Tuesday, 6 December 2016

United remain without a win against top class opposition

Looking at the list of teams we've beaten under Jose so far this season, they are no mugs but certainly not top class. 

In the weekend in which Antonio Conte delivered the most powerful of statement wins, Mourinho awaits his first at Old Trafford. 

United are safely in sixth place - albeit nine points outside the top four, and are still alive on both the EFL and Europa Cups: six months and 22 matches into his tenure, Jose's United have not been a disaster

But we haven't beaten anyone we would not expect to have beaten. 

Arguably our most significant win so far came against City in the Cup, but they went into that game without many of their key players and blooded youngsters Pablo Maffeo and Aleix Garcia.
Leicester, of course, are Premier League champions but have represented a shadow of that side this season and are instead sliding towards a relegation scrap. 

We were blown away by the attacking intensity and quality of Guardiola's City (in the league) and Conte's rampant Chelsea side. 
Against Liverpool, we ground out a creditable 0-0 and against Arsenal we missed chances and, not for the first time this season, were punished. 

When we've played one of the top sides, it's been a case of us not doing quite enough to win: the chances are coming but we're still impotent in front of goal and there are still question marks above the defence, even with Eric Bailly coming back. 

Mourinho had forged his managerial reputation on being the ultimate "big game manager": raising himself and his troops to perform, sometimes above themselves, to beat major rivals in cup finals and league deciders.

We've not seen any of that in evidence so far - in fact, we've seen the polar opposite: we haven't been able to raise out game to the required level when it matters. 

Perhaps that should not come as a surprise as even in his half-season in his second spell at Chelsea, which saw his sacked just over a year ago, his side had the same problem as we do now.
They lacked incision, a clinical edge and a mentality sufficient to see off top sides.
Performances on the whole have been good but we can't see games out and that boils down to the mental attitude of the side. 

The last genuine 'statement win' by a Mourinho side came back in 2015 and that 2-0 win over Tottenham in the League Cup final. 

That was almost two years ago now, and with Spurs due at Old Trafford on Sunday and with our season yet to kick into gear, you wonder if Jose will ever rediscover that edge. 

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