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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.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s Week 32 picks ]

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.

Platini vows to return to soccer after “end of long nightmare”

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PARIS (AP) Banned former UEFA President and FIFA vice president Michel Platini says he is planning to return to soccer after Swiss federal prosecutors confirmed he was not being charged in an investigation into possible financial wrongdoing.

[ MORE: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool — Los Blancos make it three straight ]

Platini says in a statement it’s “the end of a long nightmare for my family and those close to me.”

Since September 2015, the former France midfielder had the status of “between a witness and an accused person” in criminal proceedings opened against then-FIFA President Sepp Blatter. No criminal case was ever opened against Platini.

The evidence related to Blatter authorizing FIFA to pay Platini $2 million in uncontracted back salary in 2011.

[ MORE: Ronaldo hints at Real Madrid exit | Bale does the same ]

FIFA’s ethics committee also investigated Platini’s request to FIFA for pension contributions he was not entitled to. It was agreed by Blatter and added more than $1 million to Platini’s retirement fund.

Platini was eventually banned for four years, through October 2019. Both he and Blatter denied wrongdoing but Court of Arbitration for Sport judges refused to overturn his ban and that of Blatter’s.

[ UCL FINAL: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

The case meant Platini was removed from the UEFA presidency and he was barred from trying to succeed Blatter as FIFA president in 2016.

Platini, a former France captain and coach, says “I will come back: where, when, how? It’s too early to say. But I will come back into football.

“Because football is my life and I deny anyone the right to deprive me of my life,” the 62-year-old Platini says.

Neymar appears in good shape after first week with Brazil

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TERESOPOLIS, Brazil (AP) Neymar finished his first full week of training with Brazil on Saturday in apparent good shape ahead of the upcoming World Cup after foot surgery.

The striker continued his recovery, dribbling and passing at high speed in Brazil’s last training session on home soil before the national team sets up camp in London on Monday.

The Brazilian has been recovering from right foot surgery in March.

[ MORE: Neymar “annoyed” by latest (and constant) transfer speculation ]

Earlier in the week, members of Brazil’s coaching staff said Neymar was fit to train but they tried to reduce pressure on him by saying it would take time until he delivered his best performances.

Left back Filipe Luis said Neymar did well in training but still needs to forget the injury.

“I had a serious injury in 2010 and I came back with fear. In the first chance I had in a game, I went with it all so I could lose that fear. I saw it didn’t hurt and I just forgot,” Luis said. “It will be the same with Neymar, the first time an opponent kicks him … he will forget it.”

In the first training session in Teresopolis, outside Rio de Janeiro, Neymar occasionally dragged his right foot onto the pitch. On Thursday he took his right boot off, sat down for a few minutes and looked upset. Once the football was underway, he seemed as fit as his teammates despite accidentally kicking the pitch with his injured foot. He soon afterward got back in action.

[ MORE: Messi: It would be ‘terrible’ to see Neymar at Real Madrid ]

In the first and only Brazil open training session, with fans screaming his name on the sidelines, a playful Neymar nutmegged right-back Danilo and flipped the ball over Luis’ head.

Throughout the week Neymar showed his finishing was sharpening, especially from close range.

After Saturday’s training Neymar welcomed his girlfriend, actress Bruna Marquezine, and family members to the Granja Comary training ground.

With Brazil players off duty for the rest of the day, Neymar is expected to take some teammates back to his mansion in Mangaratiba, near Rio.

The 20-strong squad will meet again Sunday morning at the Brazilian football confederation headquarters in a visit to their museum.

Players then travel to London hours later and will set up camp until June 8 at Tottenham’s training ground.

Ronaldo hints at exit: “It has been very nice playing for Real Madrid”

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In the minutes after helping Real Madrid win their third straight UEFA Champions League trophy, Cristiano Ronaldo dropped the most unexpected of transfer bombshells on the world.

[ MORE: Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool — Los Blancos make it three straight ]

With three more seasons remaining on his current contract, Ronaldo appeared to hint that he expects leave the club this summer, at the age of 33.

“It has been very nice playing for Real Madrid,” he told the television broadcast with tears in his eyes, revealing that he will announce his plans for his future “in the coming days.”

Gareth Bale, who scored Saturday’s winning goal, said something quite similar during his post-game remarks.

[ MORE: Player ratings | Three things we learned ]

Perhaps it’s not the most surprising development on the whole, given his age and the obvious need for a youth movement at the Santiago Bernabeu, but to choose that stage — mere moments after winning his fifth career UCL title (four with Madrid) — to tease something so newsworthy and unexpected was certainly eye-opening.

Gareth Bale hints at Premier League transfer

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Gareth Bale jumped off the bench with Real Madrid drawing 1-1 with Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League final.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Moments later he scored one of the greatest goals in the history of European finals via an outrageous overhead kick, then added another late on to seal a 13th European title for Real.

[ MORE: Mohamed Salah injured ]

Yet speaking to BT Sport after the game, Bale’s mind was quickly on why he didn’t start the game as Zinedine Zidane instead went with Isco and Karim Benzema in support of Cristiano Ronaldo up top.

“Obviously I was very disappointed not to start the game, I felt I deserved it but the manager makes the decisions,” Bale said. “The best I have been doing is to come on and make an impact, I certainly did…

[ MORE: Player ratings | Recap ]

Asked about a potential move back to the Premier League, Bale had the following to say.

“I need to be playing week in, week out and that has not happened this season. I had an injury five, six weeks in but fit ever since. I have to sit down with my agent in the summer and discuss it and go from there,” Bale said.

That sound you can hear is the phone of Bale’s agent ringing…

[ MORE: Ronaldo also hints at Real Madrid exit

Seriously, he has every right to question why he wasn’t playing more often and the Welsh international has been in fine form in recent weeks with six goals in his last four games.

Zidane made the right call because Real Madrid won their third-straight European title but it appears that Bale is getting fed up with being the odd man out at the Santiago Bernabeu.

If that was his final game for Real, what a way to go out. Now the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and others will be battling to bring Bale back to the Premier League, with his former club Tottenham said to have first refusal on buying him but surely they’d be unlikely to afford his wages and transfer fee.