All posts by Ben Parsons

Sports Writer- The United Stand

Jose: ‘I dont see many better than Shaw’

Jose Mourinho has praised left back Luke Shaw after a string of impressive performances for United. Shaw has come under public criticism from Mourinho in the past, but injuries to fullbacks Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have meant the Englishman has started the last 4 Premier League games. This is his longest run in the team since September 2015 where an awful leg break against PSV Eindhoven ruled him out for several months.

Shaw, 22, has not been able to rediscover his form which warranted a £30 million transfer to Old Trafford, falling behind Daley Blind, Matteo Darmian and Ashley Young in Mourinho’s pecking order. Widespread reports suggested Tottenham  fullback Danny Rose could come in to replace Shaw after an apparent rift with Mourinho, but the United manager now see’s Shaw as crucial in his long term plans heaping praise on the youngster:

‘I can say that in this moment I don’t see many left-backs better than this Luke Shaw.
‘He had played very well. He was already improving and playing well when I start playing him after that long spell without minutes. I remember the first time he was coming step by step, and now with a good run of matches and continuity, he is solid. ‘

‘Physically much better, mentally much stronger, tactically understanding the game much better and what we need in different phases and circumstances. I’m really happy.’

Shaw is expected to retain his place for United’s away match against Burnley tomorrow, as he looks to consolidate his place as United’s first choice left back. Daley Blind is the only new injury concern for Mourinho’s side who go into the match looking to close the 12 point gap on leaders Manchester City.

United’s deal for Alexis Sanchez with Henrikh Mkhitaryan going the other way is yet to be finalised; Sanchez needed to have been registered before 12pm on Friday to be available for Saturday’s game. However a deal for the Chilean remains imminent and he is now expected to make his debut in the FA Cup on Friday away to Yeovil.

 

 

United set to rival City for Nice midfielder Seri

Manchester United are interested in 26 year old Nice central midfielder Jean Michaël Seri as they look to boost their options in an area lacking strength in depth for Jose Mourinho’s side.

The Ivory Coast midfielder agreed a deal in principle with Barcelona last summer, however a deal fell through due to the Spanish club pulling out late on. PSG have also been targeting the player, however Financial Fair Play rules meant that a move to the French champions could not be completed last summer. Seri now has just 18 months left on his Nice contract and it seems unlikely that an extension will be signed. Any deal for the player would likely take place in the summer, with buyers in a bargaining position as there will only be one year left on the player’s contract.

Nice are expected to demand a fee of around £35 million, a similar figure to what was agreed with Barcelona previously. This would represent good value for one of the most highly coveted central midfielders in Ligue 1.  Both Manchester clubs retain an interest in the midfielder, who was recently also been linked with Everton and Paris Saint Germain. United have sent scouts to monitor Seri’s performances in recent weeks, and then they were in attendance for Nice’s 2-2 draw against Monaco last week as Seri claimed an assist for a Mario Balotelli goal.

If Manchester United were to go ahead and sign the 26 year old, it would be another significant blow for Pep Guardiola, who sees the player as a longer term replacement for Fernandinho. United are already this week close to finalising the move for Alexis Sanchez who was another of Guardiola’s targets. The deal for Sanchez is expected to be announced in the coming hours, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan moving to Arsenal in a direct swap deal. Sanchez is likely to be available for United’s trip to Burnley on Saturday.

 

Arsene Wenger confirms Alexis to United ‘likely’

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed rumours of  Alexis Sanchez moving to Manchester United by saying the deal is likely to go through. United’s late move for Sanchez has come as a shock to many, with an agreement with rivals Manchester City already thought to be in place. However, United are now in pole position to sign the forward with an announcement expected in the next 24 hours. Sanchez, 29, is believed to become the highest earner in the Premier League at Old Trafford, earning over £14 million in a huge 4 and a half year contract.

Here’s what Wenger had to say regarding Alexis’ move:

“I’ve worked on transfers for 30 years so it is likely to happen but any moment things can break down,”

 “That’s how the transfer market is so as long as it’s not over the line you have to accept that it can as well not happen. These kinds of things are never guaranteed.”
Wenger was also asked if out of favour United attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan midfielder was to be involved in the deal:

“My understanding is yes. The wages would not be a problem.

” If it’s a possibility it’s because I like the player.

“We played many times against him when he was at Dortmund so he’s certainly appreciated the quality of our games and the way we play football so that’s why certainly he loves the club.

“This would be an exchange of players and I think one would replace the other. Are we still on the transfer market after that? Yes.”

The deal involving Mkhitaryan and Sanchez is to be a straight swap, rather than United paying extra on top of the player who has struggled to reproduce his form at Borussia Dortmund which earned him the Bundesliga player of the year award.

No room for Mkhitaryan – Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has explained his decision for leaving out Armenian playmaker Henrikh Mkhitayran, simply clarifying that there is not enough room in the squad for the 28 year old.

