Another game and yet another catalogue of conclusions as to where Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are in terms of progress this season. Crucially though, we are no wiser today than yesterday over the same subject. United continue to blow hot and cold this season without really settling on either.
Yesterday's demolition of Turkish giants Fernabache was the second time the Reds have scored four times this season but United cannot yet term themselves as an efficient side in front of goal. Fans will not be confident of seeing chances put away in the next game for as long as the inconsistency in front of goal continues.
Thankfully though, last night edged towards the side of efficiency and United eventually made light work of what should have been a tricky fixture. At six points in the group with a home game among those left to play, United should (unfortunately) make it to the knock out stages of the competition next year.
However last night was not about United's progress in the competition but rather their progress under their new manager. A second rate competition such as the Europa League allows the new manager a chance to work with risk with personnel and systems he would not ordinarily use in the more serious business that is the Premier league.
Last night for instance was the first time the manager got to start his prize signing with Michael Carrick. Paul Pogba was finally neither asked to drop deep nor pushed up the midfield but given license to roam from deep midfield, effectively a free role. As such, the Frenchman turned in is most complete performance todate in a performance that moved his confidence levels a gear up or two.
Indeed, the missed chances against Stoke followed by the blank at Liverpool would have left the side lacking in confidence in front of goal ahead of another tough trip, this time to London on the Sunday. Again, there can be no guarantees as to what form or mood United line up against the manager's ex employers. Indeed, eight changes for Thursday's game mean that we could almost see a similar turnover for Matchday 9 in the league.
Jose confirmed post match that he would treat the weekend clash independent from the mid-week game. What is likely to last beyond Thursday's fixture is the difference Michael Carrick had on Paul Pogba. It's a combination he will soon turn to if he fails to get it working with the solution he has at hand right now.
United have so far come off worse in games soon after their Europa league exploits. So far, United are yet to win a game in the premier league after a Thursday night fixture. Defeat atWatford and profligacy against Stoke at home are the reason the club remain five points off the pace. The same cannot be afforded on Sunday against Chelsea. The margins in the league this season look like they shall be a lot closer than they've been in recent seasons. As such, United cannot afford to fall any further off the pace than they are already.
Morestill, victory on Sunday against a rival could give the squad the necessary arrogance with which to approach the rest of the campaign. The reverse is true. Once again the stakes are high but we should be in auto pilot in that regard given the week we've had.
Games against Chelsea have in recent seasons been closely fought with plenty of stalemates and victories of no more than a single goal margin. United have to be on the right end of the result this week. You would expect that if there's one team Jose should have all the low down on about their approach, it is Chelsea. The London club have changed managers many times but have not really departed from the template their legendary coach installed at the club. Liverpool and Arsenal have taken on the 2015 Champions and easily picked up the three points. This is not to suggest that it will be just as easy for United but to add that we'll know more about where United are this season on Sunday evening.
Labels: PREVIEWS, UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE