If I were Jose Mourinho, sitting at home pondering what the 5-2 win over Galatasaray meant in relation to team selection, global warming and the size of the cosmos, I’d now have a very large bald patch on account of the severity and duration of the head scratching I’d be doing. So few answers, so many questions.
For the first half the manager picked what appeared to be his best available lineup, with Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan, Rooney and Martial in attack, and within four minutes the Swedish man-God had scissor-kicked one into the top corner. Cue much dribbling and maniacal laughing. But then things went a bit wrong, even though it was a delight watching forward passes and stuff. United stopped aiming the ball at one another. Wayne Rooney stopped playing football altogether, seemingly mesmerised by the sight of the mythical Wesley Sneijder. So he is real after all. With the midfield combo of Schneiderlin and Herrera ineffective in both defence and attack and a back four looking as flaky as ever the Turks, who finished sixth in their league last season, took control of the game and scored twice before half time. United looked dazed and confused. Sure, a number of those on show were making their first appearance of the summer and some rustiness is to be expected, but that half was garbage.
Cue some Jose words of encouragement and a raft of substitutions. On came lots of quick types and Michael Carrick. The game flipped on its head, mostly due to one of those quick types, Marcus Rashford, who zoomed about the pitch terrorising the Galatasaray back line. With Carrick’s calm and glorious vision United took control and equalised through Wayne Rooney, whose goal simply masked a wretched contribution. Then the number 10 played a forward ball to Rashford, who wooshed away from his marker, stepped inside the goalkeeper and won a penalty. More salivating and a standing ovation from Zlatan. Rooney converted the penalty and the Turks’ goose was cooked. It was now a stroll and Fellaini deftly headed a fourth, before the excellent Mata guided home the fifth. Yay.
Cue the head scratching. Does Rashford demand to be accommodated and if so where? Does Wayne Rooney justify his place? Can Paul Pogba do the job of the entire midfield? Just how much do we need another centre back? Did I really just see Antonio Valencia get three assists? What is a Jones? Where is Mkhitaryan’s best position? Will there be any Pokemon at the airport?
The day before the match Mourinho had undertaken the difficult task of telling those players not in his immediate plans that they needed to disappear. The Daily Mail reported that nine had been ‘told to find another club’ and explicitly stated that this was proof of Jose’s distrust of youth. Among those they named were Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson, two of the success stories of last season. Meltdown. United fans on social media erupted. “I knew it. This is Jose. Getting rid of your best young talent. Charlatan!” Within 24 hours it became clear that the Daily Mail are sh*t-stirring idiots. Who knew? Fosu-Mensah’s agent confirmed that he had been told that he would be in the first team squad this season, whilst CBJ was simply being offered for loan to aid his development. Silence from the naysayers.
However, not all were as lucky. Adnan Januzaj was once more told he could go on loan and promptly, if reports are to be believed (I know), asked to leave permanently. Realistically this would be for the best as his career has stalled completely after such a promising start. Also told to find another club was Bastian Schweinsteiger, birthday-celebrating fussbalgot. On huge wages, the German simply doesn’t play football enough and there was a definite suspicion towards the end of the last season that he was saving himself for the Euros. On a salary of nearly £200k per week, one can see why Mourinho isn’t keen. The question is whether anyone else will be keen on paying him that sort of money. China, are you listening? He’ll be brilliant at New Years and stuff. Bild reported yesterday that Schweini would refuse to leave, but with Mourinho making him train with the under-21s it’s hard to see that resolve lasting too long. Shame. His signing seemed like such a good idea at the time. We probably should have listened to Pep. Hey ho.
Today marks the start of Happy Pogweek, with the super-duper French midfielder hopefully jetting in from the US to become the most expensive footballer of all time. How exciting, particularly for Ed Woodward, his three year odyssey to stiff the Spanish almost complete. The player, his agent Mino Raiola and Adidas have been having a right laff, teasing us all about the transfer and sending social media muppets into meltdown. Already angered by the time it has taken to pull off the most expensive deal of all time (“this is getting boring now”), an incredibly complex transaction to negotiate and legalise, and sure that the whole thing should have been called off sometime last week, this has been the final straw. “He’s just laughing at us, attention seeking pr*ck. United should walk away.” You’ll be glad we didn’t when you see him playing actual football next season people. Perhaps the problem is how invested you’ve become in the deal and its twists and turns rather than the length of time it has taken to bring to fruition and an advertising campaign for which both the player and agent are probably being paid handsomely. Go for a walk, engage in real life activities, converse face to face with a human and remember that the season doesn’t start for nearly two weeks and the transfer window doesn’t close for a full month. Pogba is coming, as much as the self-protection widget in your brain won’t let you believe it and the Juve fans on Twitter keep denying it. When it finally happens, spare a thought for poor @footballitalia, perplexed at why such a great player would leave Juve to join a side not even in the Champions League. Money, innit.
So sit back, put your feet up and wait for the HMS Pogba to arrive up the Manchester Ship Canal. And spare a thought for Mourinho, for he has so many options and must be wondering what the hell to do with them all. Embrace the choice Jose, just as we should embrace the forward passing. After two years without, we have missed you so.