And so the inquests can wait a while longer. Juan Mata’s winner against Manchester City on Wednesday night gave Jose Mourinho his first win in a big game since arriving at Old Trafford and provided him with some much-needed good news after a torrid week.
The 4-0 drubbing at Stamford Bridge on Sunday was as abject a performance as any United have served up since Sir Alex Ferguson departed the club and was undoubtedly the darkest moment of Mourinho’s career at United so far.
Describing United as a team in crisis might have been premature, but the knee-jerk nature of modern football and the expectations surrounding Mourinho are such that he was quickly dismissed as man who’s been deserted by his magic touch.
The humiliation at the hands of Chelsea was in antithesis with the Portuguese’s football philosophy, but the win in the derby was more in line with what fans expected of the former Inter manager.
In the second half against a City side which was nowhere near as weakened as some made it out to be – eight of those who played on Wednesday featured in the League Cup final last season – United finally looked like a team with a plan.
Once Mata scored, United never looked like conceding, something Mourinho’s teams have been renowned for over the years.
However, just as United weren’t a team in crisis on Sunday, it would be premature to claim they’ve turned a corner, for some glaring issues remain. Mourinho still doesn’t seem sure of what his best XI is, Eric Bailly’s injury deprives him of the team’s best defender and Paul Pogba is yet to hit the dizzying heights of his spell at Juventus.
More pertinently, over the last three seasons, among other inadequacies, United have been undone by a chronic lack of consistency.
Moyes’ reasonably steady start soon turned abysmal, the feel good factor brought by Louis Van Gaal’s arrival evaporated once his robotic football became the norm and each time United looked to have taken a step forward under the Dutchman they then took two back.
And yet, there are some positives to be taken from Mourinho’s first three months in charge and dismissing them would be as foolish as expecting the Portuguese would solve all United’s issues simply by walking into Carrington.
United have come out of a very difficult run of games with a creditable draw at Anfield and a win against City with the debacle at Chelsea sandwiched in between.
The performance at Stamford Bridge hurt more than the result and quite a lot of fans would have probably settled for a draw and a win out of those three games.
On paper, United’s next fixtures are all eminently winnable and in a league where the only certainty seems to be that none of the teams can be trusted, they’ve a genuine chance of dragging themselves back in the race.
Mourinho is yet to settle on a lineup but he has recognised that both Ander Herrera and Juan Mata – who many thought would be deemed surplus to requirement- are important players and both have grasped their chance to impress.
Mourinho has shown his ruthless side by dropping Wayne Rooney and, in all likelihood, will do so again in January, with a few players expected to depart.
The United manager can perhaps blame his good start to the season for the recent criticism. Three wins in three games were enough to convince a lot of people that the old United were back and that Mourinho’s job was half done.
They weren’t and it wasn’t, but Mourinho remains the right man for the job and, given time, will reinvigorate the club.
Only time will tell whether the win on Wednesday was a turning point or the umpteenth false dawn. But, for now, it was definitely a step in the right direction.
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