With the attacking talent that Manchester United can boast one would be naturally inclined to expect goals, entertainment and scintillating football.
Yet this expectation has not been met. Despite Romelu Lukaku, Anthony Martial, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and now Alexis Sanchez, Jose Mourinho has failed to find a winning formula.
Too often, United’s attacking play seems to be predicated on a notion of individual flair, rather than a collective energy.
There seems to be a lack of understanding between the front four, or three. Against Newcastle United, Sanchez produced some clever touches and flicks, intended for a teammate, but the ball bouncing out of play was a common sight.
Now, this might be down to the nature of a new signing being unable to instantly foster a connection; yet this lack of cohesion is a symptom of United’s disjointed forward line.
Mourinho still has not figured out who should adopt the no.10 position, who should play on either flank and what to do with Paul Pogba.
It isn’t just a question of positional places, though. It is a question of direction, purpose and design.
It appears as though Mourinho prefers to abandon the rigid structure he enforces on his defenders when it comes to his attackers. There is no discernible pattern or objective when United attack.
Pep Guardiola’s side could be easily distinguished for sharp movement; as too could Arsene Wenger’s; Mauricio Pochettino’s side tend to favour a methodical build-up, with runners feeding of Harry Kane. To reduce these three attacking philosophies to such descriptions is flippant, but it serves the argument in emphasising how Mourinho’s attacking ideology at United is muddled.
Those stating that Sanchez’s arrival would fix the relative stagnancy of United’s attack were misguided. The problem is much deeper than a ‘star player’.
Let’s draw in this hyperbole, though. They’ve scored the fourth most in the league, joint with Arsenal. They’re still second and shouldn’t be sucked into a fight for the top-four.
Yet there is something lacking; an absence of imagination and creativity that threatens to undermine the progress Mourinho is seeking to make.
The Red Devils will continue to look lost, meandering and a little confused should Mourinho refuse to implement basic design.
‘Let the horses run free’, Mourinho quipped in August after their 4-1 thumping of Swansea. Well, it seems the horses are a lost, trotting aimlessly and without direction.
Written by Michael Jones
Follow Michael on Twitter @jonesmichael_97
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