Are United’s title dreams already over ?

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Simply put, yes. That perhaps seems harsh considering we are only 13 games into the season but with the four teams above them all winning over the weekend, City,Chelsea,Liverpool and Arsenal, United are in danger of being left behind .

Sunday’s draw with West Ham was their 4th in four home league games and their inability to win games is meaning that they remain struggling to keep up with those above them. With results going the way they did over the weekend, Mourinho’s team now lie 11 points behind table-toppers Chelsea. Jose was left rueing his team’s luck following more dropped points against the Hammers but in all honesty, they simply haven’t been good enough.

Since their defeat to bitter rivals City back at the beginning of September, United have struggled for any sort of form. Without back to back league wins since August, Mourinho’s side have become the masters of inconsistency and now whilst they may have stopped the rot in terms of defeats, they are struggling to pick up 3 points in games where they should really be winning. Stoke, Burnley, Arsenal and now West Ham have all come to Old Trafford and come away with a point to their name. However, United have come away from all four of those games rueing missed opportunities. During Sunday’s encounter with West Ham they had numerous chances to put themselves in front but due to poor finishing, and the inspired form of Darren Randolph between the sticks , they were left feeling sorry for themselves and not for the first time this season.

It’s safe to say that things aren’t going the way that Jose would of hoped when he inherited this United squad. It’s clear he is still licking his wounds following his dismissal from Chelsea last December and it remains to be seen how much patience he will get from the United hierarchy. He was provided with the funds he believed to be necessary to improve this team  but the players he has brought have failed to make any real impact. Eric Bailly’s strong start to life in England has been halted by injury, Ibrahimovic looks a shadow of his former self, Pogba has been ineffective and Mkhitaryan can’t even get a game. Of course the blame doesn’t all lie with Mourinho, his players haven’t helped him in the slightest but as the manager, is it not his job to get them motivated and playing to their full potential ?

Many believed that when Jose arrived in Manchester, he would return United to their former glory but it has become apparent to all that the re-building job at the club is a lot bigger than he and everyone associated with the club thought. The performances at times this season have been embarrassing and whilst they have improved slightly over recent weeks, they still aren’t picking up the necessary points needed to make them genuine title contenders.

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Mourinho’s (right) frustration was apparent during his dismissal by John Moss (left)  on Sunday

I’m sure Jose will come out this week saying he isn’t at all worried by his team’s form and will reassure the media that the results will start to come for his team. This may well be the case but time is ticking and it seems safe to say that the title is all but gone but with the 4 teams above them all looking good at the moment, you have to question whether they can even make the top four. If United don’t make the top 4 then you would have to say that Mourinho would have failed dramatically especially considering the fact that many experts believed he had the squad capable of winning this league. If he is to turn this around then he needs time and plenty of it. If things don’t start to pick up then his United career could well go the way of his Chelsea one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zlatan’s Barren Run Goes On

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won all there is to win in the game. He has endured successful spells at Europe’s biggest clubs including PSG, AC Milan and Barcelona scoring goals throughout his career. Now he has tried his hand in the arguably the hardest league in the world, the Premier League, with Manchester United. The questions surrounding his move to England were predominately whether or not he could still produce on the big stage. With 5 goals in his first 5 games including the winner in the community shield, it seemed as if the Big Swede was still as deadly as ever. However, with only 1 in his previous 9, things aren’t quite turning out the way he and United hoped following his arrival.

At the age of 35, it was perhaps naive to think that Ibrahimovic could maintain the high standards he has set himself over the years, especially in a league far more competitive than that of France. Yet many believed he could still produce when his team needed him the most. Based on his performances early on it appeared that the faith that the club had vested in him had paid off. It wasn’t just his goals that helped the team but that ego that follows him wherever he goes was starting to bring the fear factor back to United. Recently on the other hand, things have started to go downhill, not just for Ibrahimovic but United as a whole. Following Mourinho’s humiliation by former club Chelsea on Sunday, the Red’s now trail the top 5 by 5 points. Whilst yesterdays derby win did provide some light relief for Mourinho and his team, it still didn’t mask the fact that there is still a lot of work to do. The worrying thing for Mourinho recently has been the anonymity of some his players in the big game’s. One of the players top of the list, it has to be said, is their new number 9.

