Italian sports journalist Fabrizio Biasin has claimed that Inter are on the verge of reaching an agreement with Antonio Conte, which would see the former Italy and Juventus coach replace Luciano Spalletti at the helm come the end of the season. Indeed, Biasin wrote in his weekly column for TuttoMercatoWeb that Conte has been in contact with Nerazzurri CEO Sport Beppe Marotta in recent days and that a deal has been struck between the pair. Conte’s arrival may also facilitate the return of Gabriele Oriali, who would act as a link between the players, management and board of directors. Continue reading
Legendary Inter striker Alessandro Altobelli has had his say on the controversy surrounding Mauro Icardi and the manner in which negotiations over a new contract were held by his agent-wife Wanda Nara. During an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, the 63-year-old also offered his view on what he thinks will happen once Lautaro Martínez recovers from injury: Continue reading
Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference today ahead of his side’s trip to Bergamo where they will face Atalanta tomorrow afternoon. The 59-year-old addressed a variety of issues, including the recent performances of João Mário, Milan Škriniar and Samir Handanović. He also discussed José Mourinho’s celebration after Manchester United’s 2-1 victory over Juventus at the Allianz Stadium. Here is what he had to say: Continue reading
The circus definitely arrived in Manchester this week.
If losing to Derby in the Carabao Cup wasn’t embarrassing enough for the United hierarchy, the video footage at training of Jose Mourinho clashing with Paul Pogba took things to an entirely new level.
Training ground tête-à-téte’s are nothing new of course, only this time the cameras were watching and tensions that had been rumoured before – but not confirmed – were laid bare. Continue reading
It had been a year of back and forth with Manchester United desperately trying to tie down Marouane Fellaini to a new contract as he entered into his final year. Even when January approached and the Belgian was free to sign a pre-contract with a European club of his choosing and move away for free, José Mourinho pleaded with the United board in order to get this over the line.
It is no secret that Manchester United fans have had a rollercoaster of a relationship with Fellaini over the years. After being David Moyes’ only signing the summer he took over from Sir Alex Ferguson, fans were never going to take to him well without others being brought through the door with him.
Given he is also an unorthodox United player that is full of technical ability, it only worsened matters when they found out the club had overpaid for Fellaini due to his buy-out clause expiring earlier in the summer.
Fellaini left it until late in the day – and while with Belgium on international duty – to announce that he had signed a new and improved two-year deal that will keep him at the club until he’s 32-years-old. While there was uproar from certain corners of supporters given the embarrassment over handling this contract extension, others greeted it with optimism and thought if Mourinho wanted him so badly to extend, there must be a reason for that.
And that reason has been shown in the opening handful of games into the new season. Mourinho, quite clearly, sees Fellaini as his enforcer. As the player who is going to do his dirty work on the pitch, break the opposition’s play up and distribute the ball in order for the team to move forward and attack the space. At too many times in Fellaini’s United career has he been used as a number 10, trying to dictate play, when that is not where his strengths lie.
While United have not had the easiest starts possible in terms of their results and performances on the pitch, Fellaini has been a key cog at times when Mourinho has called on him. The Belgian, especially in the remaining 30 minutes of matches, acts as a player who offers protection and security in front of his defence – a defence that has been under fire and on shaky legs so far.
Fellaini is not the most eye-pleasing player in a United jersey, but it’s not his job to be that. You simply cannot – or expect – a team to be filled with flair players that take your breath away at every moment. In most elite clubs, they have players who carry out instructions diligently and can be trusted to sacrifice themselves for the team’s cause. Mourinho has said on countless ocassions that Fellaini is one of his most trusted players and can rely on him.
While United’s overall performance against Wolves at the weekend was dire, Fellaini’s performance stood out. For the first 50 minutes, the Belgian was organised in carrying out his role in front of United’s back four, mopping up any danger that would come his way from Wolves’ sharp break aways. Acting in a more defensive role, Fellaini looked comfortable when tasked with thwarting any danger.
When Wolves eventually did find a breakthrough in Joao Moutinho’s wonderful strike, Fellaini’s role changed somewhat. Instead of occupying the space just in front of his two central defenders, he was given the freedom to move forward and cause chaos in an attacking sense. Having a focal point, in addition to Romelu Lukaku, who was incredibly poor, helped United move up the pitch efficiently. The transition in United’s play from defence into attack was eased and the Red Devils found themselves dominating more of possession in the final 30 minutes.
