Manchester United have lost ground in this year’s Premier League title race with some early season dropped points, but are not completely out of it yet.
Their two most recent league performances have been much more like the Red Devils of old, despite some wasteful finishing meaning they dropped points at home to Stoke City last time out.
There are signs that Jose Mourinho has found a better midfield balance, but which players need to improve to give United a sniff at being champions this year?
Paul Pogba’s return to Old Trafford this summer was very expensive but given his age and potential it could still turn out to be money well spent.
The Frenchman’s early season performances have been a mixed bag with some man-of-the-match displays along with a few completely ineffectual appearances.
Pogba has undoubtedly been a victim of Mourinho not always finding the right chemistry in central midfield and he appears to struggle to make a positive impact when paired with Marouane Fellaini.
The midfield man’s last two appearances have been alongside Ander Herrera, with Juan Mata in the number 10 role and Pogba appears to be much more comfortable and able to express himself.
— Sky Football ⚽️ (@SkyFootball) October 11, 2016
He was particularly influential against Stoke, where he created and had more than a few chances, only wasteful finishing stopping him from being the match-winner.
Moving forward though, Pogba will need to put in more of these performances whoever he is partnered with and, with that price-tag, will be expected to be less wasteful and take on the responsibility of collecting points for the Old Trafford club.
The young Manchester man burst onto the scene last season and has been brilliant ever since, so it is hard to see how he can improve.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived over the summer though and is undoubtedly the first choice in a system that only plays one striker, so Rashford is going to have to adapt his playing position.
The teenager has been inconsistent when he has been used in the wide position and to ensure regular football this season he will have to transfer his form through the middle into performances on the flanks.
However, the opportunity will be there as nobody has excelled so far for United in these positions and with England playing the same system, it would be an excellent string to add to the potential superstar’s bow if he could improve his consistency levels out wide.
— Achal(@Achal09) October 3, 2016
With pundits and fans queueing up to write off Rooney’s career, the pressure in on the club captain, who has certainly been below par so far this season.
That said, the Englishman could still have a lot to say on the field this season; he has undoubted quality, is still just 30 and has the character to come through this difficult period.
Like his club and country, it could be argued that Rooney himself is having an identity crisis.
The player seems to have convinced himself in the lead up to Euro 2016 that he was going to become a midfielder but Jose Mourinho took control at Old Trafford and stated he still saw him as a striker or number 10.
‘This doesn’t change anything for us’
— England (@England) October 11, 2016
When starting for England this season it has been in a deep-lying midfield role but he has been picked in a more-advanced midfield position for his club.
This is the toughest time in his career but Rooney is a strong character and a leader who has carried himself admirably throughout.
For the first time in his Old Trafford spell he cannot count himself as a guaranteed starter but when he is called upon he still has the capacity to influence games and be a significant factor for club and country.