|Paul Pogba takes some time out to.....well, sit on the turf. |
A close look at the players' celebrations after Henrickh Mhkitaryan had scored United's away goal in Brussels last night will reveal that Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave a quick pep talk to his colleagues saying ''We need to score more..''. He repeated the statement long enough to ensure that players arriving late for the huddle celebration got the message.
Except that they didn't. For in the aftermath of the opening goal, Manchester United reverted to type. Anderlecht are at the summit of the Belgian league but they are hardly world beaters. On a comparative metric, they'd be that mid-table premier league side against whom United will dominate and create a plethora of chances but fail to kill of the game.
Whilst it's not entirely agreeable that a Manchester United manger should turn on his players, it is easy to see where Jose Mourinho's frustrations post-match came from. A 10th 1-1 draw of the season, having taken the lead but failed to see out any of the games is quite an itch for a manager to deal with especially when you consider how much better the season would be if the side were more ruthless.
At the moment, United are guilty of elaborate possession even in the final third of the pitch. There's not many shots taken in and around the box because of a preference to play through deep defences. A tad too predictable and easy to defend against especially if you're not as quick as most sides who use this formula are. Therein lies the pattern that has greatly contributed to the statistic of 14 draws this season.
A draw in Belgium is by no means the worst result in context. Indeed, United will kickoff at Old Trafford on Thursday in the return fixture with an advantage of an away goal but that is very much besides the point. Why? Because the competition that the club is striving very much to be a part of next season demands a much higher level of quality than United are holding out to possess at the moment.
If we are gong by the line that United will not be in the Champions League next season simply to make up the numbers, then there is a desperate need for more output. Dominance will continue to count for little if the club does not find a means to utilise its human resource to achieve a greater goal output.
We're at the point where it would make much more sense for the club to allocate the little training time available to shooting practice. Besides, we know that the side is more accomplished in the other departments. At least we have to believe they are, lest nothing else would explain why the Champions elect visit Old Trafford on Sunday and yet we're a harder team to beat than they are.
Jose Mouriho alluded to a ''mystique'' about Manchester United when he took the job. It's fair to say that there are mystical concerns about the state of the club today that have caused a solemn frustration upon the manager, so much so that he is now willing to single out his players. It's hard to blame him. Few other explanations make better sense.