What now for Mourinho, Man United?


MANCHESTER — His eyes fixated on the journalist sat in the corner of the press room at Old Trafford. He held three fingers aloft. He demanded “respect, respect” as he stormed out of the press conference room after letting everyone know how many Premier League titles he had won (three, in case you didn’t know).

This feels like the moment when Jose Mourinho finally flipped given all of the criticism and all of the negativity swirling around his Manchester United side.

Not to sound like a kid in a schoolyard but, well, he started this. Some of the criticism he has received is unfair given his record of winning trophies at some of the biggest clubs on the planet. But this is the here and now we are talking about, Jose.

[ MORE: Mourinho’s meltdown in full flow ]

At the start of their preseason tour in the United States this summer Mourinho spoke about a tough season ahead as he presumably tried to cajole the board, mainly executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, into action in the transfer market. Despite handing Mourinho a new long-term contract in January 2018, that didn’t happen as new center backs failed to arrive with combative midfielder Fred the only major signing. But Mourinho has still spent the second-highest amount on transfer fees since he arrived at United in 2016, so perhaps his previous buys persuaded Woodward that he’d keep his cash in the bank, for now.

Despite Mourinho’s spending there is no clear identity, no real plan for the way he is setting up his United team every time they step on the pitch. Pep Guardiola has it at Man City and so does Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. Mourinho seems to be muddled in his tactical approach, with his players unsure what the real message is each time they step out onto the pitch.

With the negativity spreading to his players and the majority of the fans, Mourinho is now asking for “respect” and demanding journalists to stop asking him questions about defenders making horrendous mistakes because United played well for the first 45 minutes against Spurs.

The respect he is craving from the media and the wider public wasn’t afforded to his players this summer. Yes, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof in particular may not be good enough to play week in, week out for United but the huge mistakes they’re making are a product of doubts creeping into their minds about their manager, the way they’re being asked to play and all of the madness Mourinho has whipped up.

He’s a master of creating a siege mentality but the other inmates, his players, are being housed in a different asylum. They are not on the same page.

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But what now? Where does this leave Mourinho and, more importantly, United?

The most important thing is that he now goes back to basics. Part of his rant on Monday involved asking journalists whether playing well or getting results mattered more.

“When I win matches, I come here many times and you are not happy I won matches and you say the most important thing is the way of playing. You have to make the decision. I need to know from you what is the most important thing. To play well and play offensively? Or to win matches?” Mourinho asked, rhetorically.

He’s a man who has been hammered time and time again for being pragmatic but getting results. He grinds out wins. He wins trophies. He’s even won trophies at United that way in 2016-17. So, he has to go back to that system. He tried to play a more attacking way, with a 3-5-1-1 formation ripping Tottenham apart at times in the first half but United were so susceptible to counterattacks. Mourinho is trying to adapt his tactics but can he complete that transformation into the modern era of high-pressing and five-man defenses quickly transitioning into attackers?

Mourinho claimed United won the “tactical and strategic” battle against Tottenham on Monday and for the first half they did. And maybe that is the way Mourinho now wants to play, to be more open and hope that the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and others take their chances when they fall to them.

The safer option, and the route Mourinho will probably go down, is reverting to type. A solid 4-3-3 (4-5-1 when defending) and playing off Lukaku as the targetman as the rest of the team stay in their shape and try to get crosses from out wide as soon as they can. Those tactics delivered the League Cup and Europa League in Mourinho’s first season at United but his ideas were new, the players were more eager to adapt to his way of playing.

Now, as he enters the meaty part of his third season in charge at United, his players are questioning not only Mourinho’s tactics but his man-management as he’s fallen out and criticized many of them by now.

Therein lies the magic of Mourinho’s third-season syndrome. His abrasive, aggressive nature gets results for the first few years at a club but then, unless he adapts his methods, everything starts to turn against him. Speak to employees of Chelsea, Real Madrid or now United. They have eerily similar stories and this situation is eerily similar to what happened at Chelsea in 2015.

