Manchester United may struggle to stay the course of the title challenge if the sudden, unexpected dip in form is anything to go by.
The Red Devils have progressively lost their spot at the helm of the Premier League to Manchester City who have established a commanding five-point lead, and could face further questions from Tottenham; breathing on their necks in third.
Given United were scoring for fun at the start of the season, why the sudden deceleration in goals?
The international break may have been a slight blip to Jose Mourinho’s tight knit unit- coming on the back end of a convincing win over Crystal Palace- but it was the outcome of the near two-week break that would hold massive repercussions.
Both Eric Bailly and Marouane Fellaini suffered knocks while on international duty during the World Cup qualifiers, further depleting an already shrunk squad.
The sudden disruption of rhythm coupled with limited options in selections made United vulnerable to Liverpool’s strengths, leaving Jose with no option but to go for a draw for the third time in two years.
The addition of Phil Jones to the lengthy injury list this weekend won’t bring any good with it, although Bailly could mark his return soon- possibly against Spurs.
As it were, there is a player getting injured for every new player coming out of injury; not good for momentum.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan may have struggled to find his feet during his maiden season at Manchester United, but the Armenian was able to dispelled doubts in the second part of last season, playing a central role in United’s road to victory in the Europa League.
His start to the 2017/18 campaign pointed to adaption of life in England, as he surpassed his assist tally for last season in just three games; providing five assists in the first three Premier League games.
The prolonged absence of Paul Pogba has seemingly sucked the life out of Mkhitaryan, ineluctably taking a toll on the team’s performances.
Manchester United had an aura of invincibility at the start of the season; they could take on anybody and feared nobody. Their spirit has however been dampened, if not crushed, by the resurgence of Manchester City.
While United could only salvage a draw against Liverpool, City were able to put seven past Stoke City to go top of the table. In less laconic terms, City secured all six points while United only managed two points; scoring 12 goals where United could only manage two. This was a bruising to their mental strength, one that has cost them goals.
For the sake of confidence (and sanity), only a proper rout will suffice as United take their defense of the Carabao Cup to the Liberty Stadium on Tuesday night, and hopefully get a result to build on ahead of Tottenham’s visit this Saturday.
Written by Brian Humphrey
Follow Brian on Twitter @brihum
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