Manchester: Jose Mourinho needs to lift Manchester United’s morale quickly as a deflating run of performances threatens to throw their season off track completely but he faces a daunting task against a revitalised Arsenal. Mourinho’s team have not looked themselves at Old Trafford for much of the season, with their past two matches producing an insipid goalless draw against Crystal Palace and an unconvincing late Champions League victory over Swiss side Young Boys.
On their travels, they had looked as if they were getting back to form as October turned to November, with the side producing fine displays in drawing at Chelsea and beating Juventus. Yet perhaps those performances were just papering over the cracks. United recovered from a two-goal deficit to draw at Southampton on Saturday and Romelu Lukaku scored his first club goal since September 15 but there was much to be alarmed about.
Mourinho claimed his players, with the exception of Marcus Rashford, were meek, lacking the spirit of what he called “mad dogs”. According to Duncan Castles, a British journalist with close links to Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, the United manager compared midfielder Paul Pogba to “a virus” after another poor performance at Southampton, saying the France international lacked respect for both his teammates and fans.
Man U’s dressing room divisions
United’s dressing room gives little indication of being a happy place ahead of Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford on Wednesday. To prove the point, forward Juan Mata effectively declined to publish his regular Monday internet column this week, instead posting a short message that began: “Unfortunately, I feel as though it isn’t the time for posts.” During a season riddled with disappointments, Mourinho has by and large been treated sympathetically by the club’s fanbase, who feel that he was not given enough support in the last close-season transfer market by executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
The manager’s frustration at not being able to sign a top-class centre-back has been raked over repeatedly but his defensive team selection at Southampton baffled even his most loyal supporters. With Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly unfit, Mourinho elected to play two midfielders — Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic.