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Robbie Mustoe: Jose Mourinho has underachieved at Man United this season

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Following Manchester United’s two recent home draws to West Brom and Everton, ProSoccerTalk spoke with Robbie Mustoe about the struggles of United and manager Jose Mourinho.

Q: Manchester United’s Premier League unbeaten run now stands at 20 games, but 10 of these matches have been draws. Why have they drawn so many matches?

Robbie Mustoe: First of all, what Mourinho has proved to us in the past is a tremendous record of winning trophies. He’s done a vast majority of that by playing counterattacking football. Defensive first, very well-organized, strong in transition and counterattacking is what made his name and where he has been successful. At Real Madrid, he won the league in Spain ahead of Pep’s Barcelona for one season. Real Madrid are never going to be a counterattacking team so that was a little different, but other than that it’s been that style.

What we’ve seen this season, where he has tried to be more expansive and try and play the ‘Manchester United way,’ it hasn’t been great. It hasn’t been great to look at, it hasn’t flowed hardly ever and the results have shown that. At home where that’s been most evident, the style, they haven’t scored many goals. It’s kind of shocking what they’ve done at home. There’s a stat that was on Twitter from Sky: Jose Mourinho has the lowest win rate of any Manchester United manager since 1974, just winning 37.5% of the games at Old Trafford. It could be something thrown back at me saying this, but with the money that was spent on several top players to come into the football club, it’s been very disappointing. I think it’s a mixture of his tactical style and some of the young players that attacked better last year. It wasn’t great last year in terms of their attacking play under [Louis] van Gaal, but the likes of [Anthony] Martial and [Marcus] Rashford seemed to be much more prominent and confident and playing well.

Q: Do United have the players on the roster to fix the issues they are having?

RM: Yes, they do have the players on the roster. That’s a simple opinion from me that this is more to do with the manager than the squad of players. That’s always the biggest question and I think when you go through the squad they’re packed with international footballers. When a team is playing badly and when players are in bad bits of form and confidence is down it’s very easy to say ‘These players aren’t that good, he needs a lot of new players.’ At Manchester United when we saw the players that were brought in, it’s like ‘Wow, Jose’s done his homework and he knows what this football club needs.’ I honestly thought they, and Mourinho said it himself at the start of the season, ‘we are going for the title.’ I think he is very surprised at how poorly the club has done this season.

Looking at the roster right now, Martial, [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, [Wayne] Rooney, Rashford, that’s good options up front. You’ve got Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba brought in, Juan Mata’s creative, [Michael] Carrick is experienced, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan is a top international player. You could put together a very strong side at Manchester United that you’d expect to win the title. Luke Shaw at left back, maybe [Matteo] Darmian playing in the side, I like Eric Bailly. You’ve got [Phil] Jones, [Chris] Smalling or [Marcos] Rojo, you can pick who to play with him. I think the players are there and it’s more of an underachievement from the manager that this club is not in the top four right now and won’t get there this season.

Q: If you were in Mourinho’s position, would you try to play the ‘Manchester United way’ or would you go back to his counterattacking ways?

RM: That’s a great question. It’s probably something that he thinks about all the time. I think he’s committed to playing an attacking brand of football. I think he realizes that Manchester United want that, they demand that. There was a little bit of concern from many people when he took the job wondering, is he really going to play the attacking way? To be fair we have seen that, we’ve seen them control games, try and play the ball and there’s been tempo about it which has been good.

I’m disappointed with the strategy, with the chemistry. When you see a side that attacks well, there’s very much a philosophy, there’s a creativity. I just don’t see that regularly enough at Manchester United. I think when you watch Chelsea it’s a good example. I know they have less games and no European commitments, but you see those wing backs getting forward, you see Pedro and [Eden] Hazard playing in between the lines coming inside, you see [Diego] Costa’s position up front, you see what Cesc [Fabregas] brings when he comes into the side. You can see the attacking pattern really clearly, but with Mourinho’s United at the moment you can’t. Now could he bring in better players, that’s inevitably how they’ll try to address this. He’ll say some of these players aren’t good enough, he’s already hinted that. We all know about what he said to Luke Shaw that he’s kind of not ready to be a United player. He’s questioned the front players other than big Zlatan about producing and finishing opportunities and of course there’s been tons of missed chances. I think he’ll try and address it with money and new players in the summer to try, in his way, to produce a team to win games.

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Q: How do you think Man United will look differently next year?

