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Should Jose Mourinho Focus On The Europa League?


Manchester United extended what must be one of the most confusing and frustrating unbeaten runs in Premier League history with a 1-1 draw at home to Swansea on Sunday.

The visitors face the threat of relegation, yet you could not have told this from the style and daring with which they approached this match. When they equalised with a late free kick from Gylfi Sigurdsson, it was the very least they deserved, wholly outplaying their hosts.

United also added to their substantial list of injuries as Luke Shaw and Eric Bailly limped off, and if some of their key players do not recover soon, their chances of not only a Champions League place but also a Europa League final spot could be in real jeopardy.

There were very few — this was grim viewing indeed. Wayne Rooney was fairly good, scoring a penalty in composed fashion and being unlucky not to get a second. Anthony Martial, looking much sharper of late, was probably the pick of United’s players.

United miskicked the ball more times in the opening 15 minutes than they had in the previous three matches, and they often seemed worryingly unable to complete passes that looked fairly simple.

The defence looked oddly nervous, the midfield was frequently overrun and they lacked cohesion in attack, relying instead on individual brilliance. To compound all this, Shaw and Bailly — by far the squad’s best centre-back — were taken off with injuries.

Manager rating out of 10
5 — This performance was so listless the manager must take some accountability. Though his players made basic errors for much of the match, they also seemed to lack structure and ideas, and so much of their play was prosaic. The post-mortem of this match will be uncomfortable for him and his players.

GK David De Gea, 6 — Made a fine save from Fernando Llorente in the first half but did not seem to organise his defence particularly well — and though he was beaten by an excellent free kick, he did seem to be standing very far over to one side when it went in.

DF Ashley Young, 6 — The pick of United’s defenders, even though he struggled severely against the Swansea counterattack. Overlapped with speed and intelligence and at least gave his team genuine width.

DF Eric Bailly, 5 — Was having one of his poorer games in a United shirt before he went off. Miskicked the ball with startling regularity in the early stages and was turned too easily by Llorente.

DF Daley Blind, 5 — His passing was poor throughout and he frequently rushed his clearances, as well as looking unsettled when Swansea ran directly at him.

DF Luke Shaw, N/R — Was unable to do much of note, so soon was he injured in this match. Desperately disappointing for him during another difficult season.

MF Michael Carrick, 5 — Another performance in which he seemed to be overrun, and his passing radar was also slightly but crucially off, meaning that he could not control the tempo of this game.

MF Ander Herrera, 5 — Struggled against Swansea’s directness and never truly imposed himself. Did the simple things well but never managed to establish dominance of the midfield. Struggled defensively at times.

MF Jesse Lingard, 5 — Worked hard but failed to link defence and attack, which often put pressure on Carrick and Herrera behind him. Was unable to summon the subtlety of passing needed against this streetwise opposition.

MF Anthony Martial, 7 — Early on he was going past men with ease, and though he was a little subdued after that fast start, he was still a relentless danger given the chance. He was too often out on the wing to be as decisive as he should be.

MF Marcus Rashford, 7 — Strong work ethic throughout. Made some of his team’s most impressive runs, and his tumble under minimal — probably nonexistent — contact led to the opening goal, a Rooney penalty.

FW Wayne Rooney, 7 — Spread the play with purpose and authority, scored a penalty at a crucial moment and was unfortunate not to net a second, denied only by his strike cannoning against Martial. One of the few to emerge from this game with credit.

DF Antonio Valencia, 6 — Hardworking as ever, but too often inaccurate with his final ball and hesitant when going forward.

DF Matteo Darmian, 6 — A solid replacement for Bailly, defensively sound though unambitious when moving play forward.

MF Henrikh Mkhitaryan, N/R — Barely got involved when he came on, and was smartly fouled whenever he built up a head of steam on the ball. Must be concerned that he is a reserve in such crucial games.


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