Three things learned: Man United v. Tottenham

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MANCHESTER — Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are in a really, really bad place right now.

[ RECAP: Spurs hammer United

United lost their second-straight game in the Premier League, with second half goals from Harry Kane and Lucas Moura handing Tottenham their first win at Old Trafford since 2014 as the 3-0 victory underlined their title credentials.

Mourinho and United were left in a crumpled mess after several lineup changes failed to do the trick and the pressure on the Portugeuse coach was cranked up a few notches. The loss was the largest home defeat of his managerial career.

Here’s what we learned from an intense, error-strewn battle at Old Trafford.


POCHETTINO WORKS OUT MOURINHO’S SPECIAL

Whatever Jose Mourinho was drinking when he came up with his team selection for the game against Tottenham, I’ll have a glass of that…

Under pressure since United’s 3-2 defeat at Brighton last Sunday, Mourinho made six changes to his starting lineup. Nemanja Matic was shown as a center back in a graphic by MUTV before the game but played in midfield. Ander Herrera played at right center back during the game. Holding midfielder Fred played as a surging No.10. Midfielder Jesse Lingard played as a central striker.

And it worked quite well in the first half barring a few individual errors from Paul Pogba, Lingard and Matic who gave the ball away cheaply. They had Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia offering genuine width, with Fred, Pogba and Lukaku going close with first half efforts as the latter should’ve scored after picking off a poor Danny Rose backpass, rounding Hugo Lloris but slotting wide.

It took Tottenham until the end of the first half to figure out how to get an attack going as they could have had a penalty kick when Lucas Moura was brought down, while Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen were both denied. And then the second half happened. Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen tucked themselves in the gaps between Shaw and Valencia and the center backs and caused havoc. Kane scored from a corner and missed a free header. Moura slotted home Eriksen’s cross. Alli forced David De Gea into a fine save. Spurs were rampant once they figured out how to expose United’s creaking mess of a defense.

Mourinho was the coach who use to change his tactics mid-game to win back momentum and change it in his favor. Pochettino was the man who did that on Monday and proved just how much further Tottenham are ahead of United in the battle to challenge Manchester City and Liverpool for the title.


PRESSURE BUILDS AS UNITED LACK CONFIDENCE, DIRECTION

Jose Mourinho has been a moody mess for the last few months and all of his negativity seemed to culminate in the jumbled performance his team put in as they were rolled over by an organized, resolute Tottenham.

Cries of, “you’re getting sacked in the morning!” rang out from the Tottenham fans, as one United fan was shown praying and close to tears on the TV screens. It’s not quite getting that bad, but there are serious issues for Mourinho to try and resolve, if he’s given the chance.

A lack of confidence was clear from United’s players ands so too was a clear direction as to how to play. United’s players were trying “Hollywood balls” and giving it away. Not tracking runners in the second half. Just not focusing on doing the simple things well. This had all the hallmarks of a team freelancing.

That’s when a manager knows he is in trouble.

All the talk of Mourinho’s “third-season syndrome” will be rife in the coming days as he battles to turn it around. This situation is eerily similar to the mess the 2015-16 season became at Chelsea as he was sacked in December with the Blues languishing in the bottom half of the table. It may not get that bad at United this season, but it’s not going to get a lot better if the performances we’ve seen so far continue.

The fact of the matter is, United are well behind Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs and maybe even Chelsea in the title race.

Since taking over United in the summer of 2016, Mourinho has won 153 points, 19 fewer than Spurs and 31 fewer than Man City. He is not only struggling to turn United into genuine title contenders, he is also struggling to turn them into top four regulars.


SPURS RECOVER VALIANTLY TO SHOWCASE TITLE CREDENTIALS

The World Cup hangover is severe for plenty of teams in the Premier League, but Tottenham will perhaps suffer from it the most. Out of their starting lineup on Monday, only Christian Eriksen and Lucas Moura didn’t reach the final two days of the World Cup. Five Englishman, three Belgians, and a Frenchman mean that Pochettino has been handed a rough deal when it comes to trying to rejuvenate his stars.

