Manchester United’s talking points ahead of Fulham clash

It has been a few difficult months for José Mourinho’s team, but their performance against high-flying Arsenal struck a chord with the Manchester United fans that had been missing for some time.

There was passion and commitment shown by the players, plus entertainment. There wasn’t a ridiculously high amount of quality on offer by both teams, but the intensity that has been lacking in the Premier League was present.

Here are a few talking points from United’s latest fixture moving forward:

Diogo Dalot’s starting debut

The young Portuguese right back made his first start for Manchester United in the Premier League against Arsenal, in which there were mixed reviews.

Dalot impressed with his runs down the right flank, trying to take on players and get the ball into the box. The one attribute that clearly sticks out is his ability to successfully beat his first man with the cross – something United fans have forgotten existed.

The former Porto starlet was caught out throughout the match from his more experienced counterpart Sead Kolasinac, but Dalot stood his ground and recovered. There is certainly a lot more to come, but against top opposition who were 19 games unbeaten, Dalot made a good account of himself to the Old Trafford crowd.

Dalot is only 19-years-old and will improve with every game he plays in. Mourinho must stick with him and allow him to develop in the Premier League. The signs are promising.

Marcos Rojo gives United bite 

It seems as if Marcos Rojo features more on the injury table than he does for Manchester United in recent seasons, but the Argentinean defender did make a rare appearance against Arsenal to mark this week’s comeback.

Rojo is an impulse defender and one for taking risks, most of them not being calculated. Although he was caught off guard that gifted Arsenal the lead in the second half, Rojo provided United with a bit of bite that has been badly missed.

The central defender’s performance was topsy-turvy, as they usually are, but at least he gives the team some sense of commitment and urgency to get up the pitch. His tackling is as absurd as he is, but Rojo was welcomed back by the Man United faithful.

Eric Bailly should not be left out

If there was one talking point after the fixture against the Gunners, it was the fact that Eric Bailly had been needlessly rotting on the sidelines for far too long. Most fans can recognise Bailly’s importance to the team, but it took Mourinho more than enough time to come to the same conclusion.

The Ivory Coast international, even with months on the bench, slotted right back into the first-team and made some crucial interceptions. He kept Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang largely at bay for the 90 minutes, which was no easy task given the Gabonese is the league’s leading goalscorer.

Mourinho simply has to involved Bailly in future games. While fans are not privy to what goes on behind closed doors, and there might have been issues in the past, the Portuguese manager simply has to put those inconsistencies behind him and allow his best defender to do his job.

Anthony Martial strikes again

The Frenchman has come to Manchester United’s rescue on more than one occasion this season. His seven goals in the Premier League have helped the Red Devils retain some sort of dignity, although his teammates aren’t pulling their weight in comparison.

Martial’s form continues to grow and he now has a scoring return rate of 122 minutes per-goal in the league – better than the likes of Sergio Agüero, Harry Kane and Aubameyang.

Without Martial’s goals, United would be in an even direr state of affairs compared to where they are now. This weekend, against Fulham, United have the chance to put on a show for the United crowd and should do so against the lowest-ranked team in the division.

Through Martial, United have a forward player that is so confident with the ball at his feet. The Frenchman dazzles past defenders and has the agility to shift his body weight and deceive his opposition.

The Red Devils simply must get Martial in the game and allow the France international to do what he does best: score.

José Mourinho’s negativity is not welcome at Manchester United

To say it’s been a difficult season so far for Manchester United is an understatement of magnificent proportions. For a club that is used to challenging for major honours, sitting in seventh place, eight points from fourth after 14 games, United’s fans are wondering where it all went wrong.

It’s not as if the club possess bad players. Quite the opposite, in fact. Mourinho has signed 11 first-team players since arriving in 2016, including Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku who cost a combined £165 million in transfer fees.

The signing to trump all in terms of failures so far has been Alexis Sánchez, who was brought in from Arsenal last January. The Chilean was supposed to invigorate United’s front line and add a different dimension to their stagnating attack, but has yet to live up to expectation. Spending £500,000 per-week on wages now looks to be a massive mistake and one that Manchester City are thankful they did not commit to.

There is no sense of consistency in United’s game, especially after conceding two goals against Southampton last weekend in quick succession. A team that has been nothing short of shambolic for the past few months; and yet they found a way to carve United apart with ease to find the back of the net. Such are Mourinho’s woes, this is now the new reality.

While the team is suffering this season and the players have not performed to the standard that is expected of them, Mourinho’s incessant negativity around the club is certainly not easing matters. Fans have had enough of his negative football being portrayed on the pitch, and certainly don’t want to have to hear him profess how it’s not his fault.

