Edinson Cavani: From pure brilliance with Manchester United to FA enquiry in 3 hours

The irony cannot be lost on anyone at Manchester United that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has, up until now, refused to start new signing Edinson Cavani in any of Manchester United’s league games so far.

Solskjaer himself known as the baby assassin for his uncanny brilliance to be in the right place at the right time equalled by his boyish looks which at 47 he still retains, is there to make the decisions. But Solskjaer was also known as the super sub. There were countless times Sir Alex Ferguson called on him from the bench to save the day, the most famous of course in the 1999 Champions League final when the Norwegian came on with 9 minutes remaining and scored the winning goal.

This season Solskjaer, gone from super sub to manager at Manchester United is channelling the great Ferguson. Cavani at 33 has been involved in 5 of United’s nine games so far and has been involved in four goals already, scoring three times and assisting in another. While Cavani scored his debut goal against Everton at Goodison Park for the Red Devils at the beginning of November the Uruguayan ‘arrived’ in the Premier League for good and bad this weekend. First let’s concentrate on the good.

Cavani replaced Mason Greenwood on the 46th minute. It wasn’t that Greenwood was having a terrible game, but Solskjaer made the decision at 2-0 down to replace inexperience, (Greenwood being 19) with Cavani. Though Greenwood may have been livid with the timing, he would have to accept that Solskjaer made the right choice at the final whistle. And Cavani’s impact was almost immediate.

It took Cavani 13 minutes to get into the game and set up Bruno Fernandes for his seventh goal of the season. The Portuguese wonder is far and away United’s best player this season in the fantasy rankings and has earned 34 points overall, 19 more than second placed Marcus Rashford. Cavani on the wing on the right hand side and with all the time in the world passed the ball into the centre right to Fernandes feet and the midfielder had no chance.

But it was the way in how Cavani took the ball. He didn’t seem urgent with his club 2-0 down, he was just professional. Solskjaer’s faith was being paid off. If Solskajer produced a wry smile at that he may want to have adopted the Uruguayan when his header equalised the game with a quarter of an hour to go.

A cross came in and Fred struck the ball, which deflected from a Southampton player and it was the pure super quick reaction of Cavani, the menacing of all strikers, throwing back the years, unravelling the swashbuckling comebacks which are in fact deeply ingrained in the side that he is playing for. Southampton looked mentally finished, in a game they were cruising, 1,800 seconds from victory and now it was being snatched away from them. It may have been 2-2 with fifteen minutes to go but one could sense that United were going to go on to win it.

And yet the time ticked by with chances for both clubs, United could smell blood and most importantly three points, Southampton once in a state of victors were simply happy to get a point at this stage. But it would be a stage set up for Cavani. At the death Rashford swung a ball in and Cavani channelling another player of yesteryear in Jurgen Klinsmann sliced the ball in with his head with all the professional pomp you would expect of a player who has worked so tirelessly playing for some of the biggest teams in Europe over the years. It was 3-2, he slid on his knees and the game was over. Manchester United have won their third game in a row and moved up to 9th place.

With two goals and an assist it had been a perfect day for Cavani, even some fans who may have doubted him signing for United in what is supposed to be his twilight years could hardly deny the sheer quality that he brought to the team in this match. He won United a duel destined for defeat and Cavani could feel happy about himself. That was until a Twitter post and a few hours later.

A follower on twitter who is now believed to know Cavani congratulated the striker on his performance. Cavani replied with “gracias negrito”! And that is when the FA launched their enquiry. The translation is tricky because we are talking about different meanings for different cultures but it roughly would translate to thanks black. One can only presume the original post came from a black person.

To their credit the FA have a zero tolerance attitude to racism unlike some countries and crack down heavy on it. At the same time no one can suggest that Cavani is a racist, far from it in fact. This doesn’t feel like racial slurring but more about not being educated in English culture as to phrases which simply cannot be accepted in England anymore. For that it is hard to accuse Cavani, who has only been in the country for a few months, he is adapting and the last thing on his mind would have been this. For foreign footballers making the switch to England it is football, football and language probably in that order.

However it is good that the FA have made an enquiry and Cavani has apologised. He may well not fully understand why, but he has made the right decision. Now it is time for the FA to act accordingly. Normally something of this nature can invoke a two to three game ban. However maybe the FA need to think outside the box for this case.

Wouldn’t it be better if they set up an education type of program for foreign players coming to play in the Premier League? Again this isn’t about accusing anyone of racism and hate but more about educating players in the different culture in which they are now playing. It would be refreshing to see the FA act on this and make it count, rather than to see Cavani handed a 3 game ban, hamper his own team and have no lessons learned for the future.

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Manchester United are currently the best side in the Premier League, this is why

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in charge of Manchester United he makes it very hard for critics to get on his back. One of those reasons of course is that he is so friendly, the guy smiles even after a bad game, just imagine Sir Alex Ferguson doing the same.

But the main reason it is so hard to tear Manchester United apart is that they are not a bad team, or at least not as bad as many would have you think. True Solskjaer has had his downs with the club and some of their form over two periods have merited a few whispers of ‘you’re getting the sack in the morning’. And just when you think everything is going wrong, he motivates the players, gets the best out of them and they start winning games, but by winning that is scoring plenty of goals and going on good 1-2 month runs. United are currently doing that right now.

It could well be that the Red Devils fail to qualify for the Champions League for next season, though they are currently giving that a very good shot. But on form they are the best side in the Premier League- we should expect Solskjaer to be picking up manager of the month anytime soon.

Along with Newcastle they are the only team not to have lost since the league restarted, not many could have predicted that. And United would be in 1st place on form collecting 13 points from 15. They are scoring goals too, 11 in their last 3 games and have just come off of the back of beating Bournemouth 5-2. Whisper it but everything is feeling like Ferguson/United.

But why is this, what has changed at United? Because if they were playing this good earlier in the season they would be where Chelsea are now and possibly challenging for 2nd position.

Here are three key players that have upped their game:

Mason Greenwood

Greenwood has displaced Daniel James and he is scoring goals, setting up play and his pace is fantastic. He is a real find, just look at his solo goal a few days ago against Brighton. Solskjaer had this to say about him: “You can see clearly that he’s maturing and improving. He’s only 18 still so we will see more from him. I’ve said it throughout the year that as long as we can get him faced up in and around the box he’ll create chances for us. But in this game his hold-up play and his link up play and general movement was fantastic as well.” The scary part is that he is only 18. Could be a future legend with the club.


What a turnaround it has been for Fred in midfield. Last season and at the beginning of this one he was playing so bad that memes were being made of him and cruelly he was becoming a laughing stock. Maybe though all Fred needed was the right manager to guide him and he has been very very good especially this year.

Bruno Fernandes 

Potentially Bruno Fernandes could be Manchester United’s best buy since Cristiano Ronaldo. He has been superb for the club, a new signing and already carrying the team. A born leader and he should be setting the stage alight for many years to come. In just 9 league games for United he has scored 6 goals. It is obvious he will be a regular fixture.

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Fred is starting to adapt well at Man Utd, and will only get better


Manchester United’s lack of midfield depth and quality is quite concerning compared to the top teams in the Premier League, especially when you’re a meant to be either challenging for the league title or finishing in the top four, despite the situation they have found themselves in at the moment.

However, central midfielder Fred, who they spent over £50million on to bring to Old Trafford last summer window from Shakhtar Donetsk, has started to show bright moments here and there as he has began to gain a good understanding with the likes of Luke Shaw, Paul Pogba and Victor Lindelof.

Over the last couple of months, he has shown his range of passing to shift the ball out at a quick pace to making the interceptions and tackle in the middle of the pitch when required. On top of that, he has shown some good awareness of when to drop deep to build-up the play from the back to progressing possession into the final third, something that is not done often by the midfielders.

For sure, many of the Premier League experts and pundits will see the Brazilian international as one of the flops of the season, purely because he couldn’t get into the team on a regular basis and when he did, he was unable to stamp his mark on the game or dominate the midfield and the opposition.

Having made 17 league appearances, with 13 of them being from the start of the match, Fred will have understood his debut season may not have gone down as he had predicted and will be one of the players hoping that the club have a massive overhaul in the summer. If this is to happen, a solid backline and a natural winger may allow him to play with more freedom and protection around him.

