Manchester United’s defeat to Newcastle on Sunday all but officially knocked them out of the title race, or whatever was left of it.
Jose Mourinho has failed to produce anything close to a serious title challenge this season and Man City’s 16 point lead with 12 Premier League games left is all but uncatchable.
They do still have the FA Cup and Champions League to fight for but surely now, a top four finish will be the main target for Mourinho and his team.
But what of the direction Man United are going in under Mourinho? Can he be criticised yet or does he need more time to really stamp his authority on this side?
Three of our writers have their say below…
If Manchester United were still in a title race, things would be much different. Perhaps if City were six points worse off, and United had a few more on the board we’d be looking at this season as real progress. The fact that Pep Guardiola’s team has been breaking all sorts of records is the reason United look to have been stagnating.
Indeed, you just have to look at United’s back four to see the problem. Ahead of them, they have arguably the best side in the country. But in the absence of Eric Bailly, United are relying on four former Alex Ferguson players – two of them retrofitted wingers – to make up the defence of a side replete with hundreds of millions of pounds worth of talent.
That’s not Mourinho’s fault, it’s just the tools he’s been given. No doubt more investment will be targeted on the defence and the defensive midfield in the summer.
Man United currently lie in second position in the Premier League, and considering where they have finished in the last few seasons there is no doubt in my mind that they have made progress and Mourinho is taking them forward.
Too many people are making the lazy comparison to an incredible Man City side, and if Mourinho can add a centre-back and Michael Carrick replacement during the summer then the club will be looking strong next term too.
It is always going to be tough to compete with City when they perform like they have this season, but Mourinho has never been an out-and-out attacking and beautiful football kind of manager like Guardiola is, so people should stop expecting it to happen.
We’re now over 18 months into Mourinho’s tenure and it’s already clear he won’t provide the second-season magic of his prior spells. The big issue though, is how much money he’s spent for what United have become.
They’re yet to match the dominant football we saw during the first half of Mourinho’s title-winning season at Chelsea, or for that matter even the mind-numblingly ruthless efficiency of the second half, and key players just aren’t performing to a consistently high standard.
As incredible as Manchester City have been this season, United have undoubtedly underperformed for large periods as well and, especially in terms of style of play, they’re being perpetually overshadowed by the noisy neighbours.