Mourinho must adapt his tactics and his attitude if he’s going to turn this around at United. The likelihood is that he won’t do either and that means more pain is on the horizon for the Red Devils.

‘Not the bad guy’: Koeman hits back on Suarez exit at Barcelona

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman is not worried about the commitment of Lionel Messi to the team despite his ongoing conflicts with the club leadership.

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Koeman said Saturday that he cared about the efforts of Messi on the field – and not his criticisms of the board for stopping him from leaving Barcelona while pushing out teammate and friend Luis Suarez.

“It is normal that a player is sad when a friend leaves,” Koeman said in a conciliatory tone toward Messi, a day after the star forward went to social media to complain that Barcelona’s board had not given Suarez the exit he “deserved.”

“But the most important thing for me is how Leo has trained. He has been an example for the rest in practice and in the (preseason) matches,” Koeman said a day before his official debut as Barcelona’s coach against Villarreal.

Suarez learned of the club’s decision to get rid of him through a call from Koeman, who was hired after the team lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich to end last season. After probing a transfer with Juventus in Italy, Barcelona ended up sending Suarez to Spanish league rival Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Koeman, however, made clear that he did not want to be considered solely responsible for the departure of the 33-year-old Suarez, who left Barcelona as its third all-time leading scorer.

“I must say that I look like the bad guy … That is not true,” Koeman said. “It was a decision of the club. The club, before I had become its coach, took some decisions. This was not my sole decision as coach; it was also the decision of the club. It is an effort to change the team. Younger players will have more opportunities.”

Those younger players include new signings Francisco Trincao and Pedri, and 17-year-old Ansu Fati.

“Ansu is a great talent,” Koeman said about the striker who became Spain’s youngest all-time scorer on his debut earlier this month.

“There are few players who have shown they can play for Barca. He is a player of the future.”

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

West Brom – Chelsea: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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West Brom – Chelsea: The Blues are in desperate need of a strong rebound when they visit The Hawthorns on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 pm ET, on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).


The Baggies, on the other hand, are simply hoping to collect their first point of the season after suffering a 3-0 defeat to Leicester City on the opening day of the 2020-21 season and following that up with a 5-2 beatdown at the hands of Everton last weekend.

As far as favorable matchups go, facing the 20th-place side a week after losing to defending champions Liverpool is quite timely for Chelsea, who is still a week or two away from seeing Christian Pulisic in a match.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of West Brom – Chelsea this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.

Team news: West Brom – Chelsea (INJURY REPORT)

Hal Robson-Kanu’s leg is not a problem after a good midweek in the League Cup and he’ll start on the bench.

Christian Pulisic is out for Chelsea but Cesar Azpilicueta is fit to see the bench.

What they’re saying: West Brom – Chelsea

West Brom manager Slaven Bilic, on struggling to sign players: “We don’t have a huge budget, that is why we are trying to be creative and lucky. That’s not easy but we are trying. … We have to do it to maintain a good chance.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, on Thiago Silva: “It is exciting for us because he has had just over a week training with us. It was a perfect 60 minutes for him tonight. He will show the qualities he has. Of course, he will get fitter and better. He also gave us something for me on the night in the dressing room and on the pitch of a leader with authority in terms of his demands on others. He can’t speak the language but at the minute that’s not even a problem because his presence and the way he commands people around him is already showing that to me in training and in our game tonight.”

Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

West Brom (+750) represent one of the biggest underdogs — or, opportunities, depending on how you look at it — of the still-young PL season. There’s not much to be won by betting on Chelsea (-280). Even the draw (+400) is pretty far out there.

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Prediction: West Brom – Chelsea

Barring some unforeseen circumstances — for example, a 12th-minute red card — it’s virtually impossible to see West Brom getting anything from this game. They’ve been incredibly poor defensively through two games, and they’re yet to face a side with anything close to the firepower which the Blues possess. West Brom 1-3 Chelsea.

