Ranking Mourinho’s signings at Man United

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We all know it is the manager who has to bite the bullet if results aren’t going well on the pitch, but what about the players he sends out there?

Specifically, what about the ones he brought to the club with him?

[ MORE: Mourinho on United exit

Jose Mourinho will likely be sat in his swanky London house rubbing his chin right about now, and as he tucks into another mince pie (’tis the season, Jose…) he will wonder if signing the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Paul Pogba and Eric Bailly was really worth all of the hassle.

It is also worth remembering he shipped out the likes of Wayne Rooney, Memphis Depay, Morgan Schneiderlin and Bastian Schweinsteiger from Old Trafford, but all of those moves still seem like the correct ones. Then there is his treatment of Luke Shaw, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and others. With no Director of Football in charge, Mourinho had the ultimate say on which players were bought and sold, so the buck has to stop with him for building this squad.

With that in mind, lets rank all of Mourinho’s signings since he arrived in the summer of 2016 to try and turn United’s fortunes around. Parental guidance: some of these scores may be offensive.

Summer 2016 transfer window
Eric Bailly – $38 million from Villarreal: Had a great debut season but regressed massively in last few years. One of the victims of Mourinho’s preseason comments about wanting to sign a new deal. Lacking in confidence. 6/10

Paul Pogba – $112 million from Juventus: Probably the biggest problem for Mourinho throughout his time at United, as Pogba played, scored, assisted and tried to do it all. Mourinho benched him multiple times and in the end, despite giving him the captaincy which he then took away after Pogba’s comments in the media, it felt like it was a battle between Pogba and Jose to win the dressing room. Pogba won. 4/10

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – $33 million from Borussia Dortmund: Played mostly in the Europa League in 2016-17 and scored some big goals in the run to win that trophy. United thought they had a great deal when they swapped him for Alexis Sanchez in January 2018, but we all know how that worked out. Never suited Mourinho’s defensive style and apart from a few amazing goals, can be considered a flop. 3/10

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Free transfer from PSG: Incredible signing who held the squad together. Scored 28 goals in all competitions before his serious knee injury. Never returned to the same form before leaving to join the LA Galaxy in March 2018 as Lukaku was the main man at that point. Still, probably Jose’s best signing as United’s manager. 9/10

Summer 2017 transfer window
Victor Lindelof – $38 million from Benfica: Struggled massively last season but was better in recent months after a strong World Cup for Sweden. Still guilty of a howler or too, but you can never question his commitment. The entire defensive unit has had a shocker alongside him 5/10

Romelu Lukaku – $114 million from Everton: If you judge him by the goals he has scored, Lukaku is a success. 33 goals in 70 games for United is just less than a goal every other game but his overall play hasn’t been good enough. You can argue that Lukaku hasn’t had enough support around him, and that is probably true. But his hold-up play really hasn’t improved that much over the past 12 months. 6/10

Nemanja Matic – $50 million from Chelsea: Was very good for the first half of last season after arriving from Chelsea, and quite why they allowed their Serbian destroyer to leave was baffling. However, like Bailly and others he regressed this season markedly. Mourinho turned to one of his favorites to lock down the midfield and Matic has been okay. Nothing more. Nothing less. 6/10

Winter 2018 transfer window
Alexis Sanchez – Swap deal for Mkhitaryan with Arsenal: Just hasn’t worked out at all. Sanchez’s tenacity seemed like a perfect fit for Mourinho but he didn’t deliver goals, was played out of position several times and in the end they fell out despite a few key goals from the Chilean. Sanchez’s recent injury means this season has been a write off and he perhaps, alongside Pogba, has the most to gain from a new manager coming in. 2/10

Summer 2018 transfer window
Diogo Dalot – $24 million from FC Porto: Has shown promising signs in recent weeks. Still just 19 years old, but looks set to be United’s long-term right back once he shakes off his recent injuries. Whips in some dangerous crosses, and one of the better deals Mourinho did. 7/10

Fred – $60 million from Shakhtar Donetsk: This has been one of the most disappointing deals so far. The Brazilian midfielder was a perfect two-way midfielder at Shakhtar in recent seasons but he seems to have lost his bite after a decent start to life at Old Trafford. Was meant to shore things up alongside Nemanja Matic in midfield but had the opposite impact. 3/10

Lee Grant – $1.9 million from Stoke City: Back up goalkeeper who has hardly played but hasn’t done much wrong when he has. 4/10

Petr Cech earns win with 2 penalty saves in hockey debut

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Former Chelsea and Arsenal goalkeeper joined English fourth-division hockey team Guildford Phoenix four days ago and made his debut on Sunday.

