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What We Learned: Mentally fragile players, need for string of wins and disappointing Schneiderlin!

Manchester United’s poor away form in Europe continues. After the Manchester City win and the “weird” draw against Burnley, one would have thought that the performances of this team are getting there. However, the show put on against Fenerbahce just prove all of that wrong. It only asserts the frequent inconsistencies that are seen in the performance of this United side. Fenerbahce did not perform all that well but did end up as deserved winners, that just shows how poor the Red Devils performed tonight. To add to that, United’s world record signing, Paul Pogba, limped off injured only after quarter of an hour, disrupting Jose Mourinho’s plans. But that’s no excuse for this United side, especially against a team like Fenerbahce.

It was not an inspiring performance at all and there is a lot that needs to be looked at and very soon now. But here are the few things that we learned from this game.

Players lack mental toughness

A lot of the current crop of United players seem to lack the mental toughness that is needed to play at such a big club. One thing that the strong United sides had in common was the ability to fight against the odds and till the very last-minute. This is something that has been missing for the past three seasons. Same was the case in today’s game. Although they got one back, right at the end, by a thunderous Wayne Rooney strike, they left it way too late. There were hardly any attacking threats throughout the game, let alone after being 2-0 down. One would have expected for United to be a little more dominant going forward after going behind but it was Fenerbahce that posed more danger. Footballing abilities can be groomed and developed in trainings but the ability to handle pressure, expectations and most important of all, failure, is something that needs to come naturally to a player. One cannot say for sure if this is the case but looking at what has been happening for the past several games, it certainly seems to be the more logical reason.

Morgan Schneiderlin should be disappointed

The Frenchman has not been a regular for Mourinho since the start of the season. However, he had a golden opportunity today to really put in a decent performance to leave the manager no choice but to start him. Unfortunately, a poor performance, a yellow card plus terrible first half attacking performance meant his playtime was cut short to just 45 minutes. Although he has not been getting  lot of game time, performances like these only make the case for it more difficult. Schneiderlin came in to this United side as one of the best defensive midfielders in the league and to see him getting subbed at half time is tough, but if things don’t change soon, it might be difficult for the Frenchman to hold on to his United jersey.

String of wins needed

The team is currently very short on confidence and there doesn’t seem to be a way out of it for now. The only thing that can change this is wins. United need to go on a run of consecutive wins and once those start coming, the confidence and performances will grow too. But this has reached an emergency stage now, where even a couple more disappointing result will seriously damage the team morale. There was a lot of positivity at the start of the season, which reflected in the results as well. A string of three defeats took all the momentum out and United have been struggling to recover ever since. Mourinho needs to be make major amendments in order to get back to winning ways.

With another disappointing result and performance, Mourinho and his team has to go back to the drawing board. United and the manager cannot have any more disappointing performances anymore. It is not only the pressure to maintain the distance to the top but also the pressure from the media and social media. The fans have very high expectations of their team and the usual “getting used to” period is close to none. There has not been anything as such, that could fulfill those expectations by the slightest and to make things worse, United’s competitors have been having better days on the field. It is pretty clear that this is not just a problem related to the manager. When you have two different manager fail and third struggling to get a team, which can be termed as one of the strongest on the paper, to take off, players should start looking at themselves. There are not many, if any, who give their 100% on the pitch every game, and that is the bare minimum that a club like United should expect. I will however still be hopeful of the season and believe that it can be saved but things are on knives edge at present and a slight tilt in the wrong direction can make everything fall apart.

Written by Chinmay Padhye

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