That Manchester United will make changes – potentially significant changes – to their playing staff this summer has long been obvious.
Players such as Matteo Darmian, Marouane Fellaini, Marcos Rojo, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – all given a chance to impress against Brighton on Friday – have all been marginalised to varying degrees this season, along with Luke Shaw, who was introduced from the bench and Daley Blind, who was not in the squad.
At best, it was an opportunity for the outcasts to force their way back into Mourinho’s plans for the FA Cup final and maybe even next season. At worst, it was a chance to put themselves in the shop window.
Not one of them took their opportunity. Which continues a trend that has been developing at Old Trafford for years; players failing to take responsibility for raising their own performance level.
It happened under David Moyes; players failing to take on feedback from their new coaching team, refusing to follow orders. Not one of the supposed big personalities and leaders Sir Alex Ferguson left behind – except David de Gea – performed to their potential in the Scotsman’s ill-fated season.
Louis van Gaal’s pedestrian style of football was never going to sate the natives and was unlikely to take United back to the top but it was made a more turgid watch by the persistent failings of the players; in terms of technique and their ability to finish in particular.
Now, it is happening under Mourinho. This is not being pointed out to exonerate Moyes, van Gaal or the former Real Madrid boss – all three had weaknesses, to varying degrees, that held back progress – but it is a point worth making.
Despite the churn of big-money players since Ferguson’s retirement, it appears that United have not signed enough who can deal with the demands of being at Old Trafford. There is pressure to win every single game and a lot of United’s current crop are happy to win two out of three, rather than push themselves on to achieve greater consistency.
Paul Pogba has been called out for it by Mourinho, Ander Herrera goes up and down; Martial is another who switches on and off. But all United’s players – again, except de Gea – so including Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku struggle to maintain their level across a season.
It also comes down to personal pride, how much the players want to take it on themselves to improve as players and help raise the level of the team.
The ‘Mourinho Out’ brigade are growing in volume and numbers and Manchester United can change their manager again if they like – the Portuguese couldn’t feel too hard done by – but until the collective attitude of the players improves, genuine progress to really please the Old Trafford faithful will be harder to come by.