Friday 4 November 2016 09:40, UK
Manchester United suffered a Europa League setback as their poor form continued with a 2-1 defeat by Fenerbahce in Istanbul.
Moussa Sow put the Turkish side ahead with an acrobatic bicycle kick in the second minute, and Jeremain Lens doubled their lead with a stunning free kick after Paul Pogba had been forced off with an injury.
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It was another frustrating night for Jose Mourinho's stuttering side. Here, we pick out five key questions for the United boss ahead of Sunday's crucial Premier League clash against Swansea.
This was another desperately disappointing performance from United. In their last outing against Burnley, they could at least point to a hatful of chances created, but against Fenerbahce they struggled to fashion openings at all. Despite having 70 per cent of the possession, they mustered only three shots on target.
Simple passes went astray with worrying regularity in the opposition half, and United lacked any kind of cohesion either on or off the ball. They were fortunate not to fall further behind when Sow was denied by De Gea midway through the first half, and Rooney's late strike was a scarcely deserved consolation.
Their disjointed play was alarming at times, and their struggles were summed up by a moment early in the first half when Wayne Rooney and Ander Herrera could be seen throwing their arms in the air in frustration as their team-mates failed to join them in pressing Fenerbahce's defenders.
Once again it was difficult to detect an obvious gameplan behind United's approach, but Mourinho was more concerned with his players' mentality. "They deserved to win," he said in his post-match press conference.
"It's our fault. They were playing a Champions League final and we were playing a summer friendly." The complacency is troubling. Mourinho needs to find a solution sooner rather than later.
Mourinho was left cursing his luck when Pogba was forced off with an injury during the first half at the Sukru Saracoglu Stadium. The Frenchman limped down the tunnel following a late Fenerbahce challenge, and he is now a major doubt for Saturday's Premier League clash at the Liberty Stadium.
It's a big blow for United, who will also be without the suspended Herrera in South Wales. The duo have been key figures in United's best performances this season, but Mourinho is now facing the prospect of shuffling his midfield completely for a game he desperately needs to win.
If Pogba does miss out, his options will be Morgan Schneiderlin, who was hauled off at half-time against Fenerbahce, Michael Carrick, who was left out of the squad altogether, Marouane Fellaini, who hasn't started a game since his poor display against Chelsea, or the previously exiled Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Juan Mata is likely to keep his place at No 10, but Mourinho's options behind him do not inspire too much confidence ahead of what has arguably become one of United's most important game of the season.
United's attacking struggles are typified by Ibrahimovic. The Swede has had 42 shots without scoring in the Premier League, and his poor form continued against Fenerbahce after he came off the bench to replace the injured Pogba in the first half.
His last 10 appearances have yielded just one goal, and he never looked like finding the net on Thursday night. In fact, he seemed more interested in confronting opposition defenders. The 35-year-old wasn't given an inch by Martin Skrtel and Simon Kjaer, and he was lucky to avoid punishment when he appeared to grab the latter by the throat shortly before half-time.
Ibrahimovic dropped deep in an attempt to influence the play, but his distribution was poor in the final third. No United player was dispossessed more times over the course of the 90 minutes, and he didn't manage a single shot on target. Ibrahimovic's struggles bear stark contrast to his early-season form. Mourinho needs him to rediscover his scoring touch.
Rooney's late strike was the kind of individual brilliance rarely seen by Mourinho's players in recent weeks. The United skipper's ferocious drive left Volkan Demirel with no chance, and while it counted for little on the night, it put him within two goals of Sir Bobby Charlton's scoring record and provided a reminder of what he can do.
Unfortunately for Rooney, there was little else in his performance to get excited about. He started as the striker with Ibrahimovic on the bench, but his goalscoring instincts deserted him when a brilliantly disguised pass from Anthony Martial put him through on goal in the 21st minute. Rooney had time and space to pick his spot, but a dreadful first touch allowed Skrtl to clear the danger.
Mourinho will be hoping Rooney can use his late goal as a launchpad to boost his form, but the 31-year-old has only started two of United's last nine games, and he is likely to find himself back on the bench against Swansea on Saturday. He might need to do more if he is to turn his fortunes around.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan made it into United's matchday squad for the first time since the Manchester derby in September, and he was granted a 30-minute cameo when he came on for Marcus Rashford in the second half. It was a rare opportunity for the Armenian to impress, but the circumstances were far from ideal, and he certainly found it tough.
He saw plenty of the ball, touching it more times than Rashford and Juan Mata despite playing fewer minutes, but there were sloppy moments as he struggled to make an impact. A little rustiness was to be expected, but the misplaced pass which almost allowed Emmanuel Emenike to score a third goal for Fenerbahce was a glaring error, and Mourinho was unimpressed.
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"He has to do more. It's as simple as that," he said. "We have big expectations in the club and lots of players for these positions. He has to pay better than Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, and it's a simple as that. Every manager in the world wants to win matches and play the players he thinks can help the team and I'm no different."
Mkhitaryan still has plenty of work to do to win over his manager.