to leave United
There has been, in recent years, an emergence of former Carrington graduates going on to be successful elsewhere after looking like they wouldn’t do much at United. First Ryan Shawcross went to Stoke and was promptly excellent – at least for a while -, then Danny Drinkwater became a star player in a title winning team. Yesterday, Burnley rocked up with Michael Keane and Tom Heaton, both of whom have made the England squad. In the case of the latter, it wasn’t hard to see why Alex Ferguson apoplectic when Heaton informed him he wanted out. Sometimes for a player to develop, he needs to play regular competitive football. As much as we were all raging at his one-man war against goals at Old Trafford we should all be pleased for him and agree with his decision to leave. With David De Gea ahead of him and only the prospect of more loan spells on the table, Heaton’s chances of playing regularly for United were about slim and none. His stellar display on Saturday afternoon, capped a spell of form that vindicates his decision.
Juan Mata should always play
One United player not fruitlessly striving for good form, is the diminutive, inventive Spaniard Juan Mata. A man impossible to dislike and not just because of his genuinely sparkling personality but because he is a damn fine footballer. Leaving aside the extraordinary upturn in form United have when Mata starts, the stats from yesterday’s match alone make for incredible reading: 50 passes, 7 chances created, 6 shots on goals, 100% passing accuracy and 100% of tackles won. It would not be a stretch to say that Saturday’s captain for the day was not only United’s best player today, but has easily been United’s best player this season by lightyears. His manager may still not want him deep down – as the bizarre decision to substitute him hinted at – but he damn sure needs him right now. Without Mata, United lack any inventiveness, rhythm and creativity. Whatever Mourinho’s winning solution to the current malaise is, Mata must command, a key role.