It’s three years into Jose Mourinho’s reign at Old Trafford, yes three years, this is the longest any manager has gone since Sir Alex Ferguson retired but that’s not even the issue, it was expected right? It was Jose Mourinho they appointed for Christ sake, of course it was, it still is, but sadly season 3 and Jose in one sentence almost always provides for murky reactions and that was the mood for the United faithful at the Amex last Sunday
Unconvincing, soulless, spineless, the much much friendlier epithets thrown out in frustration by United fans when asked how it went. For the first time since 1982 the seagulls recorded their third straight league win against the Red Devils and from the home’s side point of view it wasn’t even fortuitous, they deserved every bit of it.
In a space of two and a half minutes in the first half Brighton scored twice through Glen Murray and Shane Duffy, Lukaku then pulled one back in the 34th minute after missing a golden opportunity at 0-0.
The narrative wouldn’t change throughout the half by any stretch, Eric Bailly who had been surprisingly woeful all night brought down Pascal Grob in the penalty area a minute before halftime and Grob stepped up and scored. United didn’t even look like scoring in the second half until Pogba scored in the 95th minute but it was too little too late.
Mourinho spoke after the match and unsurprisingly and surprisingly it was and wasn’t the Mourinho we expected to hear, he uncharacteristically took a dig at the ref saying he was in “a hurry” to blow the final whistle after Pogba scored, typical Jose.
But then on, it was Jose Mourinho admitting that his team made mistakes and “the accumulation of the mistakes, step by step gave confidence and happiness to Brighton” he actually refused to lay blame on individual performances when it was pretty obvious some players had absolute stinkers ,for once Jose didn’t do the Jose thing, he didn’t rip into his players, amazing.
What was however embarrassing was how Leon Balogun the Brighton centerback expressed shock at how slow United were throughout the game, a major problem some United fans noticed and voiced their displeasure about even before the season started.
The big question therein, lies in plain sight, who takes the blame or is it even too early to blame? Is it Jose, the man who warned in the summer that United faced a tough season if they didn’t adequately strengthen? Or it is Woodward, the CEO who failed or refused to give Jose what he wanted? These are questions that need to be asked but not at the moment, No.
The season has already begun and the solution for United’s won’t come in the transfer market at least not until January. Brighton had a 34yo center forward in Glenn Murray and he bullied Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof all day, Brighton don’t spend half of what United spend season after season. Mourinho’s net spend since he arrived in England is only eclipsed by Manchester City, the fact that they lost to Brighton was because they were poor not because they didn’t spend in the market, this is the same United that finished second last season and that was practically the same Brighton they lost to last season so there is no logical reason why anybody would blame anyone else apart from the team, on the day they didn’t play well enough to win and that’s Jose Mourinho’s problem not Ed Woodward.
The fact that there were rumoured dressing room wranglings between the manager and some of his players was evidence enough that this season could end up very sour for United and these rumours keep growing by the day. If there was anything that got Mourinho sacked in each of his third seasons throughout his career it was the fact that he lost the dressing room.
It is no secret that players like Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and even Luke Shaw have issues with the manager, however huge or trivial we do not know, but these things, they always start from somewhere and before you know it they become unrepairable so if Mourinho wants to get the best out of his team he needs to fix his relationship with the players before it’s too late, a team will never play well if they don’t want to play for their manager in the first place, it is how it is.
Paul Pogba did take blame, he was inexplicably poor even though he scored and he rightfully admitted that “I put myself first. My attitude wasn’t right enough. We’ll keep trying and keep pushing and obviously it’s a lesson for us” that’s a step in the right direction especially for a player who has hinted at misunderstandings with his manager in times past.
Anthony Martial had his chance to impress, he didn’t take it, he was largely ineffective, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof were atrocious to say the least, Fred was all over the place and Lukaku who scored was so and so. United’s all-round game was poor, they didn’t start well, didn’t approach it with the seriousness required and they were made to pay.
The damning reality however was the apparent lack of cohesion, organisation and plan, three words you would ideally attribute to the playing style, the manager’s playing style, something both players and fans alike have openly loathed since last season, hell even Brighton knew what they were about, Well.
Next up for United is Tottenham at Old Trafford, it doesn’t get easier for the Red Devils, a loss would mean the worst, double the pressure, on the other hand it’s a perfect chance to dispel the notion of brewing crisis but that’s if the result is positive. The occasion should be motivation enough you’d say but it hasn’t always been the case in Mourinho’s third season. What we do know for sure is that the performance Manchester United will put up against Spurs will be a season-defining one it could be a start of a very good run or more trouble and more bad results, we’ll see.