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.

Mourinho: Wait to see if Man Utd can contend

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Jose Mourinho feels his team braved difficult circumstances to get a fine start to Manchester United’s 2018-19 Premier League season on Friday.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 2-1 Leicester City ]

Sticking with the narrative that his squad depth was not enough given the number of players who needed a post-World Cup vacation, Mourinho applauded his short-handed Red Devils.

While Harry Maguire started for Leicester and Jamie Vardy came off the bench, Mourinho opted against starting Romelu Lukaku and used a number of unusual starters including Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, Andreas Pereira, and Victor Lindelof.

Mourinho had plenty of praise for Pogba, who is not yet at full fitness following France’s World Cup win. From the BBC:

“The team played as a team,” Mourinho said. “In the second half I had Andreas Pereira and Fred with a yellow card, Paul was fantastic his contribution was amazing, but the fuel was disappearing. We were in trouble. Martial in the last 20 minutes could have given us the second goal but I couldn’t make that change. The players gave everything, they gave what they had. Everybody did that.”

And he again talked about United’s failure to spend on new players after adding Fred, Diogo Dalot, and backup goalkeeper Lee Grant earlier in the summer window.

“We played well in periods against a good team that invested more than us,” he said. “We must get used to teams who have players of the same quality that we have. Every team is a good team, forget the name, forget the history, forget the shirt.”

“It will be a difficult season for everybody, not just for us. I had my plans for many months and I find myself with the market closed in a situation I did not think I would be in. It’s the last time I speak about it. It’s over, the market is closed. .. We have to wait until the end of November to understand if we can fight for the title.”

He also praised Luke Shaw, who scored to seal the win and had been a target for Mourinho’s criticism last season.

“I am very pleased for Luke Shaw. He made one mistake in 90 minutes, he was very good defensively. He had a good pre-season.”

Transfer window grades for each Premier League team

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The summer transfer window is now closed and Premier League teams have done all of their transfer business until January 2019.

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It has been a steady flow of transfers this summer and all of that ended with a flurry on Thursday on the eve of the new 2018-19 PL campaign.

Below we grade each PL club based on their ins and outs this summer.


Liverpool: A
Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool simply blew everyone out of the water this summer with their dealings. Alisson is a huge upgrade as their goalkeeper, while Fabinho and Naby Keita have looked brilliant in preseason and so too has Xherdan Shaqiri. Liverpool will push Man City close for the title this season and that’s largely thanks to their aggressive attitude in the summer window. A fantastic summer which was a huge statement.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: A-
Stunning transfer window for the Premier League new boys. Experienced Portuguese internationals Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho were complemented by Raul Jimenez, Adama Traore and Leander Dendoncker as Chinese owners Fosun backed Nuno Espirito Santo to continue their rise. Top 10 for Wolves this season? One of the best squads of any promoted team in recent, if not entire, PL history.


West Ham United: A-
The Hammers have gone all out to back new manager Manuel Pellegrini and although their owners have plenty of critics, they’ve certainly ponied up the cash this summer. Yarmolenko, Lucas Perez and Felipe Anderson will deliver goals and trickery, while Fabianski, Diop and Fredericks strengthen their defense. Add in Jack Wilshere‘s arrival and West Ham’s squad looks more balanced and hungry this season. A push for Europa  League beckons for the Hammers.


Everton: A-
New boys Lucas Digne, Bernard, Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Richarlison are quality additions and the main aim for Marco Silva was always going to be to trim his bloated squad. Keeping hold of Jordan Pickford amid plenty of interest after his summer heroics at the World Cup was a positive. They left it late in the window but Everton were the big winners on Deadline Day with Kurt Zouma also close to a move.


Fulham: A-
Another PL new boy with a superb summer window. The Cottagers aren’t messing around and owner Shahid Khan was obviously hurt badly by Fulham getting relegated four years ago to make sure it doesn’t happen again on his watch. Jean Seri was a huge coup, while adding Andre Schurrle, Mitrovic, Chambers and Mawson was great business. On Deadline Day they pushed through deals galore too as Joe Bryan and Sergio Rico arrived, with Fulham looking more likely to challenge for the top 10 than be sucked into a relegation scrap.


Arsenal: B+
A few very good signings for Arsenal and they managed to keep hold of all of their star names. Unai Emery has signed plenty of young, promising players with Mateo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira looking like real steals in central midfield. Emery has also added experience nous in defense with Lichsteiner and Sokratis, with Bernd Leno set to push Petr Cech all the way for the starting spot in goal. Solid, sensible window for Arsenal given how many top attackers they already had at the club.


Chelsea: C+


Yes, they lost Thibaut Courtois. But Chelsea kept hold of Eden Hazard and they brought in Kepa for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper to solidify that position. Adding Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic will help new manager Maurizio Sarri bed in his new philosophy, but the lack of a new striker will be concerning. Unless Alvaro Morata improves drastically in his second season in the PL, Chelsea could struggle to turn their creativity into goals on a consistent basis.


Leicester City: C+
Getting $75 million for Riyad Mahrez was, in the end, a deal which worked out well for everyone and the Foxes reinvested plenty of that cash with seven new players coming in. Caglar Soyuncu, Jonny Evans, James Maddison, Ricardo Perreira and Rachid Ghezzal were the key arrivals and Claude Puel knows his team must get off to a fast start this season.