To be fair to Fred, a number of midfielders that have arrived at the club over the last couple of years or so have struggled to get going within the side’s style of play. Morgan Schneiderlin is often seen as the perfect example, someone who was once seen as one of the best holding midfielders at Southampton, but had failed to replicate the demanding performances in a Manchester United kit.

Meanwhile, both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Matic have been seen as the ideal individuals that could fill the void that was left by Michael Carrick, a player that was a regular starter for the club for many years as he kept the side ticking through his intelligence as well as his composure on and off the ball. This instantly sums up the ongoing matter at the club, where they have found it really difficult to replace the players who have been loyal servants and very vocal season by season.

The questions have been raised about the future of Fred, purely because no one in the dressing room is totally safe following another unconvincing and horrendous season in all competition. On the other hand, the pre-season tour as well as the next campaign will be the defining moment for the Brazilian international and his time at Old Trafford, whether he goes on to prove the manager and his critics wrong, or he ends up having an average season and falls down the pecking order.

Man Utd 2-1 West Ham: Another unconvincing win at Old Trafford


With fixtures against the likes of Chelsea, Everton and Manchester City coming up over the next couple of weeks, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had to win their next fixture, being against West Ham at home, a side that have won four league games away from home this season.

As Liverpool take on fourth-place Chelsea in the Sunday afternoon fixture whilst Arsenal face a tricky away day at Watford on Monday evening, it was crucial for the Red Devils to win whilst put in a dominant display on both sides of the pitch, something they haven’t done in quite a long time at Old Trafford.

United were all over the shop, with no defensive composure whilst lacking the required balance in midfield and inconsistent play up in attack. On the other hand, Manuel Pellegrini’s men were causing havoc from start till end, through the likes of Arthur Masuaku, Felipe Anderson and Michail Antonio.

As a whole, the hosts were able to get the two goals through Paul Pogba, who managed to score from the penalty spot in each halves of the game. Meanwhile, the visitors levelled up in the first couple of minutes in the second half, where Anderson’s goal came through United’s defensive mistakes.

Here are the three main factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

United’s defensive problems continue to increase week by week

Looking at the teams currently in the top four spots and then seeing United lingering around in either fifth or sixth place, it has to be considered that the goals conceded and goal difference will play a huge part in who ends up playing in the Champions League next season. At the moment, United unsurprisingly have the worst, conceding on 44 occasions in 33 Premier League games.

Throughout the campaign, the side have had constant problems defensively, where both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have failed to identify the solution as well as find out the best backline to place on a regular basis. And if it wasn’t for David De Gea’s brilliant saves, Manchester United would have conceded the same amount of goals as Brighton and West Ham by now.

West Ham were unlucky to leave Manchester without a draw or a win

The West Ham players along with Manuel Pellegrini will have felt hard done by once the final whistle had arrived, given that Felipe Anderson’s goal in the early minutes of the game was harshly ruled out for offside, whilst United were given two penalties to pick up the three much needed points. Luckily enough, the Hammers are not in a relegation battle, or they would have definitely complained about the decisions made by the referee and the linesman’s to the FA (Football Association) straightaway.

Despite conceding two goals, the visitors played well for majority of the game, where they were dominating possession and were playing with flair through the middle as well as down the flanks. When you come to Old Trafford and attempt 18 shots with four of them being on target, which was the same as what the hosts had managed, you can definitely leave with your heads held high even if no points were picked up.

Fred and Paul Pogba together dragged the side to the crucial three points  

For sure, there were not many positives at all to take from the game, but the chemistry and understanding that Fred and Paul Pogba have started to gain between one another is allowing the midfield to dictate and dominate the match to another level. With both players having the ability to drop deep when required and the intelligence to command for the ball regularly, United’s midfield looks more energetic and as a possession-based team when the duo are working their magic.

The renaissance of Fred has been more than helpful to all parties, where he had some concerning issues at adjusting life to the Premier League and showing his quality on and off the ball, but he is now doing enough to prove why he deserves to play as a regular starter. As Ander Herrera and Nemanja Matic look to be out for another two to three weeks with an injury, it may give the Brazilian international the perfect amount of time to show what he is capable of to his critics and to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself.

