Manchester United played Premier League football at home this Sunday and the most predictable outcome this season – the 1-1 score draw repeated itself once again at the ‘Theatre of something definitely not dreams’.
If I were to rank the performances in the 10 draws at home under Jose Mourinho and 14 overall – a Premier League record, the drab and almost inevitable nature of Sunday’s bore-fest would be the equivalent of Sunderland – soul-less for the most part and to be honest, pointless too.
It was tiring even watching that 90 minutes taken out of our life but Jose Mourinho would argue it was even more tiring for his players who had just played their 57th game in all competitions against Paul Clement’s Swansea City (38th game of the season) who were a lot fresher and more determined to avoid the drop.
The Portuguese named a side with predictable changes in the starting eleven following a 0-0 against City at the Etihad on Thursday night. Skipper Wayne Rooney was reinstated, Jesse Lingard, Ashley Young and Luke Shaw were all roped in to help the other senior full-backs Darmian and Valencia and Henrikh Mkhitaryan recover ahead of the away leg in the semi-final against Celta Vigo.
But two forced substitutions would throw a large spanner in the works as Luke Shaw and more worryingly, their best center-back Eric Bailly were taken off after the 22-year old suffered an ankle injury in the second half. United started the game on the back-foot, clearly exhausted as Swansea made the most of possession creating a couple of very decent chances via Llorente combining with the midfielders.
But it was the home side that opened the scoring right at the death of half-time, through a fortuitous penalty call, as Rashford going down in controversial fashion – led Rooney to converting the penalty to score his fourth of the campaign and second in as many games. Although, this was the skipper’s only meaningful contribution in the entire match if we are not including the two utterly useless diagonal balls sideways to Antonio Valencia.
But Swansea came back stronger in the second half as Manchester United faded away into mediocrity. Gylfi Siggurdson scored again at Old Trafford (3rd consecutive PL game) through an expertly taken free kick adding to the list of ‘I’ve seen this before’ events on Sunday. Mourinho looked to the bench and there was little inspiration left – apart from the sight of Juan Mata warming up after almost a month on the sidelines. That was genuinely encouraging.
Barring flashes of brilliance from Martial on the left flank when he toyed with Kyle Naughton for a while before giving him the death stare, United lacked creativity for the majority of the game, required to unlock a suspect Swansea back-four that has seen them lose the last six games on the road in the league. It was almost as if the Red Devils had the choice of picking another route to reach the promised land in 2017/18 in the form of Champions League football. Almost.
Mourinho pulled no punches in the post-match press conference – which will also go right at the top of the aforementioned list of inevitables.
He called out Luke Shaw, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, the home fans, fixture list, the FA and you guessed it – UEFA, in a slightly tense exchange but the good (and bad) news is that Manchester United are miraculously still very much alive in the race for top four as Man City and Arsenal dropped more points in the weekend, giving the Red Devils even more false hope.
And did I mention it? That was Manchester United unbeaten (or unbeatable, in Mourinho’s words) in 25 Premier League games on the bounce. Ridiculous, isn’t it?