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Overcoming the mental challenge of the home draws

After Manchester United’s tenth home draw in the Premier League this season, are United facing a psychological battle at Old Trafford? The majority of the draws have all been games that should have been victories, even in the one home defeat of the season, against Manchester City in September, United arguably deserved a point, or more, a classic case of one team taking their chances, one not.

In each of the draws this season, apart from Sunday, where United did look flat, probably mainly down to fatigue, and perhaps the Liverpool game at home where I felt Liverpool were impressive and United did well to dig in and rescue a point, it’s been a similar trend. United not taking their chances, not putting the game to bed when sitting on a one goal lead. There’s been only one game in the league where United have scored over two goals at home, that was the 4-1 win against Leicester City, where things really seemed to click. Is there any more Jose Mourinho can do? I would argue, not really. We’ve seen big progress on the pitch from United this season, under Louis van Gaal the players looked restricted, having no creative freedom, therefore the chances were few and far between. The opportunities that United have had in these games this season really should have been enough to win the games, that is on the players.

In contrast, why were there so many late goals, so many comebacks under Sir Alex Ferguson? It is the old cliché but I believe it is the fear factor. As Sir Alex stated in his autobiography, he wanted to make the opposition feel scoring a goal against United was a provocative action, that had consequences, the crowd felt that too. In those last 10 minutes when United were hunting a goal, the noise level would rise, so would the belief of the United players, and so would the tension of the opposition. It felt like the goal was a vacuum cleaner, sucking the opposition further back defensively, and the ball along with it. The goal didn’t always come of course, but the belief that it could was always there, and the opposition would never leave the pitch thinking they’d had an easy afternoon.

Nowadays, do the fans have the same belief in the current team, probably not, I think it’s fair to say. You can feel the tension grow with every misplaced pass, with every opportunity missed the groans get louder and louder. A lot of progress has been made though. Mourinho has put the foundations in place, United are very hard to beat again, only three league defeats so far this season. Plus, the signings he has made have all been big hits, not only key additions based on ability but a good addition to the squad mentally. They are all big personalities, particularly Zlatan Ibrahimovic of course, Paul Pogba too, they have that swagger, a sense of arrogance you need to be a Manchester United player, need to be brave. You can also see Eric Bailly is a big favourite with the players, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s responsibility has grown gradually as the season has worn on.

I firmly believe Mourinho has United on the right track again, and with a few more big additions like last summer, and moving a few out, I think we, as fans, can all look forward to bigger things next season and beyond.

Written by Anthony Bennett

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