HAS MOURINHO ACTUALLY FARED BETTER THAN VAN GAAL MAN UNITED FANS ASK?
It was an afternoon to make Manchester United fans wonder whether anything has actually changed under Jose Mourinho this season.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss was the theme as United’s misfiring forwards squandered chance after chance before settling for another stalemate against West Bromwich Albion.
United’s frustrated fans would be forgiven for thinking they’d been transported back in time a season to similarly lacklustre and profligate home performances under Louis van Gaal.
And while Mourinho may have delivered an early piece of silverware, the EFL Cup, where Van Gaal didn’t, their records in the Premier League are unnervingly similar.
A comparison of both managers’ first 28 league matches in charge reveals that both collected 53 points. Van Gaal even won more matches – 15 to Mourinho’s 14 – though he also lost five games to Mourinho’s three.
Most alarmingly, though, Van Gaal’s United team – who were frequently criticised for lacking a cutting edge – scored 47 goals to the 42 Mourinho’s men have managed this season.
United may currently be on a 19-match unbeaten run in the Premier League but that has lifted them from sixth place to the dizzying heights of… fifth.
The reason is too many drawn matches like Saturdays against the Baggies – 11 in all in the league this season, the joint-most in the division with Middlesbrough.
And they’ve been particularly deadlocked at Old Trafford, drawing eight times in front of their own fans. Three of these have been goalless draws.
It leaves United’s home win percentage in the league this season at a poor 40 per cent and you have to go all the way back to the 1973-74 season to match that. For the record, United were relegated that year.
It’s also the most draws United have had at Old Trafford since the 1980-81 campaign, when they tied 11 matches in all.
With just 20 goals scored in their 15 home league games so far, it’s the worst value for money on an Old Trafford season ticket since the 1981-82 campaign, when shot-shy United managed just 27 home goals all season.
The Theatre of Dreams has certainly taken on a different definition, but while watching Van Gaal’s team was a one-way ticket to the land of nod, at least Mourinho’s side are creating chances.
The problem is, they’re just not converting them. In the eight home games United have drawn this season in the Premier League, they have, incredibly, fired 154 shots at goal – 52 on target – and scored just five of them.
This home sickness began with the 1-1 draw against Stoke on October 2 and continued through a 0-0 with Burnley, a 1-1 against Arsenal and a 1-1 with West Ham before Christmas.
And it hasn’t got a lot better since, with United held 1-1 by Liverpool, 0-0 by Hull City and 1-1 by Bournemouth. Then, on Saturday, they wasted 75 per cent possession and 18 shots on goal to draw 0-0.
It has led to many fans asking questions of front men Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who were both guilty of squandering chances. Mourinho was also critical afterwards.
It leaves United on course for a sixth-place finish – at best – in the table and another season of Europa League football. Unless, of course, they can win it and reach the Champions League.
But more fundamentally, fans are rightly questioning whether anything has changed under Mourinho. Is he Van Gaal in disguise?