Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford vies with Valencia’s Italian defender Cristiano Piccini (L) during the Champions League group H football match between Manchester United and Valencia at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 2, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Lindsey PARNABY
Manchester United were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw against Valencia in the Champions League on Tuesday as the pressure mounts on boss Jose Mourinho.
Here are three things we learned from the Group H clash at Old Trafford:
Problems mount for Mourinho
Assailed on all sides by critical voices, Mourinho was unable to silence the doubters as United were booed off after their winless run stretched to four matches in all competitions.
Since beating Young Boys in their opening Champions League match, United have endured a shocking period including a home draw against Wolves and a League Cup exit against second-tier Derby County.
United’s 3-1 defeat by West Ham United was their third loss in seven Premier League games, making it their worst start to a campaign since 1989-90 and prompting Mourinho to claim some players “care more than others”.
Mourinho is adamant he doesn’t think he will be sacked. But he appears to be presiding over a divided squad after reportedly clashing with Paul Pogba, Luke Shaw, Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly.
Mourinho used his notes in the match programme for the Valencia game to issue a call to arms that once again hinted he was unhappy with some of his players’ effort levels.
“All my life I have followed certain golden rules. One of them is that a team can lose matches — that is just part of football — but the team must never, ever lose its dignity,” he wrote.
“The crest on the chest is more important than the name on the back of the shirt.”
Yet Mourinho’s men hardly responded to that rallying cry in a dour stalemate against Valencia that only increased the pressure on United’s beleaguered boss, who hasn’t won a home game since the first match of the season against Leicester City.
Pogba off key again
If Pogba and Mourinho were ever going to bury the hatchet after their feud escalated in recent weeks, this tepid display suggested the France star isn’t fussed about rebuilding their shattered relationship.
Mourinho infuriated Pogba when he claimed after the midfielder had inspired France’s World Cup triumph in July that he didn’t try as hard for his club as he did for his country.
Although United’s manager might have had a valid point, his comments set the pair on a collision course.
Mourinho stepped up the feud by stripping Pogba of the vice-captaincy last week, then exchanged words with the star during a frosty training ground exchange captured by television cameras.
The 25-year-old was back in the team for the desultory defeat at West Ham, but Pogba had a wretched game and was hauled off after 70 minutes.
This was a marginally improved display from Pogba, who went close to scoring with a second-half free-kick.
But it was hardly the kind of driven performance that United expected from Pogba when they brought him back to Old Trafford two years ago.
Scholes leads chorus of disapproval
Not only has Mourinho lost the support of some of his squad, he is also finding United’s famous old boys turning against him.
Former England midfielder Paul Scholes, a key figure in the Alex Ferguson era at United, has been a stern critic of Mourinho.
Speaking on BT Sport’s build-up for the Valencia match, Scholes once again turned his guns on the Portuguese as fellow United legends David Beckham and Ryan Giggs watched from the stands.
“I am sat here actually surprised he survived after Saturday, the performance was that bad (at West Ham),” Scholes said.
“He’s coming out in press conferences and constantly having a go at players, he is having a go at people above him because he’s not getting what he wants.
“I think his mouth is probably out of control and I think he is embarrassing the club.”