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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How many Manchester United players have actually improved under Jose Mourinho?

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho’s third-season crisis has kicked into gear extra early in 2018-19, with Manchester United currently sitting 10th in the Premier League table after losing three of their first seven games of the new campaign.

The club’s below-par start to the season, which has included defeats against Brighton, Tottenham and West Ham, as well as a League Cup exit on penalties to Derby, has led to intense speculation about Mourinho’s future at Old Trafford.

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Jesse Lingard has shown why he is a key cog in Manchester United’s attack

It hasn’t been plain sailing for Jesse Lingard when rising through the ranks of the club he joined when he was seven-years-old. Having been on loan three times – to Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby – Lingard’s breakthrough only came in Louis van Gaal’s final season in charge.

Not all Manchester United fans warmed to Lingard straight away. Having come from the academy, there is always a great sense of pride from the travelling supporters that want to see their youth products prevail; but some of the more global audience that United have built over the past decade did not give their full backing to the Englishman.

When Lingard finally got a run of games and minutes in mid-January of 2015, he didn’t look back. From having featured in six matches in the Premier League before January, to finishing the season with 19 more, Lingard stamped down his authority in that United team that won the FA Cup. In fact, the youth graduate was the player to score the decisive goal to win the Red Devils their first FA Cup since 2004 – an achievement that rounded off the careers for the likes of Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney.

Under José Mourinho, who succeeded van Gaal in the United dugout, Lingard has become a pivotal figure in United’s team, taking responsibility when others have backed away and always providing the performances needed in the bigger matches. Wembley is associated with Lingard due to the fact he has had some of his best games for Manchester United at the daunting stadium, in front of a pack 90,000 crowd.

Lingard might not be the most orthodox attacker the world has ever seen, but that sense of unpredictability and expressiveness allows the England international to cause havoc on the pitch. Brought up on the right wing, Lingard has actually found better fortunes playing through the middle in a number 10 role.

Against Burnley, in United’s most recent Premier League fixture, Lingard managed to cause unease for Sean Dyche’s defenders by picking up a position in behind the midfield and just ahead of the two central defenders – a space in which he is afforded time on the ball and the ability to pick out his options.

In the opening 15 minutes at Turf Moor, Lingard had three opportunities to put the ball into the back of the net. Due to poor execution, he failed to do so, but the areas of the pitch he found himself in were the ones that cause mayhem for the opposition.

While only playing for 75 minutes, Lingard had the most amount of touches in United’s forward line with 58, while also having four shots throughout the match, only one behind centre forward Romelu Lukaku. The Englishman has a tendency to take on the chance and go for goal, but his finishing must be improved on in order to make the opportunities truly count.

One of the more pleasing aspects to Lingard’s game is his confidence. While he has tenacity and skill in abundance, he is a player that does not shrink in size when the challenge is big, nor does he when he goes on a barren spell in front of goal. Lingard could have stopped going for goal when things weren’t going his way against Burnley, but he kept his head high and took more attempts when the opportunities arose.

Throughout Lingard’s first three appearances this season, he has been averaging 2.7 shots per-game, ranking 18th from all of the players in the Premier League, no matter how many minutes they have played. Lingard has shown that he is a key orchestrator in United’s attack and will play a big part in this season under Mourinho.

Now, at 25-years-old, Lingard is entering his prime years at the club. He has been at Manchester United since the age of seven and is an emblem of the club’s youth policy for all to see. The Englishman is a wonderful example of where hard work, dedication and persistence can get you, as well as the obvious traits of innate talent and skill.

Recording 13 goals and seven assists in all competitions last season, Lingard will want to make sure he improves on the 20 goal contributions this year. Given the major part he is set to play under Mourinho yet again, as well as having come off the back of a fantastic World Cup with England, Lingard is not better placed to go on and make this season his own.

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Burnley 0-2 Manchester United: The talking points

man utd

Manchester United strolled past an uninspiring Burnley side on Sunday evening. The Red Devils were in dire need of a response and most importantly, a win. So was Burnley. The Clarets were winless coming into this fixture. But, United displayed their class and went home with the three points, even with a man down.

United started off on the front foot, as they did against Spurs. Jesse Lingard came close to scoring, twice, before Romelu Lukaku scored a towering header to put United into the lead. It was a lead that United deserved, because of their attacking threat and the number of chances that they had created. Sanchez and Lingard were at the heart of everything United did, even the second goal. Lingard’s shot was deflected and Lukaku pounced upon the ball to slot it past Joe Hart, just before the break.

The second half followed the same pattern. United earned a penalty, only for Paul Pogba to miss it. Things got heated up after that, with Marcus Rashford getting sent off after an altercation with ex-red Phil Bardsley. Burnley applied the pressure and came close through Sam Vokes, but didn’t do enough to score even one against David De Gea. United had plenty of chances on the counter too, but Lukaku still couldn’t complete his hattrick.

