With Jose Mourinho’s inability to coax the best out of his squad becoming an increasingly recurrent theme of Manchester United’s underwhelming campaign so far, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at some of the players whose careers have taken a turn for the worse under the Portuguese.
5. Eric Bailly
Fending off rumoured interest from Barcelona as well as Manchester City, Manchester United signed the Ivorian for a reported fee of £30 million – making Bailly the first signing of Mourinho’s tenure at Old Trafford. Things appeared to be rosy initially, with Bailly named man of the match in his first start and then Manchester United’s player of the month in his first month at the club.
His first season was marred by an injury sustained against Chelsea in October, ruling him out for a majority of the season. A similarly bright start to his second season was again cut short by injury, before he returned to the fold with some strong performances, only to be mysteriously left out of the squad by Mourinho for games towards the end of the season – the Portuguese stating his supposed desire to ‘help’ Chris Smalling and Phil Jones make England’s World Cup as the reason behind Bailly’s omission.
Despite this, Bailly was expected to be the first choice this season and he was, until his calamitous display at Huddersfield condemned United to their first defeat of the season. Despite this, the manager persisted with him until another disaster showing led to United conceding two first-half goals at Old Trafford against Newcastle. Mourinho substituted Bailly early in the first half and United went on to win 3-2. The Ivorian was then left out of the starting line-up for a whole two months before a defensive crisis forced Mourinho to play him in United’s midweek draw with Arsenal, Mourinho stating after the game that he was still ‘half injured’.
4. Matteo Darmian
Matteo Darmian was one of those players whose careers were supposed to take off following Mourinho’s arrival at Old Trafford, the Portuguese stating his desire for ‘specialists’ instead of utility players in his very first press conference, as opposed to Louis Van Gaal’s demands for multi-functional players who could operate in several positions. Despite this, Darmian’s appearances for the first-team have only lowered season-on-season since the Dutchman left the club.
The season before Mourinho’s arrival, the Italian made 28 appearances in the league, which reduced to 18 in his first season in charge, before the player faced the ignominy of making only 8 appearances last season. Although Mourinho has always been keen to praise Darmian’s professionalism, stating on several occasions how he was always ‘ready for the team’, he has done little to back his words up with action, leaving him out of the squad regularly.
3. Andreas Pereira
The youngster has been part of each of Manchester United’s pre-season tours since Mourinho’s arrival, always keen to stress his intention to break into the squad at the start of each season. His apparent enthusiasm seemingly wasn’t enough to win his manager over, however, as he spent two of the three seasons out on loan in La Liga. Sent to Granada on loan in the first year, he impressed in patches before returning to Old Trafford at the end of the season.
His second year was spent at Valencia, this time by choice, with Mourinho claiming he wasn’t ready to stay and fight for his place. Having impressed with greater consistency at the Mestalla and with a bright pre-season behind him, Pereira was finally thought to be ready to make his mark at the beginning of the season with an opening day start at Leicester City the reward for his endeavours. Alongside Paul Pogba and Fred, the youngster impressed and kept his place for the next game where similar to Eric Bailly, a horror show at Huddersfield has since condemned him to the fringes of the squad.
2. Paul Pogba
Having been welcomed ‘back home’ to Old Trafford with much fanfare as the world’s most expensive player at the time, Paul Pogba’s reputation is no better than it was two years ago and has, in fact, dipped lower, critics might argue.
The Frenchman’s first year was fairly successful, ending with two pieces of silverware and a well-developed partnership with Swedish legend Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His second season, too, seemed to be going well before a terrible showing at Wembley against Tottenham forced Mourinho to substitute and subsequently drop his star man for key games against Sevilla and Liverpool.
Safe to say, Pogba’s form and their relationship haven’t been the same since, with the pair clashing several times on and off the field.
1. Alexis Sanchez
Seen as a dream signing for Manchester United, both in terms of the commercial pull he would generate as well as his expected impact on the field, Sanchez’s arrival at Old Trafford was sensational, generating more social media hits than even Neymar’s blockbuster move to Paris. His time at the club, however, has been anything but a sensation.
His January move offered some leeway for Mourinho to make an excuse and the Portuguese duly stated that he expected Sanchez to come to the fore this season. Thus, following a full pre-season, Sanchez was expected to lead the line at Old Trafford.
The Chilean instead seems to have dug himself a hole he can’t seem to come out of, scoring only a solitary goal in 10 appearances. His patchy form led to Mourinho taking him in and out of the team, before sustaining what was described by his manager as an ‘aggressive’ hamstring injury, suggesting that he would not be back in training at least until the end of the year – meaning he won’t have any more opportunities to overturn his status as an Old Trafford flop in 2018.