Mourinho’s go-to tactic has always been to blame the situation around him and remind people of the major honours he has won in his glittering career. No one cant take that immense success away from him, but it’s tiresome to hear Mourinho separate himself from the current mess that is being played out in public for all to see.

It’s clear that the Portuguese coach wants to isolate himself in order to save a reputation that has quickly been declining ever since his last season in charge at Chelsea. At this moment in time, it appears that the £14 million payoff that Mourinho is due if United decide to sack him is too much for even the self-proclaimed ‘richest club in the world’.

So, unless matters deteriorate even further, which would not be a total surprise, Manchester United are likely to keep with him until the end of the season. Fans are not expecting miracles, but they do long for football that entertains them.

The constant leaks coming from the football club is not helping, either. There is no better embodiment of Manchester United post-Ferguson than to see how much information is constantly being played out in the public. Ferguson used to keep a tight control over what was and what wasn’t said, but Mourinho simply doesn’t possess the same authoritative figure that can demand similar.

This time it was the Portuguese manager explaining to the first-team players that Pogba is a ‘virus’, just before they took on Southampton. It is bemusing as to how that can help any set of players go out and win a match, but this relationship, or lack of, has been bubbling away since February, when Mourinho asked Pogba to play a lot deeper against Tottenham at Wembley.

Since then, their relationship has worsened and there have been many notable moments played out for all to see which says they don’t get on. However, if Mourinho wants to survive in this job, he has to start building bridges and stop ostracising players, just as he has done ever since he step foot in Old Trafford.

There is going to be little chance for major honours this season given the level of competition and how far off the Red Devils are. But what the fans want to see, at the very least, for the remaining part of the season, is some high level football that entertains them.

They might not get what they want in celebrating success, but if Mourinho cannot deliver some entertainment at the supposed ‘Theatre of Dreams’, his time will be coming to an end sooner rather than later.

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Is Christian Pulisic the right winger Manchester United long for?

Manchester United are in a dire state this season. With José Mourinho finally admitting that his hope of reaching the top four by Christmas was unrealistic, the Red Devils are struggling emphatically to record any sort of consistency week in, week out.

Last weekend, against Southampton, who have been nothing short of shambolic this year, Mourinho’s team conceded two goals in quick succession and had it all to do in order to go back to Manchester with any points. Through Romelu Lukaku and Ander Herrera they found two goals, but it was a performance that embodied them under Mourinho’s reign.

There are so many problems around United currently, but one that has maintained throughout the three managers following Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement has been the right wing. Juan Mata, who was signed as an attacking midfielder in January of 2014, has largely been put out on the right, given the lack of other viable choices in the team.

For one reason or another – that remains befuddling to many fans – the board have just not bothered to strengthen one of their flanks. Transfer window after transfer window the opportunity comes and goes for United to finally bring someone in, but they prioritise other positions and neglect their right wing.

Manchester United have long been admirers of Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, but ever since the Welshman opted for Spain’s sunny capital over the North West of England, that ship has sailed and would never come back around. And yet, Man United continue to try and prize Bale away, wasting their time on him instead of attempting to find a suitable alternative – which there are plenty of.

The Red Devils have got into the habit of going for world-class stars who want to receive an enormous paycheque, over players who would sacrifice themselves for the good of the team. Alexis Sánchez, for example, has been immensely disappointing since arriving at the turn of the year and is holding the club accountable for wages of £500,000 per-week, including bonuses.

United need to start targeting players who are not yet in their prime and are willing to work for the team, as well as themselves. Instead of opting for 29 year olds who are looking for one last mega contract, there are plenty of younger players who have come through a generation which preaches team cohesion and unity.

One player that springs to mind is the fantastic Christian Pulisic. The American has taken life in Germany by storm ever since arriving at the age of 16 into Borussia Dortmund’s academy and has risen straight through into the first-team. His natural progression is what he had hoped for when opting for a German football club, rather than the allures of Spain’s big two.

At just 17-years-old, Pulisic made his debut for BVB off the bench and in just one month later, became the youngest American to play in the Europa League. In 2016 it was rise of the Pulisic as he went from strength to strength and immersed himself into the first-team at Dortmund.

What was remarkable was how natural Pulisic looked on the big stage of the Bundesliga, especially for someone so young. The U.S. starlet had become the fourth-youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history and the youngest ever with two goals to his name. Pulisic was beginning to make waves across Europe.

By the end of the 2017/18 campaign, Pulisic racked up 42 appearances and had contributed to 12 goals. Even to this day, the American’s underlying numbers have not been astounding, but it’s his selflessness in the Black and Yellows’ attacking play that makes him such a catch, especially for Manchester United.