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Ibrahimovic has struggled over recent games

During yesterday’s win over City, Ibra looked sluggish and lethargic throughout the course of the game. A lack of influence on proceedings accompanied by the in-ability to retain the ball meant that the 35 year-old had a tough time of it. The main worry over recent weeks has been his failure to convert chances during key periods of games. Against Liverpool he had a clear sight of goal early in the second half but completely miscued his header and the chance was gone. 6 days later he then had a similar chance against Chelsea but once again failed to get his header on target. This came at a time when the Blues were only 1 goal to the good and if that the chance is converted, than the final outcome could of been very different indeed.

Ibrahimovic is of course not the only player at United currently struggling to find any form. £89 million man Paul Pogba has had his fair share of critics since his return to the club whilst Wayne Rooney has been omitted from the starting 11. However, Ibrahimovic is the leading striker now and the more games he goes without scoring , the harder it gets for United to pick up points. Many have called for him to be removed from the firing line so that he can get a rest that many believe he sorely needs. The question then is who replaces him ? Rooney could always be restored to his former position or they could deploy someone like Memphis or Martial in that role. Despite these high profile names, I think we all know the man they would like to see leading the line…

Rashford has proved countless times that he can score the goals this united team has been missing over recent years and even if it was just for a few games, I’m sure that United fans everywhere would have no objection to his inclusion in the side as the main man upfront. If Mourinho does decide to give Ibrahimovic the rest he clearly needs and they look a better side without out him, this doesn’t mean that his united career will end a failure, Whatever his position in the club, he is still a fantastic pro to have in that dressing room and the club is lucky to have him. His legacy will not be decided by his United career because he is a true legend of the game and will be for years to come.

The Greatest Love Affair in Football

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Sunday will be a memorable day for all those. It marks the return of Jose Mourinho to the club where he won 3 Premier League titles, 3 League Cup’s and one FA Cup over 5 full seasons with the club. Credited as being the man who took Chelsea to the next level back in 2004, there will always be a special place for him in the hearts of all those associated with the club. However, he returns Sunday in the opposing dugout for the first time in his career and there is little doubt he will stop at nothing to come away with three points.

When you look back on Mourinho’s career, most will look at his success with the blues. He has enjoyed success as-well of course with the likes of Madrid and Inter but his love affair with Chelsea is one that stretches back over 10 years . When he parted company with them the first time in 2007, many felt he still had unfinished business with the club. This proved the case when the prodigal son returned in 2013 to pick up from where he left off. It took time, just like in 2004, to mould his team  in his image but after only one season, they were once again a formidable outfit under the Special One. Winning the league and cup double proved a cake-walk for Mourinho once again proving that he was one of the best in the business.

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Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager for the second time in 2013

However, like every great love story, there is usually a bitter ending. The 2015/16 season was arguably the worst ever since Roman Abramovich took over at the club with Chelsea barely attempting to hold onto their Premier League crown. Losses against Palace, City and Everton in their opening 5 games meant they were already well off the pace and their title defence was in tatters. It didn’t get any better from there either. Knocked out early on in the League Cup by Stoke and struggling for form in the Champions League meant that the pressure was well and truly on Jose to get the Blues back on track. Sadly, one thing you rarely get at Chelsea is time. On 17th December 2015, after losing 9 of 16 league games, Mourinho left the club by ‘mutual consent’ . His love story with Chelsea came to an abrupt end  and his legacy, now haunted by those few small months at the start of the season.

Now he returns to the Bridge an enemy. Manager of one of their arch rivals in United and it promises to be an intriguing game. It will of course be dominated by the return of the Special One to his beloved Chelsea but I’m sure that every Chelsea fan knows, Mourinho will be in no mood to show mercy to his former employers and will stop at nothing to come away with all 3 points.

One thing is certain, Sunday will be an emotional day. I’m confident that he will get the reception he truly deserves because, whatever happened last year, he is still a Chelsea legend and huge part of their recent success. Will he ever return for a third time ? I highly doubt it but Jose’s love affair with Chelsea is one that will live long in the memory.

 

Problem’s mount for José

Despite only losing 2-1 in the Manchester Derby yesterday, though he dare not admit it, the loss highlighted a number of problems in Mourinho’s side. City ran them ragged for the majority of the game, and if it wasn’t for a gift from new goalie Claudio Bravo, it could have been rather embarrassing for José and his team.

Many predicted United to edge the derby on the day, and without Aguero, many thought City didn’t stand a chance. However, it was in fact United who looked like they didn’t stand a chance having to chase City’s player’s all over the park. A key example was the performance of Kevin De Bruyne, a player sold by Mourinho at Chelsea back in 2014, who at times ran the show at Old Trafford and the United player’s simply couldn’t cope with him. Every single one of City’s player put in a tremendous performance, perhaps bar the goalkeeper, and overall they thoroughly deserved the win.

