The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ has not made the ideal start to life at Old Trafford, evidently shown during the four nil disaster at former club Chelsea. Only six points off the top of the lead at the top of the Premier League, the criticism of Mourinho and the club is to say over the top would be an understatement. The one issue that has to come into light is the style and manner in which the club is performing at is supremely below par and far from pleasing on the eye, but that is not unusual under the style we have become known towards with clubs under the leadership of Mourinho. Clearly the group of players at the club are still under a watchful eye from Mourinho and he is still learning about his group, but what cannot be deemed acceptable from an observer is how fundamentally unbalanced this team looks right now and in truth since the beginning of the season.
When Manchester United opened their business in the summer of adding Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it was clear to see the intentions of Mourinho and the club in terms of bringing success back to the club. While we are only in October, the debate surrounding who should play in the Manchester United attack has dominated a lot of the talk amongst fans and areas of the media, but the one area that the team looks underwhelming right now is in the heart of their midfield. When Pogba returned to Old Trafford for his world record transfer breaking sum it became important to get the best out of their man, so why has Mourinho decided to use Pogba as a two man midfield? The Frenchman is supremely talented and has pace and power to drive at teams and importantly move his team further up the pitch, but he is so poor with his positional discipline to play in this area, unless perhaps he had the re-assurance that he had a strong, ball winning defensive shield alongside him, and this season it is safe to say he hasn’t. Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera have been the two men favoured by Mourinho alongside Pogba and the team has a clear unbalance.
Herrera has had an indifferent time at Old Trafford, he has had some stand out games in the colours of Manchester United, but he is actually perhaps similar to Pogba in terms of defensively he is not disciplined enough to play as a two man midfield. Fellaini is a player that fans love to hate, he keeps the ball very well when in the heart of the midfield and we all know about his strengths in the air, but he is not a ball winner, he is not a creator and he does not cover enough ground across the pitch, another midfield player not ideal to play in the formation Mourinho favours the 4-2-3-1. So what does Mourinho try next? Well Morgan Schneiderlin is perhaps better defensively in the heart of a midfield and could provide the back four of the team more protection, but since his move from Southampton he has found it difficult at Old Trafford. Michael Carrick is still the best ball player the team has at the age of 35, but again he isn’t a ball winner and doesn’t win enough second balls in the midfield. Could Bastian Schweinsteiger make a return from the cold? That is certainly an option personally I would consider if was in the position of Jose Mourinho. If Eric Bailly hadn’t suffered his knee injury against Chelsea which looks to keep him out for at least a month, then could Daley Blind have returned to perhaps his best position in the heart of the midfield, again another option that would be better than what Mourinho has at his disposal currently? Mourinho may need to look at the possibility of now playing a 3 man midfield until perhaps January, with the lack of a defensive shield in that midfield right now, releasing Pogba from a deeper position with Carrick and Schneiderlin alongside him would add a better balance to this team, an issue which strikes me as unusual for a Jose Mourinho team.
When Manchester United fans and Jose Mourinho consider the deals went on around them in the summer for the modern day holding midfielders they will certainly feel like they missed a step with some of them. Every top side in Europe will undoubtedly play with a man to protect their backline, and nine times out of ten they would be considered the unsung heroes of these sides. Sergio Busquets at Barcelona is perhaps the best example in the modern game. When Mourinho witnesses N’Golo Kante moving to Chelsea for around 30 million, and Grzegorz Krychowiak the highly regarded Polish international moving to PSG for a reported fee of around 26 million Euro’s, he has to be looking at two players that he should perhaps have pursued to add extra quality to this group of players he has at Old Trafford. Now it would seem that Mourinho has to know who perhaps he could be moving on, so surely adding a top holding midfielder will be at the top of his agenda, alongside adding more quality to his central defence perhaps.
I would expect Mourinho to be looking for players with pedigree and an experience already to add to the key area of the pitch where they are suffering badly. Potential moves for players could involve their long-time pursuit of injury prone Kevin Strootman from Roma who when fit is amongst the best in the world in this position. Could Mourinho potentially make a shock move for the unglamorous John Obi Mikel a player he knows well and is one of his trusted players? Blaise Matuidi was linked with the club at the back end of the transfer window, could Mourinho look to link up Pogba with his international teammate? Personally I believe Mourinho should look at William Carvalho of Sporting, the Portuguese International is 24 now and has been highly regarded for a number of years now, what he lacks in terms of quality on the ball he certainly makes up for in his reading of the game, winning second balls and his power in driving his team from the back and moving the ball quickly. The unglamorous style of Carvalho is the perfect foil to add the limelight to Pogba and would provide the backline of Manchester United with significant protection which so far this season they have severely lacked.