Mkhitaryan enjoyed an excellent start to the season and was extremely influential in United’s early dominance creating five assists, as United began with a series of convincing displays. However, Mkhitaryan has not been in 7 out of the last 8 Premier League matchday squads, with his last appearance coming in United’s unconvincing 1-0 win over Brighton on November 25. Since his blistering start to the campaign, the Armenian has struggled to show the same form, often going ‘missing’ in big games as United lacked attacking threats in important away games such as Liverpool and Chelsea in which they could not muster a goal.  The emergence in form of Jesse Lingard has seemingly pushed Mkhitaryan out of United’s squad. The Warrington born attacker has taken his opportunity with a stunning solo goal at Watford followed by 2 goals in a 3-1 away victory at Arsenal. United fans have been impressed at Lingard’s desire and hard work, but also quality in his final product which has previously deserted him.

Here’s what the United manager said when questioned about Mkhitaryan:

I can only have six [outfield] players on the bench and I try to have some balance on the bench,”

“I played Martial, Mata and Lingard in the team. To have Micki (Mkhitaryan) means that I don’t have one of them and, in this moment, I believe the other ones they deserve [the chance to play].”

 

This is not the first time Mkhitaryan has fallen out of favour with Jose Mourinho having been pulled off in United’s derby defeat to Man City last season. After his abject performance, the playmaker would not be seen for months in a United shirt. With United now boasting Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Ashley Young in attacking areas, it is difficult to see where Mkhitaryan can get back into the team. Whether this is another tactic deployed by Mourinho to get the former Bundesliga player of the year back to his best remains to be seen; although there have been murmurs of a potential January or summer exit. United have been heavily linked with Athletico’s Antoine Griezmann, who could be allowed to leave in the summer. They have more recently been linked with Joao Mario of Inter, a compatriot of Mourinho. Both act as attacking options who could push Mkhitaryan out of the club.

Bizarre goalkeeping mistake gifts United win over Benfica

An inexplicable error from Benfica goalkeeper Mile Svilar handed Jose Mourinho’s side victory in a game of few chances in Lisbon.

Jose Mourinho made his return to the Estadio de Luz, his first game at the stadium since he was in charge of Porto in 2004, with Manchester United looking to maintain their lead at the top of Group A. It turned out to be a comfortable night for United who dominated possession, however lacked creativity in an unconvincing display against an opposition who were without a win in 5 games in all competitions.

The United manager made 4 changes to his side who held Liverpool to Anfield on Saturday. Ex Benfica man Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford returned to the starting 11 as Mourinho matched Benfica coach Rui Vitória’s 4 3 3 formation, with another former Benfica player Nemanja Matic in the defensive midfield role.

United struggled in the opening exchanges, with Benfica pressing in numbers in a compact setup. Possession was given up countless times in the first thalf from United who lacked composure on the ball. The first real chance of the game went to the home side who created an opening on the left-hand side through impressive fullback Alex Grimaldo, who has previously been heavily linked to the Mourinho’s side. His cross was blazed over on the run by Argentine winger Eduardo Salvio, who looked the most potent attacking threat in the first half an hour.

It took United 36 minutes to muster their first shot on target, a Nemanja Matic shot that was routinely saved by Benfica’s goalkeeper after a powerful run from the Serbian midfielder. The biggest chance of the first half fell to Henrikh Mkhitayran shortly after, however his wasteful attempt with options either side of him epitomised a poor first half from United. Mkhitayran and Juan Mata were uncharachterisically careless in possession which meant striker Romelu Lukaku was starved of any meaningful service.

United came out in the second half with more attacking impetus, pushing Benfica’s resolute defence towards their own goal. However, a cutting edge was still lacking. Passes in the final third provided no penetration and a clear-cut chance was yet to be made. Benfica, on the other hand were very poor in possession as Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera quickly broke up the play in the midfield as the Portuguese side attempted to break.

Early in the second half, Mourinho’s men perhaps looked most promising when they had a corner. Belgium under 19 goalkeeper Svilar looked highly unconvincing on more than one occasion, flapping at the ball with no real assurance or confidence. United’s best chance to win the match looked to be by targeting the goalkeeper who was making history by becoming the youngest ever goalkeeper to play in the Champions League at 18 years old, breaking Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas’ record.

Svilar’s huge error came in the 65th minute of the match as United were starting to look more promising. A hopeful free kick sent in by Marcus Rashford was judged horrendously by the goalkeeper who’s suspect positioning meant he caught the ball before crossing his own line.