As soon as Andreas Pereira came onto the field with 15 minutes to play, Fellaini made the permanent move up front, where United’s creators had an easier job in finding possession in the final third. While, in the end, their hard labour failed to bring home the three points, it did highlight the many uses of Fellaini under Mourinho and why the Portuguese manager is so keen on having him on the pitch.
He quite possibly might never be truly accepted by fans inside Old Trafford, but Fellaini has been one of United’s better players so far this season and looks to be more comfortable at the start of this campaign than in previous years. His position, at the base of midfield, is one where he excels in and has seen the most praise in. With such a long and tiring season ahead, there will always be a time for Fellaini’s presence.
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Much of the focus on Monday’s game at Old Trafford seems to be on Mourinho and Manchester United and the uncertainty surrounding them. But make no bones about it, this is a huge game for Tottenham Hotspur.
One could argue, that this could be the best time to play the Red Devils. An early Spurs goal could really create a hostile atmosphere for Mourinho’s men. Spurs of course are looking to maintain their 100% record whilst Manchester United are looking to bounce back from their humbling at the hands of Brighton at the Amex a week ago today.
This is a huge opportunity for Pochettino and his men. 1 win in over 15 attempts away from home against the so-called ‘Big-Six’ just isn’t good enough, no matter which way you look at it. There has been much to praise about this Spurs side under Pochettino however one of their glaring flaws remains their away record against their fellow challengers. Certainly, this abysmal away record against the big boys will have played a big part in Spurs’ failure to mount serious title challenges in the last few seasons.
However, this is a new season and Monday is a chance for Spurs to put out a statement that they mean business this season. A win at Old Trafford would be considered an achievement at any time, however should Spurs manage it, it would not only go against their recent trends, but it could also see Spurs potentially eliminate one of their ‘Big-Six’ rivals from the equation only in the third week of the season!
A defeat from a Manchester United perspective seems unthinkable, it would leave Mourinho’s men with back-to-back defeats and already 6 points cut adrift from the early pace setters. Spurs themselves could create a six-point gap between them and Mourinho’s men. Although it’s early in the season, six-points is a significant gap. And it certainly would leave United in an utter conundrum with there already being an intense level of scrutiny placed on Mourinho and the club.
A win for Spurs could see the North-London club announce themselves as real title-challengers this season. Of course, it is early in the season and as many have claimed you can’t win the title this early in the season but can certainly lose it. Spurs themselves have paid for slow starts numerous times, despite the third-place finish last season their early season struggles suggested ensured that there wouldn’t be any possibility of them challenging for the title. Something which of course their fans crave and the likes of Harry Kane and co need to be doing should they remain at Tottenham for years to come. This is Tottenham’s opportunity to change the record and really put down a statement for the rest of the season. Manchester City drew at Wolves on Saturday and again despite it being early on in the season the rest of the big boys will certainly have to be taking every opportunity that is thrown their way in gaining points on City, as if last season is anything to go by it won’t be happening too often!
Harry Kane himself has a very poor record against Manchester United, however as pointed out in my last piece he had a poor record in August too, something which he finally put to bed last weekend! Despite all the pre-match talk primarily being on Manchester United, make no mistake Monday’s game is Tottenham’s biggest opportunity in years to put one over on the Red Devils. Mount more misery on Mourinho and send out a statement of intent to your fellow challengers, I’m sure Spurs fans will be licking their lips at this prospect. But as history has taught us before, never rule out Jose Mourinho.
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It’s a narrative we’ve seen a few times before. Firstly, at Real Madrid and then in his second spell at Chelsea.
Jose Mourinho looks to be doing the spadework to dig himself out of the Manchester United manager’s job, and if recent history is a guide, a mid-season parting of the ways is almost inevitable.
Not content with seeing his man Paul Pogba lauding it over all and sundry in the World Cup, the Portuguese soured any celebrations for the Frenchman by insisting that the midfielder only ever plays like that for his country.
He employed similar tactics to unsettle players when he was at the Santiago Bernabeu, to the point where Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas held a summit with president Florentino Perez to tell him “it’s Mourinho or us,” hinting that others would follow suit if the ‘Special One’ was allowed to continue.
Anthony Martial is another in Mourinho’s firing line, the striker castigated for returning home from United’s pre-season tour in America to see the birth of his child.
Ah yes, pre-season.
“We are not a team,” the manager has been quoted as saying whilst on tour. “Pre-season is very bad I have to say that. I’m worried. We’re a group of players from different teams.”
Such negativity from the man in charge can only seep into the psyche of his players, and his demeanour does nothing to enhance the mood in the camp.
Compare his downbeat, morose tone with the positive and joyful Jurgen Klopp. Frankly, there is no comparison at this point.
