Following the capture of the FA Community Shield and three wins on the bounce in the Premier League, it appears Jose Mourinho and Manchester United have hit a brick wall.
Last week’s disappointing derby defeat at Old Trafford was coupled by a lacklustre display in the Europa League against the Dutch side Feyenoord. United were beaten 1-0 in Rotterdam and were subjected to intense scrutiny, given the calibre of players they had in their line-up that evening. Despite having made eight changes to the squad that featured against Manchester City, Mourinho named a strong side, handing the likes of Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Morgan Schneiderlin, Matteo Darmian and Marcus Rashford their first starts of the season. With skipper Wayne Rooney left in Manchester for the clash, Paul Pogba was ushered into the number 10 role behind Rashford with Zlatan Ibrahimović dropping down to the bench.
Throughout the contest, there was a noticeable lack of urgency and pressure exerted by United as Feyenoord dealt with their illustrious opponents rather comfortably. While these are still early days, Mourinho must be a little concerned about the nature of the two defeats and ought to have seen plenty to ascertain whether some of the players are good enough to play for the club. Granted they hadn’t had game time prior to the Thursday night game, but Feyenoord were obliging opponents, the sort one would expect in the Europa League. To have performed this poorly in Europe’s second-tier club competition must have startled the Portuguese boss to a great degree and with a potential banana skin at Watford up next for the Red Devils, it is fair to assume Mourinho will revert to his regular Premier League side for the weekend.
The January transfer window is not nearly as chaotic or enchanting as the one in the summer but it does provide the clubs an outlet to make a raft of important decisions. Based on how United’s fringe players perform between now and the commencement of the window, Mourinho may yet decide to offload them, a few of which seem to have had their careers stagnated following his appointment.
One player that United fans may not be upset to see leave the club in January is Marcos Rojo. The Argentinian made a 16-million-pound switch to Old Trafford from Sporting Lisbon in 2014 and has had an underwhelming two-year spell in England. Rojo was slated for his performance against Feyenoord and with Luke Shaw back to full fitness and Daley Blind available to deputise in his position, Rojo’s time at the club might be coming to an end.
Wingers Memphis Depay and Ashley Young too have failed to impress Mourinho and might seek pastures new this winter should they continue to warm the bench. With the emphasis on promoting youth players ever present at United, Mourinho might consider discarding them, given the wealth of options he has at his disposal. The same may hold true for Phil Jones although the Englishman might be called up in January, given Eric Bailly’s commitments for Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations.
United have plenty of depth in their squad and needn’t bring anyone in this January. The likelihood of them selling players is much greater, keeping in mind the lack of game time and form that may prevail over the coming months. As things stand, though, that is the least of Mourinho’s ongoing problems.