Fred’s turning point at Parc des Princes

It has been a struggle for Brazilian Fred since arriving last summer under José Mourinho for £50 million. 

Since first stepping foot in England, the team had crumbled and reached a new low with the manager eventually being sacked and relieved of his duties by Christmas. Fred signed up to a team that had the potential, under one of the most successful managers in the game, to challenge on all fronts and win major honours.

It soon became apparent that the Brazil international had walked into a dressing room that had been divided by the Portuguese manager, with matters only getting worse in the lead up to the end of 2018.

However, brighter skies appeared soon after with Ole Gunnar Solskjær returning to Old Trafford as interim manager and giving players a new lease of life. It was evident to see Fred finding it difficult to adjust to the Premier League and football in England, but there was hope on the horizon that the Norwegian manager could give him the confidence to express himself on the pitch.

Confidence is a huge factor in football, no matter your talent. Alexis Sánchez, for example, is one of the most gifted players on the planet, but with his confidence reaching rock bottom, he is playing well within himself and looks lost at times out there. Fred has been similar this season and looked a completely different player from what his team-mates and fans had thought when first acquiring him from Shakhtar Donetsk.

That was until the Miracle in Paris. With very little belief from all around Manchester United that they had the knowhow and tools to overturn their 2-0 deficit suffered in the first leg, they were written off before a ball had been kicked. Suffering from nine injuries and a suspension to Paul Pogba, the Red Devils had a severely weakened side.

Like his team-mates around him, Fred rose to the occasion. Unbothered by the players on the opposite team, the Brazilian made his breakthrough performance for Manchester United – and what a time to have made it.

From what fans have seen this season, Fred has looked panicked when on the ball in the Premier League. As if he is running out of time to make the pass or beat his man and is petrified of making a mistake and losing possession. He has not slotted in as well as some would have hoped and has been poor in both an offensive and defensive manner.

Yet, against PSG, arguably United’s biggest game of the season at present, Fred rediscovered what it was that the club first saw in him. His desire and restlessness was clear throughout the 90 minutes, in which he screened the defence almost perfectly and distributed the ball with clarity. There were no rushed passes or positional errors, just calculated moments of play that helped United take charge of the midfield battle in the second half.

Fred is not known for his defensive qualities and is more of a box-to-box midfielder, but he showed his prowess in front of his two, sometimes three, central defenders when thwarting danger.

There was a moment when the Brazilian was in a one-on-one situation with Kylian Mbappé which would have sounded alarm bells to many United fans. Instead of diving in against the French wizard, Fred stood his ground and waited for the attacker to make his move. When Mbappé did just that, Fred was wise to the piece of trickery, quickly cut it out at source and started a counter-attack. It embodied the player people had seen at Shakhtar.

After the game, Fred told ESPN: “Ole has helped me a lot. He had a lot of chats with me. [Carrick] also speaks to me a lot. That brings me calm that things will turn around for me.

“I’m very, very happy. My confidence is getting better.”

And that is all it is for Fred. He has the ability, he has the talent and he has the desire and hunger to make it work at Manchester United. His celebrations in Paris encompassed his feelings towards the club and how much he wants it to work out there. Fred might just have had his turning point as a Red Devil.

Five summer signings who are yet to adjust to the Premier League

Fabinho Liverpool

Premier League clubs spent £1.2bn during a busy summer transfer window before the start of the 2018-19 season.

Chelsea were among the big spenders, splashing out £71m on Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao and £57m on Jorginho from Napoli, while Manchester City paid £60m to Leicester for Riyad Mahrez.

Liverpool were also busy, spending £55.8m on Alisson, £50m on Naby Keita and £39m on Fabinho.

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What to expect from Watford vs Manchester United?

As the first international break of the season comes to a close, eyes are firmly placed back onto domestic football with some important fixtures taking place at the weekend. After Manchester United’s resurgent win against Burnley gave them a much-needed lift, José Mourinho’s men travel to Watford to take on one of the remaining four clubs with a 100% record.

