Tag Archives: Manchester City

Mourinho out? Here we go again…

Immediately following last night’s defeat to Sevilla I turned my phone off. Not because I was a sore loser. Not because I was sulking. I knew we got what we deserved. The two legs were terrible, devoid of anything resembling the so-called United way. No, I turned my phone off because I knew I would be tempted to go on Twitter, see the usual ‘Mourinho out’ brigade and end up in an argument I didn’t want to be in.

Even after watching that performance last night, the thought of Mourinho leaving Old Trafford is one that wasn’t even close to entering my mind. To jump on that bandwagon would see me as a hypocrite, as a man who has constantly backed our manager. Unless things drastically change, you will not see me calling for Mourinho’s head. Why? Because I’m a realist.

My thoughts on those calling for his head are simple. Are their memories so short-sighted that they do not remember the dross that was served up under David Moyes and Louis Van Gaal? Do they not remember that LVG famously stated how he had guided us back into the Champions League after Moyes’ failure, only to see us crash out of the competition at the group stage? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Mourinho inherited the worst Manchester United squad of recent times.

Fixing this squad was never going to be a quick fix. Before anyone jumps on the hundreds of millions that have been spent, it was always going to take more. In a market where strikers now cost £150 million and defenders cost £75 million, the amount of money spent is almost irrelevant. £80 million for a player these days is what £30 million would have bought you less than five years ago.

The Manchester City comparison is always going to be at the forefront, particularly because of the dominant nature in which they will storm to the Premier League title this season. Guardiola has also spent an astronomical amount of money but it is true that he inherited a better squad than what Mourinho did at United. However, what scrutinises Mourinho’s position further is that, whether we care to admit it or not, Guardiola has City playing in the way in which us fans want to see our club play.

 

 

Whichever way Mourinho is criticised, there is no getting away from the fact that United under him have improved. Sixth last season, five points clear in second this. Try and disguise it all you want, but progress is progress. The former Chelsea manager stated he wanted to win the Premier League within three seasons. That target is still more than achievable, and his record at other clubs, for me, confirms that he is still the best man in the job to do this.

Some are saying that his comments after the defeat last night were unacceptable. Listen to them back now that the adrenaline has subsided. Was it that bad? What he said was factual. United are used to crashing out of the Champions League. Fergie ‘only’ won it twice. The great man himself will be the first to admit that he should have won it many more times. Mourinho did knock us out twice, and losing to that Porto side was unacceptable, whether they went on to win the competition or not.

Last night was horrific, but it was under Fergie at times. Many will point to those classic nights in Barcelona and Moscow but who remembers going out at the Group Stage in a group that contained Benfica, FC Basel and Otelul Galati in 2011. Did we call for his head then? Of course we didn’t.

Guardiola represented our chance to grab a manager who would play in the way the fans want to see. We didn’t take it, opting instead for blind faith in LVG. Mourinho was the next best option, still perhaps the best option given his track record in the Premier League with Chelsea.

Ashley Young watches on as Sevilla take the lead (pic: gettyimages)

My response to the Mourinho out comments every time I see them is always the same. If not Mourinho, who?

Usually this argument lands at the feet of either Mauricio Pochettino or Carlo Ancelotti. Ancelotti I can kind of understand. Premier League winning experience, various trophy-laden seasons across the continent, including three unrivalled Champions League wins, and currently out of work. However, would it be anymore of an upgrade to a manager that also has Premier League winning experience and multiple trophies across Europe.

The Pochettino argument I really struggle with. Yes, he is a manager which plays an exciting brand of football, but at what cost? Mourinho is being rightly chastised for his team selection against Sevilla and how wrong he got it tactically. Rewind one week when the exact same scenario panned out at Wembley. Tottenham 3-2 up on aggregate three quarters of the way through a two-legged tie against Juventus. Instead of shutting shop, the Argentine manager pressed for a fourth, instead conceded two and lost the tie.

Mourinho gets it wrong and crashes out of Europe…sack him. Pochettino does the same…hire him. Get your heads around that one. And, remember, Pochittino famously guided Spurs to a third place Premier League position when they were in a two horse race for the title.

