first_imgWhen a club have built their romantic reputation on a history of swashbuckling attacking football, it must hurt when the only creative spark can be found in a scowling manager’s woe-is-me press conferences. Yet should any of Manchester United’s players feel inclined to answer José Mourinho’s latest criticism of them, perhaps the best place to start would be with how they are drowning in their manager’s negativity. Read more José Mourinho: ‘We don’t have many mad dogs. We don’t have that spirit’ True to form, Mourinho had his digs ready to go after another stuttering display against lowly Southampton resulted in United losing more ground on the top four. The problem, he explained, is that he does not have enough “mad dogs”. He defended his system, pointed the finger at the lack of strong characters within it and went on to accuse unnamed members of his midfield of failing to realise that “simplicity is genius”. In terms of the never-ending information war, it was a masterclass in self-preservation.Unfortunately none of United’s players were in the mood to talk after the 2-2 draw against a goal-shy team languishing in 18th place after one win in their first 14 league games. There was no rebellion. Not even Paul Pogba, the last player to emerge from the away dressing room, felt like rocking the boat.Yet while he was tightlipped outside St Mary’s, Pogba has been more vocal in the past. Three months ago he offered an insight into United’s tactical failings, arguing that the side had to attack more after a disappointing home draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers. “We are here to attack,” Pogba said. “I think teams are scared when they see Man United attacking and attacking. That was our mistake.”Asked to explain why United were malfunctioning, the £89m midfielder allowed his interrogators to draw their own conclusions. “I can’t tell you because I’m a player,” he said. “It’s not me.” Pinterest Of course there were mitigating circumstances at Southampton. With Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelöf and Chris Smalling injured, and Marcos Rojo only fit enough for a place on the bench, Phil Jones was United’s only fit centre-back. In that context, with Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic pushed into unfamiliar defensive roles, the protection of a back five was a reasonable decision from Mourinho.It was harder to understand Mourinho’s choices further forward, though. Nine years ago Sir Alex Ferguson’s United travelled to West Ham with a glut of defensive injuries and finished the game with a back four of Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs, Michael Carrick and Patrice Evra. The score? West Ham 0-4 Manchester United. Southampton Manchester United The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email. Reuse this content Facebook Lucas Vázquez goal helps Real Madrid bounce back with win over Valencia The curiosity here is that Mourinho is clinging on to a passive approach despite all the evidence suggesting that United are not suited to it. They have conceded 23 goals already, the most in the top half, and have a negative goal difference. Teams who know how to stifle do not concede at least twice in first halves against Brighton, Newcastle United, Southampton and West Ham. It is an uncomfortable fit for United, who have combined a top-heavy squad with a manager who seems to have no way of constructing attacking patterns.Even their fightback before the interval was down to individual bursts rather than collective coherence, driving runs from Rashford creating goals for Lukaku and Herrera. When the onus was on United to assert themselves in the second half, they suffered from a woeful lack of inspiration. They created nothing and Mourinho’s pragmatism was evident in his substitutions, Martial and Lingard replacing Rashford and Lukaku in the dying stages, Fellaini and Herrera staying on until the end. Fred, the expensive Brazilian misfit, stayed on the bench. There was no room for a player of Mata’s invention.The highlights were of a slapstick quality. Lukaku stepped on the ball, fell over and almost managed to injure himself. McTominay marched out of defence and smashed a strange pass straight out for a goalkick. Too casual for his own good, Pogba’s ambitious tricks failed to come off.Yet the malaise runs deeper than individual failings. If there was no craft in midfield and no siege on Southampton’s goal, it was because Mourinho refused to release the handbrake. Ferguson once said that United, who host Arsenal on Wednesday, would score late after draining the life from their opponents. They drain the will to live for different reasons these days. Topics features Share on LinkedIn Paul Pogba gestures to the referee after tackling Mario Lemina – the Frenchman said he wished Manchester United had a more attacking mentality. Photograph: James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images Share via Email Share on Facebook Read more In Mourinho’s world, however, attack is rarely the best form of defence. Southampton have only won once at home in 2018 and it seems only a matter of time before they sack the manager, Mark Hughes. Yet United did not set out to test their fragile confidence. Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Juan Mata were on the bench. Mourinho stationed Marouane Fellaini in front of his defence, put the prosaic Ander Herrera next to Pogba, left Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford isolated and watched as Southampton seized the initiative, racing ahead thanks to goals from Stuart Armstrong and Cédric Soares. Share on Twitter Share on WhatsApp Share on Messenger Share on Pinterest José Mourinho Twitter last_img

United players are drowning in José Mourinho’s sea of negativity

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