The appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager of England’s biggest club gave fans high hopes that the glory days may be right around the corner. That anticipation of success was amplified after lifting the FA Cup in 2016. The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ went to work very early at Manchester United bringing in Eric Bailly from Villarreal, Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Borussia Dortmund, Paul Pogba from Juventus, and Zlatan Ibrahimović from PSG. These moves from the Portuguese added a fair share of star quality back to Old Trafford, raising the level of expectations not just from the fans but from the entire football world.

When all was said and done, the Red Devils managed to reach the target of Champions League for next season while lifting two trophies – the League Cup and Europa League – on the way. After their Europa League success in Stockholm, the 54-year-old manager praised his team for a “successful season” and insisted that he was proud of his players for completing the set of trophies for his wonderful football club.

Like most would say, winning trophies is what the game is about and credit must go to Mourinho and his team. However, after ending the season sixth in the Premier League table, a place below where they finished the season before and after adding such quality players, was it really a successful year for a club the standing of United? Shouldn’t the Red Devils be challenging for the title given the investment that was made last summer?

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 26: Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrate after the EFL Cup Final match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
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Despite significant investment at the club since the departure of legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson, United has finished in the top four only once in four seasons. More worryingly for the fans is that Old Trafford no longer seems to be a place where the opposition is fearful, but instead seem to relish the opportunity to get a positive result. The days when there was that blissfully innocent desire to entertain their fans may be a thing of the past, especially with the former Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss at the helm.

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At most clubs, lifting two major pieces of silverware over the course of a season would make for a great and rewarding season, but not at United. As one of the biggest clubs in the world placed in the same class as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, anything less than a serious title challenge and a deep run in the Champions League cannot be seen as a successful season. With the teams that were in the Europa League, United were more than expected to win it. However, their celebrations could be deemed embarrassing despite the joy of claiming a place amongst Europe’s elites next season.

In all fairness, the Red Devils could reflect on the season and count themselves unfortunate. There were several points dropped from games Mourinho’s men totally dominated and created wonderful openings, but lacked the killer instinct to put teams away. It should not be understated that is simply inexplicable and unacceptable for the 20-time English Champions to draw more than half their home games – 10 of 19 – at Old Trafford over the course of the season. After failing to conquer teams on their home turf, the manager then had the audacity to talk about injuries and fatigue from playing 60+ games as the reason his team underperformed massively in the domestic league.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Always a joy to listen to you or read your articles very insightful good football brain ……..The Red Devils could reflect on the season and count themselves unfortunate. There were several points dropped from games Mourinho’s men totally dominated and created wonderful openings, but lacked the killer instinct to put teams away. I like this bit but I disagree with u where you say they lack that killer instinct in all fairness the keepers came up trumps in those instances I believe with a bit of luck things wud be different every great teams need a bit of luck ….

  2. Liverpool is a very big club in Europe

    So let me ask you this

    Man united
    Champions league group stage plus 2 cups finish 6th in the league

    Liverpool

    Champions league play- off no cups finish 4th

    Would you say Liverpool season is better than man united?
    remember there were second at one stage so they were indeed title challengers.

  3. The goalkeepers are there to do a particular job and wen they make turn up on a day where they are simply outstanding credit must be given to them. However based on the ‘openings’ created it is expected that even if there are 10 Gigi Buffon in goal, the attacker should hit the back of the net. They’re humans and do get their connection on the ball wrong at times but may of the opportunities United passed up were inexplicable.

    With regards to Liverpool it can be argued that they had a better season. The aim of any club is firstly to win their domestic league and then go as far as possible in Europe. Liverpool and United had the same stats on the road (10 wins, 4 losses and 5 stalemates) while Liverpool were better at home. Another aspect is that Liverpool played a more eye-catching brand of football and also makes for more attraction in terms of football quality alone. The Red Devils won trophies which is great but at the end of the day finishing lower than where they were last summer after such good business/investment for me is a failure.

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