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They’re big. They’re hard. You’d better be on your guard. The new Manchester United are muscular, physical giants. Zlatan at 6ft 5″ Fellaini 6ft 4″ Smalling 6ft 4″ Pogba 6ft 3″ Bailly 6ft 2″. De Gea doesn’t count because most goalies are tall these days but he’s 6ft 4″also . United are Giganticos rather than Galacticos.

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A quick review of all the teams in the league shows none with as many starting big guys. West Brom has two at 6ft 5″ in Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley but after that the next tallest outfielders are Johnny Evans and Chris Brunt at 6ft 2″.  Arsenal have Mertesacker at 6ft 6” and Giroud at 6ft 4″. Stoke’s Arnautovic is 6ft 4″ and of course Crouch is 6ft 7, but these days he’s a reserve. City’s Vincent Kompany is 6ft 4″ then it’s John Stones at 6ft 2″. Chelsea’s Matic and Cahill are both 6ft 4″. Liverpool appear mere midgets. Their tallest player is Sturridge at 6ft 2″.

And now as the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor point out in his Southampton game match report plenty of teams are going to “feel the force”.

Fellaini

Zlatan has already outjumped and overwhelmed two formidable centre halves in Leicester’s Wes Morgan and prospective United target Southampton’s Jose Fonte to score two of his goals. Players were literally bouncing off Pogba on Friday night.

 

Bailly is overpowering attackers with his pace and strength. In contrast Fellaini has looked almost restrained. The wild man replaced by a calm, measured presence, tidying up in front of the back four. Who knew?

Mourinho’s teams have always had steel at their heart. Last season you always had the feeling other teams could bully United.

Not any more.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.55.37 PMThings couldn’t be going much better, an efficient, controlled, clinical performance at Bournemouth headlined by Zlatan’s goal, Bailly’s Man of The Match award, Blind’s calm assurance and a very impressive display from Fellaini. Top of the league and all that!

After the game Mourinho quite rightly pointed out he’s told the squad everyone will get minutes once September comes around and all competitions start. But that begs a lot of questions. Where does Pogba play? What will be the manager’s ultimate starting line-up? What will be the final squad?

With Lingard out Mourinho probably surprised everyone by starting Mata ahead of Mkhitaryan. Yet when everyone is fit or back from suspension, when the transfer window is closed and all the deals are completed, what team lines up to face City  on September 10th? Does Smalling walk right back into the team next Friday against Southampton? You would think so, but you can’t leave Bailly out and Blind has played well and provides a calm anchor. It also looks as if Fellaini is a Mourinho guy, forget the back pass against Leicester, in the first two games Fellaini has been everything you want in front of the back four.

Thanks to a relatively easy start and the successful transfer window United are in an enviable position. Everyone will be disappointed if going into the home game against City, there aren’t the maximum 9 points in the bank.

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But which players does Mourinho trust to challenge Guardiola for Manchester’s bragging rights? Which players may have come and gone? There are some really tough decisions ahead. Do you sell Mata to raise money for Madrid’s Varane? Who makes way if Southampton’s Fonte is the option instead?

Mourinho likes to have a squad of 22 players including three goalkeepers, so if by September 1st that squad is:

Goalkeepers:

De Gea, Romero, Johnstone

Defenders:

Valencia, Fosu-Mensah, Bailly, Smalling, Blind, Shaw, A.N.Other

Midfield:

Pogba, Fellaini, Carrick, Mkhitaryan, Herrera, Schneiderlin, Lingard

Forwards:

Zlatan, Rooney, Rashford, Martial, – Depay (??????)

That’s 22:

Not included:

Schweinsteiger, Mata, Jones, Young, Rojo, Darmian, Perreira, Wilson, Borthwick-Jackson – Nine players!

Wow, and I mean wow.

As the question marks suggest I wouldn’t keep DePay, I’d sell him and buy a genuine jet heeled speedster. There are lots of twists and turns left before the City game.

We are witnessing the practical, ruthless, side of Jose Mourinho. Make no mistake Ferguson had it too, so did Busby, but would either of them have publicly embarrassed a player like Mourinho did on Sunday with Juan Mata?

Spare a thought for Mata and Bastian Schweinsteiger too, cos both are history at Manchester United and represent Mourinho’s management style. Mata too short.Too nice.  Mata 1

Schweinsteiger too injury prone. Too slow. Both gone.

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Apparently Adnan Januzaj is also receiving the: “Go to the reserve team dressing room….. or get changed in the toilet” treatment. Mourinho looks one way and that’s forward. There was never a doubt about how he would operate.This is a manager intent on winning. There is no time or place for sentiment. You can’t even make joke about No More Mr.Nice Guy. That was never on the table to begin with.

Zlatan

Not a bad day at the office. Lingard’s injury apart, for the ever Machiavellian Mourinho things could not have gone much better.

