Surrounded by legendary Red Devils David Beckham, Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, José Mourinho’s Manchester United arrived fashionably late to Old Trafford for yet another uninspiring performance.
Back in London, Paul Scholes watched from a television studio with the same tired expression as his former teammates. The Manchester United they remember, primed in their attack and agile on the defense remains solely in the memories of exasperated fans.
United’s second round of Champions League action could not have been more stale. Mou’s starting XI trickled onto their home pitch with fixed faces of discontent and looming defeat. The magic in Manchester had seen better days. The attack, as usual, was boring and tripe. The defense, thankfully, proved to be the difference maker between a clean sheet draw and another disappointing loss.
Here are three things we learned from Manchester United’s draw against Valencia.
The confidence of this team is all but shattered
Based on United’s form these last several matches, it is clear that this once dangerous offense has suddenly lost any desire to play to its potential. Romelu Lukaku, whose freshman season proved doubters questioning his lucrative contract, couldn’t even muster the energy to deliver for the full 90 minutes. The Belgian hasn’t been impressive in recent weeks, leaving many to wonder if he too has hit his ceiling. Despite a committed performance, Alexis Sánchez was short on intensity. Number 7 exited yet another match goalless, and the clock tracking when the Chilean will once again find the back of the net in a United shirt continues to run.
While not always the most polished on the field, it was refreshing to see the defense appear determined to stop Valencia’s attack. Luke Shaw, who has arguably endured the harshest treatment from his manager, was the most convincing player on the pitch. Once upon a time, finding a left-back reigned supreme at the top of United’s needs. With more consistency from the English international, after four years it looks like that task can be finally marked complete.
Class of 92 disapproval
Even in previous contentious moments, former United players have attempted to remain positive about the squad’s outlook. Now, even they cannot hide their disdain for Mourinho.
Midfielder Paul Scholes, who has taken to color commentary in his post-retirement years, had choice words for The Special One prior to yesterday’s match. Speaking to BT Sport, Scholes expressed frustration regarding Mou’s managerial style, especially his habit of directing blame to everyone besides himself.
“He’s coming out in press conferences and constantly having a go at players, he is having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants. I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he is embarrassing the club.”
Mourinho fired back at Scholes, stating that he is “not interested” in hearing critique from the former Class of ‘92 star.
Whether Mourinho chooses to accept the veteran’s assessment, Schole’s public dismay for the club he once donned a shirt for builds a stronger case against Mourinho’s future as manager.
Young boys deserve a chance
The presence of tall, physical midfielders is a definite advantage to United’s offense. However, it’s clear Nemanja Matić and Marouane Fellaini are not the midfield match that will earn points for this side. Their style is too similar, and when both are out of form, the rest of the squad suffers. Matić slightly holds a higher advantage in ball distribution, but it’s generally too safe for the kind of pressure United must place on their opponent’s defense.
New summer signing Fred showed flashes of brilliance when United drew against Wolves last month, nabbing his first Premier League and club goal. The Brazilian midfielder deserves more playing time than he is allowed, with Andreas Pereira completing that midfield three alongside Paul Pogba. They both performed well during the preseason friendlies, and could possibly find themselves as a first-team starters should Pogba and United part ways.
Manchester United have little time to dwell on last night’s results, as another season-defining match looms Saturday afternoon. While the draw technically shows improvement for the club score wise, there are plenty of missing factors that are still preventing José Mourinho and his squad from competing at the level expected of them.