Category Archives: Blog

Man United out of Champions League? PSG Match Review

Ole Gunner Solskjær has just recorded his first defeat as Interim Manager of Manchester United and I’m afraid to say the team looked toothless across the pitch.

During the opening few minutes of the match the team looked poised to get something from the game. Pressing and closing down high up the pitch; it was evident the team were given instructions to press high and put veteran goalkeeper ‘Gigi’ Buffon under pressure and quickly close him down. However, as the game went on and PSG gained a foothold in the game and began to dominate, the pressing stopped and the intensity from the squad was not good enough.

Pogba was kept quiet throughout the entire game before his sending off, but especially in the first as Marquinhos was providing a fantastic, specific man marking role; somewhat similar to Herrera’s owning of Hazard a few seasons ago.

https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/manchesterunited/man-utd-news-live-solskjaer-press-conference-psg-reaction-pogba-injury-every-word-a4064961.html
Paul Pogba sent off for a second yellow foul on Dani Alves [Evening Standard]

Injury blows for United as both Lingard and Martial both went off injured throughout the night. Jesse Lingard went off in the first half with what looked to be a hamstring injury and was replaced by the highest paid substitute in Alexis Sanchez. In regards to Anthony Martial, the Frenchman was replaced by Juan Mata at the break as he pulled up with what looked like a groin injury around the half hour mark earlier in the game.

PSG made it 0-1 at 53′ minutes and scored again on the hour mark as both Kimpembe and Mbappe scored for the French champions.

Manchester United looked toothless throughout with Marcus Rashford looking increasingly frustrated with the level of service provided. They barely tested Buffon in goal and will undoubtedly be disappointed by their performance tonight. The game at Old Trafford would’ve been one of the best chances to have beaten the french side as they were without players such as: Neymar, Cavani and Meunier.

Manchester United need to regroup quickly for their FA Cup tie against Chelsea to maintain any ambition of staying in a cup competition as their run in the Champions League looks all but gone. With both Lingard and Martial both potential doubts for that fixture the squad already looks bare in positions and incomings are needed in the summer like they were in the January window but were overlooked instead focusing on extending some dubious players’ contracts.

It should still be Poch…no, Ole…no, Poch

Prior to the Tottenham game this past weekend, I had decided that, whatever the result, I would upload a post claiming that Mauricio Pochettino should still be the next manager of Manchester United. However, the game, and victory, threw a huge spanner in the works…

I think we can all agree that nobody expected us to walk away from Wembley with three points. It has been widely publicised that Solskjaer’s first five games as caretaker manager of Manchester United were all games that he was expected to win. Hell, even Paul Ince claims he could have equalled Solskjaer’s start. However, delving deeper into the aftermath of Sunday’s 1-0 win has enhanced the United legends stock when it comes to taking over the reigns permanently.

Let’s be honest, the five games prior to the Spurs game didn’t really tell us a lot in regards to what Solskjaer’s style would be for the rest of the season. Sure, the attacking flair was back but we were rarely in a position where a ‘Plan B’ was needed. Tottenham was always going to be the game where we gained a measure on what could be achieved during the remainder of the season.

Billed as an audition between Ole and Poch, it is certainly the former that has edged ahead based on Sunday’s showing. United were ahead just before half time courtesy of a cool Marcus Rashford finish off the back of a sublime Paul Pogba pass and few could argue that we were not good for the lead. In fact, the first half was just like the games prior. The real test would be the second half when the inevitable Tottenham backlash began.

Tactically, Solskjaer got the second half down to a tee. Sure, we were under the cosh for long periods and, yes, De Gea was a brick wall but it is already forgotten that Hugo Lloris himself pulled off three decent saves to prevent United extending their lead. In short, Solskjaer had a Plan B. Pochettino, however, didn’t.

Tottenham switched formation at the beginning of the second half, a move immediately mirrored by Solskjaer to alleviate the threat posed by Ben Davies and Keiran Trippier. The enforced Erik Lamela change just before half time proved to be disastrous as Poch then stuck Christian Eriksen out on the wing to accommodate the more centrally-minded Lamela.

The Tottenham manager refused to make any more changes until the 81st minute, removing Harry Winks for Fernando Llorente, in what looked like a desperate final roll of the dice. Admittedly, at this stage it looked as if Tottenham were good value for a goal. However, with United tiring, the change should have come at least 10 minutes sooner. Solskjaer responded immediately by withdrawing Jesse Lingard for Diego Dalot to reinforce the defence.

Pochettino failed to make a third substitution as he, quite simply, ran out of ideas. Tottenham’s fail safe ‘Plan A’ just wasn’t working and he had no idea how to change it, despite only making two substitutions and leaving Danny Rose on the bench. Introducing Rose and his pace into the game could seriously have hurt a tiring United defence. Poch, simply, got it wrong.

David De Gea has quite rightly earned the plaudits for his Wembley heroics but Solskjaer should take just as much of the glory. He won’t, because he isn’t Jose Mourinho, but he deserves every iota of praise he has received. Not only did he out think Pochettino, he got the better of him tactically and wasn’t afraid to react instantly to what was panning out in front of him.

At this point I would say my preference would still be for Pochettino to be the next permanent manager of the club. However, not for one second would I be disappointed to see Ole be retained beyond this season.

Are We About To See Rashford Re-born?

Marcus Rashford made his name in a Manchester United shirt during a Europa League match against FC Midtjylland on February 25th, 2016.

