Manchester United are being held back in their bid to win the Premier League by Jose Mourinho’s refusal to play entertaining football, according to Paul Merson.
United finished 19 points off champions Manchester City, but their 81 points was greater than the number achieved during Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous treble-winning season in 1998/99.
Figures show that the 47 goals seen at Old Trafford this season equates to £20 per goal based on the most expensive seat at the ‘Theatre of Dreams’, with only London clubs Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and West Ham representing worse value for money.
Merson told The Debate that United are being held back by Mourinho’s naturally defensive tactics.
“Their neighbours are breaking all these records, playing the way they are, and then there are 70,000 people turning up at United every week sitting there and thinking: ‘What’s in the programme?’ It has not been entertaining, and it has been The Mourinho Way.
“Mourinho has done this at Chelsea. I watched them play against a second-string Huddersfield team, 2-0 up. I was thinking: ‘Go and score, five, six, seven.’
“The last time they scored five goals in a league game was Sir Alex Ferguson’s last league game when they drew 5-5 with West Brom. Tottenham, Liverpool, Man City have all scored five goals in a league game, even more than that.
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“The way it looked to me at the start of the season, is that Mourinho was playing to draw with all the big boys and beat all of the lesser teams.
“They parked the bus at Liverpool, drew with them, then went to Huddersfield and lost. That’s it, behind the eight ball, and it was catch-up from them.
“City just went further away. The way they lost at Old Trafford against City, they just parked the bus. It was like they were saying: ‘We can’t win.'”
David de Gea kept 18 clean sheets to win the Premier League Golden Glove, and the club can still end the season with silverware as they take on Chelsea in the FA Cup final this weekend.
Mourinho has enjoyed a trophy-laden career, but defeats to all three promoted clubs this season significantly dashed any hopes of a first league title since 2014.
But Craig Bellamy believes the 2-1 home defeat by City in December was the pivotal moment in the conceding the crown to their rivals.
Man Utd 1-2 Man City
He added: “That Man City game at Old Trafford, you could sense among United fans that they didn’t want to play City, because they were going to play them off the park.
“At the time, it must have been every United supporter’s nightmare, to see them across the road, who have always been in your shadow, and actually you’ve been laughing at them for a few years, and now they have manager you always wanted, playing the type of football you would give anything for.
“From that moment, not just United supporters but the players knew that City were way ahead of them.”