The questions that have haunted the previous two managers of Manchester United emerged again for Jose Mourinho after the team lost its third match of the week, a deserved 3-1 reverse at Watford. The question of Wayne Rooney’s best position has dominated the agenda, as the England captain played in midfield, despite Mourinho saying at his opening press conference that he saw Rooney as only a striker.
Rooney was not the only one under the spotlight. Paul Pogba was once again a peripheral figure – short of a curling shot from distance that hit the bar – and it was hard to ignore Ken Early’s excellent summary in the Irish Times: “Pogba, who is good at everything, needs to decide what he's best at before can become the best at anything.”
Mourinho, never a good loser, also blamed the referee and said some of his players are struggling to cope with the pressure of playing for Manchester United. He singled out defender Luke Shaw for his role in Watford’s second goal. Mourinho’s second spell at Chelsea spiraled out of control when he started blaming his players for defeats. It’s far too early in his United career to fear the sack, but how he attempts to turn around what is a far bigger task than many thought will be fascinating to watch. Some thought the title race would be between the Manchester teams, but on current form United faces another battle for top four. Simply blaming it on his players did not work at Stamford Bridge, and it’s unlikely to work now. Dropping Rooney could be his first move.
Let’s not forget to mention or congratulate Watford here as well: new coach Walter Mazzarri has turned the side into a dangerous outfit and any concerns that a relegation fight could be on the cards have already dissipated. If last season’s model is anything to go by, expect this team to be mid-table by Christmas, and then start seeing some young talents that can be sold on at a profit get some game-time. Hats off to Mazzarri, whose 3-5-2 system will cause other teams problems this season.