We have reached the midpoint of the 2017/18 season and it is time for us to sit back and take a look at how the campaign has fared so far for Manchester United.
Jose Mourinho’s men have had a fairly eventful first half of the campaign and here we analyze their season so far and pick out who has been the most stand out player for the Red Devils and who has failed to stand up, along with the prediction for what could be waiting for them in the second-half of the term;
The Season So Far…
Manchester United have had a good start to the season, no questions there. It just so happens that they have paled in the shadows of a rampant Manchester City side that have been flying high and haven’t allowed Mourinho’s men a sniff at the title.
Point as many fingers as you want at Jose, but from finishing sixth in the last season to be competing for the title and sitting comfortably second at the halfway point of the ongoing term needs to be lauded. The progress that has been made is quite evident, but they still aren’t quite the finished article yet and that has shown on a number of occasions.
The defensive tactics employed in the away draw against Liverpool, despite the well-known frailties of the Reds’ backline, did not sit well with many of the supporters, while the manner in which they lost the derby at home was also a bitter pill to swallow. And the shock exit from the Carabao Cup at the hands of EFL Championship side Bristol City was another major disappointment for the fans and the manager.
Yet, there have been some very exciting performances from the 20-time English champions, where they have displayed that they can turn on the style and can be right up there with the best of the teams in Europe. Also, their progression to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League has been very impressive, to say the least.
David De Gea has once again proven himself as the best in the business in his position, having helped United save matches with a number of eye-catching displays between the sticks, none more so than the win over Arsenal, where he made a record 14 saves to keep the Gunners out.
A lot was expected of summer signing Romelu Lukaku, following his £75 million move from Everton. And while the Belgian had a great start to life in the M-16, he has faded away in recent games and will need to step up in a big way in the second half of the season. Fellow summer signing Nemanja Matic has been quite brilliant and has added a much-needed stability in the middle of the park to the side.
But, it is club record signing Paul Pogba that has been the star for United this season. After enduring a difficult start on his return to the Old Trafford last term, the Frenchman has turned it on this campaign and has shown why he is regarded as one of the best in the game. The former Juventus midfielder has been extremely key for the Red Devils and whenever he has been absent, which has been a lot (12 games in total), the team have looked deprived of the drive and creativity.
The Frenchman did not feature in the clashes against Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City and when he played against Arsenal he made a big impact assisting two goals, highlighting the difference that he makes to this side.
This was supposed to be the season when Henrikh Mkhitaryan showed his true class after an underwhelming first season and the way things started, with him getting five assists in the first three games, the future looked bright and shiny for the Armenian.
However, it did not take long for things to unravel from then on as he struggled to repeat the early performances and was once again frozen out by Mourinho, who seems to be growing frustrated with his playmaker. Mkhitaryan hasn’t added a single assist to his tally since his early-season blitz and that has seen him dropped out of the squad entirely on a number of occasions, with a move in January very much on the horizon. And with rumours of United making a move for Mesut Ozil gaining weight, it looks very much like the Armenian’s time at Old Trafford is nearing an end.
Season Grade: B+
Mourinho might feel he may have lost out on a chance to win a trophy in the Carabao Cup and their Premier League title challenge also looks all but done, given their 13-point deficit to leaders City. Yet, they still can have a good run in the Champions League, considering that they have a favourable tie in the Round of 16 and given the manager’s penchant for winning trophies, the FA Cup too is very much a likely avenue for the club.