Manchester United started off the season with a bang, winning four matches in a row, including their first three Premier League games. It all went downhill for them since that 2-1 defeat at home to Pep Guardiola‘s Manchester City side in their fourth game of the Premier League season.
Since then, United have recorded losses against Feyenoord, Watford, Chelsea, and Fenerbahce in all competitions, whilst dropping points against Liverpool, Arsenal, Burnley, Stoke and West Ham.
Here, we investigate 3 key factors that have played a part in their recent slump:
The Europa League
Evidently, United have not won in four of the five matches which came after their Europa League fixtures. Watford, Chelsea, Stoke City and most recently, West Ham have taken advantage of United’s Thursday night games to stop the Reds from claiming the three points against them.
The Reds looked tired and out of sorts in each of the aforementioned games, turning in uninspiring and wasteful performances, disappointing the fans. The damage Europa League does to English clubs has been evident in recent years, and United can only blame their disappointing last season, which put them in their current position.
Whilst United have enjoyed a lot of “help” from the referees and match officials in the Fergie era, it looks like the referees have been coming back to haunt them now. United have been denied crystal-clear penalties in the games against City, Burnley and Arsenal, and have seen multiple unreasonable refereeing decisions go against them this season.
Fans and pundits alike have been left frustrated and bewildered by some of the refereeing decisions, some of them even suggesting that the referees are trying to steal the spotlight. Mourinho once famously declared that the FA had an agenda against him when he was in charge of Chelsea, and judging by the current looks of it, he is absolutely right.
When United announced the signings of Zlatan Ibrahimović, Paul Pogba, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the preseason, nobody would have thought that scoring goals would be United’s biggest problem this season.
However, although United have been creating a lot more chances this season compared to the last, they are failing to put them away. In the Burnley game, United had a staggering 37 shots, but still could not find the back of the net.
Ibrahimovic, who had a fantastic start to his United career, went on a 6 game goal drought in the league, which finally ended with a well-taken brace against relegation-threatened Swansea City before the recent international break. United’s forwards have to shoulder a fair share of the blame by not converting the chances they created.
Despite their bad results, United fans cannot ignore the fact that the football on show this season has been more entertaining to watch than that of the past 3 seasons. With a much more fluid and risky approach to their game, Old Trafford has witnessed an improvement in the team’s performances on the pitch this season compared to last season, where Louis van Gaal introduced his “philosophy” of keeping the ball at all costs. As a result, United often played the ball sideways and backwards, causing displeasure among the fans who were bored by the football that was on display.
This season, with United acquiring the services of Ibrahimović and Pogba, who are among the best players in the world in their respective positions, the football had been quite satisfying to watch. Some of the more notable performances at home include the game against reigning Premier League champions, Leicester City, and Turkish champions, Fenerbahce, in the Europa League, where United won 4-1 in both.
Ferguson built an empire, but Moyes flattened it. Van Gaal tried to rebuild it but failed, and now it’s up to Mourinho to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford. Who better to do it than “The Special One”? United fans have to be patient and give him some time, as the signs are there: once the team clicks, it will be a force impossible to stop.