Although he has lost his place in part to Jadon Sancho this season, Pulisic remains a target for most elite clubs in Europe’s top five leagues. He has seven goal contributions (three goals and four assists) in 14 appearances this season in all competitions, mainly coming from the right wing.

It has been reported by German media that Chelsea and Liverpool lead the way for the American, having discussed a potential deal taking place in January with Dortmund’s official representatives. With Pulisic’s contract expiring in 2020, the Black and Yellows need to make a decision on when to sell him if they feel that the 20 year old will not renew within the next six months.

Manchester United are in desperate need of some raw pace, ingenuity and intuition on their right wing, as well as someone with hunger and desire to take their game – and United’s – to the next level. After losing out on game time to Sancho this season, Pulisic’s character has been tested. He looks hungry and motivated to develop further, but needs the opportunity to do so.

Dortmund are likely to hold out for a fee near £75 million given the market rate for hot prospects, as well as what he can bring to the table now. United’s cash flow is there to see for everyone, and although the American is expensive, he should be a player that tests himself and fulfil his potential.

Manchester United will face stiff competition from many clubs around Europe, but if they are to go in for Pulisic, they must sign him for the right reasons of bolstering their attack and not just because he is an immense marketing tool commercially, as well as preventing him going to any rival.

The American is one of the best talents of his generation and has the ability to transform United’s right wing.

Is Mauricio Pochettino the right man for the job at Manchester United?

Before the last-gasp win over BSC Young Boys in the Champions League, Manchester United’s previous two results in Europe read 0-0 and 0-1, against Valencia and Juventus. Such has José Mourinho’s spark vanished at home, fans are now starting to boo at the end of home matches. That was the state of play at the end of the 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace last weekend.

When the Portuguese manager was appointed in 2016, there was a sense of the tide turning once more for United. After failed stints from David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, Mourinho was brought in to do one thing and do it well: win. There was not such an emphasis on playing ‘attractive’ football like their Manchester counterparts, or bringing through youth on an unprecedented scale, but Mourinho had to make sure he would get the Red Devils seriously competing for major honours.

After his first year in charge, he won two trophies. The League Cup and the Europa League, both finals had some sense of fortune against lesser opposition of Southampton and Ajax being played against. However, it is Cup football and that’s the roll of the dice. Man United looked strong and they looked healthy. It was time to kick on for what the fans longed for: the Premier League.

And yet, even after such a promising first season, Mourinho’s second year in charge dwindled and there was no competitive aspect to it. They might have finished second, but 19 points behind league winners City tells the full story. United were nowhere near it.

It is this season, though – Mourinho’s famous third season – that has really rubbed the salt into the wounds of the Manchester United fans. There’s very little good football to be enthusiastic about; Mourinho’s not coaching the players to a good enough standard; there’s a clear divide between the board and the coach; the most recent signings have not been given a chance; the players look disinterested on the pitch and are not fighting fo the shirt; and, most importantly, Mourinho is not winning.

The list can go on and on, but those are the salient facts. And so it begs the question as to who United point the finger to and try to get in to replace him, which will likely be at the end of the season given it would take a whopping £14 million pay-off to push him out now.

Mauricio Pochettino is the outstanding candidate, given how he has turned Tottenham into a serious threat that can go toe-to-toe with any club in Europe on its day. The question marks will be around not having won a major honor with the Lilywhites so far, but no one can dilute the success he has had in North London.

Since taking over from Tim Sherwood, the Argentinean has revamped the whole club and, somehow, managed to raise performances level with the limited funds he has received as well as the sub par squad he inherited. Pochettino is a traditional coach that will squeeze ever drop of talent out of his players before deciding to go to the market.

Of course, he would like to be backed more than he has been under Chairman Daniel Levy, but Pochettino has excelled in coaching his players and raising their standards tenfold. Last summer came to a surprise to all when Spurs didn’t sign one player for their first-team, making them the first club to do so since the inception of the summer transfer window.

With Spurs building a new stadium that is yet to be completed, Levy allocated the funds into the off-field project, rather than bolstering the first-team squad and allow Pochettino a real chance of dethroning Manchester City. While it is understandable that the former Espanyol manager was disappointed, he has hidden his frustrations and still managed to keep his cool in the face of adversity.

Manchester United do not possess bad players. Some have gone past their sell-by date and should be moved on accordingly, but the root of the problem at Old Trafford is not the players. They simply need a manager who can coach them and have an identity to their game, rather than going with which the way the wind blows every few days.

Pochettino’s admiration of bringing through youth players can only help with his application given United’s long-standing tradition of blooding academy graduates into the first-team. The Argentine has shown his credentials with Spurs after leading them into the top four and are now routine participants in the Champions League.