Romelu Lukaku

The Role of Marouanne Fellaini

When the team sheets came in, to everyone’s surprise, Marouanne Fellaini started in place of Fred. Mourinho has always trusted Fellaini, as he gets going when the going gets tough. Fellaini has always been criticised for his lack of technical ability, with fans and pundits alike saying that the Big Belgian isn’t fit to wear the United shirt. But, time and time again, Fellaini has put in match-winning performances, giving it his all for the badge and the manager. Fellaini wasn’t there to dictate tempo or build play from deep. Fellaini’s role was to protect Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling from Burnley’s long balls to Chris Wood. And he did that to perfection, winning 100% of his tackles, seven aerial duels and made six clearances. As a result, both Lindelof and Smalling looked solid. Lindelof was assured and composed playing out from the back, because of Fellaini’s protection.

Unconvincing Burnley

Burnley’s adventure in Europe has surely taken a toll on their players. The Clarets did not at all looked energetic and did not seem to have any intention of taking away anything from the game, let alone winning it. Sure, they applied some pressure towards the end, but never looked like scoring. They could have easily lost the game by 5 or 6, had United been efficient and converted their chances. The defence was all over the place, Ben Mee struggled to keep up with Lukaku, Cork and Westwood got dominated in midfield while Jeff Hendrick couldn’t support Wood up top. Dyche’s man left all kinds of spaces in between the lines for the likes of Lingard and Pogba to drift into. The International Break will surely do them good. The Clarets need to come back refreshed and energised and focused on the Premier League following the break. There is a lack of goals and chances created and Dyche has got his hands full.

The importance of Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard just might be Manchester United’s most valuable player. The Englishman has gone from being taken as a joke to making United tick in the attack. His relation with Lukaku has been blossoming since last season, his friendship with Pogba always pays dividends on the fields while he is also establishing an on-field connection with Alexis Sanchez. His movement, energy and how he finds pockets of spaces in between the lines is essential for United to break down their opponents. He needed to add goals to his game, and he did that last season. He must prolong his form.

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Gareth Southgate’s management a huge contributor to England’s optimism

southgateWhen England crashed out of the 2018 World Cup at the semi-final stage, losing 2-1 to Croatia after extra time, a nation was silenced. The England fans, so vociferous in their support for the Three Lions on the shirt and the 11 heroic ones on the pitch, were left gutted. For this one glimmering summer, the optimism seemingly extinguished long ago started to flicker back into existence. Football was coming home, they thought. But it didn’t. However, instead of the usual what-ifs and why-didn’t-theys, this time the team left with their heads held high, falling against a side who, once they grew into the match, were simply the better team on the night.

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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

Top performers from the World Cup – Matchday 2

In their latest video, Nicholas Carroll and Chloe Beresford pick their most impressive players following matchday 2 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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English football predictions for the weekend

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This weekend brings with it a host of Premier League and FA Cup fixtures – meaning some players won’t be eligible for points – here are predictions for who we believe will deliver over the upcoming ties.

Premier League predictions

Bournemouth vs. West Brom – home win.

Bournemouth have overcome a poor run of form at the beginning of the season to rise to a respectable mid-table spot – thanks to the exploits of Callum Wilson (34 points) and Jordon Ibe (25 points).

West Brom continue a poor run of form that has seen them win just three games all season and it seems difficult to see them winning on the weekend.

Huddersfield vs. Crystal Palace – home win.

Having faced Spurs, Chelsea and Manchester United in recent weeks, Palace have slipped back into a relegation position after a positive start under Hodgson.

The Eagles come up against a Huddersfield side that are in a reasonable vein of form and the likes of Aaron Mooy and Steve Mounie will make this a tough journey for a team in a desperate search for points. Continue reading

Premier League Picks – Week 25

mancity-walkeraguero

This coming weekend sees the FA Cup make its glorious return to action for this season’s fourth round, and so we have to wait until midweek next week for the next set of Premier League games, before regular weekend action follows a couple of days later. Continue reading

VIDEO: Coutinho frustrates Liverpool and Barcelona while injuries hit Real Madrid

Just over a week into January and fantasy managers are already dealing with transfers and injuries across Europe. To help cover some of the biggest news and fixtures, Nicholas Carroll provides this week’s Euro Fantasy League preview.

In the Premier League, Liverpool will look to defend their 13-match unbeaten run in the league against Manchester City without the recently departed Philippe Coutinho.

Romelu Lukaku looks to have returned to full fitness and will be a big chance to score when Manchester United hosts a struggling Stoke City. Continue reading