Archives For Mourinho

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A week is a long time in football. The headlines after last Monday’s 0-0 Liverpool draw highlighted a disciplined, organized, typical Mourinho performance. After Thursday’s 4-1 win and the Paul Pogbaing of Fenerbahce the active adjective was “demolish.” Now it’s Humiliated!!!!!  following Sunday’s admittedly desperate 4-0 loss against Chelsea, and oh btw Pogba is now “embarrassing.”

Seven days, three games – from disciplined to diabolical. The  Einsteins are out in force again.  Martin Palazzotto whose commentary I often really enjoy at Stretty News sticks the knife in good and proper. Like a few others he’s calling for Jose Mourinho to be sacked.  C’mon Martin, he’s been in charge for 9 Premiere League games and lost 3. I didn’t want him either for a whole host of reasons; the incident with the Chelsea team Doc; the way his teams play; the reluctance to play youth; the meltdowns; the psychodrama; but now he’s the United manager and just as I argued for Van Gaal to be given time, Mourinho deserves time too. His return to Stamford Bridge was dreadful, truly, truly dreadful and the after match spat with Conte was pure Mourinho, an instant sideshow to deflect from the result. However, there is no instant cure at old Trafford. It took Alex Ferguson 5 years to build a championship winning side, and as Jacob Steinberg argues in the Guardian ,United need to think long term again.

Yes they have spent a galactic bundle. Yes it’s obscene how much players and managers are paid. Yes there is complete economic dislocation between the fans who might take a year to earn what Marcus Rashford earns in a week, or 10 years to pocket what Wayne Rooney does. Yes United are a global marketing machine and brand. Yes, yes, yes, yes to all the countless fair minded criticisms and calls for fan ownership,, a big YES on that one, because we are all right. But in the end it’s always about what happens on the pitch and Mourinho is charged with putting that right.

Next up of course is, oh, City on Wednesday in the League Cup. A derby when you least want it in a money-making irrelevant competition which if United lose will again unleash the Einsteins. That’s three of the League’s top 5 teams in 10 days. Two of them away. Two against the club’s fiercest rivals. After the coaching superpower club of Klopp and Conte now comes its figurehead, Guardiola. City, of course, are having their own issues. Wednesday couldn’t have come at a worse time for both clubs as both try to reassert themselves. But let someone else talk about City. What can Mourinho and United do?

There are plenty of questions. Who does Mourinho really trust? Where does the midfield balance come from? What has happened to Mikhitaryan? Why are Shaw, Darmian, Schneiderlin and even Martial sidelined?

Bailly’s loss with potentially a long term knee ligament injury is, of course, a major setback. Mourinho has to first and foremost reorganize his defence, re-establish some confidence, and refocus the troops. All by Wednesday night. My bet is Carrick brings stability in front of a back four of Valencia, Smalling, Blind and Shaw. Then we’re off to the races. Pogba, Rashford or Martial and Zlatan play. So two players out of Herrera, Mkhitaryan, Lingard, Mata, Young, and Schneiderlin. Fellaini is likely out. Where does the pace, mobility, steel, and dynamism come from? If it’s me Schneiderlin plays, and I go a very fluid 4-2-3-1

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Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Shaw

Schneiderlin, Carrick,

Mkhitaryan Pogba Rashford

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If it’s not obvious by now Sunday’s loss doesn’t distress me as much as others. There are good players at Old Trafford. More will arrive, and there are youngsters in the pipeline. Someone has to be given the time to mould these players into a team. It should be Mourinho. That’s why he was hired.

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Three losses on the trot. The knives are out. Rooney is the fall guy. Mourinho’s not far behind, and United are back to playing Van Gaal’s sideways football. Not a good week. Yet it’s only September as Mata pointed out on his blog, and only City who have real daylight between United and the rest of the chasing pack. Maybe that’s why it’s so painful? City are wonderful to watch. De Bruyne the mastermind of their quick, mobile, swarming play. Guardiola style at it’s best. Liverpool aren’t far behind. Meanwhile United’s giants lumber.