The wait for a trophy goes on for Pochettino and he might not get his hands on one this season, but there is no one better suited for the job at Old Trafford than him right now. It is going to take a lot of money to prize him away from the clutches of Levy, but if United are serious about escaping the rut they find themselves in, they simply must go all in for Pochettino.

Marouane Fellaini saves the day for José Mourinho once again

Like it or not, Marouane Fellaini has done more good than harm at Manchester United since joining the club under David Moyes. For all of his critics, he has lasted under three different managers with three completely different playing styles – they value him in ways that it is hard to comprehend for the everyday fan.

Fellaini isn’t a pretty player on the ball and he’s not one to make you sit on the edge of your seat, waiting in anticipation over what is going to happen next. He is, however, useful. Useful in the sense that he disrupts the opposition’s defensive organisation and they become fixated on the physicality that the Belgian brings. This, in turn, allows Fellaini’s teammates to sneak into gaps not previously there, as well as give United another option when looking to approach the opponents’ box.

Having Fellaini run your midfield is not what he should be used for. Compare him to someone like Paul Pogba and the difference is stark, but there are seldom football players who can pose such an immediate threat when he comes onto the pitch and takes up his place between the opposition’s centre back and, usually, left back.

When Mourinho left Pogba out last Tuesday evening against Young Boys, there was a concern from fans over the dynamism of Man United’s play. They were right. Far too many times were the Red Devils stagnant in their approach, with Fellaini too deep to cause havoc. When the Belgium international is on the ball, 40 yards away from the goal, he is not a threat at all and becomes quickly nullified.

The eventual winning goal against the Swiss-based club, that came through the Belgian, was scored because he was allowed to go up front and assume his more accustomed role. Pogba came onto the pitch and started working the ball into more advantageous areas, with Fellaini causing menace in the Young Boys box.

Fellaini received the ball with his back to goal with just minutes to spare, controlled it as he usually does, quickly pivoted and struck the ball with his right foot. It wasn’t the cleanest of shots and there was a case of handball thrown in, but it was what was needed as it found the bottom left-hand corner. Fellaini rose to the occasion once again under Mourinho and the Portuguese manager’s celebration of launching a crate of water bottles suggests how important that goal was for him. A sigh of relief.

A large proportion of Manchester United fans were disappointed when the club bent over backwards to make sure Fellaini signed a contract renewal in June. Such were the excruciatingly long negotiations, Fellaini actually became a free agent before signing with Man United. The midfielder-cum-forward was put onto a new and improved contract to the distaste of many.

However, Fellaini has triumphed under Mourinho and come up with the goods on more than one occasion. The Belgian has a knack of understanding the box better than some forwards and can manipulate defenders into a false sense of security. It’s not hard tracking Fellaini given his size, but his physicality and aerial prowess provide such a nuisance to any defender going up against him.

The former Everton man might only have two goals and two assists this season in 15 appearances throughout all competitions, but Fellaini’s service is measured by more than just goals and assists. What he brings to the team is another dimension that Manchester United desperately need. The Red Devils look lost on the pitch at times and bringing on a player with Fellaini’s attributes usually proves worthwhile with the opposition panicking and pressing the self destruct button.

Fellaini’s presence isn’t always needed and against Young Boys from the start, it certainly wasn’t. The perfect time to bring on the Belgian on is with 20 minutes to go when the Red Devils are in search of a goal to ascertain a result. With Fellaini’s limited ball-playing ability, having him start games is usually non-productive, as he’s trapped on the halfway line without the ability to make runs into the box and attack the ball.

What, perhaps, has been most impressive of all about Fellaini is his fight against adversity. It has been made clear on a number of occasions that he is not the most-liked in the group and, up until about one-year ago, was on the receiving end of terrible abuse from his own fans. And yet, even with that, he has stuck to what he knows best and remained at the club.

Louis van Gaal, Moyes and Mourinho all saw value in him and now the Manchester United fans are starting to come around to that viewpoint in certain situations. Fellaini is a warrior and has done nothing but give his all for the Red Devils, which is why supporters now need to give them their full backing – he has done more than enough to deserve it.

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Who will strike first for Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé?

Promised by many as the next big thing, Ousmane Dembélé appears to be at a crossroads in his career at the tender age of 21 years old.

Signed by Barcelona for an eye-watering £105 million from Borussia Dortmund last summer, the France international has been a visitor rather than a difference maker for the Spanish giants. Dembélé has failed to make a lasting impact so far and his off-field distractions, such as gaming, has landed him in trouble on more than one occasion with the leaders of Barça.

