Now that the international weekend has finally concluded, football fans can turn their attention back to the rapidly dwindling domestic duties of the current campaign. No team will be busier during this period than Manchester United, who after already securing the EFL Cup, are now in the quarter finals of the Europa League and in hot pursuit of fourth placed Liverpool.
With so many games to contend with, especially in comparison to those around them, and a tricky run-in that will see Jose Mourinho’s men take on Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, and Everton in the coming weeks, the time for complacency and excuses has gone, and United will have to finish with a flurry to achieve their objective.
In order for that to happen, though, there are three vital things that fans and Jose Mourinho will need to see from Manchester United between now and the end of the season. Luckily for you I’ve made a note of them.
During Manchester United’s run of nine straight victories in December and January Paul Pogba shushed the naysayers with a string of fine midfield performances. But this came crashing to a halt during the draw against Liverpool on January 15, during which he conceded a penalty, missed a clear chance, and was completely off the boil. Pogba hasn’t recovered since, and has instead been despondent and disappointing. With Jose Mourinho rightfully sticking by his man, the Frenchman needs to repay this confidence by making a bigger impact. A hamstring injury kept him from going on international duty, and it allowed him to get in some much-needed rest, too. But while Mourinho won’t want to rush him back too quickly, there’s every chance that he will return for the tricky midweek home match with Everton on April 4. Pogba will be pining to get straight back into the action, which could even prove to be a catalyst for his rejuvenation.
Different goal scorers
There’s no getting around it – other than the imperious and ageless and just plain God-like antics of Zlatan Ibrahimovic when he’s presented with a sight of goal, the scoring tallies of the rest of the Manchester United team is pathetic. OK, Juan Mata gets a pass for his contribution of six Premier League goals, with four more in the cups. But Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been stunted by injury, Marcus Rashford has struggled when presented with chances, Anthony Martial hasn’t even been getting them, and Wayne Rooney is sadly no longer a threat. Combined, they’ve scored just 11 times in 27 Premier League games, which is just woeful. However, there’s a chance that the tide is slowly beginning to turn, because Marcos Rojo, Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard, and Antonio Valencia each broke their Premier League ducks during March. Hopefully that will prove to be so contagious that every other member of the Manchester United squad will pick up the slack for the low-scoring attackers that aren’t doing their jobs.
Embrace the rotation
While the victory over Middlesbrough wasn’t pretty, it did show just how deep Manchester United’s roster is. Ashley Young, Marouane Fellaini, and Jesse Lingard each came into the fold and played extremely well, while Juan Mata was just as impressive as he took on the mantle of being one of the most experienced players on the team sheet with a responsible and forthright performance. Even Jose Mourinho deployed more reserved and defensive tactics as he looked to grind out a win just three days after the game against Rostov. With the likes of Matteo Darmian, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Wayne Rooney, Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind all ready to be called upon, and with eight games to contend with in April alone, Jose Mourinho is going to need all of his squad to be primed and ready for action, while, just as important as that, he’s going to need to know exactly when to use them, too.