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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Jose Mourinho needs to choose his best attackers and stick with them

Jose Mourinho Romelu Lukaku

Anthony Martial said this week that his recent run of form is down to Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho giving him a prolonged run of games in the starting XI.

The Frenchman has scored six goals in seven league games since establishing himself as a regular starter at the end of September, having previously started just one match out of a possible seven.

“The key to it is playing games,” Martial explained. “For me, when you play in a game, that’s when you get back your enjoyment and you start to pick up your form once again.

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Is it time to trial Alexis Sánchez as Manchester United’s striker?

It is no secret that Romelu Lukaku has struggled in a Manchester United jersey this season. The Belgium centre forward might have four Premier League goals to his name, but he has failed to find the back of the net in his last nine appearances in all competitions.

Lukaku, who enjoyed an astute first season in Manchester last year, has had a lack of confidence in front of goal this campaign so far and looks out of sorts with his overall play. José Mourinho finally made the decision against Lukaku’s former club, Everton, to drop the striker to the bench for the very first time which really sent out a statement to the Belgian. Marcus Rashford took his place leading the line and United’s attack flowed more fluidly when transitioning from defence into attack.

After scoring 27 goals in all competitions and recording nine assists for the Red Devils last year, it was expected that Lukaku would kick on this season and improve on those numbers – especially on his 16 goals in the Premier League. However, for one reason or another, Lukaku’s form has plummeted somewhat and he seldom looks the same striker. As the old saying goes, form is temporary and class is permanent, but it is a cause for concern among the United faithful that their £75 million centre forward is going through such a dry patch.

This has led to discussions regarding who would take his place as the spearhead of United’s attack. Rashford, as he did against the Toffees, is a candidate to lead the line, but his vulnerabilities in a one-on-one situation does not promote belief in the Stretford End.

At this moment in time, and he is only 20-years-old with a lot more experience to be gained, the England international is not clinical in front of goal – he has squandered too many chances and lacks the same edge when faced with a golden opportunity as his team-mate Anthony Martial.

Rashford, under Mourinho, has found himself on the wing more often than not, and he has looked comfortable. Against Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, Rashford put in his best performance of the season on the right wing, linking up well with Juan Mata in the playmaker’s role and Lukaku.

Similarly to Lukaku, Rashford, though, has had a goal drought at Old Trafford and last found the back of the net at home back in May just before the end of the season. The Englishman also has only scored once in all competitions this season, which does not fill you with the greatest belief that he can be tasked with the opportunity to become the main goalscorer in the team – especially when the club is under pressure.

The other candidate is Alexis Sánchez. The Chilean is currently injured and has not been in the best form since arriving from Arsenal on a free transfer in January, but he returned to goalscoring ways against Newcastle United by finding the winner. When trialled in the centre forward’s role throughout pre-season, Sánchez looked adept and was flourishing running in behind the last man and constantly stretching the opposition’s defence.

With more experience to his name and having done it at Barcelona and Arsenal, Sánchez is capable of leading the line for Manchester United. He will need to rekindle his old scoring ways as he did for the Gunners, but his goal against the Magpies should fill him with confidence. As soon as he returns from injury, it is important to involve him in Cup competitions and give him that opportunity.

While he is not the biggest or tallest, Sánchez possesses raw speed and ingenuity when getting around defenders. Lukaku’s size is constantly talked about a positive, but it can also be a negative due to his clumsiness at times as well as taking him longer to get up to full speed.

With Paul Pogba on the ball in a deeper role in midfield, he will always look for the pass over the defence for the striker to run through on goal. With Lukaku, this rarely comes off, but with Sánchez’s acceleration, it certainly stands more of a chance of happening.

In Sánchez’s 25 games playing as the centre forward for Arsenal throughout the 2016/17 season, the Chile international scored 19 goals and assisted his team-mates 11 times. A whopping 30 goal contributions in 25 matches in all competitions is an unbelievable rate that Manchester United fans will be envious of due to his underwhelming performances so far.

Mourinho has opted for Sánchez on the left wing ever since coming to Old Trafford, but with Martial’s resurgence in form, at no point should the Portuguese continue to play Sánchez there. As seen in majority of the Chilean’s performances, he is continually looking to cut inside and play through the middle, taking on players and finding solutions to get into advantageous areas. Mourinho needs to give him his chance as the club’s centre forward.

There might be a cause for rotation to begin with due to Sánchez and Rashford’s inconsistencies, as well as Lukaku being involved, but Mourinho should seriously consider playing the once prolific Chilean through the middle to add a different dimension to Manchester United’s attack.

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José Mourinho needs to remove the shackles and allow Manchester United to breathe

Manchester United might have staged an impressive, if not desperate, comeback against Newcastle United before the international break, but systematic changes are needed before any real progress can be made under José Mourinho.

What fans saw in the final 20 minutes of that match was desire and a sense of urgency, as well as a communal belief that they could turn this deficit around. For the best part of the season, those characteristic traits had been lacking from Man United’s players. It took a dire situation for those to finally come to the forefront of the players’ performances, but spectators were pleased to finally witness it and relieved that they are capable of producing such match-winning moments.

Mourinho has long been a pragmatist and Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman, knew what he was getting when he decided to sign Mourinho and then subsequently give him a contract extension earlier this year until 2020. The Portuguese coach has won a decorated amount of silverware and was, at one point, considered the best manager on the planet.

However, to survive at Old Trafford, there must be redeeming qualities about how your team takes to the field. Winning trophies are important, but when you don’t have that success on your side, and Manchester United don’t right now, the style of football played before fans must be enjoyable. The spectators must see progression and entertaining football that makes them look forward to watch each weekend.

That, quite simply, is not the case under Mourinho. Even against what should be considered lesser opposition, the Red Devils are waiting for the opponent to make a mistake and lull them into a false sense of security. Only once this season, against Leicester City, has it worked successfully where United have walked away with the three points – and even that was rather fortuitous.

Against Brighton, Mourinho’s men sat too deep, allowed Chris Hughton’s players to come on to them relentlessly, and buckled magnificently at the Amex Stadium. There was no penetration from United’s attackers as they recorded another loss away from home to Brighton.

At too many times throughout Mourinho’s tenure have fans witnessed dull football that restricts the innovative talent from his own players, and instead makes them stick to a very constraint system that promotes a negative approach. While not every game are Manchester United expected to ‘attack, attack, attack’, the wider audience would appreciate Mourinho to shift his philosophy slightly in order to thwart the teams that are beneath them.

The likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Alexis Sánchez have endured poor form throughout Mourinho’s reign – which was not all the manager’s doing – but all three played a crucial part in United’s comeback against the Magpies. The interchanging passes between Martial and Pogba set-up the equalising goal scored by the former Monaco winger; while Sánchez netted the winner with a brilliant header just before full time that broke his duck of not scoring for the club since April.

There are good, talented players at Manchester United who are simply not achieving the level of performances they should be with the ability they possess. It’s not all Mourinho’s fault or management, but especially for the attacking players, it makes matters more difficult when the brand of football being played stifles those who use freedom of expression as tool to get the better of their opposition.

If Mourinho is to last in this job – and history suggests that he will not be hanging around for too much longer – then he needs to relax his pragmatist approach and allow some of his players the ability to become more creative. Instead of a very rigid and strict system, the Portuguese coach could deploy a different formation which enables Pogba to be given more time on the ball to dictate possession.

When the masterstroke of a tactic was played at half time against Newcastle which saw the French World Cup winner move deeper, practically alongside two centre backs, Pogba was given more space and time to pick out passes for his attackers. Of course, the Frenchman does not always want to play from so far back, but allowing him to play his game saw United stage a famous comeback.

Mourinho deserved credit for that second half performance and he would be wildly more popular and revered if he was to show that side of his management on a regular basis.

Manchester United enter a run of games that are going to test their resolve after the international break, with an away game at Stamford Bridge fast approaching. After Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea, United play: Juventus, Everton, Bournemouth, Juventus and Manchester City in less than a month.

No one is expecting Mourinho to abandon his philosophy completely that made him so successful, but especially in these matches, he should experiment in playing a more offensively-inclined team. There is no need to be so expansive that they continue to be picked off, but there is also no merit in sitting so deep in your own half that you warrant the opposition continually attacking you. With the quality these teams have in their ranks, it will be a question of when not if they score.

Mourinho has salvaged his job for the mean time, but this run of fixtures has all sorts of bumps on the way. If the former Real Madrid manager wants to, more importantly, turn his reputation around and, in turn, save his job for the long term, he needs to promote a positive brand of football that excites United’s fans.

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Alexis Sánchez is a shadow of his former self

When Manchester United signed Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal in a deal where Henrikh Mkhitaryan joined the Gunners, fans of the Mancunian club thought they had signed a special player that would help change United’s stifling attack for the better.

However, nine months down the line, Sánchez’s performances have told a different story in which the Chilean has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism over the past few weeks. There was always going to be setting-in period where the winger would need to acclimatise himself to José Mourinho’s very different style of football, but given Sánchez has had a summer off for the first time in half a decade and joined United on their pre-season tour to America, many would not have expected such a laboured start to the campaign.

Manchester United’s tour to America can be seen as chaotic and, overall, a failure, but one of the bright sparks that emanated from pre-season was Sánchez’s form.