The Red Devils have usually enjoyed such trips to Vicarage Road having won all but two since 1987, but one Mourinho’s first away fixtures when taking over in 2016 was against Watford, which resulted in a 3-1 defeat. Although United have won the last three matches, there is a sense of vulnerability about the club right now that Watford, high and mighty with confidence, will prey on.

Since taking over from Marco Silva last season, Javi Gracia has impressed many Watford fans with his diligent approach to the game, but also adding some stylistic measures into his team’s performances. While Gracia’s preferred formation is a classic 4-4-2, which some can call outdated and rigid, the Spaniard has managed to alter it in order to get the best from his players and create an attack-minded team.

The most impressive performance in the Hornets’ opening four fixtures was their comeback win against Tottenham just before Internationals took over. After going 1-0 down just after half time, it was always going to be a test to see Watford’s mentality and strength in coming from behind.

Troy Deeney, the club’s captain, led that charge with some fantastic surging runs as well as throwing his body around and making sure he was first to every ball. That type of hunger and desire resonates throughout the team and it showed, as Watford picked up their spirits and staged a comeback which enabled the club to record its first victory against Tottenham since 1994.

A lot of Watford’s attacking intent has come down the left-hand side. Greece international José Holebas occupies the left back position, with Argentine Roberto Pereyra, signed from Juventus in 2016, ahead of him in left midfield. It might be a very basic method that has been seen time and time again, but the use of an overlap has caught teams out this season when facing Watford, with the North London club reaping the rewards.

Holebas has four assists and one goal to his name in the opening four games, while Pererya has three goals. They have been the source of Watford’s attacks and have troubled Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace and Tottenham’s defences. Against United, those two players will most likely be coming up against Jesse Lingard, who drifts inside and leaves gaps in behind, and Antonio Valencia.

The season is still early with players gauging their feet, but Mourinho’s defence has looked disorganised at the best of times. With an ever-changing back four, Watford could cause havoc in between the lines, as well as down the left wing with their two inform players.

A troubling thought for Mourinho will be how to overcome Deeney’s aerial threat and physical presence when he has nervous wrecks as centre backs at his disposal. Gracia will, quite clearly, tell Deeney to rough up whoever his opponent might be and make sure he’s giving them a hard time.

Whether it’s Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelöf, Chris Smalling or Phil Jones, all have had a tough few weeks in a Manchester United jersey and will be playing on eggshells knowing the manager has berated them and wanted to sign a first choice centre back in the summer transfer window to improve his defence.

While there are negatives around United at the moment with certain players not pulling their weight, the likes of Luke Shaw, Marouane Fellaini, Fred and Lingard have impressed. Shaw, especially, has arguably been the Red Devils’ best player in terms of both in an attacking sense as well as a defensive one. He was knocked unconscious in England’s Nations League match against Spain, but is said to be healthy and should be fit for next weekend’s Premier League tie.

Shaw has had a tough road back to becoming United’s leading left back, but he has started the season extremely strong and will want to keep the consistency going for as long as possible. His surging, meandering runs have aided United’s attacks tenfold as they now have a capable full back who can deliver crosses into dangerous areas.

Alexis Sánchez is a player who has not yet shown his best in a United jersey, but with the summer’s rest that he desperately needed, the Chilean should be a key figure in the season ahead. There were bright parts to his game against Burnley – in which he recorded his first assist of the campaign with a fabulous cross into Romelu Lukaku’s path – and Mourinho will be hoping that he can count on him moving forward.

Watford will throw everything they can to keep their winning streak and the home crowd is set to be electric given the current mood around Vicarage Road. It will be a testing game for Mourinho’s players, but the quality they have on the ball should be enough to return back to Manchester with three vital points.

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Fred seems like the real deal for Manchester United

Manchester United v Leicester City - Premier League

It is only early days but Manchester United’s new signing has hit the ground running. You can’t say the same about most of Manchester United’s signings in the past few years. Midfield was a position United needed improvement upon. There was too much pressure on Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba.

Ander Herrera was a workhorse, who brought a lot of energy, but his attacking impetus wasn’t the greatest. He was better winning the ball back than creating something, as was evident in his display against Spurs last night, wherein he played as the third centre back. His defensive qualities were on display.

