I started writing this pre-World Cup, however due to World Cup and my pure laziness it sort of got lost in the annuls of things to do. I post this purely to have something to relate to when looking back on the 2017-18 season. I had written more but felt the general overview was the most relevant, whereas the rest wouldn’t make as much sense.
I felt that Utd would win the league at the start of the season, primarily because I didn’t see much between them and City but I felt Utd would have the edge due to City having a lot of turnover in their first eleven and that because of that they would get off to a slow start which would make it hard for them to catch up as the season went along. It turned out the opposite was true as they ran off in the first half of the season winning game after game. The funny thing is that in the second half of the season the gap between the two teams was very small, so the complete opposite of what I thought would happen, good for me.
There was a lot of criticism of the style of play throughout the season and at times it wasn’t great, but as is the way, the media decided that it was jump on the bandwagon time and Utd played the worst football ever in the existence of ever and that Mourinho also clubbed baby seals in his free time and hated Samuel L Jackson (seems impossible I know). The truth is that the football at times was good, at times it was bad, however overall it was a massive improvement on the last number of years. It is sad that this is as good as Utd have been in the last five years, but in reality it is night and day the difference between this season and the other post-Fergie seasons.
Last season Utd had a massive problem putting teams away, often creating a good number of chances but being overly wasteful which led to a large number of draws. This season Utd’s performances were often polar opposites of each other. You would get games like the ones against City, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton where Utd would boss the game, play some really nice stuff and look like the side you’d expect, however there were way too many games like Brighton, West Brom, Huddersfield and Sevilla and ultimately that is the great downfall of the season.
It’s hard to make sense of how a team can go from beating the best team in the league after being two nil down, to in the next game losing to the worst team in the league at home. It pretty much sums Utd’s season up, promise but ultimately not consistent enough. What really struck me this season is the sheer lack of leaders in the team and how so often in games like this the players would look languished and confused as to why the other team isn’t rolling over to them. This combined with far too few chances created brought a real nervous tension to their play, I lost count of how many games the players looked lost on the pitch.
Ultimately football is a results game, so how did Utd do in the four competitions which they competed? Bare minimum springs to mind. Finishing 2nd in the league is ok, I think at the start of the season you would have looked for Utd to put a title challenge in, that didn’t happen, however Utd were a clear 2nd in a league which City broke all the records. I think you have to look at this in context, realistically it would have taken a mammoth effort to take on City this year (although with real pressure they probably wouldn’t have scored as many points), so when Utd were in 2nd basically the entire season and never really looked like finishing anywhere other than there, not what you’d want but when you consider that Utd have finished 7th, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively in the past four seasons it certainly shows the the club is moving forward.
The other competitions were much more of a mess for Utd, the League Cup quarter final exit to Bristol City was pretty embarrassing and the FA Cup final loss to a completely out of form Chelsea was highly disappointing (not that Chelsea came to play, mustering minimal attacks and sticking almost every player behind the ball which Utd struggled to break down, missing several guilt edged chances), however both pale in comparison to the Champions League campaign. I think that most Utd fans would agree that getting to the quarters was the aim, when Sevilla comes out in the draw it seems almost a dead cert…then Utd play two of the most lacklustre legs in Champions League history. The 0-0 in Seville you can understand and take, not great but ok, however to not show up at Old Trafford in the second leg until being two goals down was flat out not good enough. Again it was the display of a team which lacks leadership and one which struggles when expectation comes calling.
Goalscoring has been a problem over the last number of seasons and this year was an improvement yet something which still needs a lot of work. Utd goalscoring was better than last season, with 14 goals more in the league. The problem however is that Lukaku is carrying the majority of the weight for the side and when he isn’t on it then it falls to Martial, Lingard and Rashford who just aren’t consistent enough to fill that hole. It’s an improvement on last season but the problems which have plagued the team over the last few seasons were still very much in place this year.