Neil v Neil
Mediawatch is astonished to find that Jose Mourinho offering red wine to opposition managers has not magically transformed Manchester United’s fortunes this season; The Sun’s Neil Custis claimed that was a major factor as ‘Jose Mourinho has turned Manchester United around to become the force of old in just three months’ and we believed him. After all, the newly slim Custis definitely had no reason to excessively praise the successor to Louis van Gaal.
Another way that Mourinho has ‘turned Manchester United around to become the force of old in just three months’? ‘COMMUNICATION’, apparently.
‘Jose has brought a personal touch that Ferguson had and Van Gaal lacked,’ wrote Custis. ‘His animated presence in the technical area has also been welcome, compared to the days of LVG just clutching his clipboard.’
How does that sit with Neil Ashton’s back-page claim in The Sun that ‘JOSE MOURINHO faces a fight to win back Manchester United’s dressing room after the latest public attack on his players’, who were particularly angry at Mourinho’s ‘public shaming on the touchline’ of Luke Shaw?
Either a whole lot has changed in just two weeks or somebody has been indulging in some major guesswork. We suspect the latter.
Woah there fella
As much as Neil Custis had a major beef with Van Gaal, Neil Ashton has a chequered history with Jose Mourinho, who he attacked in vitriolic fashion when he was at Chelsea.
So we will take some of what he says with a pinch of salt, particularly lines like this on Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan:
‘To go for them again – particularly in public – was overkill. Neither of the pair have made a squad since the derby defeat.’
Couple of things:
1) Mkhitaryan is injured.
2) It’s only been two sodding games.
Three wise men
Want to know what Jose Mourinho should do to turn things around at Manchester United? The obvious answer is to ask Chris Sutton (28% win percentage over 50 games at Lincoln City), Martin Keown (temporary defensive coach at Arsenal) and Jamie Redknapp (mentor on Sky 1 show Football’s Next Star), or ‘SPORTSMAIL’S THREE WISE MEN’ as they are more commonly known.
So let’s cut to the nitty-gritty. Is Rooney holding back United?
Says Redknapp: ‘I’ve said it so many time in these pages – I don’t understand playing Rooney as a midfielder. He may feel like he hasn’t got the pace any more but for me he plays as a striker or not at all. Mourinho has to put his players in their best positions, which isn’t happening at the moment.’
Right, so if Rooney plays he must play as a striker? That seems clear enough. Erm…
Redknapp’s team: (4-3-3) De Gea; Valencia, Blind, Bailly, Shaw; Carrick, Pogba, Mkhitaryan; Rashford, Ibrahimovic, Rooney.
That looks suspiciously like Rooney is playing wide in a 4-3-3 to Mediawatch. Let’s see if another, wiser man has the solution.
Says Keown: ‘I think playing him as a No. 10 is holding back United. Paul Scholes dropped further back into midfield towards the end of his career so it would seem the natural thing for Rooney to do….Pogba is much more effective in an advanced position so it would make sense for him to play further forward with two sitting behind him.’
It sounds like you have got yourself in a pickle there, Martin. Are you suggesting Rooney play behind Pogba?
Keown’s team: (4-1-2-3) De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Shaw; Schneiderlin; Rooney, Pogba; Martial, Ibrahimovic, Rashford.
Ah, so pretty much exactly what Jose Mourinho did against Watford, then? And how did that go exactly?
Kudos goes to Sutton for having the balls to name a side not including Rooney but he loses points for this vignette:
‘Mourinho needs to find a way of getting Carrick in the team as Marouane Fellaini slows United down too much.’
Because if you want pace and dynamism, who you gonna call? Michael bloody Carrick, of course.
Looking for Eric
Poor Eric Bailly does not merit a place in Martin Keown’s Manchester United XI. Which is odd because Keown said less than three weeks ago: ‘They have addressed the centre of defence too by signing Eric Bailly – they’ve basically got a brand new spine.’
Apparently, they ‘look reborn overnight’. It must be that red wine.
Five ridiculous headlines from far more successful websites
‘At least the engines are running…United stars make their way to training as it’s revealed Mourinho’s men are bottom of the table for distance covered’ – MailOnline. Yes, they’re driving cars again. When they should be running.
‘Mustafi shows he’s made for Arsenal with this brilliant stat’ – Metro. Apparently, he has completed 139 passes in the Premier League since his debut and no defender has more in that time. ‘That time’ being two games.
‘Ilkay Gundogan reveals Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp talked him into Man City switch’ – Daily Star. For ‘talked him into Man City switch’, read ‘told him the Premier League would suit him’.
‘Manchester United youth star reveals the fastest player at Old Trafford’ – Metro. No, he reveals the fastest youth player at Old Trafford. It’s Tim Fosu-Mensah. We assumed it would be Michael Carrick.
‘Man United star Marcus Rashford: This is where I’m willing to play’ – Daily Express. Yes, it’s ‘anywhere’.
‘LIVERPOOL fan Will Hughes is bidding to upstage former team-mate Jordan Henderson in the EFL Cup third round tonight,’ begins The Sun’s preview.
Former team-mate? Really? Where would that have happened? Hughes has only ever played for Derby.
‘Derby midfielder Hughes played alongside the Reds skipper for England Under-21s.’
But surely Henderson is about five years older than Hughes?
Minutes played together for England Under-21s: 11.
But by God they were good in that 2-0 friendly win over Northern Ireland.
David Woods, EXCLUSIVE, in the Daily Star: ‘ANTONIO CONTE is already under pressure at Chelsea. Billionaire owner Roman Abramovich was furious after the Blues crumbled at home to Liverpool last week. Starsport can reveal the Russian held meetings with Chelsea executives until 1am following Friday’s 2-1 defeat at Stamford Bridge…Abramovich is understood to have been angered by the limp performance of the expensively-assembled team…’
Tony Banks, EXCLUSIVE, in the Daily Express: ‘A FURIOUS Roman Abramovich held meetings with Chelsea executives until 1am on Saturday at Stamford Bridge after their worrying loss to Liverpool. The Chelsea owner was angered by the performance of his expensively assembled team and that will only crank up the pressure on new manager Antonio Conte, whose failure to turn around the obvious flaws in the squad were brutally exposed by Friday’s 2-1 defeat.’
A few questions:
1) How would you describe the mood of Roman Abramovich?
2) Would you say Antonio Conte is under pressure?
3) What time did Abramovich end his meetings with Chelsea executives?
4) Was the squad expensive to assemble?
5) Who looked over whose shoulder?
Excuse of the day
From Matt Lawton in the Daily Mail on Joey Barton:
‘But it is not always his fists. With Jamie Tandy, then a team-mate at Manchester City, it was a burning cigar to the eye. Had it not been bolted to the table in the Manchester bar that was hosting the City players for their Christmas party, it would have been the glass ashtray the cigar was resting on. In fairness Tandy had just set fire to the back of his shirt.’