The chickens did not take long to come home to roost, did they?
We all knew it would only be a matter of time before United’s shambolic summer would start to hurt them badly, but few could have anticipated that it would manifest itself as early as the middle of August against Brighton.
On the whole, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof defended resolutely in United’s opening day victory against Leicester City. That early promise has been tarnished by an inability to handle Glenn Murray, a notoriously physical and archetypal target man but, at 34, hardly the unplayable specimen that those two made him out to be. It reminded me of the time a then powderpuff Gerard Pique was bullied by Kevin Davies at the Reebok, that was his obituary for United and the Premier League. Questions of Bailly’s and Lindelof’s durability will be asked over the course of this season, especially after this performance.
Prerequisites for any centre-back are sniffing out danger and not being rash, Lindelof letting Murray run across him, Bailly conceding a ridiculous corner and ean ven worse penalty put pay to those qualities. Bailly’s confidence, in particular, was visibly dented- the ball coming to him like a hot potato. For such a usually commanding and composed defender, it was very alarming.
When that is happening to your widely acknowledged best defender, that should be a real cause for concern. Of course, anyone can have a disaster of a game, but when you consider the pool of centre-back alternatives United have, it has well and truly exposed shortcomings ANY football viewer, let alone United fans could see.
Let’s say one, if not both, of Bailly and Lindelof, are withdrawn from the line up, Mourinho can only feasibly turn to Smalling, Jones and Rojo, all of whom have not won the trust of Mourinho and hardly inspire confidence. Harry Kane must be licking his lips at the prospect of facing this United defence on Bank Holiday Monday.
Ed Woodward’s face was a picture at full-time: One of ‘hey I know I’ve effed up here lads’. But hey, Mourinho doesn’t need his transfer targets, as long as we are securing those tractor and noodle deals, everything is hunky dory.
Let’s get one thing straight here, you can moan all you want at Mourinho’s style, demeanour and tactics, but for as long as United prioritise commercial rather than on field success, we will not achieve our objectives or return to the heights we want to return to.
Things are no doubt exacerbated by Liverpool’s strengthening and City blitzing all in front of them just hours earlier, but the failings are not just related to over the white line, they come from higher up too and that cannot be ignored. I know Mourinho has had a lot of backing in his two seasons in charge and yes he has great players to work with, but if he cannot be given players in critical areas to complete the jigsaw and process, in this of all seasons then aren’t we on a hiding to nothing before the business end of the season has already been reached?
The on field shambles was not just exclusive to the failings of our centre-backs, the general attitude of the players was wholly unacceptable. When the captain, who is preoccupied with cryptic messages, openly admits that his attitude was not right, then that rubs off onto the other players and is not fitting of a captain. Paul Scholes seemed to hint that United should have given Pogba the armband when he arrived in 2016, I’m sorry but a skipper grabs a game by the scruff of the neck and rallies the troops when the chips are down. But again, that’s ok as long as he is liaising with his agent about abandoning ship and getting his #pogfeelings out there. Give me strength!
Attitude and character is half the battle on the field, it’s amazing what can be achieved with unity, perspiration and effort. These are the bare minimum expectations when your team steps onto the field, if you have quality too that’s even better. Fact is, Brighton had spades more character, effort and desire than United, they wanted to win the game and got what they just deserved.
United are playing catch up already and have to put in a response against Spurs on Monday before people start talking about their season descending into farce before it has barely even kicked off.
Wake up and smell the coffee boys and girls, this could get ugly.