Former Arsenal winger Charlie Nicholas has noted that Jose Mourinho will be disappointed with a lethargic display from Manchester United against Brighton and Hove Albion on Saturday.
Man United made a muted start against Chris Hughton’s men, who frustrated the hosts with some compact defending, and only fashioned one meaningful chance when Romelu Lukaku’s close range header was well saved by Matthew Ryan.
The hosts continued to impose themselves after half time and Ashley Young eventually broke the deadlock after his strike from outside the box took a heavy deflection off Lewis Dunk that sailed into the top corner.
But Nicholas, speaking on Sky Sports after the game, made it clear that Mourinho would have been unhappy with the languid nature of his side’s performance.
“It’s Manchester United isn’t it,” he said. “It’s what they do, they just get lazy sometimes. I think that’s why Jose always looks like he’s in pain with this team.
“I don’t know if it’s just Manchester getting to him or the pressure coming from across the city. But he always seems to be on the edge of warning players not to be lazy, get the job done.
“Normally they do, they have done that under Jose Mourinho, but there still looks to be problems within this group to me. Defensively he’s not convinced on what’s his best centre-back pairing.
“He gets some guys back to fitness, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic)’s obviously back now and all of a sudden Lukaku is under pressure.
“Will he start Zlatan and leave Lukaku out because his goals are coming late in the games? He’s just not getting the response he wants in certain aspects of the game and that must frustrate him.
“We know he gets angry quite quickly these days, but at the moment I think he is.”
One major improvement from last season has been the feeling of improved control over games – something aided by Nemanja Matic’s arrival to the midfield and Man United as a collective improving in cohesion over the summer.
But that wasn’t there against Brighton. Everything appeared to lack its usual intensity and drive, with United perhaps flagging from recent Champions League commitments and injuries over the last few weeks, and it let Brighton take up good defensive positions and frustrate the hosts.
Mourinho’s men, ahead of a crucial December month, will need to produce much more cut and thrust on a weekly basis if they are to pose a threat to Manchester City.