One Point From Three Games For United? Surely Not...

Manchester United going into September's international break winless would have been unthinkable a month ago. Plus, the promoted clubs need to start running soon...

Last Updated: 29/08/14 at 13:27 Post Comment

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Louis Van Gaal
"It's very important that there is a click between the players and the manager. For me the challenge is first and not fourth, but when you analyse it it's about the click" - Louis van Gaal, July 17.

"Every club where I have been, I've struggled for the first three months. After that, they [the players] know what I want - how I am as a human being and also a manager, because I am very direct. I say things as they are, so you have to adapt to that way of coaching. It's not so easy" - Louis van Gaal, July 29.

"They have to believe in our philosophy. We are building up a team and you cannot make (it) in one month, not in one year. Of course it's very disappointing but I hope they shall maintain their confidence in the club and in our philosophy because that philosophy takes time" - Louis van Gaal, August 26.

"LVG will get it right. We may have to wait. It was 26 years last time so two, three, four or five years is nothing" - Gary Neville, August 27.

Although Neville understandably doesn't speak for the Manchester United manager, there is an interesting expectation drift as to how long it will take Van Gaal to repair the mess left by a variety of different individuals, each passing setback causing another hit to the realism of perceived expectations.

It is inevitable that Manchester United fans will have patience with Van Gaal. Unlike his predecessor, they have an evidence base that the Dutchman can and will turn things around.

However, whatever the insistence that time will heal these United wounds, the results thus far have been unacceptable. Very few supporters would have expected to go into September's international break without a single victory in matches against Swansea, Sunderland, MK Dons and Burnley - only three points at Turf Moor can avoid such an unlikely embarrassment.


Angel Di Maria
Had Angel Di Maria caught a glimpse of the tabloids this week, he may well have cursed his first name. The problem with being called Angel, costing £60m and arriving at a club in the throes of disorder and disarray is that you will tend to be automatically labelled as the saviour.

Winger and central midfielder. Creator, passer and dribbler. Pace, guile, poise and stamina. Di Maria, it is hoped, will be all things to all men at Manchester United - depending on the signings of the next few days he may well need to be. Best of luck.


The Promoted Clubs
With eyes presumably firmly focused on Premier League survival, perhaps it was little surprise that Sean Dyche, Harry Redknapp and Nigel Pearson opted to rest first-team players in the Capital One Cup, but with an international break looming on horizon (in which these three clubs will be less affected than most) it proved to be a risk not worth taking. All three clubs lost to lower league opposition - Burton, Shrewsbury and Sheffield Wednesday a combined 117 places lower on the Football League ladder than their now top flight opposition.

The league table doesn't make for pretty reading, either, even at this embryonic stage. QPR, Burnley and Leicester have taken just a single point from their six games and, whilst Leicester impressed against both Everton and Chelsea, their fellow promoted peers occupy the bottom two spots in the table.

For Dyche, the frustration is that he is being hamstrung by the lack of ambition demonstrated by the club. "It's a tough challenge still," he told the Burnley Express. "The club have made it clear there are certain guidelines I have to work within, and that's part of my role. We have to flex our improved financial muscle accordingly but of course, in the Premier League, there is a reality to things. We have to build a club and a team."

At QPR, Harry Redknapp has no excuses over a lack of investment, but still managed to make an alternative. "We only had 13 senior players at the start of pre-season, we needed to bring some new faces in quickly and we've done that well. I suppose the only way is up now," Harry claimed following defeat at Spurs. The actual number is 22, and QPR have brought in six players at a cost of £22m. A bizarre commitment to Glenn Hoddle's 3-5-2 (despite having slow defenders) seems a more logical reason for the current strife.

Leicester will feel hard done to regarding their inclusion in this list, but defeat at Stamford Bridge showed the vital importance of being clinical in the Premier League, with both Riyad Mahrez and David Nugent missing opportunities to give Pearson's side the lead. A home game against Arsenal provides an opportunity for redemption against a side with far loftier ambitions.

History shows that Premier League victories for promoted clubs are easier when in their infancy, with fatigue and a lack of squad depth having a greater impact as the season continues. It's time to start getting points on the board.


Liverpool
The debate over the impact of Luis Suarez's departure remains largely meaningless: He was good, really f**king good, and now he's gone. Of course Liverpool will miss him, but to what extent depends not now on Suarez's qualities but how Liverpool respond.

It would be difficult to conclude that it has started well. A nervy, edgy victory over Southampton on the opening weekend was followed by a comprehensive defeat at the Etihad, despite Liverpool impressing during the first half. New signings Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno were both at fault for the goals conceded, with Simon Mignolet fail to cover himself in any notable glory either - despite spending £62m on his defence since the beginning of last summer, there is a sense that nothing seems to improve for Rodgers in that area.

Rodgers, as ever, remains gloriously buoyant. Speaking after the defeat to City, he reminded the interviewer that Liverpool had picked more points from City (a) and Southampton (h) than they did last season. "We're three points closer," was his tongue-in-cheek claim, but the Liverpool manager will appreciate the importance of a trip to White Hart Lane on Sunday, even by his own 'comparing to last year' argument: Liverpool beat Spurs by an aggregate score of 9-0 last season,

The 5-0 victory in North London in December spelled the end of Andre Villas-Boas' tenure. Going into the match, Liverpool's away league record had read P7, W2, D3, L2 - it was not the form of title challengers.

