Monday, 21 May 2018

Jose Mourinho needs to get ruthless and bin the dross

Phil Jones struggles against Eden Hazard in the cup final - in which he gave away the match-winning penalty and was given the runaround by the talented and tempermental Belgian - only served to further highlight the collective shortcomings of United's ageing and undermanned defence. Since 2013, we've invested £130m on the back four alone, yet the quartet (quintet if you include Dave), remains the same as it did seven years ago. Which other 'top' side have kept together a defence that clearly isn't up to standard for that long? An overhaul is needed and Jose Mourinho needs to get ruthless and bin the lorry load of deadwood that is permeating and puncturing this United squad - starting with the defence. Recruitment has been scatter-gun and players that should have been sold years ago are somehow still first choice.

Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Ashley Young - four Sir Alex Ferguson signings who have been great servants for this club. Statistically we may have the best defence in the country, but that's largely down to the heroic exploits of the world's best goalkeeper David de Gea. The reality is that Valencia and Young are converted wingers in their mid 30s who can't cross or beat their man, Jones is injury prone and Smalling erratic and riddled with mistakes. Marcos Rojo can be put in the same bracket, Daley Blind isn't good enough and Eric Bailly's omission in the closing weeks of the season has been baffling. The Ivorian was Jose's first signing as United manager and remains our best defender. Victor Lindelof struggled to start with but has grown into a superb player as the campaign has gone on. You can't really compare Pep with Jose - that would be like looking at apples and oranges - but Pep's first job as City boss was to rip out full-backs who didn't fit his identikit and - although he spent more than £200m in the process - replaced Bacary Sagna, Aleksandr Kolarov and Gael Clichy with younger, fitter and better upgrades in Danilo, Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy - the starting point for his City revolution.

For a club of our size and stature to only have one proper right-back and one proper left-back is criminal - you have to have a least two players for every position. Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian are both not of the standard we require at this club and should be moved on. Timothy Fosu - Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe - who have been out on loan at Palace and Villa respectively - have had a season of first-team football, I like what I see of both and they are ready for the step up. Young, hungry, quick, strong and most importantly of all, home grown Academy graduates. Juve's Alex Sandro has been linked with a £50m move to Old Trafford, and at 27 the left-back is five years Young's junior, he would be ideal and would provide fresh impetus to a defence badly in need of just that.

It's not just the defence that needs an overhaul - midfield too. With Michael Carrick now retired, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic give us a strong balance in midfield, but Ander Herrera and the much-maligned Marouane Fellaini have failed to convince, despite both seemingly being among Jose's favourites. Anthony Martial has regressed alarmingly and lost his place in the team as a result - it's been a gradual decline for the young Frenchman since his breathtaking breakthrough season in 2015-16 under Louis van Gaal. So much so that he has missed out on World Cup selection for France. For the good of United and his career, he should be moved on too. Juan Mata has been the symbol of consistency as string-puller in chief through these turbulent post-Ferguson times, but his influence is on the wane and the little Spaniard is no longer first pick, indeed it's hard to think of the last time he had a good game. I'll cry if he leaves, but United's forward line needs a fresh sprinkling of stardust and Mata isn't in it.

United only scored once in the four ties that co-incided with Romelu Lukaku's end-of-season absence, a drought that only went to show how much we rely on the burly Belgian as the focal point of our attack. With Martial's apathy and Marcus Rashford's regression, another striker and a winger - a left sided player that Jose was after last summer - wouldn't go amiss either. The manager needs to show all the qualities that have made him one of the best bosses of his generation - he's got to be ruthless, decisive and make decisions that may be unpopular with many, but ones that must be necessary for the good of the club. His long term future depends on it.

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