Jose Mourinho is still more concerned about what the opposition can do to Manchester United rather than what United can do to the opposition. That underdog mentality was not befitting the club under the dismal David Moyes and it isn't under a two-time Champions League winner. Sir Alex Ferguson's most famous and succinct team talk was 'Lads, it's Tottenham.' Jose, it's West Ham.
A West Ham who had lost their first four Premier League matches,
sieved 11 in six and play in maybe the most mutinous stadium in the top
flight. Yet Mourinho surreally chose to start three central defenders
and that early team news rumour of Scott McTominay, which felt like a
bizarre conspiracy, turned out to be true. It took Felipe Anderson five
minutes to capitalise on the Scot's hesitancy and flick past David de
will never change. Lost amid the positivity at the start of the month
was how he had tailored the team to combat the battering ram Sam Wood.
Burnley were ideal opponents yet a resurgent West Ham smelt fear and
punished Mourinho's conservative approach. It was an affront to United's
ethos and Mourinho's management is developing Moyesian and Louis van
This latest debacle is on the manager and United have become a dreary
team to watch. United have now lost as many league games as they had
after Christmas last season.
Nobody seriously expected them to credibly challenge for the
championship and Mourinho may have to revise his prediction that United
would know by the end of November whether they could supplant City. That
is a pipe dream and the growing expectation is they will drop out of
the top two, at least.
It was quite some achievement from
Mourinho to make the demotion of Alexis Sanchez look negative.
McTominay, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof were behind the pedestrian
Nemanja Matic and cumbersome Marouane Fellaini, supplemented by the
puerile Paul Pogba. Those under six foot need not apply.
Mourinho's preference for power players is outdated. Already he
appears uncertain about the £52million Fred and his first defensive
signing, Eric Bailly, was overlooked in favour of auxiliary option
McTominay. For a manager who justifiably lamented a lack of backing in
the summer window, Mourinho is doing himself no favours.
soulless stadium United were soulless on an apathetic and pathetic
afternoon that was so numbing their usually raucous away following
struggled to raise the volume. Many walked out before half-time, goaded
with waves and 'cheerios' from the cocky Cockneys. Mourinho said on
Friday 'I expect to win' yet few expected that when the team dropped.
The surfeit of steel allowed the silk of Anderson, Marko Arnautovic and
Andriy Yarmolenko to exploit United's pedestrian plodders.
That bold prediction set Mourinho up for a humiliating fall against a
side he had not previously lost against with United. Quite what he saw
in training to suggest United could confidently overcome a team which
kept Chelsea at bay the previous week is anyone's guess and the only
threat of mutiny inside West Ham's adopted home came from those United
supporters who hollered 'Attack, attack, attack' in the 52nd minute. It
was certainly an offensive performance.
season is in danger of developing into one of United vying for
Champions League or Europa League qualification. That Arsenal apathy is
humiliating enough, yet the United board were bold enough to think they
could get away with vetoing some of Mourinho's summer targets while
securing Champions League football for next season. Only Mourinho
presided over a sixth-place finish in his first term and was 16th at the
time of his 2015 dismissal by Chelsea.
The days when he could be trusted to always clinch a top four berth are
long gone. Out of the traditional top six clubs, United are the only one
currently outside that mini league. United are 11 points adrift of
Liverpool and have not been this far off the summit in the post-Ferguson
era after seven games.
Romelu Lukaku's knack for costly cock-ups continued in London as he
struck the post from Ashley Young's centre in the 23rd minute and two
minutes before the interval Andriy Yarmolenko turned and shimmied away
from Nemanja Matic. He struck speculatively, the ball ricocheted off the
onrushing Victor Lindelof and looped into De Gea's net.
A sobering Saturday started developing parallels with January's
capital calamity at Tottenham when Pogba's number flashed up on the
fourth official's board with 20 minutes left. The Frenchman petulantly
gave a thumbs up to the bench and smiled broadly as he took his seat
seconds before the returning Marcus Rashford crowned his comeback with
an adroit backheel. Hope sprung for all of three minutes; a bus could
have driven through the gap which had widened between McTominay and
Smalling and Arnautovic poked the ball past De Gea.
gestured angrily at the United bench and engaged in an animated
conversation with coach Kieran McKenna. "You're getting sacked in the
morning," crowed the West Ham fans. He had every right to be concerned
about what the opposition were doing.