There is no denying that Dembélé is a generational talent, with his quick feet, dizzying runs and raw ability, but unless he hones it with discipline and improves his work ethic, there is a possibility that Barcelona might cut ties with him so early on in his career. Reports are already coming out suggesting the La Liga giants are considering allowing the Frenchman to leave as early as January.

The facts are that Dembélé has only featured in 16 appearances this season, scoring seven times and assisting on two occasions. While his overall game has been largely disappointing, he does continue to help Barça come up with late finishes that saves games – just as his most recent goal salvaged a point against Atlético Madrid.

In truth, the move to Spain with Barcelona in particular was possibly too soon in his career. He made the right decision to leave France for Dortmund, where he was excelling, but it was too short of a period for Barça to launch that type of money at him. Of course, no player is going to reject a move to one of the biggest clubs in the world, but it was always going to be a risk given how raw he was and still is.

If the reports are to be believed and Barcelona are truly open to either loaning him out or selling on a permanent transfer, Dembélé will not be short of suitors. The most obvious destination would be England, but which Premier League club will strike first?

England

The Premier League has a number of clubs who can not only afford the fee should Barça be inclined to sell permanently, but also his wages, which are considerable to say the least.

Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and even Arsenal would all make room to sign the France international, which puts Dembélé in a very strong position indeed.

Pep Guardiola’s City have a whole host of mercurial talents on their books and it is slightly difficult to understand where Dembélé would fit into his side; however, that has not stopped the Spanish manager before when recruiting and if Dembélé is available, the Citizens are likely to be joining the queue. It goes without saying that they are in a position to cover any proposed deal financially.

The Red Devils have been crying out for a right winger for multiple years and so this could be a blessing in disguise. With Dembélé’s nationality being French, he would settle well into the first-team with the likes of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba by his side, along with other French-speaking players in the dressing room.

Man United find themselves off the pace so far this season and Dembélé could well provide the spark needed to reinvigorate their season and qualify for the Champions League next year. It will be a hard sell convincing him to join over other clubs who can offer immediate success, but as seen with Alexis Sánchez, money sure does go a long way to helping make a decision.

Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea would be open to the idea of the Frenchman coming to Stamford Bridge, but only if they manage to sell Willian. It was no secret that Barcelona were willing to sign the Brazilian last summer before they opted for Bordeaux’s Malcom, and so a swap deal might be on the cards if Ernesto Valverde’s team are still open to that idea.

Liverpool will probably be the most difficult sell for Dembélé due to their front three already being at an elite level with no glaring gaps. Mohamed Salah plays on the right, so there is little to no chance of the former Rennes player leapfrogging the Egyptian, while Sadio Mané is on the left and Roberto Firmino through the middle as a false nine. The Reds would possibly sell the idea as a first substitute, but for the type of money being talked about, it’s likely they’ll look elsewhere as they did with Xherdan Shaqiri.

Arsenal are the other frontrunner in landing Dembélé due to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s close relationship with the France international. Friendship does not always materialise in transfers, but there is no chance that Unai Emery would not be interested in signing him to bolster the right-hand side of Arsenal’s forward line.

Arsenal’s Director of Football, Raúl Sanllehí, used to be one of the leading members on Barcelona’s board a few years ago, and so can use that relationship to harness any potential deal for Dembélé.

Italy

While England seems the obvious choice given the money involved, Italy might not be so abstract given Juventus’ new, £88 million signing in Cristiano Ronaldo.

While the Bianconeri are unlikely to be interested given their wealth of talent within their stable, but a team like Inter might well be. A loan deal is the only feasible nature of this given Financial Fair Play is burdening the Milanese club, but if Barça prefer to only send Dembélé out for a year, then Inter might well be the perfect destination.

Napoli and Milan will be interested, but with club president Auerlio di Laurentiis favouring Edinson Cavani as their wage buster and Zlatan Ibrahimović returning to the latter, both remain unlikely destinations.

Germany

The only realistic option for Dembélé is Bayern Munich given the lack of funds elsewhere in the division. While Niko Kovac is struggling this season and a player of Dembélé’s quality could help him magnificently, Karl-Heinz Ruminegge has never been one to splash an absolute fortune on players and with a manager whose position is uncertain, it’s unlikely that tune will change.

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In conclusion, they most likely outcome is that Dembélé will come to the Premier League, should he be given the green light, with Manchester United and Arsenal leading the way to land him. With his technical ability and direct approach, the French star will be an asset to either team and should add real quality where it has been lacking.

Manchester United need to add an identity to their game

José Mourinho’s men might have orchestrated a famous victory in Turin against Juventus just before the international break, but they also suffered a crippling defeat to across-town rivals Manchester City in what was a lifeless display.