My suggestion for the Mourinho out brigade, be very careful what you wish for. Slowly but surely, he is starting to rebuild our club. It isn’t pretty, but rebuilding it he is. 65 points last season at this stage would have had us in a title race, and then who would be complaining?

Sanchez deal is a straight swap for Mkhitaryan – No fees included

Manchester United are negotiating a straight swap with fellow Premier League side Arsenal for Chilean superstar Alexis Sanchez, which would see Henrikh Mkhitaryan move to the Emirates, according to a report on Sky Sports.

The Red Devils have been working on a deal for Sanchez for several days now but it has now come to light that there will be no transfer fee included in the negotiations.

Arsenal initially had an asking price of around £30m for Sanchez but with Mkhitaryan being added to the deal, that fee has been scrapped.

Manchester City dropped their interest in the winger as it would cost the club too much, but the fact that United are close to signing him without any transfer fee at all shows that the deal may not be as costly as expected.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be on his way to Arsenal. (image: Skysports.com)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be on his way to Arsenal. (image: Skysports.com)

Arsenal want to offload Sanchez this month or else they will lose him for free in the summer and Arsene Wenger looks like he is going to be getting a very good deal if Mkhitaryan agrees to join the Gunners.

Mkhitaryan hasn’t hit the heights with United as he did for Borussia Dortmund which saw him win the Bundesliga Player of the Year, but he will get another chance to prove himself in the English top flight.

The Armenian, on his day, can be unplayable, as United saw at the beginning of this campaign when he was picking open opposition defences comfortably.

The Gunners are now negotiating personal terms with Mkhitaryan and if he agrees, then Sanchez will be given the green light to make the move to Old Trafford.

Signing Alexis Sanchez would be a real signal of intent from United and with the gap at the top of the Premier League cut down to 12 points, the Red Devils will feel confident of piling the pressure on for the title before the end of the season.

Three ways United can exploit City

Manchester United take on rivals Manchester City in the Premier League on Sunday at Old Trafford, with the Red Devils knowing that a win will take them only five points behind Pep Guardiola’s men.

City have looked vulnerable in recent weeks, but have continued to pick up crucial wins. Huddersfield Town, Southampton and West Ham United were all unlucky not to gain anything against City but those matches are a source of encouragement for Jose Mourinho.

City showed elements of weakness in those games and if United target these certain areas, then the three points could be won.

1) Set Pieces

It is a well known fact that Manchester City aren’t the best at defending set-pieces and have looked extremely shaky when opposition sides put balls into the box.

United need to have immaculate set-piece deliveries on Sunday and can’t afford any corners or free-kicks failing to beat the first man. Getting a corner against City will be hard enough so when the opportunity arises, the delivery has to be accurate.

Chris Smalling rising to head the ball from a set-piece. (picture: dailymail.co.uk)
Chris Smalling rising to head the ball from a set-piece. (picture: dailymail.co.uk)

Also, besides Vincent Kompany, City don’t have the biggest players, which automatically gives us an advantage. The likes of Chris Smalling, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku should all feel confident in the air going into this game and of course, there is Marouane Fellaini and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who can also be a nuisance in the air.

City conceded from corners against Huddersfield and West Ham, so it’s their obvious weak spot.

2) Attack their left-side of defence

Losing Benjamin Mendy was a real blow for City. Fabian Delph has covered into the left-back position but when he has come up against good wingers, he’s looked vulnerable. Danilo is also an option to start, but he has struggled to settle in since he moved to City.

Lingard wheels away to celebrate after scoring against Watford. (picture: dailymail.co.uk)
Lingard wheels away to celebrate after scoring against Watford. (picture: dailymail.co.uk)

The likes of Jesse Lingard and Romelu Lukaku need to peel away onto Delph (or Danilo) and run directly at him to get him on the back foot. Lingard should be confident of beating Delph with ease.

