This summer, it was hard to be anything but excited as a Manchester United fan. We had one of the best managers in the world leading the charge and the three best players from Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 bolstering the lineup. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial were headlining a crop of great young talents, and the league title seemed like a formality.
Things got off to a good enough start. One match down; one trophy added to the showroom. The first three league games ended with exciting victories and LvG’s boring style of play seemed like a thing of the past.
Since then, there’s been a little bit of a panic brewing at Old Trafford. A 2-1 loss to Manchester City got the ball rolling. That was followed up with a 1-0 loss to Feyenoord in the Europa League. To cap it all off, a 3-1 thrashing to the “powerhouse” that is Watford threw some fans into a full-fledged meltdown.
As much as I don’t like the results, and the style of play, I don’t think that it’s time for us to hit the big red button just yet.
Has Wayne Rooney been a shadow of himself? Yes.
Has Paul Pogba been a little disappointing considering his price tag? Yes.
Is José Mourinho currently in the worst stretch of his managerial year dating back to his nightmare at Stamford Bridge last season? Also yes.
With all of that being said, let’s all remember that we’re just six games into a very long season. Today, the Red Devils rediscovered some confidence with a 3-1 win over Northampton Town (third tier of English competition). In the league, there’s just a six-point gap separating United from the top. In Europe, the Red Devils still have five matches left to secure a spot in the knockout rounds.
So far, the only summer signings that have really lived up to (and in one case exceeded) their expectations are Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly. The big Swede has put away four league goals, and Bailly earned Player of the Month honors with strong performances against the likes of Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull City.
While those two have shined, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have struggled to find their form. Mkhi has made just a single start with injuries keeping him from reaching the peaks he found at Dortmund last season. When he was healthy, the Armenian provided United with a dynamic attacking and playmaking option on the wing, and even behind the striker. If you ask me, he’s a vast improvement over Wayne Rooney in that role.
Pogba is another story. The world-record signing has run into a bit of learning curve coming back to the Premier League, and he has started to draw some heavy criticism from fans and pundits. The 23-year-old was never going to rack up 20+ goals and 30 assists, but still he has been a tad disappointing.
While it’s easy to say that Pogba has Premier League experience from his time at United way back in 2012, he only made three appearances during his first stint in Manchester. Last season at Juve, the 23-year-old received similar criticism at the start of the year. Then, he found himself in the FIFA Team of the Year.
Right now, Pogba finds himself sitting in Mourinho’s defensive midfield pivot. That deep lying position limits his ability to impact the offense, but it really emphasizes his defensive talents.
With all due respect to club legend Wayne Rooney, it’s time for him to ride the pine and let Pogba take his role in the number ten spot. Mourinho still seems to be putting his complicated lineup puzzle, and I could see Morgan Schneiderlin taking up Pogba’s slot in the defensive pivot.
I think that it’s just a matter of time before United and Mourinho figure out how to win with their star-studded lineup. Honestly, it feels like it would be harder for them to lose with the talent they have in the squad. As much as I hate seeing us struggle to find a new identity under a star manager, I haven’t quite hit my personal panic button yet (I think it’s probably worn-out from the last three years). I am still firmly on the United hype train for the season, and I can’t wait to write an article in May recapping a 21st league title.