The game was a procession ever since the first goal went in with a United victory looking the only outcome. Mourinho’s defence was rarely troubled despite Benfica moving to two strikers with Brazilian striker Jonas coming on for the Portuguese side. The striker didn’t threaten David De Gea’s goal; the Spaniard had a quiet night in Lisbon. United’s win takes them to 9 points in Group A in what is turning out to be a comfortable group for Jose Mourinho’s men. Next, they play the return leg against Benfica at Old Trafford in a fortnight in what is likely to be another straight forward victory. However, they could be without teenager Marcus Rashford who limped off injured, a big concern to Mourinho who is already without the likes of Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly and Marouane Fellaini.

 

 

United in seven horse race for title – Mourinho

Manchester United are one of seven clubs that could lift the Premier League trophy at the end of the season according to manager Jose Mourinho. The league is likely to be as competitive as ever this season, with Tottenham the only club out of the top 7 (including Everton) not spending large amounts of money on new signings. Mourinho highlighted the strength and competitiveness of the Premier League ahead of United’s opening fixture at home to West Ham.

“In the Premier League I’d say seven teams will fight for the title and 20 fight for the victory in every game, every match. That’s different to the three other leagues [Portugal, Italy and Spain] I have worked in. Every opponent wants to win every match, every opponent gives you a hard time.”

Many United fans feel this is the year that United should be challenging for the Premier League crown again, having not lifted the title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season 4 years ago. Having finished in 6th place last year, over 20 points behind leaders Chelsea, United have a large gap to close. However a positive summer window where key areas have been strengthened have left United fans optimistic over a realistic title charge under Mourinho this campaign. Jose Mourinho is a specialist in winning the domestic league title in the second season in charge of a club, a record he has kept throughout all the clubs he has managed. This is perhaps his toughest challenge yet with a huge gap to bridge and a relatively young squad, but some things are in United’s favour.

Chelsea and Liverpool, who both finished ahead of United to top 4 position last year now have to cope with European football, depending on whether Liverpool can over come Hoffenheim in their Champions League qualifying round. Having no European football was a huge advantage for these clubs who would have a full week to prepare for games unlike United who would consistently be playing Thursday/Sunday. Arsenal are a team who now have to cope with Thursday night football having missed out on the Champions League places last year, and teams who go further in the Europa League usually suffer as a consequence in the league. Spurs also have to deal with changes this year, playing at Wembley as they wait on their new stadium. New surroundings could prove tough for manager Mauricio Pochettinho who’s side struggled there in the Champions League group stage last season.

It will not be easy for Mourinho’s men to secure United’s 21st league title but with their talent and fire power the least United fans should expect this season is a serious title challenge.

Mourinho wants fourth signing

Jose Mourinho has confirmed that he is still looking for one more signing in his press conference for the opening game of the season, West Ham United on Sunday.

Having already secured the signatures of Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic and Benfica centre back Victor Lindelof, Mourinho is targeting a fourth signing to complete his summer spending ahead of this season’s anticipated title charge. However, the United manager is also pleased with the work of the club to bring in three of his four priority signings:

“You know, in my initial analysis coming from January and progressively through the other months I was thinking about four players but I am not a difficult person to work with – in spite of it looking different sometimes – and I understand the reality of the market, I understand the reality of the numbers.

“I also understand that my club by doing 75% of what I initially asked, I think the club did very well so I don’t think I am in a position of crying, moaning, protesting, I am not in a position to say I am not happy with.”

Mourinho is clearly happy with the latest additions, each strengthening the side in key areas of the pitch. Lukaku adds goals lost by the release of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however the Swede is likely to return to United on a short term contract when fit from his cruciate knee ligament injury. Mourinho confirmed in the press conference that United are in talks to bring the striker back to Old Trafford. Matic fills the hole in the defensive midfield position that United have been lacking in recent years. Lindelof, a less well known signing is set to bring aggression but also the ability to bring the ball out from United’s defence.

However one more signing is still on the agenda for Mourinho who also hinted the position of his final target. He wants a player who is “playing from the sides” suggesting  an attacking fullback or winger is the area identified. These comments will fuel rumours about Danny Rose, the Spurs attacking fullback who recently spoke out on his frustration at Tottenham’s lack of ambition in the summer window and his desire to move “back up north”. Ivan Perisic is another name who fits the bill. The Croatian Inter Milan forward is traditionally a winger and has been targeted by United all summer, however a fee is yet to be agreed with Inter holding firm.

 

 

Fosu-Mensah to play centre back as he seals Palace move

Timothy Fosu Mensah has completed his season-long loan move to Crystal Palace as he looks to gain valuable first team minutes and Premier League experience before returning back to Old Trafford. The 19 year old will link up with Palace manager and fellow countryman Frank De Boer who he knows well from his time at Ajax.

Fosu-Mensah has been unable to take rare first team opportunities at Old Trafford and a loan move to an established Premier League side in Crystal Palace is a fantastic move for all parties. Here’s what the Dutchman told Crystal Palace’s official website:

The manager spoke to me about coming down to join Crystal Palace and it was clear that he wanted me to be part of his squad which as a player gives you a great feeling straight away. I must now repay that back by putting in some good performances for the club.