Also, Leroy Sane doesn’t have the best record of tracking back and helping out his full-back so if United try to attack down City’s left as much as possible, it could open up an opportunity to score.

3) Nullify De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne has the keys to unlock every defence in the Premier League. However, take him out of the picture and City will have a huge creative hole in their side.

United need Ander Herrera or Nemanja Matic to follow the Belgian everywhere he goes. Herrera may be better suited as he has already done the same job on Eden Hazard last season.

Ander Herrera may have a tough task of man-marking Kevin De Bruyne. (picture: football whispers.com)
Ander Herrera may have a tough task of man-marking Kevin De Bruyne. (picture: football whispers.com)

De Bruyne has eight assists in the league but without his creativity, City will find it hard to give service to their strikers and wingers, who thrive off his through balls.

Keep him quiet, which is easier said than done, then we have a great chance of inflicting a first defeat of the season on City.

 

What do you think? How do you think is the best way to exploit City?

Leave a comment below or get in touch on social media!

How close are Manchester United to Premier League glory?

Manchester United enjoyed a successful pre-season over the course of July and the beginning of August. They managed to claim six wins out of seven despite coming up against the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Manchester City. More importantly though, they managed to create good chances and finish them off (including an excellent counter-attack against Sampdoria).

One of the main problems last season was killing teams off. This problem seems to have been sorted though with the arrival of Romelu Lukaku. The extra years experience that Rashford has gained also looks to be paying off as he looked sharp throughout the summer and will hopefully contribute more goals this term. Furthermore, the signing of Nemanja Matic makes players like Pogba and Mkhitaryan more confident knowing that they have defensive cover. This allows them to get further up the pitch.

With one problem solved, what else do Manchester United need to do to lift the league title? Well, while a marquee signing such as Gareth Bale would certainly help them towards success, balance down the left hand side of the pitch is crucial. This is what sparked Mourinho’s interest in Inter’s Ivan Perisic. However, as the transfer window rumbles on, chances of Manchester United getting their key target are fading. Therefore, United may need to look elsewhere for a player capable of filling the left wing-back role. Someone like Alex Sandro, perhaps?

Apart from the need of balance, United look to be heading into the new season feeling fairly confident and looking a lot more dangerous. There is also reason to believe that United are more prepared than their biggest Premier League rivals this term. If we look at Liverpool’s pre-season preparation, then yes, they may have won a trophy, but are they stronger than last season? While they have made the same amount of signings as Manchester United, the signings aren’t quite on the same level. Furthermore, if Coutinho does leave for Barcelona then they will be significantly weaker than last year.

Additionally, Arsenal have signed Lacazette, a striker that previously played in the top French division, Ligue 1. The former Lyon player will also need time to adjust to the demands and physicality of the Premier League. Then, there’s Chelsea, who will need to juggle Champions League and Premier League this term, and there are question marks over whether their squad has the depth to handle both. Tottenham Hotspur are also slightly weaker than last season. This is due to the loss of Kyle Walker to Manchester City and the fact that they haven’t made any signings as of yet. Then, lastly, there’s Manchester city who have spent huge money on trying to fix their defence. Whether this has worked remains to be seen, but all signings will need time to get onto the same level as one another.

So compared to Manchester United’s rivals, they are not as far away from Premier League glory as some may think.

What are your thoughts? Do you think Manchester United can return to Premier League glory this year? Share your opinion in the comments below or with The United Stand on Twitter!

Derby day draw – Match report and analysis

Marouane Fellaini received a straight red card for a headbutt on Sergio Aguero as Manchester United defended resolutely to earn a point in a disappointing goal-less Manchester Derby at the Etihad stadium.

The Belgian midfielder had a minute to forget as he received a yellow card for fouling Aguero. Seconds later, he fouled the striker again who got up in anger and squared up to Fellaini, who lost his cool and pushed his head into the Argentinian. Martin Atkinson had no choice but to show a straight red card with six minutes remaining.