Zlatan got his goal. Bailly showed plenty of signs of being a dominant force. Bailly 1

Mourinho won his first trophy as United manager, and also had the opportunity to speak openly about Paul Pogba and what he brings to the team.  Pretty obvious really.Paul-Pogba-miami

Who knows where the 100 million man was having his medical, but by the middle of this week his height, power, and technique should be Jumping Jack Flashing at Carrington.

If there’s one thing United aren’t going to lack this season it’s height and power.

It’s been a curious pre-season. The marketing trip to China was a long way for nothing. An interruption and marketing exercise which must have driven Mourinho nuts. The transfer business is done for now, but maybe there’s more to come. Apart from the expected exits of  Schweinsteiger, McNair, Pereira, Blackett, and possibly Mata, Jones or Young, don’t be surprised if United don’t throw a blockbuster at us. Maybe they sell Martial and bring another striker in? The young Frenchman had a poor Euros. There are rumours about his petulance and “off the field activities.” He may not fit the Mourinho team player mould, and he also slows down Rashford’s progress. I know it’s heresy to speak ill of a new found fan favourite, but Mourinho is ruthless and 75 million in the bank and the opportunity to buy his own striker maybe irresistible.

Pogba will bring dynamism to midfield, Rashford has pace, so have Shaw, Bailly, Mkhitaryan, Valencia and Smalling, but there is room for another jet heeled, electric striker to complement Zlatan. And it isn’t DePay.

In my last post I argued that Pogba wasn’t worth a 100 million transfer fee. I want to clarify. As a footballer he’s not worth it. As a marketing opportunity he is. Today’s values are obviously skewed by the enormous amounts of TV and advertising cash sloshing around the game and particularly the Premiere League. United’s profits are enormous. If Pogba helps deliver a championship this season he’s paid the fee.

So the Mourinho era with all it’s Special ingredients begins with a trophy. Jose

We’ve had Funny, Charming Jose passing Andy Tate’s Manc Quiz.  We’ve had Ruthless Jose banishing Schweinsteiger to the reserve team dressing room. And we’ve had PR Savvy Jose dedicating the Charity Shield win to Louis Van Gaal and the 7 players who didn’t make  the team or bench.

In the end what counts is results. The real business begins next Sunday in Bournemouth.

 

Paul Pogba?

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Jose Mourinho says he’s going to sign a “statement” player. The media is certain the target is Pogba, the player United famously let go for nothing to Juventus  because Fergie didn’t think he was worth a fat salary, despised his agent, and was spectacularly irritated by both of their attitudes.

Now Pogba is the key to Mourinho’s United revival jigsaw puzzle? Really?

Is he the player of the Euros? Well no, so far it’s easily his team mate Dimitri Payet.  After Payet its Gareth Bale.

Has Pogba looked an 80 million or 100 million pound superstar?  He scored a terrific header against Iceland. He’s physically imposing, has an eye for a pass and can shoot with either foot. But he doesn’t have searing pace, has a questionable temperament and for that kind of money doesn’t dominate the game. French coach Didier Deschamps  gave him a wake up call when he dropped him against Albania.

So far the summer transfer window has gone well for United. Zlatan is Zlatan, and despite his age is a fantastic addition for a team desperately short of leaders and goals. Eric Bailly is quick, powerful, and has enormous defensive potential.

But Pogba? If he is the next world great why hasn’t a deal been already agreed with Real Madrid or Barcelona? Madrid collect Galaticos for fun, and Barca always rival them for the best players. I don’t get it. Pogba is great value if he stays with United, but buying him back for a potential world record fee?

Zinedine Zidane,  fellow Frenchman and Madrid coach, was a similar player in build, a magician with the ball, terrific in the air, a strong runner and after Pele, Maradona, and Cruyff maybe the best player ever. If he sees himself in Pogba the contract ink should be dry by now. Maybe Pogba still goes to Spain, but if he doesn’t and United sign him for an astronomical sum – something is up. It’s not s signature signing if the world’s best teams take a pass and the team that buys him is playing in the Europa League

Meanwhile Mourinho’s rebuilding continues with Juan Mata expected out the exit door to sign for Everton. Unsurprising because as we know Mourinho sold him to United and is a coach who values pace and power. Yet Mata is a fantastic footballer. If Pogba had his brain and skill then we might be talking 80 million.

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Now that all the hoopla is over, Jose is in the building and the awkward reconciliation photo opportunity with Sir Bobby Charlton is done, we can get down to some reality. How are Mourinho and Woodward going to improve the team this summer? What three great players are going to sign for United and play in the Europa League rather than Champions’ League, while also reinforcing United’s quest to reclaim the Premiere League championship?

Rashford and Borthwick-Jackson have signed their well deserved long-term deals, Fosu-Mensah waits to further his ambitions, and presumably Mourinho and Woodward’s relationship with super agent Jorge Mendes assures De Gea stays. So if the spine of the team is De Gea, Smalling, Shaw (if he recovers mentally as well as physically), Rooney, Martial and Rashford, who are the rest of the players to deliver a Mourinho resurgence?

