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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.

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?

How Manchester United Could Lineup Next Season

Manchester United have undoubtedly had a perplexing season. Jose Mourinho has factually made progression, but has failed to play attractive football and pose a title challenge to Manchester City. These problems come from a lack of identity in the way Manchester United play. Heading into next season, it is vital Manchester United develop a set formation and a set way of playing.

Throughout the season, Jose Mourinho has mainly employed two different formations: the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1, although he has experimented with variants of a 3-4-1-2. Here we see the 4-2-3-1 and the 4-3-3.

 

Consistency in performance level and the quality of football have been lacking with these two formations. This stems from a multitude of different issues.

For one, this both these systems use very little width. Mata, Sanchez and Lingard are all wingers who like to cut inside, playing in central areas regardless of where they start.

Martial and Rashford have started periodically throughout the season, but neither provide natural sources of width on the left and their strengths do not necessarily lie in their ability to cross the ball.

Moreover, our full backs are aged ex-wingers who are on the decline and need to be replaced.

Another problem with both systems is how our two best outfield players, Pogba and Sanchez, constantly get in each other’s way on the left side of the pitch. With Sanchez showing a lack of discipline on the left hand side, Pogba is forced to go deep or go wide in order to make an impact.

Therefore, it’s crucial that we implement a system that can get the best out of Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez while also providing us width.

If we analyze the history of Jose Mourinho, he has predominantly used two formations in is career. He used a 4-2-3-1, which we have already seen at Manchester United, and a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield.

This is the formation that Mourinho used to conquer Europe with Porto, dominate England with Chelsea in his first tenure and with the treble with Inter. While he is an incredibly adaptable manager and used formations such as the 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1 at times, his staple was this 4-4-2 diamond.

In this picture, three changes have been made to the starting eleven: Andreas Pereira in midfield, Alex Sandro at left back and Timothy Fosu-Mensah at right back.

This formation, while not currently used in the Premier League, could give Manchester United several advantages.

One, it enables Pogba to play on the left side of a midfield three, giving him licence to make runs forward.

It also enables Sanchez to play centrally, the position most United fans think he should play.

Moreover, Martial and Rashford can play in their preferred position: as a central forward.

However, the one glaring problem with this formation is that is uses minimal width.

And with so many players who are good in the air; Lukaku, Rashford and Pogba to name a few, width and natural crosses are crucial and could unlock a whole new dimension to Manchester United’s attack.

 

 

 

But upon further analysis, we can see how this system can provide Manchester United with the width it needs.

In this picture, we can see how United can attack in possession using the 4-4-2 diamond.

With Lukaku leading the line and occupying the center backs, Martial can drift into the wide and half spaces on the left.

Sanchez can play more centrally and Pogba plays more advanced, and most importantly, Sandro can bomb forward and give us natural width on the left.

However, this causes an imbalance, as the attack is mainly focused on the left.

Therefore, Andreas Pereira will have to perform an unorthodox role in this system, occupying the wide spaces on the right when starting in midfield.

While this could be a midfield signing who can cross, such as Toni Kroos, the important thing is having some source of natural width on the right.

Fosu Mensah or an aged Antonio Valencia playing at right back is not a good source of width, and therefore, a midfielder needs to provide with in this system.

 

 

In addition, Nemanja Matic and Fosu Mensah will perform a crucial role in this system. With Sandro bursting forwards, teams can break fast through the expose left side. This would cause Matic to play more towards the left.

This leaves no players in the center circle area, leaving United somewhat exposed.

This poses a possible problem for this system, but, Fosu Mensah and Antonio Valencia are capable of playing as a defensive midfielder and could easily step into the midfield.

While the addition of Sandro and a midfielder to the lineup would aid in United’s success, the investment in a right back who can go forward could be the solution to United’s problems.

In this scenario, Herrera would play the same role as Matic, covering his full back while still remaining somewhat central.

With two sources of natural width in Sandro and Meunier, this system can be the answer for Manchester United’s identity crisis.

We can get the best out of our top class players while making use of the height of our team with two players who can cross the ball.

Additionally, signings such as Milinkovic Savic and Fabinho could easily be implemented in this system.

Other players in the squad like Lingard, Mata and Mctominay could also be used in this system quite easily.

This formation would take time to implement, as it is quite technical and the players are probably not used to it.

We would also need to invest in another central forward, which we are currently not linked with.

It’s also entirely possible that Mourinho will not believe this can work in the modern Premier League and will stick with a 4-3-3, which could work very well.

But judging from Mourinho’s past and the players we have at United, don’t be surprised if this is the system Mourinho uses to lead Manchester United to a Premier League title.

 

By: Vishnu Anandraj

 

Guardiola Above The Law While Mourinho Suffers

Pep Guardiola is the media’s darling. Exciting football, calm persona, managed some of the biggest clubs in the world and has been kind enough of to come and manage in England. What’s not to like?

Jose Mourinho on the other hand? Arrogant, rude, negative and someone the media thrive on antagonising and demeaning.