Marouane Fellaini sent off for headbutt on Aguero. (picture: the guardian.com)
Marouane Fellaini sent off for headbutt on Aguero. (picture: the guardian.com)

City created the first clear cut chance of the game as Aguero hit the outside of the post from four yards out. United could have taken the lead as Claudio Bravo was typically hesitant at dealing with a looping ball and slapped it into the path of Armenian Mkhitaryan, who fired straight into the grateful arms of the keeper.

The best chance of the game fell to the unmarked Ander Herrera who directed his header wide of the post from an in-swinging delivery from the lively Marcus Rashford.

Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the net with a couple of minutes remaining only for the linesman to put his flag up for offside. City hardly tested United goalkeeper De Gea as the Reds move to 24 games unbeaten in the Premier League.

United remain fifth, one point behind City and two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand.

Post-match reaction

United boss Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports: “We wanted to do more in terms of attacking and to explore more of the counter attack. In the first half we had good control but the second became more difficult. We had to make a decision to play for the draw and had to fight hard to take a point.

“I didn’t watch the Fellaini incident on TV but I spoke with Fellaini. I guess it’s a bit of a red card and a bit of a very smart, very experienced Argentinian player.”

Manchester United captain Michael Carrick on Sky Sports: “It’s a point gained. We thought we could catch City on the break and we did have a couple of chances. It makes things more difficult when you go down to 10 men.”

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola on BBC Sport: “I am satisfied. I know how difficult it is to play against Manchester United. Every game until the last game now will be a final.”

Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany on Sky Sports: “We got a point. It’s not bad but we never felt like the game was difficult. Rashford and Martial have so much ability and such a bright future ahead. They are lightning quick and with a bit more experience can cause a lot more trouble.”

Analysis

United will feel that decisions went against them from referee Atkinson, as Mkhitaryan and Rashford were fouled cynically by Fernandinho and Otamendi, who both escaped without a yellow card. Herrera was also angered by a fierce challenge from Fernandinho, who surprisingly went into the interval without a booking.

It seemed to be a City tactic to disrupt the runs of Rashford off the ball, with many instances of shirt pulling going unseen by the officials. Rashford was constantly in the ear of Atkinson telling him to keep an eye out for challenges off the ball but the referee didn’t seem to spot anything.

Anthony Martial was also on the receiving end of an off the ball foul from Kompany and the tactic was hugely frustrating for the United attackers.

The red card for Fellaini is a difficult one. The Belgian does lean his head into Aguero and makes contact, and as Jose said it was very clever from the striker to get Fellaini to react. I think it was a red card and it was in the heat of the moment but we showed that defensively, we can get the job done.

Mourinho started Rashford out wide, but throughout the half the front three of United kept rotating positions. This was disrupting the City defence and it ultimately led to United’s first half chance of the game as Rashford got beyond Kolarov and laid the ball off to Herrera, who curled the ball towards the back post which Zabaleta had to turn behind for a corner. City had been given their first warning sign.

They didn’t learn and were nearly punished when Rashford outpaced Otamendi to the ball and was racing through only for the defender to get a crucial touch on the ball to send it out for a corner kick.

The interchanging of the United attackers kept the City defenders guessing and also helped out the United fullbacks defensively. Each player was taking turns in the wide role to track the attacking City fullbacks whilst the centre forward would get somewhat of a breather. The tactic worked well as United shut off the supply lines from wide areas which restricted City’s chances of scoring.

It was clear to see that United were missing the presence of Paul Pogba in midfield as we could hardly string together 10 passes in the second half. The Frenchman would have added flair in the midfield and given us more in an attacking sense. The front three put a really good shift in and their attitude was spot on throughout the game.

Pep Guardiola showed that he trusts Claudio Bravo by selecting him to start in goal but the Chilean made an absolute howler which nearly resulted in a United goal. It seemed like a deflected cross would be a routine catch for Bravo, who instead flapped the ball straight into the path of Mkhitaryan, but the Armenian fired straight into the arms of the relieved Chilean.