This season has been tumultuous at best for the Red Devils and their inconsistency has been born out of a lack of identity. It seems as if every three days they are refreshing their philosophy of the way they want to play and not attempting to adopt a style that suits them week in, week out.

It is clear that Chelsea, under Maurizio Sarri, have a possession-based footballing identity, as do Man City under Pep Guardiola, whereas Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool are more about the punch and ferociousness of the attack after dispossessing the opposition high up the pitch. Arsenal are starting to find form under Unai Emery, who is slowly starting to implement a more creative and free-flowing Arsenal, while Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs have arguably the best team chemistry in the Premier League.

That leaves Manchester United out of the top six without a clear identity. When they take to the field, it is always in a pragmatic sense. There are times when pragmatism is useful, as Mourinho has shown through his celebrated career in Europe, but United fans, and players, have been brought up on an attacking style that has suited them from the first day Sir Alex Ferguson took charge until his last.

Of course, with a new manager after such a long time at the helm there would have to be change. And there was, with David Moyes and Louis van Gaal, but they both failed in their respective work and were not enigmatic enough for the job. Mourinho has the charisma and personality, as well as the big-game performances in his locker, but the Portuguese coach needs to find his own identity at the club that appeases the fans as well.

When the Red Devils took on Brighton & Hove Albion earlier this season, it was case in point over United’s clear lack of direction. Players were abandoning their post and all sense of responsibility, with Brighton playing in second gear and carving them apart with absolute ease. It was a training exercise at times and the Seagulls were in total control.

Similarly, last season, against Sevilla in the Champions League round of 16, Mourinho had the chance to take the game to the Spaniards in the second leg after drawing 0-0 away from home. Instead of playing on the front foot, once again, United were idle in possession and allowed the Spaniards to dictate the game. At no point under Ferguson would that have been allowed and, as a result, it cost United their place in the Champions League after a whimpering performance that they lost 2-1.

Sevilla were not the better team on paper and Manchester United should have dispatched of them with relative ease. Vincenzo Montella was later sacked for his defensive ineptitude, but United failed to find that out due to their stagnant approach. With 70,000 cheering on the Red Devils, it was a punch to the stomach to witness Mourinho so timid in attack and without the ability to alter the game.

No one is realistically expecting Man United to match City’s excellence game by game, because they simply do not have the same quality, but it is expected that United should be on the front foot against the ‘lesser’ teams in the Premier League such as Brighton. With no disrespect intended to Chris Hughton’s team, but the way United folded against the Seagulls was an embarrassment of the highest order.

It must be said that United’s recruitment has been poor and Mourinho does have a leg to stand on when addressing his issues with the centre back position after Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, ignored his request of signing a new player last summer.

Although United’s squad looks short of quality compared to some of their top four rivals, it should not give Mourinho the mandate to roll over and deploy a negative strategy.

Manchester United still have quality within their ranks and Anthony Martial is a prime example of what happens when the shackles are removed and Mourinho allows freedom to enter their attacking play. After getting back on good terms with the Portuguese coach, the France international has six Premier League goals in his last seven appearances, practically winning games on his own.

By all accounts, it appears Mourinho will last until the end of the season unless the team have an absolute meltdown. But if the former Chelsea title-winning manager wants to remain in charge for the foreseeable future, he simply must adopt a philosophy that gets United’s fans on the edge of their seats and something to cheer for. Without it, United are the most predictable team in the league and these one-off triumphs will not hold any weight.

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Three David de Gea replacements should Manchester United have to sell

It has come to the attention of Manchester United fans that David de Gea’s contract negotiations have hit a stumbling block.

The Spain international is weighing up his future and knows that his next contract could rule him out of a move during his peak years. With the way that Manchester United are playing under José Mourinho, and how far they are from truly challenging the elite in Europe, it is no surprise that De Gea is questioning his options.

If the Spaniard decides against renewing with the Red Devils, the club will need to act fast in approaching potential replacements. Here are three that are worth considering should that outcome come to fruition:

Jan Oblak: Atlético Madrid 

The outstanding candidate would be Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak, who has been tremendous ever since joining the Spanish giants. So much so that he has in fact kept more clean sheets than goals conceded while in goal since the 2014/15 season, showing his exemplary credentials and case to be crowned the best goalkeeper in the world.

Oblak is a wonderful shot-stopper, like De Gea, and also makes remarkable, worldly saves that he has no right to. The Slovenia international might have a brick wall in the form of a defence in front of him, but Oblak holds more than his own and has kept Atlético in crucial games.

At 25-years-old, Oblak is coming into his peak years as a goalkeeper and can rule as one of the leading goalkeepers of his generation. There is no reason to suggest that he cannot go on for another decade, playing at the elite level winning trophies.