RM: I think the center midfield will be very high on his priorities. I don’t think Jose really fancies Michael Carrick. He’s not mobile, he’s not aggressive in attack and he’s not brilliant defensively and Jose needs that from his central midfield players. We all know that Carrick can play, a great passer of the ball. Pogba is a box-to-box, so is [Marouane] Fellaini, so is Herrera. I think he’ll look for controlling, commanding, players in central midfield. He’ll look for a first-class attacking player as well. I mean Zlatan is 35 right now, it can’t always be up to him. We know Wayne Rooney’s time is coming to an end at United. There’s talk about Antoine Griezmann, maybe some other big, top players that I think he’ll try and bring in. Eric Bailly he’s backed and will continue to back and we know he likes Phil Jones, but Jones has had injury issues. We’re not sure how he feels about Smalling or Rojo. I think defensively you can see a lot of players added as well.

Inevitably players will be leaving and a lot will be leaving. You could see Carrick leaving, you could see Fellaini leaving, maybe Rojo. Does he get rid of Smalling? I still think it’s surprising given the squad. There’s very good players there. Of course, every team needs to make additions and Manchester United, being the size they are will always try and improve, but I don’t think there’s that many new guys that need to come in to make it a lot better. However, I think Jose will disagree and think they are nowhere near what they should be. My argument would be there’s a lot of international, top players at this club who are underachieving at the moment.

Q: Lastly, will Manchester United be in the Champions League next year?

RM: Well, I don’t think they finish in the top four so my thought is do they win the Europa League? They’ll be the favorites, you’ll see whatever style it takes to get through and win it, but I’m going to say no. Based on this team’s evidence, what we’ve seen over the course of the season so far that even in the Europa League there’ll be something that goes wrong. There will be something that goes wrong between now and the final of this competition. They’re not quite going to do it. I think that the bookmakers will have them the favorites, I get that, but I’m just backing my judgement that it’s not going well for Jose at the moment and they’ll find a way not to win the competition and won’t be in the Champions League for next season.

USMNT Gold Cup 23-man roster leaves some questions

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We have Bruce Arena’s 23-man United States men’s national roster for the Gold Cup, and there are more than a few surprises left out of the bunch.

Often a chance to experiment, those who thought this year’s Gold Cup roster would be one aimed at reclaiming glory with authority may be surprised to see the status quo.

Jurgen Klinsmann brought most of his big guns to the 2015 party — which didn’t go well for Brad Guzan and Co. — but Arena will roll into this summer’s tournament without most of his big names. There’s no Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, nor Jozy Altidore.

Those aren’t huge surprises, though who Arena neglected from his original 40-man short list is a bit of a shock to the system (Players can be called into the mix after the group stage, which is a fairly simple affair for the USMNT to navigate versus Panama, Martinique, and Nicagarua).

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez didn’t make the batch of backstops, odd given his one-time switch to the USMNT from Mexico. That made him automatically cap-tied to the U.S., but Arena is going with Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, and Bill Hamid in a trio that fails to impress. Hamid does have a big crowd of fans who’d like to see him get a chance to assert himself as the future, and hopefully either Johnson or Hamid finds time between the sticks against a serious opponent like Panama. No surprise that Tim Howard and Joe Bendik didn’t leap into the trio.

We’ll ignore the omission of Danny Williams for the most part considering he was absent from the 40-man list, but he must have said something seriously awful to Arena or someone at U.S. soccer.

The group of forwards leaves little to complain about, as Juan Agudelo and Dom Dwyer very much deserve their chances to compete for playing time with Sounders star Jordan Morris, but the midfield provides some head-scratching. Gyasi Zardes may be a longtime Arena favorite, but the Galaxy man has been ice cold in MLS. The 25-year-old has a single assist in almost 1000 minutes of play this season, and that came back on April 8. Tommy McNamara has not lighting the league on fire and Chris Pontius and his six assists are 30 years old, so much of the grief should be directed at the 40-man again, but Zardes has to embrace this opportunity. And maybe it’s a way to help the Galaxy and Zardes get a little mojo.

As an aside, Wil Trapp is among leaders in several MLS passing stats, which leads me to believe Arena is going to play Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta a ton and doesn’t see much of a need for Trapp in this tournament, not ever.

