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Napoleon once said that the quality he looked for above all in his generals was the virtue of luck.

The same could be said of modern football managers.

It is lapses, not luck that's hurting Manchester UnitedFootball is a results-based business and as all fans know, football games are often decided by chance events.

Even as the wheels appear to be coming off Jose Mourinho’s first season at Old Trafford, there appears to be plenty going right on the field, even if their shocking run of recent results would have some believing otherwise. Is this the result of a shocking run of luck or are there deeper problems dwelling in the Old Trafford dressing room?

United’s Premier League form over the past few months has been awful. Draws at home to Stoke, Burnley, Arsenal and West Ham were all occasions in which United were unquestionably the best team but failed to secure all three points.

A luckier or more experienced team would have also been able to secure all three points against Everton as well. Yet, as has too often been the case, a late mental lapse allowed the win to slip away. On this occasion, it was Marouane Fellaini’s challenge that led to Leighton Baines late equaliser from the penalty spot.

Against Arsenal, it was a poor defensive effort from Marcus Rashford in combination with United’s lax marking that let Olivier Giroud rise unchallenged for Arsenal’s equaliser. Against Stoke, Joe Allen was inexplicably allowed to find space in the penalty area to save a point for the visitors. Against Burnley and West Ham too, United were their own worst enemy, throwing away a series of chances to take all three points.

Luck played its role in all those results and United fans will be quick to curse their fortunes. They will point to the fact that they have often been denied reasonable shouts for penalties. In the draw with Arsenal, Nacho Monreal’s crude arm across Antonio Valencia against Arsenal certainly looked like a penalty.

Mourinho’s frustration with those decisions is justified especially considering that unlike many occasions during the Louis van Gaal era, when United were often outplayed by their opposition but managed to secure victories thanks to superb goalkeeping from David de Gea, they have consistently been the better team.

Luck can be fickle and is more often than not, overly simplified. United’s hierarchy and indeed Mourinho himself deserve to cop a good deal of criticism for the team’s recent poor run of form. Despite the roll call of international stars and millions spent on acquiring talent, the squad itself still feels like a work in progress.

Mourinho himself should bear a great deal of the blame. His managerial skills have been found wanting. His decision to bring on Marouane Fellaini for Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the 85th minute in the Everton game was a perplexing call at the time.

Fellaini’s bulky frame can be a useful weapon for a team searching for a late goal. However his unquestionable clumsiness and repeated propensity to give away needless fouls made him a liability in a situation in which United knew they would be defending deep to hold on for the win. It was a shock to no one that it was Fellaini who gave away the penalty.

That he was preferred to the reliable Daley Blind in that circumstance was an awful decision. Put simply, it cost his team the win and put them in a position where only bad things could happen. Mourinho should know better. A manager of his experience and with the squad he has at his disposal cannot afford such hair-brained substitutions late in games.

Given the quality of offseason arrivals, United should have been challenging for the Premier League this season. That will not happen. On current form, even a spot in the Champions League next season seems fanciful.

But things can change quickly and despite the results, United are not playing bad football. In the past Mourinho’s teams have had the hallmark of not making silly mistakes leading to costly goals. This squad will need to rediscover that steel. Should they do that they might once again start resembling the conquering heroes of old.

Originally published at outside90.com

Post written by Ockie Daniell for Outside 90
Blog: outside90.com, Twitter: @Outside90

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