You’d have to trawl through the archives to find a United performance as poor as Saturday’s run out. Their defeat to West Ham was a surprise result. However what was more shocking was the lethargy and attitude on display at The London Stadium.
It is hard to recall seeing a Manchester United side looking so disinterested. West Ham were excellent, in all fairness, but surely benefited from facing a lacklustre opposition.
Perhaps the most striking incident of a painful weekend for United fans was the sight of Paul Pogba being hauled off in the second half. Mourinho made the change as his World Cup winning midfielder again failed to make a telling contribution.
It has become yet another moment of contention between the pair who seem at constant loggerheads. Mourinho’s public spat with Pogba last Wednesday was followed up with the Portuguese manager quickly smoothing things over.
In the prelude to the West Ham game, Mourinho praised Pogba’s efforts in training and seemed fairly positive about the Frenchman. However, his continuing flaky form is a sign that things just aren’t right at Old Trafford between the pair. His woeful performance at The London Stadium is yet more damming proof that he just doesn’t click with Mourinho and something is likely to give very soon.
Not for five minutes would this bad attitude from a player and disrespect on social media have been tolerated by Sir Alex Ferguson. It’s an obvious observation but its the difference in how events are proceeding now, that is crucial.
Mourinho is paralyzed by the Pogba problem. Where nobody would have dared cross the line under Ferguson, things are a little different under Mourinho’s watch.
In fairness to the Portuguese, he is having to contend with prima donnas in the social media age. This modern trend was still in its infancy when Ferguson was coming to the end of his career.
However, the Scot was at liberty to jettison players who seemed likely to threaten the harmony of the club with their swelling egos. David Beckham was shipped off to Real and then record signing Veron was shipped off to Chelsea after failing to make an impact.
Now though, Mourinho’s hands are bound by the marketability of Pogba to United’s global fan base. It is highly unlikely the board would sanction a sale without causing even more drama. Despite a myriad of poor performances and public disrespect of his manager and club, it would clearly not be Pogba to head for the exit first.
A Fight he won’t win
Mourinho’s style and perceived lack of gusto for an expansive attacking game is very much at odds with Monsieur Pogba. The World Cup winner has openly criticized this defensive style to the fury of his manager.
The Portuguese has tried hard to impose his authority on the situation, but clearly, his efforts are not having the desired effect. Pogba is a top-class talent with the ability to boss a game and wreak havoc with his wonderful passing range.
He should be the difference for United but has failed to live up to his ability this season. Mourinho has every right to be angry and axe him from the side. However, his strife with Pogba is increasingly looking like a fight that he cannot win.
Player power was once the preserve of Real Madrid. Their managers would live or die based on the efforts and attitude of their pre-elected star players. However if it is Mourinho deemed responsible for United’s poor form this season, they will be setting a precedent which may be very hard to undo no matter who they brought in to replace the beleaguered Portuguese manager.