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Transfer Rater: Varane to Man United

Football Whispers

Transfer Rater: Nabil Fekir to Arsenal

Football Whispers

Man United are not united as Pogba, Sanchez struggle to jell as a team

The FC panel answer your tweets on Alexis Sanchez's start at Manchester United, Antonio Conte's managerial future and Bayern's UCL threat.
Shaka Hislop defends Paul Pogba and explains what the real problem is for the Man United star after Gary Neville said football is a joke to him.
Shaka Hislop defends Paul Pogba and explains what the real problem is for the Man United star after Gary Neville said football is a joke to him.
Jose Mourinho was pleased with his Manchester United's reaction after half-time, but rued their defensive instability throughout the match.

Jose Mourinho has not always seemed happy at Manchester United, but even he could not prevent a smile after watching his team fight back to beat Crystal Palace 3-2 on Monday night.

The Portuguese coach praised the "spirit" and "character" of his players after they came back from two goals down in the final half an hour at Selhurst Park -- words often used to describe teams that have battled back from the brink.

Still, sitting in the media room 45 minutes after the final whistle, Mourinho could not hide his dislike for lots of what he had seen.

His first summation of the game came with an asterisk. "It was a remarkable comeback," said the United manager. "But with mistakes".

He was talking predominantly about the two goals scored by Crystal Palace -- the first an Andros Townsend shot that deflected in off Victor Lindelof's back and the second from Patrick van Aanholt after the full-back had been given a free run at goal from Jeffrey Schlupp's quick free kick.

Van Aanholt's goal, which came just minutes after Mourinho had delivered a foul-mouthed rant at his players at half-time, particularly annoyed the 55-year-old, who branded it "disgraceful" and "childish".

He could, though, have been talking about the first hour in general. The goals were sloppy, but they were entirely in keeping with everything else United did.

Mourinho was able to pick better players, but for nearly two-thirds of the game Palace were the better team.

Simple passes skipped into the crowd with worrying regularity. Players were left gesturing at one another as if unsure what was going on.

At one point in the first half, Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez were left staring at each other on the edge of the Palace box, arms extended towards the other, as the home side mounted another attack. It summed up a dreadful first 45 minutes.

Pogba and Sanchez were singled out by Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher at half-time.

"I think Sanchez has been worse than Pogba," said the former Liverpool defender.

"He lost the ball 19 times. That's unbelievable. We're talking about a world-class player, but I don't know were he is playing.

"It's like him and Pogba are two kids in the schoolyard -- we're the best players, we'll go wherever we want."

Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez struggled in Manchester United's win at Crystal Palace.

Mourinho's superstar squad is yet to jell. Pogba and Sanchez are supposed to be the poster boys for this new United. But it will be a worry to Mourinho that they were made to look ordinary against a Palace side who could yet be playing Championship football next season.

It is not an isolated case. As Carragher says, Sanchez is one of the best players in the world, but United have not got noticeably better since he arrived. Of course, eight games is no sample size at all in the context of a four-year contract, and even the biggest names take time to settle. But the United fans who were so thrilled to see their club pip Manchester City to his signature will have hoped to see a few more signs of life.

The Chilean's one goal came after his penalty against Huddersfield was saved, and he has not looked like scoring another. He has started, more often than not, on the left of the front three. But as his frustration has grown with each passing game, he has dropped deeper and deeper in search of the ball. He had 96 touches against Crystal Palace -- bettered only Pogba ad Chris Smalling -- but very few were of note.

The same could be said of Pogba. There were moments when the Frenchman looked like he was on the verge of showing everyone just how good he is without actually doing it.

Gary Neville said the 24-year-old's performance had been as if "he was in the park with his mates".

The former United defender added: "It's like everything he does is like a YouTube or Instagram video. It's like it's not serious, it's like a joke to him in terms of the way he goes about things."

With the title already heading to Manchester City, the question facing United and Mourinho is whether they can bridge the gap next season.

The focus will inevitably turn to which players need to come and go -- such is the modern fascination with transfers -- but it will ignore the underlying problem. It is a team already filled with great players -- particularly Sanchez and Pogba -- but they are not yet a great team.

It will take more than one impressive comeback to make Mourinho completely happy.

Rob is ESPN FC's Manchester United correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @RobDawsonESPN.


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