TERRACE TALK: Man United - Deja vu for luckless Jose Mourinho but improvement still tangible

Sigh. Isn’t it a bit soon for Groundhog Day? How many more times this season will we have to sum up a game as follows?

That is: Yet again, Reds stagger out at the whistle wondering how we’ve only drawn a league match we’ve dominated and enjoyed watching. Yet again, we’re cursing bad refs and even worse luck. Yet again, we’re looking at the league table and groaning at how small the gap between us and the top should have been by now.

One can only wonder what José’s blood pressure must be doing. 

As though that morning’s Sunday Times front page exposing his tax affairs wouldn’t have been infuriating enough, he then sees a crossbar deny a points-clincher, and a ludicrous penalty conceded.

Thus a game that really ought to have resulted in something like a deserved three-goal romp for United ends up with us feeling like many do upon leaving Merseyside: Mugged.

Still, as Liverpool and City hilariously proved over the weekend, there are more disastrous ways of throwing away a lead.

I can’t have been the only Red to have cheered myself up at home post-Goodison with a hefty dose of Match of the Day highlights of our hapless rivals’ comical capers.

(For obvious grim reasons, we don’t often feel tempted to watch those two sides on telly this season.)

Naturally, Channel 5’s League Cup highlights of our four goals from midweek also got another airing. 

They’ve been placed in the ‘FAO WIFE: DO NOT DELETE!’ folder on the recording box, in case they prove to be of historic value.

How so? Because Reds will be hoping that night may go down as The Day José’s United ‘Clicked’ — a moment Zlatan had been predicting was imminent just a week or so before.

A rather prosaic stat cited in the Daily Mail corroborates what many of us now feel: United are conceding slightly fewer scoring opportunities per game than under LVG — and are creating a whopping 50% more.

That sounds just about right: What we are seeing may not be bringing home more points — yet — but it feels 50% more offensive, and therefore 50% more enjoyable.

Naturally, none of that is going to be much consolation if we end the season still in sixth place, whether or not we win the League Cup, the semi-finals of which we have now reached.

Everyone has one thing in mind on that front: A possible final against Liverpool, conjuring up indelible memories of 1977, 1983 and 1996. 

There’s some relief we didn’t draw them in the semis because, let’s be frank, we’re not quite ready for them over two legs yet.

If, as now seems feasible, Martial and Mickey are just getting around to fully rousing themselves, ready to produce a proper run of domineering form, then the more time they have to ingrain themselves and establish confidence, the better.

Martial, in particular, has woken up just in the nick of time, for patience at both Carrington and in the stands had thinned to an alarming degree. 

A message has gone out from somewhere inside Old Trafford that players shouldn’t over-confidently expect there to be no January exits, and the window is approaching fast.

Even Rooney was roped into some naughty weekend speculation about a possible loan move to Goodison, although admittedly that story did carry the whiff of a Christmas party hack overdoing the advocaat.

However, stone cold sobriety and alert senses may be in order for some Reds on Thursday as we head for Zorya’s Europa badlands, a prospect so fearsome that United’s warning-laden letter to the fans about travel lacked only a skull ‘n’ crossbones.

But should we somehow survive, let us meet again here on Monday to discuss next weekend’s seemingly inevitable 1-1 draw with Spurs...

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