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Bridging The Gap
Man Utd are unlucky, but their title hopes are over - Martin Keown analysis
  Monday 28 November, 2016
Man Utd are unlucky, but their title hopes are over - Martin Keown analysis

It is only the end of November but, Manchester United's title hopes are already over - they simply have too much ground to make up.

I actually thought that before they were held at home by West Ham on Sunday, their fifth draw in their past seven league games - a run that has seen them fall off the pace.

But it is not all doom and gloom at Old Trafford, despite United being 11 points behind leaders Chelsea and eight points off the top four.

The players are giving everything they can and manager Jose Mourinho is right to complain his side have been unlucky. That was certainly the case against the Hammers.

Sunday's game was similar to Manchester United's draw with Burnley at the end of October, in that they came up against a goalkeeper who made some incredible saves.

Man Utd did not do much wrong against Hammers

Perhaps Wayne Rooney could have come on a bit earlier than the 65th minute against West Ham but, other than that, Mourinho tried pretty much everything he could to break the opposition down.

Mourinho mixed up his side's attack by playing more long balls up to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and used Jesse Lingard in a more central role, with Juan Mata also cutting inside.

They dominated the game and had lots of shots and, after conceding very early on, you could not say they really did much else wrong apart from maybe not getting Mata on the ball enough high up the pitch.

West Ham deserve some credit but the home side were unlucky.

I also thought Mourinho was a bit unlucky to be sent off as well, although nowadays it seems you cross a line when you kick a bottle - everyone who has done so this season has been punished the same way.

It is not the first time Mourinho has lost his temper this season - it is linked to what is happening in front of him.

On Sunday, if you are the Red Devils manager, you are going to be frustrated with the way the game is going, but it was a massive over-reaction and he must have known he would be sent off.

Sir Alex Ferguson, David Moyes or Louis van Gaal would all have been the same as Mourinho - all pretty annoyed. It just comes down to how you show it.

Mourinho certainly didn't hide his feelings. I think whoever is putting those bottles in the United technical area should find somewhere else to keep them, because he is only going to keep kicking them if he is angry.

He needs to keep a lid on things because the hierarchy at United will not be happy with the way he is behaving.

Mourinho made his mind up on players too early

Since he took charge at Old Trafford at the end of May, Mourinho has not been afraid of criticising his players and he is clearly the kind of manager who is not afraid to fall out with them.

There is nothing wrong with that but, it seemed as if he made his mind up on too many people right at the start of his time as United boss.

Ander Herrera is probably the best example of that. At the start of the season he was not really in the picture but now he is probably their best midfielder.

Michael Carrick was also a bit-part player when he should have been far more than that, even with age limiting his appearances.

So Mourinho has worked out that some of the players who were out of favour can play a key role for him, even if others like Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw are yet to win him over.

He is the manager and he has to go with his instincts when he decides which players he thinks he can get more out of, or he does not think are giving enough.

I do feel he has got it wrong with Martial, and Shaw as well, but there is still a way back for them.

Mourinho has already shown that he will allow you back into the fold if you react the way he wants you to, and there are not many players in his squad who can say they have not had an opportunity under him.

He named Bastian Schweinsteiger in his squad for the first time on Sunday, although he did not get off the bench, so Mourinho is clearly willing to keep trying things too.

I think he will get it right but, to make the top four and get back into the Champions League, it has to happen soon otherwise they are going to be even further off the pace.

Can Man Utd save their season?

Mourinho has got an incredible CV. As he tells us regularly, he won the Premier League only 18 months ago, not 18 years ago.

He is a momentum manager and his Chelsea sides, particularly during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, went on tremendous runs of form.

That is not happening at Old Trafford and I think not winning games is affecting their players' confidence and decision-making, especially in front of goal.

It seems like they are over-thinking things a little bit when they get chances in front of goal, but Mourinho knows that and will be doing his best to put it right.

Not everything is under his control, however. He has shown down the years that he will pick the same 11 players if possible, but at United he has been forced to change his team around.

That is partly down to injuries or, in the case of Carrick, the fact he cannot play every game any more. United's involvement in the Europa League has not helped, either.

I think it has affected them already, the same as it has done with Southampton.

In terms of mental fatigue there is certainly something about Thursday football that changes your whole preparation for the weekend.

I remember from my days, playing for Arsenal in the old European Cup Winners' Cup, that Thursday is usually a night where you can relax and look forward to Friday and the build-up to your game.

When you are playing, it throws your whole week out.

I would never have said it publicly, because it was European football and I had to get on with it, but I did not want to be in that competition. I am sure some of United's players feel the same way.

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