Anyone who tuned in to one of the ubiquitous post-match radio phone-in shows last weekend would have heard a presenter suggest to a panel of distinguished ex-players that after the win over Spurs, there was every likelihood that Manchester United would go on a long unbeaten run, and even that they shouldn’t be discounted from the title race. Even worse, they all agreed with him.
Excuse me, but have they been watching a different team to the rest of us? It’s not just that United are a country mile off the pace in terms of points – it’s more about a squad that simply isn’t good enough, and a delusional manager who thinks that it is.
At the start of the season United were a heavy punted 5/2 second favourite with Sun Bets after they employed the “Special One” Jose Mourinho into the Old Trafford hotseat and spent millions on new recruitments. Approaching Christmas the former Chelsea boss has a similar record to United flop David Moyes and his side are out to 28/1 in the latest Premier League betting.
Already this season, Jose Mourinho has seen his side humiliated at Chelsea and humbled at home by arch rivals City. And yet he tells us, without a hint of humour, that his team are “the unluckiest in the country”. Like the poacher who pleads his innocence with a freshly killed pheasant under his jacket, the Special One is surely in denial.
And there have been plenty of other bumps in the road too: The Fergie team would never have allowed Arsenal to effectively pilfer a point with a goal at the death at Old Trafford. And how often can you remember Sir Alex bringing on a late substitute who self-combusted the way Marouane Fellaini did at Goodison Park?
Of course it would be churlish not to accept that there are some encouraging signs. Henrikh Mikhitaryan is finally showing us his Bundesliga form and there’s no question that getting Zlatan Ibrahimovic on a “free” was a great piece of business. They also have a world class goalkeeper and strikers Martial and Rashford have shown plenty of promise… albeit a little too sporadically for Jose’s liking.
There are, however, far too many players about whom the jury is still out. Darmian, Rojo and Blind to name but three, and then there’s the Rooney issue… which the Portuguese doesn’t seem anywhere near able to solve other than naming him on the bench every week.
The Red Devils are still in the Europa League and have a favourable home draw in the 3rd round of the FA Cup. But winning either, or both, of those competitions still won’t cut it… especially if, as seems hugely possible, they miss out on a top four spot.
So whatever the phone-in hosts might think, surely it’s not about winning the League for Mourinho… it’s simply about doing enough to stay in his job long enough to have another crack at it next season.