Defenders Steve Birnbaum and Jonathan Spector were not rewarded with looks, though Graham Zusi was included in what must be an arm reaching out for USMNT experience. Birnbaum is leading MLS in aerials won per game and Spector is by far Orlando’s top rated player since returning from England. Spare a thought for Matt Polster, who has been decent since returning from a knee strain. This is nothing against Zusi, a consummate professional who won’t kill the team by any means and will be an tremendous asset in leadership.

Report: German publication has full FIFA corruption report

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The unedited 2014 report into World Cup bidding published by Michael Garcia has been ‘leaked’ into the press by German publication Bild.

FIFA had released a 42-page version of the report that claimed to clear corruption allegations against Qatar. This “suppressed” report is over 400 pages.

Garcia quit his job as investigator with the FIFA ethics committee in 2014, saying he believed progress in reforming FIFA had slowed considerably.

[ MORE: Chelsea sells Traore ]

Bild said it will publish more information and the full report on Tuesday, but the BBC notes a couple interesting facets of the initial release:

  • “Three Fifa executive members were flown to a party in Rio in a private jet belonging to the Qatari federation before the vote for 2018 and 2022 hosting rights.”
  • “Bild’s report includes details of a $2m (£1.6m) sum allegedly paid to the 10-year-old daughter of a Fifa official.”

Before you overreact, the 10-year-old is an incredibly gifted footballer.

The reporter who filed the story says the report shows no proof of a bought bid, but that it is like “a puzzle.”

Giggs has “to put up with” no managerial interviews

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How much is playing experience worth to a manager?

Comments from Ryan Giggs have us contemplating that question as the legendary Manchester United man wonders why he hasn’t gotten a shout to manage a Premier League squad.

Giggs, 43, says he’s only spoken with Swansea City regarding a managerial spot since his 2014 stint as interim boss of Manchester United. That’s surprising given the Welshman has been linked with seemingly every job in the British Isles.

[ MORE: Chelsea sells Traore ]

“I spoke to Swansea. It didn’t work out. Because I have said I want to go into coaching and management every job that comes up I am linked with..and then I miss out on the job without having spoken to anyone! That’s frustrating, but that’s football. …“I have done the apprenticeship I have just not done the real thing yet.” (Manchester Evening News).

With respect to his on-field prowess, which at times was nearly peerless, should players like Giggs really be surprised when they don’t get top-end offers? Given the big money nature of the Premier League, why should any club trust it’s future to an unknown?

Patrick Vieira was a heck of a player but started his time in the first chair by going abroad to New York City FC. Even Paul Clement gave Derby County a go before getting a look at Swansea last season.

Now Giggs will probably point to fellow Wales and Manchester United alum Mark Hughes, who was named to Wales and Blackburn posts straight out of his playing career.

But for every story like that, there’s Steve Bruce working for Sheffield United in the old Division One, or Jaap Stam going into the Championship with Reading and having some success in building his name. On the negative side, there’s Gary Neville being thrust into a La Liga role without First Team experience.

So while there’s no guarantee that Giggs isn’t beating down the doors of openings in lower leagues, it seems more likely that he has the option of continuing to wait for someone to bet on his name and potential in the Premier League, or to go for any number of jobs in the lower tier to prove his mettle. There’s risk there, too, to be sure, but he’ll be more easily forgiven for failure in a lower spot than in a higher spot. But from the outside, it’s not something Giggs has “to put up with,” rather a choice.

And to his credit, Giggs feels his work in acquiring his coaching licenses while a player and studying under Louis Van Gaal should be enough for a gig. He’s also fine waiting, according to the article, which is totally acceptable (not that he’s looking for our approval). But we’d love to see former players like Giggs at another squad.

Chelsea sells Traore to Lyon for $11 million

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Chelsea has officially sold exciting attacker Betrand Traore to Lyon.

Traore, 21, spent last season on loan at Ajax, helping the club to the UEFA Europa League Final.

The 40-times capped Burkina Faso winger scored four goals in 16 appearances for Chelsea in 2015-16, and has 22 goals in loan seasons to Vitesse and Ajax.

[ MORE: Ranking expectations for PL bosses ]

The fee is said to be more than $11 million. Traore joined Chelsea’s academy in 2010 after coming up with Auxerre.

Chelsea will earn 15 percent of any future sale of Traore, and also have the right of first refusal should another team make an offer for the attacker.

Lyon currently has held onto Alexandre Lacazette, and has Nabil Fekir, Memphis Depay and captain Maxime Gonalons amongst its stars. Adding Traore will only help the club’s ambitions in Ligue 1 as well as the Europa League.