In a team full of youth prospects or players placed on the transfer market, the Chilean actually excelled and repeatedly found the back of the net, while looking incredibly fresh heading into the new season. His runs off the ball, as well as panache on it, gave a small glimmer of excitement to United’s fans where frustration was their overriding emotion due to sloppy recruitment over the summer. There was a renewed sense of optimism for Sánchez to finally kickstart his United career the way many fans initially envisaged.

Having not scored in the Premier League since March, Sánchez has found it difficult to truly show his qualities in this United team. The whole reason the Chilean was brought in, under the noses of rivals Manchester City, was to give Mourinho a match-winner.

As seen in his 166 appearances for Arsenal, Sánchez routinely found the back of the net – 80 times in all competitions – and, at times, single-handedly won three points for Arsène Wenger. While his form deteriorated in his last season for the Gunners, many put that down to his willingness to leave the club and find pastures new.

Signed on a whopping £350,000 per-week contract, Sánchez has struggled to put in more than two memorable performances in a Red Devils jersey. While there has been brief spells of magic from the former Barcelona star, more often than not, Sánchez has seen the game been played around him. The air of untouchability that used to surround him is now diminishing, with many fans wanting Mourinho to give Anthony Martial a proper chance to express himself down the left wing, rather than watching Sánchez give the ball away one more time and lose possession.

Perhaps the biggest blow to date so far has been Mourinho’s decision to drop Sánchez from the Champions League team and start the Frenchman ahead of him. Martial, who has had his own problems at United since the arrival of the Portuguese boss, found the back of the net against BSC Young Boys and delivered an impressive second half performance that warranted his place in the team.

With such an aggressive nature when trying to sign Sánchez, it would have been expected to see the Chilean as one of the first names on Mourinho’s team sheet week in, week out. However, so far this season, Sánchez has only managed to finish one Premier League match – the opener against Leicester City – due to his ineffectiveness and all-round sloppy play. He might have set up one of Romelu Lukaku’s two goals against Burnley, but that is his only noteworthy contribution he has made this season.

Perhaps the most damning stat of all is the fact that Chris Smalling, United’s central defender, has scored three goals since the last time Sánchez found the back of the net in the Premier League. For a player who used to score at ease, the Chilean has struggled magnificently since making the move to the North West. And it is not because of a lack of opportunity.

It has to be said that Sánchez is most effective in a free-flowing system that allows its forwards to interchange at will. With Mourinho’s very structured regime at United, the Chilean has struggled to link up with his teammates and create chances in front of goal, but his overall vibrancy around the field has certainly reduced.

For some reason or another, Sánchez’s output has deserted him, having only scored on three ocassions for Manchester United and assisting six times. Such low numbers are not usually associated with him, and yet he finds himself in a position where what he is attempting to do on the pitch – which has worked for him for a number of years since gracing the Premier League – is now not working. Sánchez does not look the same aggressive, hungry forward he once was.

All Sánchez’s underlying stats, such as: shots on-target, passes made, dribbles attempted and dribbles completed are at an all time low per-90 minutes, compared to his four previous seasons. The season is long and full of ups and downs, but Sánchez cannot be given an easy ride by Mourinho.

Sánchez might be the team’s best paid player, but the Chilean needs to find his key attributes which enabled him to reach the top of his game at Arsenal for Manchester United and find them quickly. For United’s fans will not wait forever for him to prove his worth.

Pozzo family building success at Watford and Udinese

pozzosEver since Giampaolo Pozzo entered the world of football when he purchased Serie A club Udinese back in 1986, he and his family have built their own empire by way of guiding their clubs to new heights. After a rocky start in Udine which saw the club relegated to Serie B following a betting scandal, Pozzo went right back to basics and built a club which is this year celebrating its 24th consecutive year as a Serie A side. This sound guidance has seen him having previously been voted the best president in Serie A a decade ago, before a year later branching out into La Liga with the purchase of Granada FC. He spent seven years as owner there before ultimately selling in 2016 to Chinese businessman, Jiang Lizhang. In June 2012, however, another project of his was born.

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How can Manchester United get the most from Alexis Sánchez?

Manchester United might not have secured the targets that manager José Mourinho searched for in the summer transfer window, but the club does have a player who they signed last January that has not yet reached the heights previously shown.

When the Red Devils activated a swap deal with Arsenal which involved Henrikh Mkhitaryan going down to the North London and Alexis Sánchez coming the other way, Manchester United fans were over the moon with the ambition shown by Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman. It was a move that showed United could still challenge the biggest clubs in the world for players, given Manchester City, their across-town rivals, attempted to recruit him on more than one occasion in the last 12 months.