Every club in the Premiere league gets 170 million pounds from the TV deal this season. No club is short of cash. Now it’s down to reputation, emotion and money to attract the right players.

We’ve all watched the supposed blunderings of the past two summer transfer windows, but maybe they weren’t blunderings? Why would Toni Kroos or Cesc Fabregas for instance choose United over Madrid or Chelsea? We’ve also seen the failure of paying a bundle to a superstar like Angel Di Maria crushed by the combination of a threatening break-in at his home and the inability to use him on the pitch. We’ve bought players like Mata, a genius footballer but without the pace or power to impose himself on a league where strength and athleticism are the paramount qualities.

Now we have the ultimate power coach. Educated by Bobby Robson whose best teams always had height, physicality, and normally played with a big , strong centre forward. We know the kind of players to expect, the question is will they come? The papers will have a field day as usual, but hopefully the deals are done. Mourinho’s had almost six months to study United’s needs. He is prepared, that’s his modus operandi. Woodward has a list that will have been refined, tailored, colour coded, organized, depth charted, and all the targets and their agents will have long been spoken to.

So let’s see what the allure of Mourinho’s reputation and United’s check book can deliver.

Dear Ed,

I was very lucky to get a ticket to the Cup Final, and had a wonderful time before, during and after – except I can’t shake off a lingering sadness over the way Louis Van Gaal was sacked. Sure you have the right to fire a manager you believe is taking the club in the wrong direction; sure you can plot who will replace him, that makes good business sense. But the months long saga and the not so coy dance with Jose Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes, coupled with “someone” leaking the news of Mourinho’s imminent appointment and therefore Van Gaal’s sacking about 50 minutes after the Cup Final ended smacks of bleak times ahead again, Ed.

Who will really run United now? You, Mourinho or Mendes?

Of course you’ll still be the money guy signing up the sponsors, because as you once said:

‘All we’re doing is selling diamonds. We don’t make the diamonds. The diamonds have been made by the 135-year history of the club and the players. We just set up the right structures to sell it.’

Got it.

But who takes care of that 135 year history and tradition of the club?

Listening to a radio interview on the ride home from Wembley Paddy Crerand gave both barrels to the BBC reporters who broke the story of Mourinho’s appointment. “Where did the story come from?” an indignant Paddy kept asking. Obviously the reporters couldn’t say: “Well Paddy, we got a call or a text, or a What’s App message, or whatever, from Mr.Mendes.” Paddy also pointed out he’d just walked out of the dressing room where: “I’ve just seen Ed Woodward with his arms around the manager, laughing and joking and celebrating the win.” Ed did you know the leak was about to happen, just like it did the last time you sacked a manager? Actually you are damned if you did and damned if you didn’t.  United are two for two during your reign. Both David Moyes and Van Gaal discovered via a call or text from their wife or friends they were about to be ex-United managers.

Is this the United way these days?

Eric Cantona gave an insightful interview to the Guardian on Tuesday in which he reflected on the marriage of business and football:

“Today you have almost all overseas owners, coming from all around the world. It depends how you direct the club. If you don’t have an American businessman, you will have an English businessman, If you don’t have an English businessman, you will have a Chinese businessman or a Malaysian businessman. They are all the same. It’s a business. The difference is that maybe an English businessman knows more about the soul of the club and the community.”

Is Cantona right Ed? Do you know more about the soul of the club and the community? Do you think the fans however much some of them disliked Van Gaal’s or Moyes’ football would agree with the way both found out they were about to be sacked?

Cantona also reflected on the Mourinho appointment:

“I love José Mourinho, but in terms of the type of football he plays I don’t think he is Manchester United, I love his personality, I love the passion he has for the game, his humour. He is very intelligent, he demands 100% of his players. And of course he wins things.

“But I don’t think it’s the type of football that the fans of Manchester United will love, even if they win. He can win with Manchester United. But do they expect that type of football, even if they win? I don’t think so.”

So here we are. Peek a boo.

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It’s likely Mourinho will be officially named by late Wednesday. The  transfer war chest is filled, new recruits will arrive. Zlatan? Matic? who knows who else because the list is endless. The media is ready, and where to begin? Let’s not forget the ready to be revved up feud with Pep Guardiola, and the not settled yet court case for unfair dismissal brought by Chelsea’s former team doctor Eva Carneiro. Mourinho may have to give evidence in that case when it begins June 6th. Now entering the dock the manager of Manchester United.

So in conclusion Ed, as noted, I had a great day watching the football at the final. The ongoing development of Rashford,  Martial, and Fosu-Mensa; the return of Shaw; and the retention of De Gea are all things to look forward to next season. I just wish I felt that 135 year old history of the club was in decent hands.