“I said before the Arsenal game that I didn’t think another miracle would happen, but I was wrong,” said Jose Mourinho in his programme notes. “My feeling has not changed, though. If we reproduce that performance level this afternoon then we should win. If we keep playing well then the boys will eventually get what they deserve.”
What does he know?
Manchester United again boasted the majority of possession, once more created more than enough chances to win a game and yet still came up short against West Ham United on Sunday. Their 1-1 draw at Old Trafford means they have now failed to win a home league game since September 24, when they thrashed champions Leicester City.
It was the same old story in many respects. For phases of the game they dominated, peppering the visitors’ goal with efforts from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Wayne Rooney.
But everything seemed to be in their way, whether it be Darren Randolph saving from Rashford, Rooney and Pogba, the post which kept out Mkhitaryan’s effort moments after coming on, the offside flag that denied Lingard from the rebound or Angelo Ogbonna’s magnificent block to keep out Ibrahimovic’s fierce effort.
United could have done little more to force a winning goal after Ibrahimovic had cancelled out Diafra Sakho’s second-minute header. There was almost nothing Mourinho could have asked of his players other than what they did.
Not that the Portuguese was in a position to influence things in the second half. He had been ordered out of the technical area shortly before half-time after booting a drinks bottle down the touchline in frustration at referee Jonathan Moss’ decision to book Pogba for a dive. The incident was at least 70 yards away from United’s goal and was thus of no real danger. It was hardly a helpful or appropriate reaction in terms of both the incident and the ramifications, and his petulance only served to undermine his team’s efforts.
It cannot have helped United after the break, but they dropped two more points as a result of marginal shortcomings on the pitch rather than the loss of their manager off it. While United have hammered Stoke City, Burnley and West Ham at Old Trafford in recent weeks and kept Arsenal quiet for 88 minutes, too, they have shown an inability to stamp on the opposition’s throat.
They did everything but score the winner today, but that will not show in the league table. Instead, they register just one point again and are left 11 points off the top and eight away from even being a top-four side.
Aesthetically, Mourinho’s side is better than Louis van Gaal’s edition, as well as David Moyes’ before him. But when it comes to the bottom line, they are no different. Mourinho’s job now is to stop spitting out his dummy and find a way to overcome their misfortune to deliver the results that continue to elude him.