Is it right? Is it fair? Of course it isn’t. And Manchester City’s loss to Wigan in the FA Cup just emphasises that fact. Guardiola was petulant at best, acting aggressively on the touchline after Fabian Delph was quite rightly red carded, then continuing that aggression in the tunnel afterwards as he attempted to goad the Wigan manager. Will the FA take any action? It’s doubtful. Would they if it had been Jose Mourinho acting like that? Too right they would.

Mourinho has already been dealt with twice by the authorities in recent times. Once for kicking a water bottle, and twice for literally stepping out of line, as he encroached on the pitch from his technical area. So Mourinho could be forgiven for thinking he is treated differently to Guardiola. The issue is will it change?

Well in defence of Guardiola, whether he’s banned or the media are biased towards him or not it doesn’t change the fact that his team are 16 points clear of Manchester United and it’s only the middle of February. Guardiola, armed with an open chequebook it has to be said because the media won’t, has swept all before him in the league this season and as controller of that chequebook he deserves some credit.

The constant Pep lovein has reached nauseating levels throughout the last few months though. From as early as October we’ve had the media and pundits telling anyone who’s listened that this City side is the best the Premier League has ever produced, which is funny because in previous years we’ve all been well drilled in the saying that the best sides are judged in the runin between Christmas and May….

Of course anyone with a brain always knew this Man City side wasn’t close to being compared to the best of years gone by, and the prove has been in the pudding. This City won’t be “Invicibles” and they won’t be “Treble Winners”. And even if they do go on to win the Champions League, Premier League and League Cup, they’re still not as good as United’s 08 side – who would have been treble winners if it wasn’t for a dodgy referee in the FA Cup match against Bournemouth.

Man City are a decent side and Pep has done a good job. But the way the media hold him up like some sort of miracle worker is becoming tiresome and biased. Miracles happen when water is turned in to wine, miracles don’t happen when a manager is given an unlimited funds and wins the league. And it’s about time the media in general started acting a little bit more fairly with other clubs and viewers.

Why Ander Herrera is Man United’s Forgotten Man

Voted Manchester United’s player of the year last season, the fall from grace of Ander Herrera this season has been one that some Man United fans have found hard to fathom? Herrera has endured a mixed career at United, criminally underused by Van Gaal, to first name on the sheet for Mourinho last season, to forgotten man this season. So what’s gone wrong with Herrera? And why is he suddenly such a divisive figure amongst United fans?

The big positive with Herrera is he gets the importance of wearing a Manchester United shirt. In a sentence he gets what Manchester United is all about. Passion, intensity, drive and an appetite to win and play fast football. Herrera at his best is quick across the ground, hard in to the tackle, and has an eye for a defence splitting pass from deep. Not to mention a very good cross when he finds himself out wide on the right. Reading that back, he’s exactly what Manchester United currently need to complete a balanced midfield three with Pogba and Matic.

Jose Mourinho has been reluctant to use Herrera this season though. An ever present last season many predicted that the arrival of Matic would see United move to a more dynamic midfield three, with Pogba free to express his game on the left hand side, Matic holding things centrally from deep, and Herrera the tenacious box to box midfielder on the right with a bit of everything to his game. It’s a combination, that sat here in mid February with Mourinho’s midfield a laughing stock, makes total sense. The question is why has Mourinho ignored it for six months? Or more to the point, why has he ignored Herrera?

Amazingly, Herrera didn’t make his first Premier league start until mid September. Benched throughout the start of the campaign in August, Herrera went from Mourinho’s most trusted player to a bit part bench player. Mourinho wanted to utilise the now exposed and defunct 4231 formation and Matic and Pogba were the 2 Mourinho wanted to use. By the time Mourinho did turn to Herrera it was evident to everyone that Herrera was no longer the player of last season. The dynamism had given way to sluggishness and an odd reluctance to play a forward pass. In short Ander Herrera was no longer the player United fans loved.

With that came the usual, but somewhat unexpected and shortsighted, criticism of Herrera. “Sell him” “He’s useless” were just some of the comments flying around the United fan community, and a player that only a few short months ago had been fundamental to United’s season was suddenly on the scrapheap.

The question still remains why? What has caused Herrera to go from that exciting wears his heart on the sleeve player to one that looks lost on a football pitch? When you look back over the season, even when Pogba was out injured Mourinho regularly opted for Fellaini over Herrera. Limited Fellaini over Herrera who at his best optimises what United should be about! With Mourinho ignoring Herrera’s talents so consistently there can only be one conclusion. Over the summer something happened between Mourinho and Herrera that destroyed their great relationship of last season.

Some say Herrera wanted a move and Mourinho refused it. Others say it’s because Herrera won’t commit to a long term contract and is running it down so he can go for nothing. Both points would lean towards Mourinho being right and refusing to use a player who isn’t committed to the club. The only issue with that is that whenever Herrera has played for United it’s very clear that he loves the place and is totally committed. So what else could be the issue? Could it be as simple as Mourinho decided he wanted to go down a different direction? That he didn’t like the speed and dynamism of Herrera’s midfield play and he wanted taller more simple players like Matic and Fellaini in there? His selections over the season and introduction of another of those types of players in McTominay would add credence to that theory.

