Two absentees stood out as Manchester United suffered defeat in Basel despite the wholesale changes Jose Mourinho made.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Luke Shaw face different type of battles to convince the Portuguese they can be key players in his Old Trafford revolution.
Mkhitaryan has now been left out of the last two matchday squads, while Shaw remains a peripheral figure despite recovering from a foot injury.
Increasingly the problem for both is the fact they operate in areas Mourinho needs to address.
In the case of Mkhitaryan – the Bundesliga’s best player when joining United from Borussia Dortmund for £26m last year – he has failed to establish himself as a number 10 or a wide attacker on the right.
Interest in Mesut Ozil should sound alarm bells in the Armenian’s head as United explore options capable of influencing the biggest games on a consistent basis.
That Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have all been deployed on the right in the past two games is an indicator Mourinho is still struggling to find the right fit in that department.
The United manager tried to dismiss talk of Mkhitaryan’s situation ahead of Basel – claiming his absence from the Newcastle squad was a case of rotation. He then proceeded to omit him again, despite making him travel to Switzerland, unlike the rested Antonio Valencia , Juan Mata and Ashley Young .
Given Mkhitaryan’s troubled form this season, it feels like more than just rotation. If he is absent from Saturday’s home match against Brighton, he may have cause to worry.
With the January window approaching and Arsenal expected to try to cash-in on the out of contract Ozil, the cut price German will be a tempting proposition for Mourinho.
So too Danny Rose – even if there is an acceptance Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will demand even more of a premium for the England left back midway through the season.
United are prepared to exploit opportunities in January if they arise – and the ongoing sense of disharmony between Rose and Spurs might be just the opening executive vice chairman Ed Woodward is looking for.
While Sir Alex Ferguson and former CEO David Gill were so wearied by negotiations with Levy they opted against rivalling Real Madrid for Luka Modric in 2012, Woodward will know he has potential a bargaining chip of his own in Shaw.
United are not actively seeking buyers for the former Southampton defender and there remains hope he can fulfil his potential – but Mourinho remains to be convinced.
Picking Daley Blind – who was partly culpable for Michael Lang’s winner for Basel on Wednesday – ahead of him, raised the question as to when the 22-year-old will be given his chance.
Mourinho concedes he needs a run of games to regain his full form or fitness – but is reluctant to indulge him as United compete on all fronts this season.
Shaw, meanwhile, has shown little indication of a desire to leave, but the chance of a reunion with Mauricio Pochettino, who he worked with at Southampton , may be tempting.
That places some form of part exchange – no matter how rare such deals are between the biggest clubs – on the table.
Rose’s complaints about Spurs’ wage structure has placed United on alert – and his omission from the North London Derby last weekend further caught the attention of Old Trafford report the MEN .
While Tottenham would demand a premium in the region of Kyle Walker’s £45m move to Manchester City , Shaw could offset some of that outlay.
Mourinho has done well to apply some much-needed focus to United’s transfer strategy over his two summer windows after the chaotic dealings that followed Ferguson’s retirement.
But there remains an acceptance that more surgery is required to keep pace with City – with both the left and right hand sides in need of attention.
Source : DailyPost