Writers United: Half-Time Checkup (ft. Alex Demarco)

Manchester United

The boys talk about United’s season so far, and where they think the club will be, come May.

How do you think the season’s gone so far domestically?

After our bright start to the season, I was hoping that we’d be a lot closer to City in the table, but with the gap at 11 points, it’s clearly theirs to lose at this stage. When compared to last season though, there’s been a marked improvement. We’re not drawing as many matches, our home form has improved significantly, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be struggling to finish in the top four this time, whilst the style of football has improved, overall. Having said that, after the money spent during the summer, it’s disappointing not to be closer to City and it looks as though our wait for title number 21 will go on.

What about Europe? How’s the return to the European elite been for United?

We were handed a relatively straightforward group which we negotiated with little fuss, although we did make things a little awkward for ourselves by losing away to Basel on matchday five. Whilst we avoided drawing any of the traditional major European sides in the last 16, Sevilla will be far from straightforward, though playing the first leg away from home gives us a slight advantage, in my opinion. It’s been a good return for us and I think we’ve got what it takes to reach the semi-final stage.

A word on Jose, then? What’s he got right and what does he need to improve?

We knew when he was appointed that we’d be getting a more pragmatic style of football and whilst we’ve played some exciting, attacking stuff at the start of the season, I think most fans will agree we need to be more adventurous, especially in the big matches. With the players that Mourinho’s got at his disposal, we should be out to win every match, rather than sit back and try and avoid defeat.

Besides that, it’s his treatment of Luke Shaw and Henrikh Mkhitaryan that doesn’t sit well with me. Shaw, when fit and confident, is undoubtedly the best left-back that we have at the club and it would be a huge shame if he was sold next month or at the end of the season. In the past few weeks he’s put in a number of impressive performances that suggest he’s getting back to his best and whilst Ashley Young is in great form, Shaw has got all the attributes to make that position his own for years to come. As for Mkhitaryan, in recent weeks he’s been unrecognisable from the player that started the season on fire and it’s been disappointing to see him left out of most matchday squads altogether, of late. By far our most creative player when he’s on form and it would be a huge disappointment to see him leave, as the rumours suggest.

On the plus side, I’ve been pleased with the amount of chances Mourinho has given to our young players. Scott McTominay has come in and caught the eye in midfield and Axel Tuanzebe is definitely one for the future, whilst Marcus Rashford has improved under Mourinho. Even Anthony Martial, who seemed to be heading for the exit door last summer, is looking like a player re-born this year. It was also good to see Angel Gomes handed a new contract recently, and if given the opportunities with the first-team, he’s got the potential to become the next star at Old Trafford.

Who’s been our best player so far?

Romelu Lukaku’s form has dipped after starting the season looking like he’d score in every match, whilst Paul Pogba was looking every bit like the £89 million midfielder we bought from Juventus, but his injury and recent suspension derailed him. So, I’ll say that David de Gea has been our standout performer. His performance at the Emirates Stadium at the start of the month confirmed what most United fans have known for a while – he’s the best goalkeeper in the world.

And who needs to pull up their socks?

I’d say Mkhitaryan has been the most disappointing overall, mainly because he started the season looking like he was ready to rip up the league and now can’t even get on the bench. Even though he’s scored 15 goals so far, Lukaku needs to do better, especially against the top teams. Mourinho is right to praise his work rate and determination, but at the end of the day, he’s got to be making the difference when it matters most, by putting the ball in the back of the net.

Where do you see our rivals finishing the season?

Again, it’s City’s league to lose at this stage and I think they’ll remain where they are in the league table. I can see Chelsea finishing third, just below us, whilst Tottenham will complete the top four, even though they’re off-form at the moment. Liverpool and Arsenal have been too inconsistent, and I think they’ll do well to finish in the Champions League spots.

Let us know where you predict United will finish in each competition:

Premier League:

2nd

Champions League:

Semi-finals

FA Cup:

Winners

Finally, rate United’s season so far on 10 –

7/10

About the Author

Harshal Patel
I like to analyze and write about football tactics, or just football as well. Manchester United obsessed, and hoping that the good times return soon.