Wednesday 18 September 2019

One dimensional Manchester United have become hard work for everyone involved

Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini cut frustrated figures after the stalemate against Crystal Palace. Photo: REUTERS
Manchester United’s Anthony Martial, Alexis Sanchez and Marouane Fellaini cut frustrated figures after the stalemate against Crystal Palace. Photo: REUTERS

Luke Edwards

It can no longer be avoided, the reality cannot be ignored, this is what Manchester United have become. This is what they are.

Another disappointment, another substandard performance, inevitably led to another provocative Jose Mourinho monologue. There were more complaints about his players, more questions about their heart. A suggestion, not for the first time, that they do not care enough.

There are more excuses, there is more bewilderment, more disillusionment and, while it all unfolds, the supporters lose a little more faith in him as a manager and a little more respect for those he is tasked to lead.

United are a club caught in a trap, thrashing around, occasionally showing fight, raising the possibility of escape, but it does not last.

The away win over Juventus in the Champions League, the comebacks against Newcastle United and Bournemouth, were encouraging, but we always come back to this sort of clueless, one-paced, one-dimensional display that makes United so bland and ordinary.

The worst thing you can say about what happened against Crystal Palace is that it was not a surprise. Nobody is shocked. This is normality. This is Manchester United.

They played like it under David Moyes, something similar happened under Louis van Gaal and they are now heading the same way under Mourinho.

Millions of pounds spent on players, an eye-watering wage bill, and for what? A team who stumble and stutter, an unoiled machine, the parts grinding and clunking together in ugly discord.

United cannot win the Premier League. You cannot predict with any degree of confidence that they will be champions of England again any time soon. They are a team trying to win a cup competition.

They have gone backwards this season, too predictable and too easy to frustrate.

Palace exploited it, leaving Old Trafford with the strange feeling of disappointment that they were only taking a point home. Palace have not beaten United in the league since 1991, but came close.

United have good players, star names, but they are not performing as they should. It is a problem encapsulated by Paul Pogba, an £89 million signing who always seems to be playing like he is in a training session rather than a match.

"There are 75,000 people here who are used to watching a very good team play with very good players," said Palace manager Roy Hodgson, as he tried to be diplomatic.

"They have enormous strength in depth. So, they're not exactly... the atmosphere, the fact that so much has been done over the years here to make Manchester United what Manchester United are, no team is ever going to come here without a certain fear factor."

Maybe, but it is not what it once was. Despite some good saves by Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, particularly when keeping out Romelu Lukaku's header in the second-half, this was too comfortable for the visitors.

"We knew the period we had all the way until Christmas, there were so many home games that three points had to be a must," said United defender Chris Smalling.

"So, whether it had been one point or no points, it might as well be a loss."

Mourinho bristled, but mainly looked resigned to the fact he will probably be saying the same things again soon.

"Of course, this was a bad result," he moaned. "I would say a very bad result. We gave them time to breathe because we were not intense. We were waiting for things to happen and things didn't happen. We gave them periods to feel like they were in control."

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