The ruthless side of Mourinho will surely be seen in the coming weeks.  The midfield has to have more dynamism and penetration. Pogba has to turn up. By the time the October crunch away fixtures against Chelsea and Liverpool arrive Mourinho has to find width, speed and a midfield combination that both protects and threatens. The key could be Mkhitaryan.

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Surely there is a mix of pace, craft and steel in Mkhitaryan, Mata, Pogba, Lingard, Fellaini, Schneiderlin, and Carrick. When everyone is fit there’s just too many good players available. But it’s Mkhitaryan who is potentially the most interesting. The Czech Republic’s captain Suchy’s foul on the Armenian during the first match of the international break has had a significant impact on United. Mkhitaryan brings exactly the qualities of pace and imagination United need, and we haven’t seen the best of him yet.

The same can be said for Pogba. Underwhelming is too generous a word. We’ve witnessed flashes of brute force, power, and an occasional mazy run. But he aint no Zidane yet.

And what about the rest of the team? The criticism of Rooney is merciless. Yes he’s having a terrible time. However people are quick to forget there would be no FA Cup win without the driving run setting up Mata’s equaliser. The same determination created the winner at Hull. Yes he’s getting caught on the ball far too often. Yes the passes are less than pin point. And yes it maybe time to put him on the bench. But he’s not the reason United are misfiring. There’s no balance in the team.

Mourinho has the players. Perhaps some aren’t fit, but now is when a manager earns his corn. Unfortunately, for me anyway, Mourinho’s darker characteristics are showing. Blaming Luke Shaw publicly for the second goal at Watford isn’t exactly brilliant man management. Especially when Shaw is said to have had a reoccurrence of a long standing groin injury. Mourinho’s reputation for handling young or sensitive players is awful. Not exactly a nurterer our Jose.

Yet this is exactly a period when players need someone to lift them, and to make the best decisions for the team. If anyone needs to step up it’s the manager. Let’s see what the line up is against Leicester on Saturday.

 

 

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For the first time since he became United manager Jose Mourinho isn’t having everything his own way. Yes City will be Aguero-less next Saturday, but Mourinho too has his issues. International breaks are always a manager’s nightmare and Mourinho faces anxious days before he knows whether Mkhitaryan, Fellaini and Shaw will be fit, plus the South American trio of Valencia, Rojo and Romero do not return to Manchester until Friday. It’s a shame a match of this importance arrives now.

It would have been interesting to see Mourinho’s best team. Mkhitaryan’s injury is potentially a huge blow, as Paul Merson says of last year’s Bundesliga Player of The Year “…he is different gravy.” His and Rashford’s game changing introductions at Hull promise so much for the future. We had a glimpse of a very different United in that final half hour at Tiger Stadium. Pace and danger threatened from all angles. Admittedly Hull’s threadbare squad were tired but that last half hour of constant pressure was a hint of what this United squad can deliver, and Mkhitaryan’s skills were a potent ingredient.

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City too have issues going into Saturday with question marks around the fitness of two of their big summer signings Gundogan and Sane, as well as Aguero elbowing himself out. Nonetheless De Bruyne, Sterling, Iheanacho and Silva are dangerous footballers and Guardiola’s swarming tiki-taka is taking root.

The press will go to to town this week on this first Mourinho -Guardiola show down. It’s irresistible. However the two “despise each other” yada yada may overshadow a gripping on field match-up. Mourinho’s Giants v Guardiola’s Swarm. United are the bookie’s favorites, and Mancunian Macho Bragging Rights are up for grabs. But more important are the three points and the opportunity of some early separation from a team that like it or not are the biggest threat to United’s championship ambitions. Even if injury and suspension dilute the firepower both squads are loaded and reinforced by their joint 300 million pound summer spending spree. United will have Old Trafford baying for the win and City aren’t built to play for a draw. It’s a match made for Mourinho, Zlatan and Pogba to deliver.

Meanwhile one sour and curious note out of Old Trafford this week. What numbskull authorized the removal of Matt Busby’s name plaques from his seats in the director’s box? You can understand why his grandchildren and descendants were moved to equally decent seats somewhere else, but removing the great man’s name from a seat? ***Update the club now say seats will be “updated” in the director’s box with Busby’s name matching the same style as seats with Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson’s names on them.

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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.

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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.