Neil Humphreys: Jose must fix formation in Man United's decisive week
Mourinho must fix formation in Man United's decisive week
As he popped up as a temporary left back, Alexis Sanchez might have found himself asking that basic question of philosophy.
Why am I here?
It's a familiar discussion at Manchester United, where a number of Red Devils must sound like pretentious students questioning their place and purpose.
Sanchez isn't a temporary fullback any more than Nemanja Matic is a left-sided midfielder, but that's where they could occasionally be found during the 2-0 FA Cup victory against Huddersfield Town yesterday morning (Singapore time).
The win was reasonably straightforward, but United's best XI remains elusive.
As Jose Mourinho prepares for the most important week of United's season, his line-up still looks as if he picks names and positions with the consistency of blindfolded kids trying to whack the pinata.
Huddersfield offered the first test, but tougher challenges await in the Champions League with Sevilla and then Chelsea in the English Premier League.
Three fixtures could make or break Mourinho's campaign, but he's still behaving like the Swedish Chef in the Muppets, breaking far too many eggs in a bid to make a decent omelette.
The manager may point to Paul Pogba's illness and late withdrawal for United's imbalanced display at Huddersfield.
Pogba's erratic form certainly offers a convenient excuse for recent lacklustre performances.
But defeats by Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United revealed more about a manager who still hasn't settled his side or even agreed on regular playing positions.
Pogba's inconsistency has been exasperating, but he's rarely featured in his preferred position, on the left side of a midfield trio.
At Juventus, he won four Serie A titles while mostly deployed on the left, with Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio or Sami Khedira and Arturo Vidal for company.
Pogba's so-called identity crisis at United is perhaps symptomatic of Mourinho's inherent distrust of free spirits and English football's eternal obsession with box-to-box gallopers.
Despite the counter-pressing game moving away from Steven Gerrard's kind of lung-busting automaton, the EPL continues to obsess over Pogba's apparent reluctance to do the box-to-box stuff.
But he's also lumbered with a manager who's not willing to fully remove those defensive shackles. Mourinho keeps rotating both personnel and their responsibilities.
There were times at Huddersfield when Sanchez and Matic were both scrambling back to cover Luke Shaw.
Perhaps Mourinho still doesn't trust Shaw, which is possible, or he insists on double the cover, which is entirely possible.
Either way, United's left side was a bit of a jittery mess against the Terriers. Better sides will profit from such uncertainty.
Seven months into Mourinho's second season and United's attacking line-up still lacks fluidity.
Juan Mata comes and goes more often than Manchester's rain clouds, another diminutive artist that Mourinho is only willing to indulge in certain fixtures.
Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford's explosive pace and unpredictability means they rarely feature together.
Even Sanchez, who picked up a lovely assist for Romelu Lukaku's second goal, should accept that life at United is often spent on the other side of the halfway line.
Life was different at Arsenal, where Arsene Wenger was accused of pandering to his artistic mavericks a little too much.
Mourinho doesn't. Wizards and workhorses must be one and the same.
As a result, United's essential characteristics are still hard to pin down. A kind of tactical schizophrenia continues to disrupt progress.
Against Huddersfield, a defensive-first approach led to Matic, Michael Carrick and Scott McTominay babysitting the back four, with Sanchez helping out at left back.
Not surprisingly, Matic, Carrick and McTominay created just one scoring chance among them. United managed only five all game.
Huddersfield, tipped for relegation, conjured 19 shots at goal.
Lukaku's double underlined his timely return to form, but the Belgian is also a rare example of a United regular with a clearly defined position and duties.
Elsewhere, the Red Devils remain a bewildered bunch of attackers not entirely sure where or how they should attack.
Those losses to Tottenham and Newcastle and the ongoing Pogba problem are indicative of a side in search of both continuity and their manager's trust.
Pogba, Sanchez, Mata and even Martial - when he's picked - may end up sputtering like a fleet of Ferraris racing around with the handbrake on.
They need to be liberated. Sevilla and Chelsea are waiting.
Hopefully, Pogba will return.
But he must be played in his best attacking position, along with the rest of his colleagues.