What can Jose do with this limited United?

Date published: Monday 24th October 2016 12:22

Silly billy Philly
Phil Neville in the Mail on Sunday, before Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0:

“It might be Antonio Conte at Chelsea who has to change his, rather than Mourinho.

“The 3-4-3 worked well against Hull and Leicester, but if he puts N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in midfield on their own against United, they are in danger of being overrun.

“Conte will know to do the same again may play into Mourinho’s hands. They can’t risk being outnumbered in midfield. Not when United are rediscovering the art of being horrible to play against – just like their manager’s first title-winning team at Chelsea.”

Phil Neville on BBC Sport, after Chelsea beat Manchester United 4-0:

‘Conte changed to the 3-5-2 formation that has brought him such success with Juventus and Italy, and they have not looked back.

‘In three games since, against Hull, Leicester and now United they have scored nine goals, kept three clean sheets and picked up nine points.

‘All of a sudden, their forward players are playing with freedom – plus they have a solid foundation behind them with their three centre-halves plus N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in midfield.’

Expert.

 

Jose: Post-facts
* “In terms of points, we got zero points, we lose three points. We are six points from the top, three from the top four, we now need to win matches.”

No. You are six points from the top and five from the top four. Next.

* “I think Courtois had more saves than De Gea.”

Well that’s true. But only because De Gea conceded four from six shots on target.

* “The second and the third goals are counter-attack goals.”

Except the second goal was a corner.

 

Defensive masterclass
You can guarantee that Jose Mourinho will get an easy ride from at least one member of the media/his entourage. Mediawatch could not help but enjoy this from Duncan Castles earlier on Sunday as Manchester City drew 1-1:

And he still has this pinned to the top of his Twitter timeline. So if you ever want to know ‘what Manchester United can learn from Jose Mourinho’s exit from Chelsea’…

 

Happy birthday golden goalscorer
As Wayne Rooney turns 31, what better time to re-visit Jamie Jackson’s fluffing brilliant column in The Guardian on the occasion of his 30th birthday.

You may remember this:

‘When he leads the side out the following day [after his birthday] against City at Old Trafford for the 170th Manchester derby Rooney’s count will stand at 187. That is 11 more goals than Alan Shearer’s 176 at the same age, 13 more than Thierry Henry’s 174 and 35 more than the 152 scored by Robbie Fowler, the fourth man on the goals-at-30 list.’

As we pointed out at the time:

* The Premier League began when Alan Shearer was 22 years old; he had already scored 23 top-flight goals before football officially began.

* Thierry Henry came to the Premier League at the age of 22; he had already scored 23 top-flight goals in the footballing backwaters of France and Italy.

So Wayne Rooney (‘the stats stack up to suggest he will leave an indelible mark on the Premier League’) had scored more Premier League goals than two players who played eight seasons in the competition before they were 30, while Rooney was then in his 14th season.

You may also remember this:

‘Shearer retired at 35. His career was blighted by serious injury, which made his achievements more admirable. Given Rooney’s desire to continue for the foreseeable future, his ability to operate in differing roles and his benign injury record, he should play until the same age as Shearer, at the very least.

‘That means the Liverpudlian should be able to surpass Shearer to set a new goal record.’

As we pointed out at the time, Rooney was then 73 goals behind Shearer, which meant he needed to start scoring goals at a rate of around 15 a season for the next five years.

Premier League goals scored by Rooney in the year since that piece: Seven.

Still think he’ll do it, Jamie?

 

Mediawatch revisited
Much as we hate to kick a former fat man when he is down, here is Neil Custis from The Sun last Wednesday:

‘Mourinho always likes to go into clubs and make sure the team stops conceding goals first and then build. In that sense you can see progress. This looks like a solid back four with the best goalkeeper on the planet.’

They really do look like a different side under Mourinho; a slightly shitter side.

 

Blame it on the boogie
Of course, Jose Mourinho is not really to blame for Manchester United’s problems. Just ask Mark Irwin of The Sun:

‘It would be wrong to pin all of the blame on the manager, when many of his millionaire players are also guilty of under-performing so criminally.

‘For this is a team which has been in terminal decline for years.

‘And no matter how much they might spend in the next transfer window, it will be like rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.’

