Making a case for Mourinho (regardless of the Newcastle comeback)

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International breaks, they bring out the wild posts. Bear with me.

Fine margins.

Liverpool was 3W-3D-2L in the Premier League when it replaced Brendan Rodgers with Jurgen Klopp in 2015. It had needed penalty kicks to outlast Carlisle United in the League Cup, and drew Bordeaux and Sion 1-1 in an uninspiring start to life in the Europa League. A 1-1 draw against Romelu Lukaku and rivals Everton was too much, and Rodgers was out.

[ PL ROUNDTABLE: The story so far ]

The managerial change happened this time three seasons ago, and certainly would’ve had some parallels if Manchester United did not rebound from its 2-0 deficit to beat Newcastle United on Saturday. United now has 13 points (Rodgers’ Reds had 12), and did not survive the League Cup penalty kicks against a lower division side (Derby County). Its win over Young Boys in the Champions League was solid, the home draw to Valencia disappointing.

Shoot, when Klopp was hired he called himself The Normal One, so of course there are differences. Liverpool spent wildly in the previous summer, acquiring pieces which remain a part of their successful squad. Roberto Firmino, Joe Gomez and James Milner as highlights, with Nathaniel Clyne, Christian Benteke, and Danny Ings something else.

United didn’t really back Mourinho this summer. Fred, Diogo Dalot, and Lee Grant the only arrivals. But Mourinho also hasn’t really given United what Klopp has given Liverpool: A consistently affable manager who plays the PR game better than most.

This isn’t to argue that anyone would or should choose Mourinho over Klopp at this stage of the game, but the numbers alone don’t really scream out, “Smell ya later, Jose!”

Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool: 166 matches, 88W-46D-32L, +157 GD, 1.87 ppm
FA Cup final loss, Europa League final loss, UCL final loss

Jose Mourinho at Man Utd: 131 matches, 79W-27D-25L, +121 GD, 2.02 ppm
League Cup win, Europa League win, FA Cup final loss

And head-to-head, Mourinho’s Man Utd has one win and three draws in four against Klopp’s Reds.

(AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

Now, of course, Liverpool rivals Everton didn’t go and rewrite the Premier League record books during that time like Man City did, and the Europa League is not the Champions League. So that matters.

Really Mourinho is reaping what he’s sown in terms of not giving a rat’s behind about what he says to the media (while also caring very much about his public perception).

We know he’s much better to the players than his reputation suggests, still it gets labeled “throwing players under the bus” when he calls them out. For others, it’s no problem (Klopp rightly laid blame at Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino after the loss to Napoli, but got the benefit of the doubt).

Maybe in the time of Brian Clough, being something like the Special One was much more forgivable. But like players in the pre-Internet era, managers were far less replaceable.

The fine margins of wins and losses are a little less fine when you’ve curried some favor with the fans and, well, anyone. If and when Klopp hits the skids at Liverpool, he’s going to be fine. Again, deservedly so. Because he’s got a better handle on life than Mourinho, who just hasn’t read that infamous bumper sticker: Don’t be a jerk (I changed a word).

I’m pretty sure this post was a long and perhaps convoluted way to argue that it isn’t necessarily the time to move on from Mourinho. The Red Devils haven’t done him any favors in terms of selling players he doesn’t want around, which certainly cannot help but amplify the tumult in the room.

Theoretically, maybe Paul Pogba‘s gripes fall on deaf ears if those ears don’t belong to an Anthony Martial that Mourinho almost certainly wanted to move.

And maybe this is just the early downswing of a long season that will move upward once Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku start firing.

This is United’s next six matches, and Mourinho’s going to get the proverbial ink to write his own obituary or laudatory plaque. Sacking him now asks the interim man or new boss to sink or swim. Giving Mourinho two weeks to prepare for the run makes a lot more sense given his history in manufacturing results.

Chelsea away

Juve home (Ronaldo to boot!)

Everton home

Bournemouth away

Juve away

Man City away

Here goes everything.

Wolfsburg’s Mbabu out of Europa League after virus positive

Mbabu
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WOLFSBURG, Germany (AP) Wolfsburg defender Kevin Mbabu will miss his team’s Europa League last-16 game against Shakhtar Donetsk after he tested positive for the coronavirus last month, the club said Monday.

[ MORE: Predictions, Odds for Europa ]

Wolfsburg coach Oliver Glasner said the Switzerland defender would “definitely” not travel with the team to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv to play Shakhtar on Wednesday. He has not been training with the team, Glasner added.

Wolfsburg said July 25 that Mbabu had tested positive and was in isolation at home. He was not displaying symptoms, the club said at the time.

The right back played 20 games for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga this season, including 90 minutes in all nine games after the league resumed in May amid the pandemic.

The Europa League restarts Wednesday after a break of nearly five months. The second legs of last-16 matchups will be played at the original venues.

[ LIVE: Europa League scores  ]

Two fixtures where the first leg wasn’t played before the season was suspended – Inter Milan against Getafe and Roma against Sevilla – will be played as single-leg contests in Germany.

From the quarterfinals onward all games will be played in a tournament format in Germany.

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

Transfer news: Thiago to Liverpool; Gabriel to Man United

Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool
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In transfer news there’s an update on Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool, while Gabriel to Manchester United seems to be moving to the next stage.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting in Liverpool, talk of Thiago Alcantara to Liverpool has been gathering steam over the last few weeks and a new report states that Jurgen Klopp’s men are now the favorites to sign him.

Bayern Munich expect the 29-year-old Spanish international to leave this summer and according to Mundo Deportivo Liverpool have jumped ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and are ‘very likely’ to sign the former Barcelona star.

Bayern want $35 million for Thiago who has one year left on his current contract.

The deep-lying playmaker is a totally different central midfielder to what Liverpool currently have as Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum are all hard-working more defensive minded players. And then there’s Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who provide a bit more attacking intent with forward runs from central midfield.

Thiago Alcantara would help Liverpool control games better when opponents sit back and don’t allow them space to operate in-behind. He is a silky pass-master who is wanted by PSG, Liverpool, Manchester United and others, but it appears he will be heading to Anfield to give Liverpool a totally new dimension to their play. If this happens, it will make an already strong Liverpool side stronger.

Gabriel to Manchester United
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Switching to Manchester, a report in France states that Gabriel Magalhaes could be heading to Manchester United.

The Brazilian defender, 22, has been a star for Lille over the past few seasons but has been linked with Arsenal, Chelsea, Napoli, Everton and Man United consistently in recent months.

A report from French outlet RMC states that Man United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has met with Gabriel’s agents about his availability.

Lille want $35 million for Gabriel and although the report says that Man United haven’t made an offer directly to the Ligue 1 club, it is believed talks are ongoing.

Man United are said to be in the market for a winger, center back and central midfielder this summer and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is likely to be given cash to spend after securing Champions League qualification for next season.

It is believed Solskjaer wants a left-footed center back, which Gabriel is, as Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire are often too similar at center back. Those two have developed a decent enough partnership but it appears that Solskjaer wants to replace Lindelof and adding Gabriel will also give him an option to switch to a 3-4-3 system which he likes to do to match up against  more attack-minded opponents.

Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are very much on the outside looking in at Man United in terms of their other center back options.

With Jadon Sancho reportedly on his way to Old Trafford, Solskjaer needs to bolster his center back and holding midfield options and then he is good to go for next season.

Gabriel is a young, talented center back and seems ready to make the next step and this is a good price for a player who can develop over the next few seasons.

How long of a break will Premier League clubs get?

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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.