The International break is seen as an absolute waste of time for some people in the football world. A frustrating pause where the fast paced, free flowing, and breathtaking nature of club football is swapped for the drab, meaningless friendlies of International football. However, for some figures such as Jose Mourinho, it could not have come at a better time.
Manchester United go into the break on the back of some shocking and very disappointing results, having made all their progress in a magnificent start to the season look pointless now. All their flair and attacking prowess that were on full display during their run of consecutive 4-0 wins has seemingly disappeared of late, and Mourinho knows that he cannot allow this to continue.
Manchester City have taken full advantage of United’s failings, and have raced away into an 8-point lead at the top of the table. If United don’t fix things as soon as possible, they may be forced to watch their neighbours run away with the title. With this in mind, Mourinho has four things he has got to fix if he is to cut the deficit and lead his side to the Premier League title, according to Manchester Evening News.
1. Get the injured players fit.
MEN believe that Mourinho has to work in tandem with his medical team during the break and ensure the return of a number of key players that have been out with injuries, but have been scheduled to return for a while now. Paul Pogba has been out of action since September, while Marcos Rojo has not played since rupturing his ACL last season.
However, Marouane Fellaini did return to the fold against Chelsea, and Mourinho must work to ensure that these players are up to full fitness sooner rather than later, as the ever-congested Christmas period approaches.
2. Restore Mkhitaryan’s confidence.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has looked well out of sorts recently. Having made a blistering start to the season, the Armenian has dramatically faded over the last month or so, and his form has been a source of frustration and concern for United and their fans. He looked woefully lost during the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea, and had less touches than goalkeeper David De Gea.
Mkhitaryan is one of the most creative playmakers in Europe on his day, and when he is not firing, it affects the way Romelu Lukaku plays, and the whole team suffers from a lack of productivity up front as well. This is a major worry, and will hinder United in the weeks to come if Mourinho doesn’t figure out what is wrong with his star and how to fix him.
3. Take a closer look at the contract situation.
Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Ashley Young, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, and Sam Johnston are all approaching the final months of their deals at Old Trafford, but there has been no news or suggestion of a contract renewal being prepared for any one of those players. All of them have an option for a one-year extension inserted into their current deal, and it seems likely that United will trigger this option for each of them.
However, MEN point out that Marouane Fellaini’s failure to commit to the club will be a big cause for concern. The Belgian has been a crucial member of the squad lately, and had his best season at Old Trafford a year ago. Mourinho trusts the towering midfielder more than one can imagine, and he would not like to see the player leave the club while he is in charge. If they do want him to stay, the club officials need to convince him better than they have so far.
4. Reconsider his approach to big games.
Having scored 32 goals in their first 10 games of the season, everyone expected United to walk onto the Anfield turf and expose every inch of Liverpool’s weak defense by tearing them to shreds. However, that didn’t happen at all, and instead, the Red Devils opted for a woefully drab, defensive approach to the game that only yielded a point.
As MEN rightfully pointed out, Mourinho’s last 10 games away from home against the ‘big six’ have seen his side score only 1 goal in 5 draws and 5 defeats. Against Chelsea, his side showed slightly more intent, but was just not good enough. Anthony Martial was still not given the nod to start with Marcus Rashford, and the lack of inventiveness and quality in the final third was more than evident.
The issue is, Manchester City walked into Stamford Bridge and blew Chelsea off the pitch. They tore Arsenal apart 3-1 and demolished Liverpool 5-0. If United are to stand a chance of winning the league, they know that these games cannot just keep slipping them by, and they need to take them by the scruff of the neck like their ‘noisy neighbours’.
It will have to start with Arsenal in December, followed by a vital clash against their cross-town rivals City. If they do not win those games, they are pretty much out of the title race, and Mourinho must be aware of this.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.