Man Utd without a plan?

They are second in the league but perhaps a long way off the top

Benitez outsmarts old rival Mourinho

NEWCASTLE, England -- Three quick thoughts from Manchester United's shock 1-0 defeat to Newcastle at St. James' Park on Sunday.

1. Manchester United slip up again

Manchester United are second in the Premier League. Someone should probably do a tour of the 18 clubs below them and give them all a stern talking to, because it says much more about the rest of the division than it does about United.

They are still there despite this 1-0 defeat to an excellent and dogged Newcastle, the only goal coming in the second-half from Matt Ritchie.

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Are Manchester United lacking a cohesive plan?

By Joe Harker

Manchester United were defeated 1-0 by Newcastle United at the weekend, meaning Red Devils manager Jose Mourinho has still never won a Premier League game at St James' Park.

His team had chances to score and were not completely awful, but the defeat may have seen something of a shift in attitudes of fans towards the manager.

Much of this criticism surrounds playmaker Paul Pogba, who played badly and was substituted with Man Utd chasing the game. He has been heavily criticised by pundits since moving to United but some believe Mourinho hasn't played to his strengths. He played his best football for Juventus on the left side of a midfield three and some United fans have repeatedly made this point until it has become a mantra.

However, they keep making it because Mourinho has stuck to his preferred 4-2-3-1 system and Pogba's displays appear to have suffered as a result. He is "stuck between two roles" and that is harming the team as he is their main creative force. To many critical fans, or "Einsteins" as Mourinho calls them, the solution is simple. To the manager it appears to be more complicated.

Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness accused Pogba of "playing like a schoolboy" who "still doesn't understand" how to play his role, but Thierry Henry disagreed that the problem lay with the player and pointed towards the way he was being used on the pitch. He said: "In France people love him, he's not a holding midfielder. Does he have an impact on the game of a holding midfielder?

"No. Is he N'Golo Kante? No. Pogba has more in his DNA to be up there, to create."

Newcastle captain Jamal Lascelles offered his own opinion on his team's victory, suggesting that Man Utd centre backs Chris Smalling and Phil Jones didn't know what to do with the ball, thus making them predictable and hampering their side's attacks. Pogba often dropped deep to try and receive the ball but the duo only passed to him six times in the game, whereas they passed wide to their full backs 35 times. It does not seem wise to bypass your playmaker and leave them without the ball.

Former Manchester United player Gary Neville believes Mourinho needs to start building his team for next season with a Premier League victory in the 2018/19 season a potential imperative if he is to remain in a job. They won't win the title this time around but there are changes that the manager needs to make to improve their chances at the next go, including

Another concerning factor about United under Mourinho is their lack of ability to come back from a losing position and take three points. While a hallmark of their ability under Sir Alex Ferguson, Mourinho's side have only made a comeback four times in the 103 games he has been manager.

They are a team that does not appear to know how to get back into a match after conceding and still look like a group of individuals rather than a cohesive team. This is not a new accusation, with the suggestion that Mourinho has no plan being made at various points since be took over at United.

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