And yet just a few paragraphs later…

‘For those who might argue that there can be no quick fixes in modern football, Blues boss Antonio Conte might beg to differ.

‘The Italian inherited a far bigger mess than anything Mourinho ever had to contend with when he took the reins this summer.

‘Yet he has already reignited their appetite for a scrap – by introducing a system and a style of play which brings out the best of their abilities.’

So to recap…

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United are five points worse that Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United at the same stage last season having spent £150m: Not Jose’s fault.

Antonio Conte’s Chelsea are eight points better than Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea at the same stage last season having spent £120m: Credit Antonio.

Mediawatch is no managerial expert but should Mourinho maybe try introducing a system and a style of play which brings out the best of their abilities?

 

What can he do with that squad?
Last week the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman excused Mourinho his tactics against Liverpool. After all, defending is an art and what can he do with those players?

‘Mourinho is a sports coach. His job is to move his team forward and he will do it in his own pragmatic way. This is the man the United board hired. In football, defending was once considered an art form too and on Merseyside the Portuguese showed that some coaches at least have not forgotten that.

‘Some say the way United played was an affront to the history of the club. They did not have a shot of note on target. That view is understandable but says more about the limitations of United’s squad than it does about the approach of their manager.’

And after a 4-0 defeat to Chelsea…

‘The Portuguese has always been a pragmatist but the limitations of this current team are drawing him deeper and deeper into his shell.’

Altogether now: It’s really not his fault.

Manchester United brought in three players this summer in Zlatan Ibrahmimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan who scored 57 league goals and assisted 40 more last season. And added those to a United side who had the joint-best defence in the Premier League and missed out on a Champions League place on goal difference. And yet they have scored the same number of Premier League goals (13) as Watford this season.

Odd that when Ladyman tipped them to finish second in his pre-season predictions, we don’t recall him mentioning any ‘limitations’.

 

Garth’s player of the year…already
It’s Monday; it’s Garth day. Crooks employs a 4-5-1 formation this week, with defenders in defence, midfielders in midfield, and a striker up front. We yearn for the days of Troy Deeney playing in the hole, so to speak.

But, as ever, Crooks’ explanation behind his choices are the lifeblood Mediawatch needs to thrive. The BBC Sport pundit begins with a simple question, having included Christian Fuchs at left-back:

‘I wonder if Champions League experience is providing players like Fuchs with the confidence to attempt things they would have never dared before?’

Yes, Garth. Leicester’s five goals – three of which were scored by Riyad Mahrez – and three clean sheets in Europe have inspired Fuchs to believe that he can score left-footed volleys from outside the area against Crystal Palace.

Crooks then chooses David Luiz in central defence, but he expresses fears for the Brazilian’s future – or, at the very least, the future of Chelsea’s new playing system.

‘The big question for Conte is whether he will continue with this system once John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic are fully fit and come knocking on his door.’

Indeed, how will Conte be able to resist the puppy dog eyes of the excellent Ivanovic (whose form at the start of the season was one of the main reasons Conte actually altered the formation)?

Our favourite line from Crooks this week undoubtedly goes to the following, however:

‘Kante’s performances have been so impressive this season that I have been left with no alternative but to put the France international on the early shortlist, with Manchester City midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, for the PFA player of the year – and we are only in October.’

You can’t have a personal PFA player of the year, Garth. You aren’t the PFA. Having said that, we cannot wait for the rest of the nominees to be named over the coming months.

 

Over-excitement of the day
‘Cut Matip open and you’d imagine you’d just find the word class’ – Andy Kelly, Liverpool Echo.

You really wouldn’t.

 

Awful opening line of the day
‘MAURICIO POCHETTINO must see an awful lot of himself in the Arter-ful dodger Eddie Howe’ – Antony Kastrinakis, The Sun.

It actually physically hurts.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, Alan Pardew…

The cap. The shirt. The description of NFL as “almost like a foreign sport”.

Just enjoy.

 

Happy anniversary

Mediawatch is never on trend, so does anybody know whether rape is HOT or NOT this week?

 

Tweet of the day

 

Recommended reading of the day
Paul Doyle on Manchester United being a rabble without a cause
Thore Haugstad on how Manchester United were humiliated
Adam Bate on Arsenal missing Santi Cazorla

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