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26th Dec 2016

Two stupid Jose Mourinho decisions are the only reason Man Utd are out of the title race

And everyone else could see it all along.

Conan Doherty

Manchester United are flying. Manchester United are, dare say it, back.

They’re looking more and more like Manchester United but who cares anymore? It’s too bloody late.

They’re winning all these games – at last – but they’re making no inroads. United have won four in a row but Chelsea have won 12 – big deal. Manchester City were said to be in crisis and they’ve maintained a six-point buffer between their local rivals and, Jesus Christ, even Arsenal have managed to win and stay in front of them.

Mourinho looks to have at last managed to get a team firing – albeit against lesser opposition – but he’s done it when they’re 13 points behind in the title race and the reality is that this is all his fault.

The Portuguese native inherited one of the best – if not the best – squads in the Premier League and he made a right dog’s dinner of it with some early season decisions. Antonio Conte, contrarily, had two really bad results, he changed things immediately and it never happened again.

Jose Mourinho doesn’t change things though. He has a Plan A and, basically, his Plan B is this: If Plan A doesn’t work, make it bloody work.

Now it looks as if the rest of this domestic season is cursed because of a stiff attitude of the manager and some pretty bad choices – two of them more unforgivable than the rest.

Marouane Fellaini

What was the thinking here? Really?

Marouane Fellaini is like the fifth best defensive midfielder at Old Trafford. The fact that Michael Carrick wasn’t there from the start is unjustifiable. He’s a better footballer and he’s a better defensive option and the difference in the team since he has come in isn’t shocking at all – it’s what everyone knew would happen.

Ander Herrera’s stats put Fellaini to shame. So does his general play.

Morgan Schneiderlin is a better option. Bastian Schweinsteiger would’ve been too but he was completely frozen out.

There are four midfielders that would laugh at the prospect of someone like Marouane Fellaini taking their place in that role. The Belgian is fifth in line of defensive midfielders – defensive midfielders that we know of. We don’t know if any of the rest of the squad could do a better job there but we can maybe presume so. We haven’t seen Valencia play there. We haven’t seen Martial play there. They’d probably be more impressive than Fellaini but we’ll never know.

Wayne Rooney

This shoe-horning of what was once a legend into the team has held United back for most of the season.

It didn’t matter where, everyone just wanted to see the Englishman in the 11 because he used to be good five years ago.

Rooney was brilliant back then – as a striker. But now everyone has apparently accepted that he could play any role he wants to ahead of any of these great players lining the United squad. Mourinho obviously bought it as well.

Playing Rooney and banishing Henrikh Mkhitaryan to the wilderness for months must’ve been one of the most frustrating aspects of any United manager’s tenure since Alex Ferguson. There was no reason for it. Mkhitaryan is a super player, Rooney isn’t. Mkhitaryan could play in midfield, Rooney couldn’t.

This idea that the Armenian wasn’t ready or that the manager timed his run into the starting team to perfection is pure bollocks. Mkhitaryan is deadly – any failure to see that effect translate from Germany to England is solely the manager’s fault.

You have a good player: so manage him and get him to play good football. That’s the most fundamental principle of any coaching job.

Because of these decisions to consistently play Rooney and Fellaini, Mourinho hamstrung himself and United fell out of the race. The worst of it is that he still has these inklings. Bringing on Fellaini against Everton wasn’t the worst of it – he’s continued to do it; he did it against Sunderland on Monday when the visitors hadn’t even registered a shot. Yet somehow the Belgian’s inclusion would stabilise the team?

Because of those ideas – if you want to call them that – United’s XI went from this:

MUFC

To this:

MUFC2

I mean, God almighty.

They weren’t exactly big calls, they weren’t exactly tough to spot. Carrick, Herrera and Mkhitaryan are fine, fine footballers and it’s a joke that anyone would consider otherwise.

But that consideration from one man is the reason that Manchester United are out of the title race this season. Anything good that might come from Mourinho coming around to the right way of thinking is simply too late.