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Man Utd 2018-19 season preview

Screen Shot 2018-07-27 at 14.34.36

With Jose Mourinho going into his third season as the manager of Manchester United, the pressure has been constantly piling up on the Portuguese coach to either deliver the Premier League title or the Champions League trophy. Despite knowing it is a very difficult task to win one of those two titles, the English press firmly believe that a trophy-less campaign could result in Mourinho being sacked by the board.

The previous season resulted in the side having an average campaign as they also witnessed their close rivals do well in all the competitions they took part in. Due to this outcome, it led the United supporters being split on whether they want Mourinho to remain as the club’s manager or not, given that there is no sense of direction for the club and considering the style of play that can be best described as unattractive.

The new additions

Unlike the previous summer’s transfer window, the signings completed by Manchester United and Mourinho have not been appealing at all, which is quite shocking to see as the squad is lacking individuals with the proper mentality and a strong personality while also missing quality in depth.

The Red Devils have so far brought – Diogo Dalot, Fred and Lee Grant. With only a couple of days remaining until the transfer window comes to an end, Mourinho will be hoping that the United board will deliver one more player for him. That player is looking likely to be Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, who has actually been linked with a move to Old Trafford throughout the summer.

To start with, Dalot is currently on the sidelines with a knee injury and is expected to return to first-team training in the middle of September. Remembering that he is only 19-years-old and was hardly a regular starter for former side FC Porto, it will without a doubt take the full-back quite some time for him to settle into the Premier League and also a at a big club like Man United.

However, the arrival of Fred is deemed as the most exciting one out of the three, as his movement on and off the ball as well as his technical ability is something that United badly need in midfield. On top of that, his ability and presence should make the side rely less on Paul Pogba for creativity.

Finally, Lee Grant’s move from Stoke City to Old Trafford was regarded as a needless one, as United already have a solid back-up option in Sergio Romero and a third-choice goalkeeper was simply not needed. Even if David De Gea and Romero were not available to play for whatever reason, it would have been ideal to give reserve goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara a few appearances with the first-team.

Key player

After the both Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand left Manchester United in 2014, the side have missed a commanding and ruthless centre-back for a number of years. However, they have finally got one in Eric Bailly, who joined the club two years ago and has instantly become a fan’s favourite.

Over the last two Premier League seasons, the defender showed a number of pure qualities, such as his leadership ability to guide the defence as well as his intelligence of reading the game. The only serious downfall for the player is his recent injury record and how he quick he is to pick up a knock.

Who should be sold?

At this moment of time, no one from the current squad should be sold as the squad depth is just about good enough and the side are bound to face injury problems throughout the season, something that the team have actually experienced over the last couple of years. If Toby Alderweireld and a left-back move to Old Trafford in the remaining days of the transfer window, then it could allow either Matteo Darmian to return to Italy or for Luke Shaw to go out on loan.

Manchester United’s strongest XI

With the current squad members, here is Manchester United’s strongest XI for the new season –

De Gea; Valencia, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw; Fred, Matic, Pogba; Sanchez, Lukaku, Martial. 

Premier League prediction

Jose Mourinho and his men should be aiming for the league title season by season, however, the manager’s lack of attacking ideas as well as the ambitionless United board will prevent the club from seriously challenging on all fronts. And if things go from bad to worse during the campaign, it would not be a total surprise to see the former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach leaving by mutual consent.

Premier League – 4th place

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If Martial is unhappy, Man Utd need to sell

martialAnthony Martial has had some great news recently. His partner recently gave birth to their child, and so times should be happy in the Martial household right now. Unfortunately, however, the player is said to be unsettled at Man Utd, sparking rumours that his days at Old Trafford could be numbered. He flew home from the club’s pre-season tour of the United States for the birth of his son and did not return – an act which seems to have irked manager Jose Mourinho. Speaking of the French international’s absence, Mourinho said: “He has the baby and after the baby is born – beautiful baby, full of health, thank god. He should be here, and he is not here.” This may seem a little harsh considering that Martial, like many new fathers, will likely want to stay put and spend time with his newborn. Continue reading