In the first half they were off the pace, apart from Moura who was a pest throughout. Kane received a yellow card for a late tackle and Alli wasted a glorious chance. But after Spurs figured out United’s bizarre formation, they took the game by the scruff of the neck. Their midfield finally came to life as Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Eriksen won the ball back, used it wisely and that allowed Alli and Moura to time their runs to perfection from wide areas.

Tottenham didn’t play well in the first 45 minutes but they dug deep to turn the game around as their horrendous run at United failed to unnerve them. Pochettino’s squad are no longer “young hopefuls” and they now seem ready to truly challenge for trophies. Last season was supposed to be their season, but this season it just has to be. Even though they didn’t spend any money this summer and there are issues with their new stadium being delayed, Spurs have won their opening three games and look genuine title contenders alongside Liverpool and Man City.

Pochettino is learning, as well as his team, as Tottenham’s dismal away record against the top six has improved. Tottenham have now won three of their 21 PL games away to the “big six” sides, and this was the biggest of them all.

How long of a break will Premier League clubs get?

Premier League break
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How long of a break will Premier League clubs get? That is the big question during the significantly shortened offseason between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 season.

In short: not long.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

When Premier League clubs all agreed that the 2020-21 season would kick off on September 12, there was an understanding that clubs in European action will be handed extra time off and could start the season late.

Manchester City and Chelsea are in Champions League action and if they reach the quarterfinal stage (Man City are looking a lot more likely to do that than Chelsea) it is expected they will start next season one week late and if they reach the semifinals and final they will start two weeks late.

The same rule is in place for Manchester United and Wolves who are in Europa League and are both in Round of 16 action this week.

If Chelsea lose to Bayern Munich on Saturday, their season will be over and they will have a 35-day break before the 2020-21 season. That is longer than the 30-day limit but Frank Lampard wants longer.

As for the other 16 Premier League teams for the 2020-21 season, the clubs who finished on the final day of the  2019-20 Premier League season on July 26 will have had 47 days off until the new season begins.

So, there you have it.

A staggered start to the 2020-21 season seems likely as the domestic campaign begins in a few weeks with the Community Shield final at Wembley between Liverpool and Arsenal on Aug. 29.

Premier League teams will have shorter, more intense preseason campaigns and are unlikely to travel for friendly games, so it will be interesting to see how much rest players actually get over the summer and if teams who get a 2-3 week longer break benefit compared to those clubs in European action.

Christian Pulisic issues injury update

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‘Pulisic injury news’ is probably trending worldwide at this point, and Chelsea and USMNT star Christian Pulisic has an injury update after he damaged his right hamstring in the FA Cup final against Arsenal on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Pulisic, 21, scored a superb goal early on and was arguably the man of the match even though he pulled up abruptly in the 46th minute when sprinting free (once again) of the Arsenal attack and then hitting a shot wide.

After being helped off the pitch while clearly in pain, Pulisic was seen hanging around the tunnel area after the FA Cup final and was at least walking on his own.

Posting a message on Instagram following the final, here’s what Pulisic had to say:

“Gave it everything we had. Wasn’t our day. Thank you guys for your support I’ll be back in no time,” Pulisic said.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The fact Pulisic went off injured early in the second half of the FA Cup final severely hampered Chelsea and gave Arsenal the impetus to go on and win the final at Wembley. He has become that important to Chelsea.

Chelsea boss Frank Lampard previously confirmed that Pulisic would not be fit enough to play at Bayern Munich on Saturday in their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg (Chelsea trail 3-0 from the first leg) and would have a scan to assess the damage.

Pulisic’s 2019-20 season is now done and both Chelsea and USMNT fans will be waiting with bated breath for the next injury update as hamstring injuries can be a nasty thing and reoccur easily.

The USMNT star had a few of them at Borussia Dortmund and given his incredible pace it is clear he will be more susceptible to hamstring and upper leg injuries.

Previously Lampard revealed that Pulisic had been working hard with Chelsea’s strength and conditioning coaches in recent months to build up his strength in order to adapt to the Premier League. We’ve certainly seen the results of that work in recent week as he took the Premier League by storm during the restart.

