Five things Jose Mourinho should worry about instead of Manchester City's spending
Jose Mourinho managed to combine his two favourite things this week in wake of scraping a draw at home to Burnley.
First, he made the subtle (as a sledgehammer) dig at his superiors in a bid to get what he wants - namely, in this case, a boatload of new, expensive players.
Then he utilised the tried and trusted ‘look over there!' defence, dragging Manchester City's spending into analysis of his club's performance this season.
Of course, what United's cross-town rivals has very little to do with the Old Trafford club failing to beat Burnley at home so we compiled a handy list of things Jose should concentrate on rather than that blue team down the road:
1. Teaching his team to defend crosses
Granted, Marc Albrighton's soaring, dipping, swirling parabola that enabled Harry Maguire to equalise at the death of United's draw with Leicester City was about as perfect a cross as you'll see.
But Jose Mourinho's sides have always been defensively-sound teams who can win narrow games. Recently, they have looked unreliable at both ends of the field and particularly at the back, where defending crosses from wide has cost them in consecutive games.
Ashley Barnes' goal for Burnley was described as "s***" by Mourinho this week, though that particular adjective is surely only applicable to the defending from his rag-tag bunch of multi-millionaires.
"Clear it! Clear it! Get it out! Oh…."
2. A lack of coherent recruitment strategy
The latest strategic word hissing from the Mourinho camp focuses on Ed Woodward's poor record in the transfer market.
As the most senior footballing executive in the club - a damning commentary on the management structure of Manchester United, perhaps - Mourinho has sway in transfer dealings and has not failed to have his voice heard on signings.
It is true that recruitment prior to his arrival has been poor, but there is also a feeling that many of these players could have succeeded if they hadn't been at the club in a period of such tumult. From Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes to Louis van Goal to Mourinho is a wild ride and it would be no surprise if talent had fallen through the cracks.
When Mourinho first arrived there was talk of a sporting director being brought in, which would undoubtedly be a positive step for Manchester United. But that target was Andrea Berta, who eventually would receive a promotion and hefty pay rise from Atletico Madrid to stay in the Spanish capital and, given that one of his principle strengths is that he has a good relationship with Jorge Mendes, probably isn't necessarily needed at a club where Mendes already has a pretty strong grip.
Of course, Mino Raiola's mad summer of fleecing United will live long in the memory (and, for some, the bank account) but if the club could come together to form some sort of cohesive recruitment strategy then it would quite clearly benefit the squad that Mourinho has both publicly and privately derided as not being up to standard.
3. What his scouts are doing
This is, in part, linked into the club's recruitment strategy as a whole.
But Manchester United's constant search for superstars has meant a certain negligence when it comes to signing value players to compete for places. There was a time, under a previous regime, when this club would buy players like Diego Forlan from Independiente or Javier Hernandez from Chivas.
They are a club with the wealth and infrastructure to scout markets like Argentina, Mexico and wherever else better than any of their rivals and yet they have got sloppy, partly because of changing personnel in the scouting network and partially due to attitudes at the top of the club.
Forlan and Hernandez, to use two random examples, were both players bought cheaply who United made a profit on after they had contributed to the first team. It is a simple process but, instead, the Old Trafford club has turned to the Premier League and major European divisions to fill out their squad in recent seasons.
It has meant failed dalliances with Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and more.
Some sources suggest that part of United's failure is the increasing presence of clubs like City, Barcelona and Real Madrid in what were previously emerging markets. Others say that there have simply been a few duds, like Chilean youngster Angelo Henriquez.
But while it is all well and good to say Manchester United have so much money that it doesn't matter how they spend it, the main point of having a good scouting network is to find and secure diamonds in the rough, like Gabriel Jesus. City have now secured one of the best young strikers on the planet for the prime of his career for relatively little cash, allowing themselves to free up money for other positions. As Jose noted, that includes full-back.
4. Extra finishing sessions for his attackers
Even before Jesse Lingard performed his local hero act, dragging Manchester United out of a 2-0 hole at home to the Clarets, the midfielder had managed to miss a point-blank chance when it was easier to score than not.
Perhaps he was just getting in on the act to make his fellow attackers feel better?
United were even more profligate against Leicester City and should have run out easy winners if they hadn't spurned a number of chances.
Four points dropped in three days has had more to do with poor finishing than almost any other factor.
5. Those defensive instincts
As much as that Leicester game should have been settled by his attackers, the way that Manchester United receded into their shell is a concern - and so unshakeably typical of the Portuguese. As a rule, United fans have backed Mourinho when he's gone into big games with a conservative gameplan - notably against City and Liverpool.
But against Leicester, trying to hold onto a 2-1 lead cost his team at a time when they don't even have the defensive solidity to be able to trust themselves to hold out.
Eric Bailly's return from injury will no doubt be a help but for now it's Lindelof, Smalling, Jones and Rojo. United's best players are all at the other end of the pitch but that is rarely reflected in their gameplan.
Independent News Service