Manchester United drew with Swansea on Sunday afternoon, a result which was further proof that Jose Mourinho’s side really do need a little time to wake up, wake up when they’re called to Old Trafford to pursue their own form of morning glory.
This was the sixth time that Manchester United had played in the first match of either a Saturday or Sunday at home and it was their fourth draw, as Swansea matched the 1-1 stalemates of Stoke, Arsenal, and Bournemouth. In their first early start of the season at Old Trafford, back in September, they lost 2-1 to Manchester City, while their only victory in such circumstances was their 4-1 destruction of a lacklustre Leicester at the end of the same month.
United’s inability to kick into gear in matches that start just after noon is indicative of their problems throughout the campaign, as The Theatre Of Dreams has repeatedly overwhelmed Jose Mourinho’s side while galvanising and inspiring visiting opponents, when it really should be the other way round. Manchester United have certainly impressed on occasions, and their 25 game unbeaten run in the Premier League is nothing to dismiss, even it is beginning to feel increasingly hollow with each passing draw. But the Old Trafford faithful have long grown tired of being subjected to missed chance after missed chance after missed chance, while it also doesn’t help that even when Manchester United have taken the lead they’ve then conspired to concede and drop points on four occasions in front of their own supporters.
After the Swansea game Jose Mourinho used Manchester United’s packed April schedule, which saw them play nine games in just 30 days, as well as the fact that their defence has dwindled so rapidly and systematically that you can’t help but wonder if a bounty hunter was responsible, as his excuses. Which would be easier to stomach if Manchester United hadn’t already drawn 7 of their 14 home games before the start of the month, with West Bromwich Albion, Everton, and Swansea subsequently helping to round it up to 10 over the last few weeks.
As has become his trademark, Jose Mourinho has done a superb job of deflecting the attention away from his inability to turn draws into victories at Old Trafford. For the first string of stalemates he rightfully cited unluckiness and world-class displays from otherwise ordinary goalkeepers as his team’s defence, but those against Swansea, Everton, West Bromwich Albion, Bournemouth, and Hull since the start of February were fair results, and this reflects poorly on Mourinho.
While it is hard to feel sympathy for players because they have to start a game at 12 or just after, it’s also easy to overlook the human aspect and the disruption to their routine this brings, especially when you throw in the fact that United have been playing on Thursday nights and travelling back on Friday mornings for the entire season because of their Europa League excursions. This is where Jose Mourinho is supposed to step in and find a route to victory by inspiring his troops whatever the circumstances, but the flatness of United’s performance on Sunday, as well as the second-half retreat against City on Thursday, and their growing injury crisis, suggests that he’s struggling to do just that and they’re going to crawl to the end of the season rather than sprint.
AS IT HAPPENED: Manchester United v Swansea
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Thankfully, like Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Arsenal are also bungling their pursuits for the top four, too, meaning that Jose Mourinho still has the opportunity to paper over the cracks by sneaking into the Champions League, either through the regular method or by winning the Europa League, and chalking this up as an experience that he will hopefully remember and learn from. Because those who have repeatedly paid to watch and be frustrated and Old Trafford certainly won’t forget, even though there’s plenty they’d like to.