Our friends over at The Busby Babe are great people, despite their unfortunate club of choice. I answered some questions over on their blog, and Brent stopped by to answer my questions.
The Liverpool Offside: As much as I enjoy the misery currently upon every Manchester United fan I know, we should probably address the elephant in the room. United suck, but why? Is it all Jose’s fault? Does the bald weirdo investment banker Ed Woodward not know how to run a football club? Where’d it all go wrong?
The Busby Babe: The short answer is that sacking José Mourinho would likely improve the performance of the team. It’s hard to think that anyone else worth considering could get less out of these players than Mourinho is currently. The long answer is that the Mourinho problem is just the first layer of filth in a waist deep pool of excrement. The manager may be washed up and miserable, but that should have been apparent even before he was hired. The fact that he got the job anyway is a symptom of parasitic owners who care little about the state of the team so long as the business of Manchester United keeps making them money. Those owners put a “weirdo investment banker” in charge of football operations who is hopelessly out of his depth. Player recruitment has been a joke for years now, with no clear strategy resulting in an imbalanced squad put together by four different managers (and Ed Woodward). All that said, the team is still better than what Mourinho is currently making of it.
TLO: Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the actual football. Paul Pogba was arguably the best player for a team that won the World Cup. Yet, him and Mourinho are oil and water. Can you shed some light on that situation?
BB: Pogba is unhappy. He seems to hate Mourinho’s tactics as much as the fans do, and it shows in his play. But while he might be right, his performances this season have too often let the side down. On the other hand, Mourinho - instead of trying to maximize the talent of the best outfield player in the squad - has done a typical Mourinho thing and attempted to make an example out of him, to the detriment of the team. One or both of them won’t be at United next season. And as maddening as Pogba has been (even Mourinho’s rubbish approach can’t explain away some of his poorer efforts this season), there is obviously still a world class player in there somewhere. Mourinho, on the other hand, has likely seen his best days.
TLO: Mourinho has made it pretty well know that he didn’t get the summer transfer window he wanted. Diogo Dalot was United’s lone defensive signing this summer. He’s come into the team because of some injuries at the fullback spot. Have you been impressed by him? Is he the answer to the right back for the season and beyond for United? Also, where’s Fred?
BB: Dalot has been a revelation at right-back. Antonio Valencia was never a very good full-back, even if he eventually became a serviceable one. If Dalot can stay fit - his series of injuries already is a worrying sign - that spot can be his for a long time. The worry is that Mourinho will eventually drum the spirit and adventure out of Dalot the way he seems to do with everyone else.
As for Fred, I liked what I saw of him at the start of the season. But Mourinho clearly hasn’t been impressed, and wants more defensive stability in midfield than the creative Brazilian can offer. The problem is that the center backs are mostly crap, and the senior holding midfielder can barely move. So the need for more “steel” in the side gets exacerbated. On top of that, if his recent cameos are any indication, Fred is low on confidence and wouldn’t improve the side on current form (no doubt due to the man who signed him for a large fee quickly throwing him on the scrap heap). It’s a never-ending cycle of shit.
TLO: There’s no way Jose Mourinho starts next season as United manager, right? The breakup seems inevitable. I don’t want to step on the toes of my first question, so I’ll ask this instead: What are Mourinho’s lasting affects at United? Has he damaged the relationships with certain players like Marital, Pogba, and De Gea to an extent that they won’t stick around even if he leaves?
BB: No chance Mourinho is around next season, unless he does something silly like win the Champions League. It’s hard to imagine that Mourinho’s legacy will be positive by the end, especially if he continues on this current trajectory. He did win trophies his first season, and for a while he looked like he might be building something. He’s signed some good players, but most of them ended up performing below expectations. I can’t think of one key player that has improved under his management more than I would have expected. De Gea and Martial look more likely to renew their contracts - for big money, of course - but Mourinho might have cost us Pogba.
TLO: Finally, how do you see Sunday playing out? Does Mourinho have one last masterclass in him? If so, what’s he have to do to get a result at Anfield?
BB: I don’t expect a masterclass, but he may have enough to escape with a point. A build up of injuries at the back may force him to be even more conservative than he would have been, which will play to his strengths. 5 at the back, Fellaini up front, etc. That kind of obscenity.
TLO: Also, lineup & scoreline prediction:
BB: De Gea; Dalot, Smalling, Bailly, Shaw; Matić, Fellaini, Herrera; Lingard, Lukaku, Rashford.