The problem Manchester United face would be to prize the Slovenian away from sunny Madrid. Not only is it about convincing him to step down in terms of the level, because United at this moment are not comparable to Atlético, but to also convince the board members of the Spanish club to sell him. It would most likely take his full buy-out clause of £88 million (€100m) to acquire him.

If De Gea does leave in the next two years, Oblak should be the frontrunner in terms of who they target. He is the perfect replacement.

Jordan Pickford: Everton 

England’s number one has had a meteoric rise since leaving Sunderland for Everton just over two seasons ago.

Jordan Pickford has shown that height is not a sticking point in becoming one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League with his distribution and positioning being first class.

Against Spain, Pickford set up two goals with his quick thinking and immaculate passing out of his hands and on the floor. That quick tempo that the England international plays at is what has allowed him to reach the heights he is beginning to.

He might be 24-years-old but Pickford has shown his calm, collected nature on a regular basis, especially in England’s round of 16 penalty shootout against Colombia. With the momentum with the South Americans, Pickford remained composed and eventually saved the crucial penalty that allowed England to win their first shootout in a major tournament for decades.

The Toffees player might not be a universally popular choice among United fans, but he is certainly not one to rule out given his status of being one of the uprising goalkeepers of his generation.

Thomas Strakosha: Lazio 

Thomas Strakosha is the unknown quantity in this list to those who do not follow Serie A, but he is one to take seriously.

The Albania international is an up and coming goalkeeper that has been courted by some of the biggest European clubs out there over the past few years, all while only making his proper breakthrough in the 2017/18 campaign.

Off the back of his 53 appearances last season, Strakosha has nailed down the number one jersey at Lazio and will be eyeing a move to a more influential club in Europe’s top five leagues. The 23-year-old has time on his side, but should the opportunity arise, he would not think twice about switching sides.

He might be the easiest profile to obtain on this list, but that does not mean he will come at a cheap price. Lazio set their price at around £35 million last summer and with the way he is play, that fee is likely to only rise in the near future.

Standing tall at 1.93m, Strakosha is a commanding and physical goalkeeper with aerial prowess. He might not have the distribution abilities of Pickford or shot-stopping qualities of Oblak, but he does climb above others to claim what is his.

While it was difficult for De Gea to adjust to English football given the physicality aspect of the league, Strakosha should not have the same problem due to his style of goalkeeping. He is not yet globally known, but the Albanian will burst onto the scene soon enough.

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Victor Lindelöf is a positive light in a disappointing season so far for Manchester United

The season might not have been what was expected from Manchester United fans so far, but one thing that has been taken as a positive is Victor Lindelöf’s development in the heart of their defence.

Signed in the summer of 2017, Lindelöf arrived in Manchester with a relatively unknown reputation. Having played in Portugal with giants Benfica, the young Swede was picked out by José Mourinho who of course have very close ties with his native homeland.

The Red Devils’ senior management actually tried to sign Lindelöf at the start of 2017, but vetoed that idea after realising it would be better for the then 22-year-old to integrate into the squad and make the sizeable jump up in quality during the summer.

It was fair to say that Lindelöf went through teething problems at Old Trafford at the beginning of his career. He was in and out of the team during his first season in England and was failing to adjust and adapt to English football as quickly as some were suggesting when first arriving. One of the main problems for Lindelöf – and it does carry through until present day – is the lack of a prominent, commanding and experience central defender alongside him.

What stood Lindelöf in great stead for both club and country was the fact that he had such a reliable player next to him – such as at Benfica when he played with the 36-year-old Luisão and with Sweden’s captain, Andreas Granqvist - which enabled him to play his natural, flamboyant game without the worries of being wholly responsible for the defence. At Manchester United, however, with the chopping and changing that has occurred over the last two years, Lindelöf has not had that privilege.

“When I arrived at United, I knew it would be a huge challenge, but I felt ‘I can do this’. It was tougher at first, and at this level one has to deliver from the beginning,” Lindelöf said.

However, even with a tentative start that caused him to be under pressure early on his career in the North West, Lindelöf has now started to become a regular starter under Mourinho. The central defender has started 10 of the opening 12 Premier League matches this campaign, while also making three 90 minutes appearances in the Champions League from four games.

One of Lindelöf’s main attributes that was picked up on when clubs from around Europe started to scout him at Benfica was his ability to play out from the back effectively. After the hardship of attempting to make United’s current defenders attempt the same, it is no surprise as to why the club decided to move in Lindelöf’s direction.

This season it has appeared that Lindelöf has come out of his shell and is beginning to play the same level of football that first got Man United interested in signing him. The Swede is comfortable on the ball and has the ability to bring others into the game, whether that is deploying the early ball into midfield or picking out one of United’s forward’s runners down the channels.