“I am only 19 years old and still have a lot to learn and therefore getting the opportunity to play more games on a regular basis will help my development.”

Frank De Boer was thrilled with his latest signing and his comments  make very interesting reading for us United fans:

“Timothy is a player who has great pace and incredible physical ability. In today’s game you need players with strength and speed and is a player who can also play in midfield.”

“I am seeing him in our system as a right centre back but he can also play full back in a 4-3-3.”

It is clear that Fosu-Mensah will be used in a number of different positions in the Palace system, but De Boer interestingly pointed out that he sees him being deployed in the right centre back role. Many United fans feel the youngster is wasted and not fulfilling his potential as an understudy to Antonio Valencia at right-back but now he will be able to take up a central role in defence. Fosu-Mensah’s best position was seemingly in a defensive midfield role but he now gets the chance to prove his worth as a centre back. If his performances impress Mourinho in this role he could force his way into United’s defence, perhaps making up a back 3 in a 3-5-2 system next season.

What do you think of Timothy’s loan move? Let us know in the comments or on twitter @UnitedStandMUFC

 

Zlatan in United talks over return

Manchester United have reopened talks to sign Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to bring him back to Old Trafford when he returns from his long-term injury layoff according to SkyItalia.

Ibrahimovic suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury in April, ruling him out for 9 months, including the Europa League final which he played a big part in United reaching. He is not back to full fitness until the new year so a deal for the player is not likely to be announced until January. However, United remain interested in the player who scored 17 goals in just 28 Premier League appearances last season. United manager Jose Mourinho has hinted in pre-season he is likely to try sign Ibrahimovic when he is fully recovered from his injury:

 “Why not wait for such a good player that gave us so much?”

“He’s not got a contract, but he’s still close to Manchester”

Ibrahimovic was undoubtedly United’s main man last season scoring 28 goals in all competitions including the winning goal in the league cup final in a 3-2 victory over Southampton at Wembley. He is keen to return to United and a short term deal would have to be agreed in order for him to return to Old Trafford. Mourinho is keen to bring the striker, 36 in October, back to strengthen his attacking options in what will be a long season with Champions League football.  The United manager has grown frustrated at the club’s inability to bring in an attacking option this summer. Ibrahimovic is not the pacy winger that Mourinho is looking to bring in such as Ivan Perisic who United are yet to agree a deal with. However, he brings experience, guaranteed goals if he stays fit and would also be able to help improve new striker Romelu Lukaku.

He is also a target for a host of other clubs including LA Galaxy and AC Milan who are both prioritising Zlatan as their marquee signing when he returns but it is believed the Swede’s preferred option is a return to Old Trafford. This deal looks very realistic due to Ibrahimovic’s desire to stay in Europe and his link to Mourinho and United.

Do you want Zlatan back? Leave a comment below or let us know on twitter @UnitedStandMUFC.

Serge Aurier ‘agrees 5 year deal’ to sign for United

Serge Aurier has agreed a five year deal to sign for Manchester United, according to reports in the French press.

Goal’s PSG correspondent Loic Tanzi had this to say on Thursday afternoon regarding Aurier:

“S.Aurier and MU have found an agreement around a 5-year contract. Rest to negotiate with Paris and have a work permit”

United have reportedly agreed personal terms with the 24 year old Ivorian in a deal to take him to Old Trafford in what would represent a huge coup for Mourinho, fighting off competition from Inter Milan and Chelsea for the right back’s services. If a deal was to get over the line, Aurier would provide excellent competition for Antonio Valencia in the fullback position and would boost United’s squad significantly. Aurier would also be a great acquisition for the future, at only 24 he still has his prime years ahead of him whereas Valencia is coming to the latter stages of his career. The PSG player is also very versatile and can occupy a number of positions in both defence and midfield. As an established fullback, the rumoured fee of around £30 million would represent smart business for Mourinho given his counterpart Pep Guardiola has spent over £100 million on two fullbacks this summer, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker.

However, a deal for United to bring in Aurier is still a way off, with the club still yet to agree a fee with PSG for the sale of the Ivorian. There are also complications with Aurier’s entry into the UK, he still requires a work permit in order to play for Uniteddue to a criminal record to his name. This puts the deal in doubt, however according to the french pres, United are still confident a deal can take place. An outcome of Aurier’s court case and decision whether he can enter the UK is set to be resolved in the coming days.

Aurier has impressed in Paris since arriving from Toulouse in 2014 and has racked up 39 caps for Ivory Coast at only 24. His pace, power and desire make him ideal for United and he would almost certainly be a fans favourite if he came to the club.

What do you think? Should we sign Aurier? Would you be happy with the deal? Let us know in the comments below or on twitter @UnitedStandMUFC.