This latest update from Pulisic seems to be very good news as many had feared a lengthy injury layoff for the USMNT star but it seems like he may be ready for the start of the 2020-21 season for Chelsea.

Willian, Chelsea fail to agree new contract terms; Arsenal in talks

Willian to Arsenal
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Willian and Chelsea have failed to agree to terms on a new contract and the Brazilian winger is now in talks with Arsenal over a free transfer.

Multiple outlets are reporting that Willian has rejected a two-year contract offer from Chelsea as he wants a longer deal, as Sky Sports in Italy have more details on the developing situation.

Sky Sport contributor Fabrizio Romano states that Willian’s representatives are now in talks with Arsenal over a contract, while there hasn’t been any contact from Barcelona so far.

Willian, 31, has been a regular for Chelsea this season and Frank Lampard is keen to keep the Brazilian star as his experience will help the younger players develop at Chelsea.

After suffering a small injury, Willian didn’t feature in Chelsea’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal over the weekend and Lampard had the following to say about his future.

“It’s his decision so I haven’t got that answer,” Lampard said. “He’s been a great servant for Chelsea and he’s been brilliant for me this season with his input and work ethic but if he decides to move on then we obviously will move on as well. I know the situation from the club’s end so it’s his choice and I respect that.”

It appears that Willian will move on this summer as winger Pedro is also moving on a free transfer to AS Roma, although he did look to severely injure his shoulder in his last-ever appearance for Chelsea in the FA Cup final on Saturday.

With Christian Pulisic, Hakim Ziyech, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Mason Mount around, Chelsea have plenty of options out wide and Timo Werner, Olivier Giroud and Tammy Abraham give them plenty of options centrally with Kai Havertz also potentially arriving this summer.

As for a potential move to Arsenal, this makes perfect sense.

The Gunners have a small transfer budget this summer and Willian gets to stay in London as well as add extra quality to the Arsenal attack. His arrival may mean one of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave, though, as his wages will not be cheap. That said, if Willian is available on a free, plenty of clubs would love to have him. He is consistent, professional and delivers a steady stream of goals, assist and direct wing play.

Report: Man United, Dortmund in talks over $140 million Sancho transfer

Jadon Sancho to Manchester United
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Jadon Sancho to Manchester United is moving on as the Red Devils are said to be in talks with Borussia Dortmund over the talented winger.

[ MORE: UCL, Europa predictions ]

According to numerous reports Dortmund still want $140 million for Sancho, 20, but are now willing to accept a smaller initial payment and larger instalments for the England international and want a deal done before Aug. 10.

Our partners in the UK at Sky Sports have some more details on the developing situation:

“Discussions between Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United are ongoing over the structure of the transfer fee for Jadon Sancho as the Bundesliga club appear open to accepting less money up front as part of the deal. Dortmund have not moved from their €120m (£108m) valuation of the England international, but seem to be open to accepting less money up front.

“Ideally, the Bundesliga side would want an initial €100m (£90m) to fund a replacement for the 20-year-old – though it is very unlikely they would spend that amount of money on a new signing, hence the softening of the stance on Sancho’s initial fee.”

The report from Sky goes on to state that Dortmund could sign Kingsley Coman on loan from Bayern Munich in order to replace Sancho. That would be a pretty good deal, all things considered, for Dortmund.

They have Gio Reyna, Erling Haaland, Marco Reus, Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard in attacking areas and have talented young midfielder Jude Bellingham in midfield. As good as Sancho is — and he was brilliant for Dortmund in 2019-20 with 17 goals and 17 assists on 32 Bundesliga games — selling him for close to $140 million in the current market is good business.

Manchester United now know they will be in the Champions League next season and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be rewarded for a third-place finish by being handed one of the top attacking players in the world. Sancho will be a menace out wide with Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as United’s other forward options and Paul Pogba and the brilliant Bruno Fernandes creating just behind them.

After months of speculation, Jadon Sancho to Manchester United looks like it will actually happen.