On the other hand whilst City were at their best, United were well off the pace. It was frightening at times the gulf in class between the two teams and problems were there for all to see. Perhaps the most disturbing thing was the anonymous performance of Paul Pogba. Critics of Pogba often argue that he disappears in the big games and based on yesterday’s performance, they may have a point. Marshalled brilliantly by the energetic Fernandinho at times and often being outshone by the likes of David Silva and De Bruyne, Pogba barely if at all influenced the game. Of course he wasn’t the only player who had an off day for United, but for a player who cost £100 million, you expect him to come to the fore in the big games and there certainly isn’t a bigger game than the Manchester derby.

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Pogba hasn’t registered an assist or goal in his opening three games on his return to United (see above)

Another issue was how easily City opened up the United back-line at times. This was the first big test for the United back-line because with no disrespect to Bournemouth, Southampton and Hull, they didn’t offer a lot when it came to an attacking threat. However, if I was grading the performance of United’s defence I’d probably give an F. The gaps at times were shocking with a clear lack of communication and ultimately that lead to their downfall. Daley Blind has been praised at the start of this season for his versatility and ability to play in a range of positions, but whilst he is calm with the ball at his feet, and times his decision-making is frankly diabolical. City’s first goal is a prime example whereby Blind simply watches the ball float past him as if his feet were glued to the ground.It’s only one game of course but he still has to improve a lot if he is going to become a quality United central defender.

This is perhaps the first time in his career that Mourinho is under serious pressure. After being sacked by Chelsea, he has a point to prove but after a solid start, when it came to their first major test, Mourinho and his side choked. They looked short on fitness at times yesterday and with the Europa League starting on Thursday it doesn’t get any easier. If he truly is still the special one, it’s time to show it.

What next for Mata ?

It’s clear to see that the Spaniard doesn’t fit with Mourinho’s idea of the ideal midfielder. Mata during his Chelsea days was known for the damage he did up the attacking side of the pitch, not the defensive side, and with a lack of pace he struggles to get about the pitch like other’s he has played with, for example, Willian, who was a constant fixture in Mourinho’s Chelsea. The Spaniard was probably thrilled when he left Chelsea back in 2014 knowing that he might never have to work under Mourinho again but here we are, only 2 years later, and it looks like the same story.

Ever since his departure from Chelsea, Mata hasn’t quite looked like the player he once was. During his second and final full season with the Blue’s, Mata scored 20 goals in all competitions and earned himself a spot in the PFA Team of the Year and alongside that, he picked up the Chelsea’s Player’s Player of the Year Award. Out of all the player’s in that Chelsea squad, Mata would be the last name you would have expected to be cast aside like he was. A true fan favourite, the little number 10 was in his prime. Sadly that all changed when the Special One came home. It was clear from the off that Mourinho didn’t fancy Mata with his role in the team being restricted to substitute appearances and when he  did start he rarely finished the game on the pitch. Many were bamboozled by Mata’s isolation but few dared to challenge Mourinho and ultimately it all became too much for Mata.

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Mata enjoyed a successful two seasons at Chelsea before Mourinho’s arrival (see above)

It was no surprise when United came in to rescue Mata as he was a player who wanted out of Chelsea, and Moyes needed to make a big money signing. United smashed their transfer record to bring Mata to the club for £37.1 million, which has of course been smashed numerous times since then, on the 25th January 2014. Mata began his United career in fine form scoring 6 goals in 15 league appearances up until the end of the season showing everyone that he still had a lot to give. He continued this good form into the new season but then began to lose his place. He started to become restricted to cameo’s where at times we saw his brilliance being the two goals he scored against Liverpool on the 22nd of March 2015, but then some games passed him by. That has sadly been the story of Mata’s career at United.

Now it seem’s things have gotten worse. Not only has Mourinho returned but it seem’s Mata may get less of chance than he did at Chelsea. It is suggested that he will remain at the club for the time being but if his double substitution during the community shield is anything to go by, it doesn’t look good. You feel for Mata whose career has arguably gone backwards since he left the Blue’ s, but the blame perhaps doesn’t lie with him, but Mourinho.