How to watch West Brom – Chelsea stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:30 pm ET Saturday
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Potter, Trossard lament latest bit of Brighton misfortune

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Less than 18 hours after ProSoccerTalk posited that positive Brighton and Hove Albion’s lack of luck must be coming to an end, Graham Potter’s hosts smashed the post five times and had VAR award a penalty after the final whistle had blown.

Sorry, Seagulls supporters.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The match ended when Neal Maupay’s handball was spotted after the Seagulls had leveled the match at 2 deep in stoppage time, Bruno Fernandes scoring the decisive penalty in a 3-2 for the visitors to the Amex Stadium.

United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side was lucky on a day they were out-attempted 18-7, while Potter could simply muster, “That’s football” regarding the posts and extremely late VAR drama.

That said, he does wonder how the match got to the eighth-minute in the first place. Hashtag Fergie Time.

Here’s Potter via the Brighton and Hove Independent:

“I’d say we deserved something from the game,” Potter sad. “I would say that’s an understatement.”

Potter said he “didn’t know where the extra time came from,” adding: “I thought we scored with the last kick of the game. … We are bitterly disappointed to concede the way we have, at the time we have.”

Expected goals site Understat says Brighton won the xG battle 2.98-1.58.

Brighton winger Leandro Trossard was responsible for three of the five posts struck by the losing side.

“Unbelievable, the feeling I can’t describe, we were the better team today,” he said. “We deserved at least a point, it’s a shame. There were five minutes added on and we played at least seven. Sometimes it’s just not your day.”

Even for a side as snakebit as the Seagulls, Saturday’s loss is a sick one.

Man United ‘got away with one’ after dramatic late win at Brighton

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Manchester United reaction from Brighton was honest as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his players looked somewhat sheepish as they snuck out of the Amex Stadium with a dramatic 3-2 win.

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After being dominated for most of the game, Man United went behind then equalized via an own goal and took the lead after a piece of solo brilliance from Marcus Rashford.

Brighton saw a penalty kick decision overturned, hit the woodwork five times and then scored a 95th minute equalizer, only for Man United to be awarded a penalty kick after the final whistle blew as VAR was used and Bruno Fernandes won it in the 100th minute.

Speaking to BT Sport in the UK after the game, Solskjaer couldn’t help but laugh when trying to sum it all up and he admitted Man United secured an undeserved win.

“You can’t sum it up. We got away with one, to be fair. Maybe one point was what we deserved. I don’t think we deserved more,” Solskjaer admitted with his Manchester United reaction. “The character deserved more. That’s a big thing for us, compared to last season. We had too many draws last season. They [Brighton] created too much for my liking. They are a difficult team to play against and they have really good ball players at the back.

“We don’t really have the legs and sharpness still, but we will get there. We have plenty of work to do, we know that, and the players know that. The players know we got away with one. We have to take the points and know we have to improve a lot. Last week was disappointing, today at least we showed the character and showed a response and the lads showed their quality a few times. Strikers and forward making chances and David de Gea making saves.”

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Bruno Fernandes had a mixed outing and his Manchester United reaction showcased that. The Portuguese superstar set up the first goal via a free kick, set up Rashford’s superb strike and scored the late penalty kick winner, but he also gave away a penalty kick and lost Solly March for Brighton’s late equalizer.

“It is a difficult game. In the first half we left so many spaces for them to play. We were not as aggressive as I want. Big teams need to believe until the end. We created the chance, and at this point we need to look forward and do much better than we did today,” Fernandes said. “The point is to score goals, not hitting the crossbar and the post. Sometimes you have to have luck and the goalkeeper playing well and David de Gea did really well.”

Manchester United have now lost to Crystal Palace and snuck by Brighton in their first two games of the Premier League season and it is clear that Solskjaer’s side are yet to hit full fitness after a brief offseason due to reaching the latter stages of the UEFA Europa League.

Brighton were unlucky. Man United were unlucky. Solskjaer admitted it, and that’s fair enough. But sooner rather than later they have to get back up to speed as the Red Devils will be left behind.

They now face Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal within their next four Premier League games and they won’t let them off the hook like Brighton did.