Before signing for Man United, Sánchez had been one of Arsenal’s best players since arriving from Barcelona in 2014. The Chilean was a constant source for goals and creative ingenuity in the Gunners’ forward line and dragged Arsenal by the scruff of their neck at times. It was clear that he wanted to win more trophies than he could challenge for by being with the North London club, and so a decision was made to move to Manchester.

No matter what anyone says, it is always difficult to emigrate to a new club, under a new manager, playing a different style of football halfway through the season. Sánchez might have been in England for a number of years before joining United, but he had to reacclimatise all over again. It is fair to say that his form struggled initially when playing under Mourinho and the fans rarely saw the best from him in his first six months.

There were, however, small glimpses of brilliance. Little moments of magic where he looked in a tight spot and would miraculously come away from the pressing defenders with the ball, opening up space for him and his teammates. What United had lacked before Sánchez had come into the club was a player who was constantly willing to take players on and drag his opponents out of position – something that Sánchez is notorious for and had showed in brief spells during his opening games as a Red Devil.

The pleasing aspect in a very disappointing pre-season tour to America for Manchester United fans was the fact that Sánchez looked exceptionally sharp. After a summer off international football for the first time in half a decade, the Chilean enjoyed a well-earned rest that should see him fitter and stronger for a very gruelling season, especially over the Christmas period. Although the tour was borderline shambolic in terms of the players available and constant rhetoric from Mourinho moaning about this, that and the other, Sánchez was a bright spark that looked effervescent when played up front in the absence of Romelu Lukaku.

Sánchez missed the second match of the season against Brighton due to a small niggle, but in the opening fixture against Leicester City, Mourinho opted to use the Chile international back on the left wing. Given his nature of always wanting to cut inside and take players on through the middle, the Portuguese boss is therefore limiting the squad’s potency on one side of the pitch as he knows full well what Sánchez is likely to do.

Trialled in pre-season, Manchester United should adopt a 3-5-2 formation that allows Sánchez to partner Lukaku up front and run in behind him. At too many times last season, and even in the game against Chris Hughton’s men which ended in a defeat, was the Belgian international isolated and failing to bring others into the game due to how far apart they were from him. With the Chilean’s presence up front, Lukaku can win the ball in the air for Sánchez to run onto or for him to be within a few metres of him in order to receive the pass and move up the pitch.

It is a waste of Sánchez’s natural goalscoring abilities to make him play on the wing and make him cross the ball into Lukaku. Although the Belgian is an aerial threat, Sánchez should be occupying that space in-and-around the box to get himself on the end of low-drilled crosses and making a nuisance for defenders to try and mark. He has shown for Arsenal how brilliant he is a one-on-one situation and, providing service is given to him, Sánchez can emulate that form for his new club.

This is going to be a big season for both Mourinho and Manchester United, with the Portuguese manager hoping he can rely on senior figures in the dressing room like Sánchez to lead the way and show what he is capable of on the pitch. At 29-years-old, the former Barcelona forward is in the prime of his career and has to start leading by example if Manchester United are to truly challenge for major honours this season.

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Tahith Chong set for breakout season at Man Utd?

chongManchester United are in America and preparing to get their pre-season tour of the States underway. Regular forward Alexis Sanchez, meanwhile, is going through a “personal administrative issue” and while that is sorted out, manager Jose Mourinho will have to shuffle his pack if he is to make the most of the friendlies. Without the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, who are taking a break following their World Cup participation in Russia this summer, United find themselves struggling for options up front. Anthony Martial is available of course, and will likely see a run of games, but moving the midfield around to accomodate player absence means there could be space on the right wing for one of seven United youngsters who have travelled with the first team squad.

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Should Manchester United swoop in for Ronaldo?

Cristiano RonaldoThere have been many, many rumors over the past couple of weeks. Cristiano Ronaldo seems headed for Juventus. Ronaldo leaving Real Madrid seems to be a saga we’ve been following every summer for the past few seasons, so we should take these rumors with a grain of salt.

Yet, this time it seems sort of real. In the past, rumors would surface that Ronaldo was upset with Real and had decided to leave,but would always stay. So what’s the difference this time? Well, for starters, in the past there weren’t actual negotiations or numbers being discussed.

Manchester United had always been the rumored favorite to land him because of their history, but there was never any concrete talk of negotiations or a price tag.  Continue reading

Wenger’s Arsenal legacy will be remembered for all the right (and wrong) reasons

wenger

It is 8th May, 2013. Manchester United are enjoying a period of dominance enjoyed only by a select few clubs in English footballing history. The press conference is set, and Knight of the Realm Sir Alex Ferguson enters and makes the announcement that the world was expecting to come – he would be retiring as Manchester United manager at the end of the season. It was a dark day for United fans – not only were they losing the man credited with turning the Red Devils back into a superpower of football, but unbeknownst to them at the time it would be the end of an era as far as the results on the pitch go as well.

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