Manchester United’s return to domestic action may have ended in disappointment with opponents Arsenal scoring a late equaliser, but there was no doubting the improvement seen at Old Trafford in the Red Devils performance. Manager Jose Mourinho has seemingly finally realised the role that Michael Carrick can play in the centre of the pitch and his place in the team must now be cemented as long as his stamina allows.
The freedom offered to Paul Pogba due to Carrick’s inclusion was clearly apparent, as for the most part of the game his range of passing, flicks and ball carrying through the midfield caused Arsenal continued concern. His link up with the third of the midfield tripod, Ander Herrera, was particularly highlighted in United’s goal, finished superbly by the ever-impressive Juan Mata.
That quartet are surely part of Mourinho’s first team plans and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic now poised to return from his suspension, the attacking lineup must be completed by the constantly threatening Marcus Rashford. The United squad still has multiple offensive options in the likes of Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay, Ashley Young and Wayne Rooney and therefore rotation throughout the season should not pose any problems for Jose. And as United head towards the notoriously busy festive period, that rotation will play a huge part in the shaping of the remainder of the season.
The next five weeks sees ten fixtures across three different competitions and on paper as least, only the visit of currently unbeaten Tottenham Hotspur should pose any real danger. However, that has been the issue for Mourinho and United this season, the game is not played on paper. The upcoming fixtures look like a run of winnable games but before the clash with Arsenal, it would be hard to believe that United could indeed win the majority of them.
That being said, the domination against a potentially title challenging full strength team in the shape of Arsenal, despite the late goal conceded, showed that Mourinho’s men will certainly take the positives into the upcoming run of games. The difficult to shift cloud of discontent could quickly disperse if United can put together a string of victories that would see qualification into the Europa League knockout stage, a domestic semi-final in the new year and closing the gap at the top of the table.