Whatever the reason, Herrera is no longer the player he was and that’s a big shame for Manchester United. A midfield three of Pogba, Matic and Herrera at his best would provide United with the perfect balance as they approach the most important part of their season.

Toni Kroos is Manchester United’s Number 1 Summer Target

Toni Kroos is Manchester United’s number one summer transfer target according to Miguel Delaney in the Independent.

There had been rumours circulating last week that Paul Pogba could leave Manchester United for Real Madrid in the summer, but contrary to those reports Mourinho apparently wants to bring Kroos to Old Trafford to play in a midfield three with Pogba and Matic, not to replace Pogba.

Mourinho has made it clear in the last few weeks that his priority this summer is a midfielder and has even gone as far as to say there will be no attacking additions, as he focuses solely on midfield and defence.

Kroos would be a stunning signing for Manchester United, considering he’s arguably one of the world’s top midfielders, at the peak of his powers playing for the world’s best side. However, United fans will also be weary of any transfer business involving Real Madrid due to their long held interest in David De Gea. Could United really expect to sign Kroos and retain De Gea?

What is undeniable is that a sea of change is coming to Real Madrid this summer. Whilst they may retain the Champions League and become the first club to win it three years in a row, there’s no escaping the embarrassment of effectively losing the La Liga title to Barcelona with half the season still to go. Madrid will busy in the transfer market this summer as they look to bounce back from that humiliation and Manchester United may see that as a chance to swoop in and sign Kross?

Whether they can or not remains to be seen. Don’t miss our three midfielders Manchester United must sign this summer video here

Mourinho’s BIG Obsession Continues To Fail

Jose Mourinho has an obsession with height. In Matic, Fellaini and McTominay he boasts the three tallest midfielders in the Premier League at 6 foot 4. And it doesn’t end there. Paul Pogba is 6 foot three, Michael Carrick 6 foot 2, and Ander Herrera is no shrinking violet at 6 foot. So why is Mourinho so obsessed with height and is it one of his biggest – pardon the pun – weaknesses?

The short answer – done it again – is yes. Such a strange height obsession is a weakness when the tactics implemented are for a club with the traditions of Manchester United. Manchester United are a club intrinsically linked with fast attacking football and whilst it may be stereotypical, tall players tend to be slow and not as good on the ball as their smaller counterparts.

In fairness, Paul Pogba is an exception to that rule. At 6 foot 3 he’s fast, athletic and displays brilliant close ball control that allows him to dribble and move the ball very quickly. In Paul Pogba, Mourinho has the perfect example of height and the required ability to implement whatever system he’s trying to inflict on Manchester United at the moment. A system that is still up for debate and confusion.

However, in Fellaini, Matic and McTominay, the three tallest midfielders in the league, Mourinho doesn’t have players who are fast or good on the ball. Good players in their own right, they don’t obviously fit the mantra of fast flowing football United fans want to see. Time and time again this season they are bypassed by smaller quicker players who can move the ball, and themselves, quickly between the midfield lines. Time and time again the ball from midfield to attack has been so pedestrian that by the time flair players like Martial and Sanchez get the ball they’re facing an opposition that isn’t stretched and has themselves well organised.

So why does Mourinho stick with this approach? What is the advantage of playing giant midfielders who slow down the play?

Physicality for one. Mourinho likes his team to be physical and there can be no doubting that Fellaini and Matic especially are more than capable of facing up to a physical contest. But what else do they bring? Aerial dominance? You’d think being the tallest midfielders in the league this would be their biggest asset and the sole reason Mourinho loves height so much. Weirdly it’s a false dawn.

Aerial dominance is what Mourinho appears to be going for with his midfielders but the areas this is utilised isn’t where Manchester United fans would even consider warming to this long ball approach – the oppositions penalty box. Manchester United rarely score from corners for one. So this height advantage Fellaini and Matic bring is redundant. Not to mention Pogba, Lukaku at 6 foot 3 and Chris Smalling at 6 foot 4. It’s bordering on inept that Manchester United have such a massive – done it again – height advantage yet they’re so poor at scoring headers.

So if Mourinho is picking all this height and it’s not for scoring goals what’s it for? You got it! Defence.

Mourinho loves the defensive side of football. And with tall midfielders stood in front of his tall centre backs he knows that any team that wants to throw longs balls in to his box is going to struggle to make an impact. Which in theory totally nullifies a way the opposition can attack his team. Of course it totally blunts Manchester United’s midfield as a fast dynamic midfield but when your focus is on not conceding goals fast attacking footballing isn’t the priority.

So there you have it! Mourinho’s height obsession explained. Is it one you agree with? Is it actually that effective? Join the discussion on our YouTube channel where we discuss more about United’s current style of play and whether Mourinho will ever change