Lindelöf has not yet reached his prime years and given he is only 24-years-old, there is still plenty of development to undergo for the Sweden international to reach his full potential. Consistency in his game is key, but he is slowly showing that under Mourinho’s guidance and is beginning to stand out from the rest of his competitors.

Just last week, the former Västerås SK player was crowned Swedish Footballer of the Year after his impressive World Cup with his country and also his performances this season for the Red Devils.

I am very aware of what career, what story I am writing,” he told Swedish outlet Aftonbladet.

“Ever since I came, he [Mourinho] told me to do my thing, that’s why I’m here. It’s been good, but I know I can do more.

“Especially when we have the ball, I want to show even more what I can do, because people have only seen fifty percent of what I can do. Mourinho pushes me to believe in myself.”

That belief in himself is what has turned things around so far for Lindelöf. He knows what the expectations are when coming to a club like Manchester United and he knows he needs to consistently be at the top of his game in order to be revered.

The Red Devils have been crying out for a stalwart defender to take control in their team for a number of years now and Lindelöf could well slip into that role. With the strides he has made this season, and the ambition he quite clearly possesses, this could be Lindelöf’s turning point that accelerates him as a reliable defender that Man United can count on for years to come.

Manchester United have a problem with Romelu Lukaku

It was 18 months ago that Romelu Lukaku joined Manchester United from Everton for £75 million, a fee that to this day seems expensive for what the club have received back in terms of on-pitch performances.

Lukaku joined the Red Devils off the back of a season in which he excelled. Scoring 25 Premier League goals in 37 appearances, the Belgium international showed his prowess in front of goal for a team that was not challenging for major honours – all the more impressive.

After the injury to Zlatan Ibrahimović, José Mourinho needed a new centre forward and opted for Lukaku over Real Madrid striker Álvaro Morata, who eventually found his way to Chelsea. Lukaku joined the club with promise and the expectation that he would be a reliable, consistent goalscorer in a team that desperately needed to replace Ibrahimović’s goals.

The Belgian-born forward has posed all sorts of problems for defenders; whether it be his strength on the ball, or causing a nuisance inside the box, Lukaku has his opposition on tenterhooks and he has seen them squirm at the sight of him over the years of playing in the Premier League.

After enjoying a respectable debut season in Manchester with 27 goals to his name in all competitions, Lukaku was expected to kick on this year under Mourinho and help bridge the enormous gap between his club and their across-town rivals, Manchester City.

At the age of 25, the former Chelsea prospect should be coming into his prime now with Manchester United. While his numbers are impressive, having scored 105 Premier League goals in 231 appearances throughout his time in England, it is his overall performances that have caused concern among United fans and Mourinho himself. Such has been his decline in recent weeks, the Portuguese manager has omitted Lukaku from his team sheet and resided to having the Belgian on the bench.

It has been noticeable that, over the past 12 months, Lukaku has bulked up in size. While he was always naturally physical, he has certainly put on a lot of muscle in the gym that can be seen as a negative due to his awkwardness on the ball. There is one thing being physical when fending off defenders, and another when that growth is prohibiting your technical skill, such as it is with Lukaku at the moment.

One of the main criticisms of Lukaku’s performances has been his lack of a first touch. When the ball is played into him, instead of holding play up and waiting for his team-mates to make runs off him, the defender either usually gets the better of him or Lukaku wastes the opportunity by poor control. At the level Manchester United are playing at, it really is unacceptable to see such poor technique on a regular basis.

Manchester United’s fans are concerned over Lukaku’s ability to bring others into play and the Belgian slowing play up. With his omission from the first-team for now, Alexis Sánchez and Marcus Rashford have been rotating in the centre forward’s role, both to better effect than Lukaku.

Sánchez and Rashford bring a fast-paced edge to the role that has been missing from United’s game for some time. While they are not in great scoring form, either, they do, at least, stretch the opposition’s defence and allows the midfielders to take up advanced positions in between the lines. Lukaku has rarely done that since joining Manchester United from Everton.

What Lukaku used to so well was not only take players on in a destructive manner, but also have the ingenuity of knowing when to make that run in behind. Such is his size now, it appears that Lukaku has lost an edge to his game and is now struggling to carry out such short, sharp bursts that catches defences off guard.

There is no denying that Lukaku can be a first rate striker, as he has shown in the past, but something simply is not clicking for the Belgian and he is not playing to the fullest of his ability. Whether it is his size or lack of confidence, or perhaps a bit of both, Lukaku is simply watching the game unfold around him without making any long-lasting effect.

If he does not change the aspect of his game that is prohibiting from returning to scoring ways, Mourinho might have to look in a different direction.

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