Archives For Paul Pogba

United come down to earth

September 12, 2016


Let’s not waste any time. City fully deserved to win the derby. Mourinho picked the wrong team, and rightfully accepted he did. De Bruyne maybe the Premiere League’s best player. Fernandinho, Otamendi and Silva were outstanding.

So what did we and Mourinho learn? For a start the world’s most expensive player has to get fit. This was one game where Pogba’s size and power weren’t enough. When a team moves the ball around like City you have to get it back quickly, not give it away, and if you do you have to have the stamina to chase. Pogba is lacking on the latter. Seriously lacking.  Box to box midfielders are powerhouses who run all day.

Saturday was an intense test of fitness. Both teams were lagging late in the game. All credit to United and to Mourinho as City were taken out of their stride in the second half and made to work hard for their win, but when United needed Pogba he was gasping. In the first half he couldn’t keep up with City’s movement, in the second he was done.

Halftime of course was when Mkhitaryan and Lingard were hooked as City’s dominance and United’s impotence forced Mourinho to react and change.


In Mkhitaryan’s case the worry is what the ignominious 45 minutes does for his confidence? I got an e mail after the game from a friend who played at the highest level. He wrote:

“I don’t know much about him but to throw him straight into a Manchester ‘Derby’ after having not started any of their 3 league games as opposed to starting Rashford who is a local lad & would be inspired by the crowd AND the occasion was not fair on the Armenian.”

Indeed. The news after the match is that Mkhitaryan went for a scan on the thigh injury picked up in the International break.

As for Rashford, Mourinho has already pencilled him in to start in the Europa League game rashfordaway at Feyenoord on Thursday, when there will be whole scale changes to the starting 11. Presumably Zlatan, who made his wonderful goal on Saturday look simple and then contrived to miss a much easier chance minutes later, gets a rest. Maybe Rooney, Valencia and Blind too? Shaw is said to have picked up an injury, so any of Smalling, Jones, Rojo, Martial, Mata, Fosu Mensah, and Darmian, may all play.

Curiously I’m not depressed by the derby result, nor are the guys at  “Stretty News” . There’s obviously lots of work to be done. New players will again arrive in January, and maybe some of the kids will emerge. But nine points out of 12 is a solid start. it always hurts to lose to City, but as good as they were on Saturday they have a major weakness. All the other Premiere League coaches will have looked at Bravo’s sweeper keeper “performance” and smiled.

As my friend also wrote:

“I’ve listened to Guardiola’s post game comments & it sounds to me that he is desperate to boost Bravo’s confidence…he actually praised him…talk about being in denial!

The facts are that Bravo has played 70…YES only 70 games for Barcelona BEHIND one of the best teams in Spain…where there are maybe 3 teams who can win the league. Man City will not win the Premier League with him in goal”


If not City then who? United are obviously in transition, but they will give everyone a game this season. This squad is much, much improved. Mourinho will have learned a lot from this defeat. It’s very, very early.


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.


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.

Zlatan Header

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.

Manchester United v Southampton - Premier League

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”.


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.