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Mata came on only to be taken off during the community shield on Sunday (see above)

 

 

Fellaini would be perfect fit for the Black Cat’s

It’s safe to say that Marouane Fellaini’s Manchester United career hasn’t gone to plan. After signing 3 years ago for the Red Devils at a hefty price of £27.5 million from Everton, many of the United faithful had high hopes for the big Belgian. However, like many of United’s recent signings, he failed to live up to the hype.

Struggling to cement a place in the starting 11, Fellaini’s appearances for United during his tenure have been mainly from the substitute’s bench. Whilst at times he has shown signs of adding something different to United’s game, he has rarely showed any real consistency. The goals have also dried up from Fellaini’s game. In his final season at Everton, Fellaini contributed 11 premier league goals which for a midfielder isn’t a bad return certainly in an Everton team still finding their feet. On the other hand, during his three seasons at United, he has only managed 11 goals all together. Whilst it could be said that Fellaini has been restricted when it comes to appearances, the odd time he has played, he has rarely looked the threat he was at Everton.

To add to this, with the arrival of more creative player’s this summer such as Henrik Mkhitaryan, who managed 23 goals for Dortmund last season, you have to wonder were Fellaini fit’s in under Mourinho. Furthermore, the acquisition of Ibrahimovic  means that United now have that threat in the air so perhaps this is an indication that the Belgian is surplus to requirements.

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Fellaini spent 5 season’s at the Toffees before moving to Manchester (see above)

Despite all his critics, Fellaini does still have his admirers, one being the new Sunderland boss David Moyes. Moyes was after all the one who bought Fellaini to both Everton and United and has already stated his desire to bring Fellaini to the north-east. Of course the majority of players would prefer to play for Manchester United rather than Sunderland, but does Fellaini want to risk the fact that he may be succumbed to the bench for much of next season. To add to this, Moyes know’s how to play to his strengths and at Sunderland, a team not known for their glamorous football, you could certainly see  Fellaini thriving just like he did at Everton.

In saying all this, it would probably take a hefty fee to bring Fellaini to Sunderland but United could certainly do with clearing their squad out a bit. And who knows, the idea of working with Moyes again may appeal to Fellaini and we could perhaps see the man with the Afro at his best once again.

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Moyes bought Fellaini to Everton and then United in 2013 (see above)

Anything but Title failure for United

With United’s spending about to reach £200 million with the imminent arrival of Paul Pogba, the aim for next season must be not just to return to the Champion’s League but also reign supreme over English football once again. Of course it would only be Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge of the red devils but with plenty of experience in the English game with Chelsea and seemingly endless backing from the Chief Executive Ed Woodward, the pressure is on the Special One to bring instant success back to the red side of Manchester

At the beginning of his tenure, Mourninho made it clear that he had four specific transfer targets and with Pogba’s arrival it would seem he may well of got all of them. These four signings also seem to relate to issues that United had under Van Gaal. At times they looked toothless in attack lacking creativity and goals. The acquisition of Henrik Mkhitaryan certainly would add flare and pace to a united attack which looked cumbersome last season and we all know the amount of goals Zlatan can bring to the fore. Defensively at times they also looked short with Micheal Carrick even having to be deployed at centre half at times. Perhaps young Eric Bailly isn’t the finished article just yet but he would certainly add depth to a position of the pitch where United are lacking in quality. Finally of course, the likely arrival of Paul Pogba means that United may have finally found a midfielder who dictates the speed of games just like Paul Scholes did all those years ago.

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Pogba would be the fourth signing and likely final signing United will make this summer (see above)

So with all this money being spent you would expect United to be battling at the top next season. That may be the case but it remains to be seen whether this new batch of player’s jell and continue to perform at the highest level and as we have seen with some, that premier league isn’t for everyone. Furthemore, under Van Gaal, money was spent left right and center but other than the FA cup succes of last term, the big names bought in failed to deliever. A key example of this is the demise of Angel Di Maria. Hailed as one of the greatest wingers of his generation during his time at Real Madrid, following his £59.7 million transfer in the summer of 2014, Di Maria failed to replaicte the form he showed in Spain leading his departure only a year later to PSG for £44 million. However, United do now have a manager who could be said to be the best in the world at organising his team in a way that puts them in the best position to win.

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Di Maria struggled for form in his only season in the premier league after his big money move from Madrid (see above)

This season is looking like being the most interesting yet with there being a lot of change amongst the biggest clubs in England and you can bet good money that under Mourinho’s leadership, the Red’s will be right up there. But make no mistake, after his dismissal last year with Chelsea, he is under extreme pressure to show everyone that he is still the best. His first job, bringing the premier league back to United.