Manchester United’s Premier League record under Jose Mourinho reached new levels of depressing after Saturday’s inexplicable goalless draw with Burnley.
The result leaves them with one goal in four matches, eight points off the top and five points off fourth. A truly disappointing and unexpected return by the end of October.
However, Thursday’s encounter with Fenerbahce in Istanbul acts as a perfect opportunity to alleviate some of the gloom surrounding Man United’s poor domestic campaign.
Here are three players who must start against Dick Advocaat’s side.
United’s record with Carrick in the side: four games, four wins.
This, of course, is no coincidence. The Englishman’s unyielding composure in midfield, coupled with a firm onus on moving the ball forward, precipitates a sense of conviction throughout the entire side – something Mourinho’s men miserably lacked against Burnley, and something they’ll desperately need in what promises to be a truly hostile atmosphere.
The Spaniard’s unjustified red card during Saturday’s draw with Burnley rules him out of Sunday’s encounter with Swansea, but also means that Mourinho will have no reservations over including him against Fenerbahce. His energy levels and sheer commitment to the cause forms the aggressive backbone of United’s midfield, and his involvement on Thursday will be crucial when it comes to suppressing the home side.
With Antonio Valencia facing a six-week spell on the sidelines, Darmian – a hitherto peripheral figure under Mourinho – has to immediately acclimatise to the role of first choice right-back. His performance against Burnley served as an ideal start; the Italian, despite making a shaky start to the season, produced a display that evoked memories of his first month at Old Trafford: composed, reliable and compact. The same will be required in Istanbul.