Ander herrera wastes a brilliant opportunity by heading wide. (picture: the guardian.com)
Ander herrera wastes a brilliant opportunity by heading wide. (picture: the guardian.com)

City had majority of the possession but could not find a way through United’s solid backline. They were limited to long range efforts which were comfortable for David De Gea. Even in the absence of Rojo, Smalling and Jones, United were solid at the back with Daley Blind fitting in perfectly at centre back.

Overall, the result keeps us in the hunt for a top 4 position, with a win in our game in hand taking us above Liverpool. United face Swansea next at Old Trafford this Sunday in a must win game.

Your thoughts

What did you think of the game? A point gained or two points dropped?

Did Fellaini deserve the red card?

Let us know by leaving a comment below, or by tweeting us @UnitedStandMUFC or my personal account @AbzMulla6.

 

 

Blog: We must not paper over the cracks

It was a big week for United last week which turned out to be a mixed week in terms of results and performances. We took on Liverpool in the second leg of the Europa League round of 16, in which we needed to turn around a 2-0 deficit and then of course there was the highly anticipated Manchester Derby at the “Emptyhad” – although it was pretty full for this game.

It was a week that was important and a week that had the potential to either keep United’s season alive or totally destroy it and I have to be honest, I wasn’t particularly psyched for either game and that is purely down to the football we have been subjected to and the managers team selections. All season we have seen unfathomable team selections and severely mundane football, so you can forgive me for not being enthusiastic, despite who our opponents were and our recent record against the better teams.

The result against Liverpool came as no surprise to me, especially after seeing Fellaini had been picked and that Schweinsteiger and Schneiderlin in particular, were left on the bench. I knew that with the Belgian playing that it would be like playing with 10 men and that we would struggle.

The game itself didn’t turn out as bad as I thought it would be though, however we did lack the desire and passion that you would expect from a Manchester United V Liverpool match. The performance was toothless and I failed to see any real passion or fight on the pitch. This was not acceptable in such a huge game on the Football calendar.

Philippe Coutinho breezes past Carrick and Blind (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Philippe Coutinho breezes past Carrick and Blind (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

Then of course there were the defensive substitutions; two full backs and a defensive midfielder. In a game where you are chasing three goals, you make attacking changes, right? I know I’m no manager, but come on. Memphis was on the bench so why was he not used? As we have witnessed recently, he is that player who can produce something special. At the very least, he would have added some pace and strength in our attack.

Following the draw against Liverpool at Old Trafford came the victory in the Manchester derby at the Etihad. Again, I could not get excited during the few days building up to this match like I normally would for such a big game. Sure, City were also on a run of substandard form, but United have been so much worse. My hope was lifted a little, however, when I saw that Fellaini wasn’t starting. I liked the prospect of Carrick and Schneiderlin starting with Mata in the number 10 role. Mata hasn’t really been a standout player in recent weeks with goals and assists, but more often than not he is involved in the build up to goals… when we actually score them!

Rashford squares up to Demichelis in the Manchester derby (Picture: mirror.co.uk)
Rashford squares up to Demichelis in the Manchester derby (Picture: mirror.co.uk)

The team selection without Fellaini paid off. It felt like we had another option in midfield. I can’t help but believe that if Fellaini had played it would have been Schneiderlin who would have been left on the bench and Schneiderlin played a role in the build up to the only goal of the game. He and Mata linked up in the midfield then Mata threaded the ball through to Marcus Rashford. The youngster then skipped past an ageing Demichelis and slotted the ball past the England number 1, Joe Hart.

Winning this game gave United yet another glimmer of hope in finishing in the top four, with City – who currently sit fourth – now only one point ahead, although the remaining games each of the top 5/6 teams has tends to suggest that we may struggle to get that top four spot.

What can we take from the two matches?

If we are to take any positives from this week is has to be that with Marcus Rashford in the team our attack looks so much better with added pace, strength and of course, goals! All we need now is for Memphis to start firing and we can be a lethal attacking force again.

Michael Carrick also had two great games this week. His defensive contribution has been vital and his passing ability to instigate attacking moves has been admirable. And let’s not forget Smalling, Blind and de Gea. This trio have been excellent not just in the last week, but all season and are without doubt the reason we are not flirting around mid-table.

