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27th Aug 2018

Jose Mourinho was right about United’s biggest problem, but he’s not the right man for job

Robert Redmond

Time appears to be running out for Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United suffered a 3-0 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night at Old Trafford. After encouraging opening half, where they had several chances to score, United fell behind just after half-time.

Harry Kane guided a wonderful header past David de Gea from a Spurs corner and then, two minutes later, Lucas Moura doubled Tottenham’s lead. Christen Eriksen drifted behind the ramshackle United defence, finding acres of space and cut back for the Brazilian forward to finish through Ander Herrera’s legs and past De Gea. Lucas made it 3-0 five minutes from full-time.

The energy was sapped from United and Old Trafford from the moment they went behind.

Jose Mourinho sent-on Marouane Fellaini, Alexis Sanchez and Victor Lindelof, but to no avail. United have now lost back to back Premier League games. We’re still in August, yet it feels like Mourinho is already on borrowed time at Old Trafford.

Some might argue that there is no shame in losing to a talented team such as Tottenham, and that’s true, of course. But this defeat felt significant. Not only were United devoid of ideas when they fell behind, there was no sense that they even believed they could draw level with Spurs.

United chasing a lead under Alex Ferguson was one of the most thrilling sights in football. It felt like they didn’t lose, that they just ran out of time. United in the same position under Mourinho is almost pitiful. They were lethargic and insipid, playing as if they were merely going through the motions until the final whistle puts them out of their misery.

At this point, it’s difficult to imagine that Mourinho’s post-match shock therapy will have any effect on them. They’ve heard it all before and it clearly isn’t working.

However, Mourinho may even point to this result as proof that he was right throughout the summer. United’s defence was almost laughably bad at times. Meanwhile, one of the defenders he had wanted to sign – Toby Alderweireld – coasted through the game for Spurs, showing that he is one of the Premier League’s best defenders.

The result possibly proves that United manager isn’t the right man for the job – something that should have been apparent a long time ago – but it also proves he was right about his squad. United’s defence did need to be upgraded and it has needed it for quite some time.

Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Lindelof and Ander Herrera – who was strangely playing in defence – combined to put on a horror show. Jones was pushed out of the way for Kane’s goal, Lindelof somehow managed to make the United backline more nervous when he came on and Herrera had no business playing in defence.

Smalling was arguably the pick of the bunch – and not in a good way. The former England defender sums up the mess United are currently in and their stagnation since Ferguson left in 2013. Smalling won a league title under the Scot and was seen as a long-term replacement for Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. That now seems ludicrous.

Smalling appears terrified when in possession. It would be difficult to find another Premier League player who looks so uncomfortable on the ball. The inability of him and Jones to pass out from the defence meant United were forced to go back to De Gea, who then lumped it long.

After investing hundreds of millions in new players and hiring three new managers since Ferguson left, to still have Jones and Smalling in defence sums up the muddled approach the club has had over the last five years.

Mourinho was right to push for better defenders in the summer, even if it was him who signed Eric Bailly and Lindelof. However, he’s also the wrong man for the job. Mourinho doesn’t seem capable of improving the players at his disposal and hasn’t been backed to sign the players he wants. This can only end one way now.