Liverpool were already enjoying themselves despite losing to Borussia Dortmund, so beating Manchester City won’t necessarily have altered the equilibrium.
Clearly, however, United’s problems go much deeper than a lack of decent preparation before the start of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign.
One might’ve expected the team to be firing on all cylinders now, given that Mourinho has had a good crack at getting United back to where they belong.
He must take part of the blame that they haven’t. After all, it’s not as if the club haven’t backed him because Ed Woodward has done his absolute best to provide his manager with the best tools for the job.
It’s almost as if Mourinho is setting the bar deliberately lower than he should, to ensure that expectations aren’t off the Richter scale before a ball has been kicked in anger.
But surely a club of United’s stature need to be example that everyone else follows?
Perhaps yet another job is just too big for him…
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Often known by his self-made moniker of ‘the Special One,’ Jose Mourinho is in danger of being lumped in with all the other Premier League managerial has-beens.
The Portuguese really has been far from ‘special’ for a while now, certainly pre-dating his time at Old Trafford.
But let’s start there. Continue reading
‘Silly season’ is upon us.
That part of the year before the transfer window officially opens when agents are trying to position themselves front and centre.
When players are trying to get a few extra million and extended contracts from their clubs, and managers are sniffing out a bargain or two.
Column inches need to be filled and as a result, it’s not uncommon for the most outrageous rumours to have ‘legs.’
Ultimately, many of those rumours don’t come to fruition, but if enough stories are pumped out, then surely one will end up hitting the mark.
One such rumour doing the rounds at the moment is Manchester United’s apparent willingness to purchase West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic.
Given the rate at which transfer prices have skyrocketed, we can deduce that a minimum of £50m will need to be spent by the Red Devils to even get the Hammers to the negotiating table.
But what’s the likelihood of that happening?
Jose Mourinho knows the player from their time together at Inter, and one would assume the Portuguese has followed the striker’s progress in the recent past.
He’ll also recall that he labelled the Austrian as a ‘child,’ ‘unmanageable’ and ‘Balotelli’s best friend’ when they coincided in Italy.
However, his need for a backup striker for Romelu Lukaku has been evident across the past season.
He ticks an awful lot of boxes for what United need at this point.
Goalscoring isn’t his greatest attribute and even though he improved in this aspect of his game under David Moyes, he still averages just one in three.
But Mourinho has others who can ease the burden on that front.
What he doesn’t have is someone of Arnautovic’s stature and work rate to complement Lukaku and save the Belgian from the bouts of tiredness that he’s suffered from in the past 12 months.
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Jose Mourinho hasn’t quite got off to the start he would have hoped for at Manchester United. The ‘Special One’ has seen his side struggle in recent weeks despite getting off to a flyer in their campaign. They opened with three straight wins, however a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City has seen their form slump and have picked up just four out of a possible nine points since then and, with Manchester City continuing to pick up wins, they have lost vital ground in the Championship race.
An unthinkable defeat at the hands of great rivals Liverpool, which would see Liverpool open a six-point gap on Monday is now looking like a real prospect, however he does have a terrific historic record against Liverpool and will definitely have his troops rallied for this one. In his eleven matches against Liverpool with Chelsea he has come out on top eight times, drawn twice and lost just one and Liverpool fans will never forget the infamous 2-0 win at Anfield in April 2014 that virtually ende their hopes of landing their first Premier League title.
Jurgen Klopp has revitalized Liverpool and has them sitting just three points behind Manchester City at the top of the table. Since a shock 2-0 defeat at the hands of Burnley, they followed that up with an away draw against a high-flying Tottenham Hotspur side and have won four on the bounce since then, including a 4-1 win over reigning champions Leicester City and a 2-1 away win at Stamford Bridge. They are certainly on track for a crack at the title and a win here would only further their credentials as serious title contenders.
Klopp’s record against Mourinho is very impressive indeed. They have met four times in the Champions League and, twice in the group stages where he guided Borussia Dortmund to a 2-1 home win over giants Real Madrid and followed that up with a 2-2 draw at the Bernabau and twice at the semi-final stage where he led them to a historic victory and the Champions League final. After demolishing Real Madrid 4-1 in the first leg, they held on in the away leg despite going down 2-0 although they were never in any real danger here as Real Madrid looked lethargic and scored their goals in the last ten minutes of the match.
So, with all this in mind, it’s difficult to predict who will come out on top on Monday. One thing is for certain that with both sides scoring freely , yet at the same time shipping goals for fun (there has been an incredible 37 goals in each of the sides last five matches), a thriller awaits.
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