Paul’s final thought

We may all be happy that we have beaten City at the Etihad but we simply cannot forget the horror show we were subjected to over the two legs against Liverpool in the Europa League. The performance was disgusting and completely unacceptable against such big rivals. We must not allow ourselves to use the odd victory, like the one over City, to paper over the cracks of our poor season. As fans, some of us are slipping into that frame of mind where we are beginning to accept mediocrity. I have seen it on social media and I am guilty of it myself. This simply cannot happen.

Thank you for reading and enjoy the international break… Who am I kidding? No one enjoys it!

Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City | Match Report

A goalless draw was the result of a somewhat entertaining Manchester derby. The crowd was electric, strong challenges were aplenty but it lacked that killer finish.

The first half of the match was even in terms of ball possession but very few chances were created; none in fact for Manchester United.

Manchester City carved out a couple of chances with former Liverpool player Raheem sterling finding a shooting opportunity on 11 minutes but his shot was blocked. Yaya Toure also had a couple of chances late on in the half when he beat Morgan Schneiderlin in the air to head just wide from a corner and scuffing a shot over the bar from an early Kevin De Bruyne cross.

Antonio Valencia gave Alexander Kolarov a hard time down the right but failed to find a decent cross and Marcos Rojo kept De Bryune quiet with some great defending.

Both teams played good, quick football throughout the first half which kept the fans on both sides at full voice. You might say that the battle in the stands was at times more fierce than that on the pitch!

The second half was a different story. Manchester United came out and controlled the game. City struggled to gain any rhythm with United pressing very well.

Anthony Martial created lot’s of problems for City down the left with his winding runs leaving defenders wondering what just happened.

Manchester United, with all their possession, were able to create a few chances in the second half. But they were, frustratingly, not able to convert any of them.

The first came on 49 minutes when Juan Mata saw his shot blocked, then less than a minute later, Chris Smalling came close, heading a Juan Mata corner back across goal and narrowly wide.

United continued to be patient, keeping possession, but had to wait until the 83rd minute before their next big chance.

On 83 minutes, Anthony Martial, from outside the City box, scooped a ball over the top to Jesse Lingard who then jumped and flicked the looping ball up and over Joe Hart only to watch it bounce off the cross bar.

United’s last big chance came in the 87th minute when a lofted Ander Herrera free kick was headed down by Fellaini into the path of Chris Smalling. Smalling managed to get a shot off but a full stretch Joe Hart was able to tip the ball around the bottom left post.

Despite the lack of goals the match was an entertaining one. Gripping at times when it looked like United were on a break. The fans of both clubs created a fantastic atmosphere from start to finish.

Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo had great games at the back and Anthony Martial once again looked dangerous with the ball at his feet. It is definitely safe to say that at the final whistle, it was Manchester United who were the more disappointed of both clubs.

With all the top 6 having played 10 games, Mancester United now sit 4th; level on points with 3rd placed West Ham United and two points behind leaders Manchester City and second placed Arsenal.

League table showing Manchester United's current position
Premier League table (Source: BBC Football)

What did you think of the game? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

You can also watch the Manchester United V Manchester City match reaction on The United Stand’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Please also visit The United Stand Fan Forum here to join the post match discussion.

Manchester United Team Sheet

de Gea
A Valencia (Darmian – 81′)
Jones
Smalling
Rojo
Schneiderlin
Schweinsteiger (Fellaini – 75′)
Mata (Lingard – 67′)
Herrera
Martial
Rooney

Substitutes

Depay
Carrick
Blind
Romero
Fellaini
Lingard
Darmian

Manchester City Team Sheet

Hart
Sagna
Kompany
Otamendi
Kolarov
Fernando
Fernandinho
De Bruyne
Y Touré (Demichelis – 77′)
Sterling (Jesús Navas – 55′)
Bony (Iheanacho – 83′)

Substitutes

Zabaleta
Caballero
Jesús Navas
Mangala
Demichelis
Roberts
Iheanacho