By Ryan Rosenblatt –
Nine days ago, Manchester United were flying high. They had won their first three games of the season and it looked like Jose Mourinho, along with a trio of high priced signings up the middle were going to put them back in the title race after three forgettable seasons.
Now, they’re losers of three straight and, frankly, they’ve looked awful in all three.
Losing to Manchester City can be excused, although their showing in the first half was atrocious. But the Citizens are looking like a powerhouse and while falling to a rival hurts, it makes sense. However their dreadful performance against Feyenoord — yes, the winning goal was offside, but they looked awful — raised red flags and they looked even worse on Sundayas Watford downed the Red Devils, 3-1.
Against Watford, the Red Devils were just a series of individuals. Whether it was Chris Smalling backing into David De Gea and gifting Odion Ighalo a chance that should have been a goal, Anthony Martial losing the ball 25 yards from goal to spark the play for the Hornets’ opener or Marouane Fellaini clumsily handing away a penalty, the individual defensive miscues piled up. Even with the ball, many of United’s best chances came from individual plays, with Paul Pogba firing from 30 yards and hitting the bar or Zlatan Ibrahimovic overpowering defenders.
The lone United goal came on a rare bit of interplay, with Ibrahimovic and Marcus Rashford playing a brilliant two-man game from the midway line until the ball was in the back of the net. But even then, only two players were ever involved.
The manager is still limited by personnel. There are too many holes in the team, most notable Wayne Rooney and the gigantic headache he creates for his teammates whenever he’s on the pitch. But finding the right partner for Pogba has been a struggle too, with Fellaini preferred, but Morgan Schneiderlin the only man on the roster really well-suited to the role.
Manchester United will be a fine team regardless. Their individuals are good enough to keep them from catastrophe. But fine isn’t good enough at Old Trafford. Neither is three straight losses. And the only way the Red Devils will snap out of it is as a team, as corny as that sounds. Because right now they’re still waiting from a few of their brilliant players to save them on their own.