There was only one reason Mourinho was brought to Old Trafford and that was to win back a Premier League trophy United once regarded as theirs by right. Three months into the season, he has still recorded only one league victory of significance – and that was against a Leicester side making a feeble defence of the championship they won against some of the longest odds ever offered in a sporting contest.
The Manchester United manager, however, takes a rather more detached view. Nine-point gaps, he argued, are the kind that can disappear very quickly. “When I won the title with Chelsea 18 months ago, I had a 10 point advantage and then, one month later, I had the same number of points as Manchester City.
“We lost 10 points in one month. It was between the end of December and mid-January. We recovered and won the title. You can recover points and others can lose them.”
The one flaw in Mourinho’s theory is that at Chelsea Mourinho was involved in a two-way struggle with Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City. This time, Manchester United would have to overtake five different clubs.
It can happen. Sir Alex Ferguson’s first Premier League title in 1993 was won from a similarly unpromising beginning but Mourinho must know it is unlikely.
“During a season there are moments when everything goes against you and moments when everything goes in your favour,” he said. “We know the race is not over but the reality is that there is a distance and there are many quality teams involved. Let’s go match by match and see what happens.”
The next match is at home to West Ham, a team in dreadful form and whose record at Old Trafford is hugely indifferent. But you could have said the same about Burnley and Stoke, both of whom returned home with a point secured against the overwhelming run of play. As Mourinho wearily pointed out, “For Stoke, their goalkeeper was man of the match, for Burnley, their goalkeeper was man of the match”.
Manchester United vs Arsenal player ratings
Manchester United vs Arsenal player ratings
1/22 David de Gea - 4 out of 10
With Arsenal scoring their only shot on target, it’s not been the best day for the Spaniard. He had very little to do throughout.
2/22 Antonio Valencia - 8 out of 10
Performed exceptionally today, looking strong going forward and defensively.
3/22 Phil Jones - 5 out of 10
Did the simple stuff well at the back, but looked slow defensively at times.
4/22 Marcos Rojo - 6 out of 10
Defended well throughout proceedings, played safely and used possession well from the back.
5/22 Matteo Darmian - 5 out of 10
A mediocre performance from the Italian. He was lunging into challenges, despite already being armed with a yellow card.
6/22 Michael Carrick - 5 out of 10
The skipper played a very standard performance today. He played his role well and stuck to his position.
7/22 Ander Herrera - 7 out of 10
His work rate was faultless and he influenced play in the middle of the park – good overall performance.
8/22 Paul Pogba - 6 out of 10
He appeared to patrol the middle of the park in the first half, but in the second half he seemed to go off the boil. He did not make many chances and lacked any attacking prowess.
9/22 Juan Mata - 8 out of 10
An exceptional performance from the Spaniard today. His goal was an example of his immense technical ability and he created chances throughout.
10/22 Anthony Martial - 6 out of 10
A somewhat quiet performance from him today, but he showed glimpses of brilliance in the first half with a number of strikes that tested Cech.
11/22 Marcus Rashford - 6 out of 10
Despite being caught out for the late Arsenal goal, his performance throughout was positive. He attacked confidently and his crossing was inviting problems for the Arsenal defence.
12/22 Petr Cech - 6 out of 10
He made a number of important saves in the first half, but was out of position when Mata broke the deadlock.
13/22 Carl Jenkinson - 4 out of 10
It was a somewhat uncomfortable performance from him today, as he looked slow and unable to keep up with the pace of the United strike force.
14/22 Laurent Koscielny - 6 out of 10
He did well in the air today, but the United attack got the better of him at times as he was caught out of position.
15/22 Shkodran Mustafi - 5 out of 10
It was an incredibly mediocre performance by the German. He did well in possession, but that wasn’t enough at times.
16/22 Nacho Monreal - 5 out of 10
A questionable penalty call in the first half was the main incident for the Spainard. He failed to show his defensive ability against the quality of United going forward.
17/22 Francis Coquelin - 6 out of 10
Made a number of important tackles, but it wasn’t enough to stop his opponents running the midfield battle.
18/22 Mohamed Elneny - 4 out of 10
The Egyptian made a few unneeded and mistimed challenges and failed to show any sign of threat when going forward.
19/22 Aaron Ramsey - 5 out of 10
He had very little of the ball throughout, and when he did he failed to do much with it.
20/22 Mesut Ozil - 5 out of 10
Taking into account his huge talent, it was a rather dim performance. He failed to create chances and feed Sanchez which resulted in Arsenal having no spark going forward.
21/22 Theo Walcott - 4 out of 10
A very quiet performance from the winger today. He saw very little of the ball and was regularly caught playing too narrow which left Arsenal with no width to their attacks.
22/22 Alexis Sanchez - 6 out of 10
He looked dangerous when in possession, but a lack of service did not allow him to make a real impact on the game.
On Thursday night, however well Brad Jones played for Feyenoord in the Europa League, the Australian keeper was unable to prevent Manchester United scoring four.
“Those kinds of big results are not very usual in the Premier League,” said Mourinho. “We lost 4-0 at Chelsea but it is not very usual because there is a great balance among the teams. Rather than beat one team 5-0, we need to win five games.”
Manchester United have not won back-to-back games since the start of the season when three straight victories gave Old Trafford hope that Mourinho might put together the electric starts that won him his first two titles at Chelsea.
Wayne Rooney’s opening goal in the rout of Feyenoord stole some easy headlines but the absence of Anthony Martial, who is rather more important to Manchester United’s long-term future, raised some eyebrows.
Having begun his first season thrillingly after a £36m move from Monaco made him football’s most expensive teenager, Martial may be suffering from second-season syndrome or he may be one of the very few at Manchester United who is missing Louis van Gaal.
“First of all, last year’s team is very different to this year’s team,” said Mourinho. “Last year’s was probably more adaptive to Anthony. He was probably more comfortable playing that way, at that intensity, at that rate of ball possession and ball circulation.
“He needs some time to adapt but in our squad we have a lot of people in those positions – we have Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Depay, Mata, Rashford. These are the positions where we probably have more options than any other.
“You have one opportunity, you have two, you have three but, if you don’t bite, then somebody else comes and takes the bait.”Reuse content