Before that day, Liverpool had scored four against West Ham, Fulham and West Brom and five against Norwich. The crushing win against a top four rival felt like a line in the sand, a proof to themselves (and everyone else) that they could go far beyond pre-season expectation.

Now proof is needed all over again. Defeat at Spurs would squeeze the breathe out of Liverpool's hope. After just three games, it would make last season feel like a flash in the pan, a fond but distant memory rather that a foundation to be built upon.


Samuel Eto'o And Romelu Lukaku
Everton's first league match after the establishment of two former Chelsea forwards as a strike partnership at Goodison comes against their former employers. What could be nicer than an intriguing coincidence.

Both Eto'o and Lukaku have played down talk of past rifts with Jose Mourinho since leaving Stamford Bridge, but there is little doubt of Saturday's agenda: It's time to prove Jose wrong.


Andre Schurrle And Didier Drogba
The reported news that Chelsea supporters least wanted to hear, as Diego Costa suffered a muscle injury in training that threatens to rule him out for up to six weeks. The exact severity of the strain has not yet been revealed by Chelsea (and could have been overplayed by media reports) but Costa's participation against Everton must surely be in doubt.

With that in mind, and particularly given the strikers Chelsea will face at Goodison on Saturday, the pressure is on Andre Schurrle or Didier Drogba to replace the Spaniard after his imposing start to Premier League life. After a poor display against Leicester by Schurrle (albeit in a wide right role) and 16 minutes of football for Drogba since his return, this is an altogether unideal scenario manufactured entirely by Chelsea's manager: It's time to prove Jose right.


Southampton
I still think Southampton will be absolutely fine, but a hugely encouraging performance at Anfield was undermined by a limp display against West Brom in which the Saints registered just two shots on target.

A trip to West Ham provides a tough test of Ronald Koeman's new look side - these are the matches that will define how low expectations should fall after the summer sale.


Spurs
The summer accusation that Liverpool were 'doing a Spurs' is being turned on its head - Spurs supporters may be daring to dream that a replication of Liverpool's almost instant rise of last season is possible. The F365 Mailbox on Monday morning was quiet, Tottenham fans presumably desperate to keep their hand over their mouths for fear of speaking too early, but by the afternoon that had been rectified. "We're not getting excited yet, but..." was the confession. It's amazing what a thrashing of a Harry Redknapp side can do.

This reaction actually says a great deal about the stunted ambitions that Spurs fans have learned to hold over their club's prospects. Fixtures such as West Ham (a) and QPR (h) are simple notches on a bedpost for a side expectant of Champions League qualification, victories to be chalked off rather than celebrated, however handsome the win.

On Sunday, Mauricio Pochettino's new start at White Hart Lane will be truly tested, with Liverpool arriving with Mario Balotelli in tow, keen to make amends for their defeat to the champions.

One thing is sure: for the first time in close to a year there is a feeling of genuine optimism around Tottenham. If the supporting trio of Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli can continue to flourish, there is little reason for Spurs to be apprehensive about facing an opponent that finished four places and 15 points ahead of them last season, scoring 46 more goals.


Neil Warnock
A top flight managerial record that reads as 24 wins and 95 points in exactly 100 matches, both of Warnock's full seasons in the top tier have ended in relegation. The more startling fact is this: After 34 years in management, this is the first time he has been appointed by a club in the top division.

If there was a division in between the Premier League and Championship you feel that Warnock would thrive (along with Mick McCarthy and Ian Holloway) but there must be serious doubts about his aptitude for a role that he left in 2010 (albeit under significant financial pressure), only recruited after the unacceptable actions of first-choice Malky Mackay.

Warnock's bid for survival (because that is surely now what Palace face) begins at St James' Park.


Paul Lambert
Paul Lambert claimed on Monday that the "feel-good factor" had returned to Villa Park this season after Aston Villa had taken four points from their opening two games, and his side will have gained 18% of their total tally from last season should they beat Hull on Saturday.

Whilst fans will be undoubtedly be boosted by their mini unbeaten league record, it would only be right to offer the other side of this particular coin. On Tuesday, Villa lost at home to League One Leyton Orient and registered one shot on target in the entire match. Four days previously they faced Newcastle, and failed to have a single effort on goal in the match, drawing 0-0. On the opening day they beat Stoke 1-0, again with their only shot on goal. Two shots on target in 270 minutes, and one goal.

It might sound churlish to say, but supporters' biggest concern over Lambert is the tedious dross served up for supporters, particularly at home. Perhaps beggars cannot be choosers, but if Villa could win whilst also offering a modicum of excitement to those watching, a "feel-good factor" may indeed return.

Daniel Storey - Follow him on Twitter

"This reaction actually says a great deal about the stunted ambitions that Spurs fans have learned to hold over their club's prospects. Fixtures such as West Ham (a) and QPR (h) are simple notches on a bedpost for a side expectant ....." If we beat Burnley this weekend I'm going to party likes its 1999.
- albistonsarmy

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put Ince in my fantasy football team, so it's no surprise at all really. I do that to players. Also responsible for De Jong and Upson being injured. Think I'll transfer in Di Maria just to ruin United....

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F365's Top Ten Surprise Strugglers

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ovren? £20m always seemed a touch on the expensive side, but I wasn't expecting him to be quite such a waste of money

stevenjameshyde
F365's Top Ten Surprise Strugglers

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alf of our players have the physical presence of a 14 year old girl. I don't know why people are always shocked that they're injured.

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