He did not disappoint.

The 37-year-old saved two penalties in the shootout, earning Man of the Match honors.

Cech is reportedly a fan of the Guilford Flames, the first-division side who use the Phoenix as their developmental side. He was signed to be the team’s third-choice goalkeeper, just a chance for him to get in on the action before his body gives way for good, but he was given a chance to play right away. He wore number 39, a nod to famous Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek. His custom helmet was adorned with Arsenal and Chelsea colors. Regulation finished level at 2-2 before Cech’s shootout heroics.

“I wanted to win, that was the main thing, and I’m glad we did,” Cech said after the match. “I was surprised that I wasn’t more nervous. I didn’t know what to expect so it was nice how quickly my body switched into matchday mode.”

Giroud upset with reserve role at Chelsea

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Olivier Giroud does not look back on his transfer to Chelsea and wish he had done things differently, but that doesn’t mean things are all sunshine and roses for the 33-year-old.

Giroud, who moved to Chelsea from Arsenal in the winter of 2018 after six years with the Gunners, has played just 43 times in the Premier League, averaging just 35 minutes per appearance. That has him frustrated, hoping to prove his loyalty to the club and work harder than the other options up front.

“I had competitors in attack – [Alvaro] Morata, [Gonzalo] Higuain, who ended up leaving,” Giroud said. “I won at the end: I played the final of the FA Cup in 2018 and the [Europa League] final in 2019. Once again, I’m starting the year in a difficult situation. But as my brother says, I have always built myself in the face of adversity.”

Girou is trying to be smart about how he approaches the competition for time with the likes of Tammy Abraham and Michy Batshuayi, but he says it is emotionally taxing.

“You do not have to be fatalistic in certain situations,” Giroud says about keeping a level head. “I have always been respectful and humble. Even if I do not agree with the coach, I do not criticize him. But in myself, I cannot accept it because I know what I’m worth on a pitch.”

The French international has made just three league appearances this season, mostly thanks to Abraham’s scalding form. Abraham, still just 22 years old, has snatched his opportunity for first-team minutes with eight goals in eight games to start the campaign. That has left Giroud on the sidelines for each of the last five league games, missing out on a spot in the matchday squad altogether for the last three.

Despite his struggles at the club level, Giroud has maintained his place in the French national team, missing just five matches of France’s last 64 games, including 37 of the last 39.

James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Kane reflects on Tottenham, England struggles

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Harry Kane keeps finding the back of the net, but his teams keep losing.

The 26-year-old striker has bagged five Premier League goals in eight games for Spurs thus far, plus another seven goals for England in five Euro 2020 qualifiers this cycle. Yet Tottenham sits ninth in the table after three losses already this season, while England slumped to its first Euro defeat last time out, putting its seeding at the Euro finals next summer in jeopardy.

Kane is hoping to be a leader through the tough times for both club and country, wearing the armband for both as it currently stands.

“I think you need to lead by example,” Kane said ahead of England’s visit to Bulgaria on Monday. “Not getting too down when you lose a game, not getting too high when you win games. It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.”

Kane has taken over the England captaincy on a permanent basis, and is filling in for the injured Hugo Lloris at Tottenham. “I am still the same person,” he said. “I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that. I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.”

Leading by example includes finding the back of the net, while also supporting teammates both on and off the pitch. He knows even if he’s in good personal form on the stat sheet, there’s always ways to improve and help the squads through tough times.

“I am scoring goals but can I get more assists, create more chances? So yeah, I always look at little things I can get better at. Yes, the England form has been good but as ever, it can be better. We will see if I can continue scoring. It has been a good campaign but important I do not stop now.”