Rashford was named on the bench for the tie. However, during the match warm-up, an injury to Anthony Martial meant the 18-year old was to make his debut in the starting XI. Continue reading Are We About To See Rashford Re-born?

Have Manchester United Hit The ‘Reset’ Button?

When the news broke that club legend, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, was to become interim manager at Manchester United for the remainder of the season, I felt a mixture of excitement and confusion.

Excited, for obvious reasons. As stated above, he is a club legend. He has always been open about his love for the club and his dream to manage it.  Continue reading Have Manchester United Hit The ‘Reset’ Button?

It’s only Fulham…

“It’s only Fulham”

It was inevitable really. Lose and further fuel would’ve been added to the rumblings to remove Mourinho from the post of Manchester United manager. A draw would’ve returned the same result. Scrape a win and it would’ve been unacceptable. Batter them and ‘it’s only Fulham’. Continue reading It’s only Fulham…

What is going on??

Those of you that follow me (not many I know) will know that I have been very much in the ‘Mourinho-In’ camp for some time. Whilst many, including our very own Mark Goldbridge, have pitched up tents over in the ‘out’ camp, I have remained across in my field, like an old man at Glastonbury a week after the festival has finished. Continue reading What is going on??

Is a Zlatan return a good thing?

“To some at United, it is not a coincidence that disharmony within the squad has become an issue since Ibrahimovic moved away.”

The above quote, published by Mark Ogden, will no doubt attract criticism and ridicule on social media but is it really that far wide of the mark? Continue reading Is a Zlatan return a good thing?

Manchester United Handed Tough Group!

Manchester United have been handed a very tough group in this years Champions League Draw.

Having been in Pot 2 for the draw the three time champions are placed alongside: Juventus, Valencia and BSC Young Boys.

Going off current form Man United may struggle to gain qualification from this group and they need to use this International break wisely and regroup and focus as their league form so far has been embarrassing. The Champions League is a stage for the big stars to shine and perform something that the United players so far have not been doing; players such as Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku and Alexis Sanchez need to improve and find form quickly if they want their club to progress within this illustrious tournament.

The draw also signals the return of the fan favourite Cristiano Ronaldo as his new side Juventus will travel to Old Trafford once more. Ronaldo, whom only this season moved to the Italian champions for just under £100 million will undoubtedly be excited about the prospect about returning to the club where his global domination began in front of the fans who still hold him close to their heart.

These fixtures could prove vital in the outcome of Jose Mourinho’s job and he will hope they will be a springboard for success and a catalyst of change for the Manchester club.

(Picture:www.skysports.com)

Jose Mourinho To Enter His Third Season At Manchester United: Is It Now Or Never?

In America right now Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are playing friendly games and slowly building up to the start of the 2018/2019 Premier League season.

United, Mourinho and their opponents, Leicester City, have the honour (if that is the right term because of television demands) to kick off the new season a day before all the other Premiership teams, on Friday 10th August 8: 00 pm at Old Trafford. Mourinho, however, does not come across at the moment as someone happy in his job and it could be argued there are extenuating circumstances for this.

Firstly for the first two friendly matches in America, the United squad was a mix of first team, reserves and youth players on the fringe of their careers. With some of Mourinho’s major players/ stars having extended late holidays after their excursions in the FIFA World Cup.

Secondly, with the transfer season in the UK closing the day before the Premiership season kicks-off, Thursday 9th August, there is a sense of urgency around strengthening the present United squad. However having already added three new recruits to the United roster you might think Mourinho would be happy. The new recruits it could be argued are hardly marquee signings destined to get the supporters pulses racing.

Of the three new men the Brazilian ‘Fred’ is the most high profile, but as he was an unused substitute for Brazil in the World Cup, his signing seems hardly overwhelming. He may in time fulfil the Michael Carrick role but as yet the jury must be out. Rumours persist of specific new signings destined to come to the club, the most interesting being the approaches for England’s centre-back Harry McGuire and Chelsea’s Willian, but as yet there is nothing concrete with either of these speculations. Given then the situation, in one sense Mourinho”s demeanour is very understandable, however, there is also the personal ‘X-factor’ to throw into the current situation.

On joining United from being sacked from Chelsea, Mourinho signed a three-year contract. As he enters his third season in charge he must be aware that there has to be a significant improvement in his results if he is to be around for the start the fourth season.

While finishing second last season, a marked improvement on his first season in the Premiership, United were still so far behind Manchester City it was little short of embarrassing. Add to that an inept display in the FA CUP Final at Wembley last May resulting in losing to his former club Chelsea, and it all meant a season of discontent and discomfort.

It must be argued that when Mourinho took over from Louise VanGaal the club was in a mess. Both Van Gall and the manager before him David Moyes had collaborated to knock the heart of the clubs attacking philosophy, known by many as the ‘United Way’.

Under Mourinho, there has been an undoubted improvement in style and results however United are still short in particular areas. Mourinho’s outbursts and criticisms about some United players have also not gone down well with lots of clubs supporters.

The stakes then for Mourinho, United and the coming Premiership challenge could not be higher, and to an extent are very much tied up to the next few days. If there are no new recruits then Mourinho will have to get more out of the squad than he did last season. If there are new recruits then Mourinho’s job will be to blend them into a more productive unit and hope that as far as the Premiership is concerned, United will be able to challenge Manchester City or the team which sits at the Premiership summit in a more exciting and consistent way.

jim@1211plussubs