Crystal Palace: C+
Keeping hold of Wilfried Zaha was always going to be the main aim and Palace managed to do that. Max Meyer, Vicente Guaita and Cheikhou Kouyate arrived with the Eagles ready to build on their superb second half of last season under Roy Hodgson. Steady progress.


Southampton: C+
Losing Dusan Tadic was a blow and although they’ve spent over $65 million, you question whether Mark Hughes‘ squad is stronger than last season. A late move for Danny Ings could salvage their window as they’ve badly need a poacher for some time. Elyounoussi and Vestergaard will both contribute and Angus Gunn is a bright star for the future in goal. A decent window overall, but could have been better.


Brighton & Hove Albion: C
Plenty of incomings for Chris Hughton, but there is a concern about the quality of some of the new signings. Is this a case of quantity over quality for the Seagulls? Yves Bissouma from Lille will be a mainstay in midfield and has impressed in preseason, while Florin Andone will give them extra options in attack. Steady but unspectacular for the South Coast club in their Sophomore season in the PL.


Manchester City: C


They didn’t have to do much, did they? Pep Guardiola fell one signing short as he wanted to bring in a new central midfielder (because, why not?) but Jorginho chose to play for his former manager Sarri at Chelsea, which is understandable, to an extend. Mahrez will add something a little difference to City’s incredibly fluid attacking machine. City still have the best squad in the PL despite a quiet window.


Bournemouth: C
Jefferson Lerma’s club-record arrival late in the window was a bit of a headscratcher for the Cherries, but Eddie Howe‘s dealings have been pretty spot on over the years. The Colombia midfielder is a destructive force, but Bournemouth perhaps lack a little bit of cover in defensive errors. They also brought in David Brooks and Diego Rico in a quiet window overall.


Burnley: C
Did the business they needed to do with Joe Hart coming in, plus Ben Gibson and Matej Vydra arriving late in the window. Will that be enough to strengthen their squad if they reach the Europa League group stage? An average window overall, but they kept all of their stars this summer.


Newcastle: C-
Another window, another headache for Rafael Benitez as he managed to pick up a few new players but the Magpies faithful will be a little upset with owner Mike Ashley once again. Kenedy and Martin Dubravka are back again, while Ki and Salomon Rondon arrived. Fabian Schar and Muto will be intriguing buys, especially the former who should strengthen Newcastle’s defense. Federico Fernandez’s arrival on Deadline Day will further bolster that backline. However, you always feel like Newcastle’s fans are being let down as their club is so attractive in many ways but the ownership just isn’t interested in pumping huge sums of money into the team.


Huddersfield Town: D
Some loan signings from last season have been signed permanently with Lossl and Kongolo arriving. Durm and Mbenza will be intriguing signings but you can’t help but feel that David Wagner‘s side didn’t sign enough attacking players to spruce things up to try and turnaround their poor from the end of their debut PL campaign. Huddersfield will scrap for their lives but they didn’t add real quality in key attacking areas this summer.


Watford: D
Javi Gracia has brought in a few new names and signing Gerard Deulofeu on a permanent basis softens the blow of Richarlison’s departure. New arrivals in defense may not be strong enough and although Watford signed Doucoure to a new deal, it was a window where they didn’t really address their weaknesses.


Manchester United: D-


A really bad window for the Red Devils. There is no other way to put this. Lee Grant, Diogo Dalot and Fred were their only arrivals and they failed to shift on plenty of squad players. It is likely that big European teams will still be in for the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo now their window is still open but it’s unlikely United will sell now. Jose Mourinho will not be a happy man after his desperate search for a new center back was unsuccessful.


Cardiff City: D-
Neil Warnock tried his best to wheel and deal but the Bluebirds failed to spend big and instead stayed committed to the players who won them promotion. That’s fair enough. Bobby Reid could be a surprise package up front after his arrival from Bristol City. Harry Arter will be a decent addition from Bournemouth will all of his PL experience in central midfield.


Tottenham Hotspur: D-


The only team in the history of the transfer window to not buy a new player says it all. With Spurs moving to a new stadium you can understand why Daniel Levy was being a little more frugal than usual, but the main issue for Spurs is that they have three star players still at the club who aren’t wanted by Mauricio Pochettino. Danny Rose, Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele should be starters but unless they’re sold to other European clubs in the coming weeks they will be at Tottenham and sitting on the sidelines until January. Not a great situation. Nothing wrong with not buying new players if the quality isn’t there.


Reasons behind Man Utd’s offseason woes

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At least once during the past two months you’ve probably muttered to yourself: “What the heck is going on at Manchester United?”

You were, and are, right to think that.

WATCH LIVE: Transfer Deadline Day show, August 9 at 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com 

Theorists who back the ‘Jose Mourinho third-season syndrome’ are currently rubbing their hands gleefully as they get ready to sit back, grab some popcorn and watch the meltdown.

But what are the issues at play? Why is Mourinho more miserable than usual? How are things threatening to teeter on the edge of the abyss?

Even if Manchester United sign a few players in the final day of the window (to add to Fred, Diogo Dalot and Lee Grant) it hasn’t been a happy summer for Mourinho’s side.


1. Jose Mourinho and Ed Woodward’s relationship is strained – Anybody who saw that awkward embrace (if we can even call it that) between Mourinho and executive vice-chairman Woodward following United’s preseason game in Miami knows all is not well between them. Mourinho has mentioned time and time again how he’s given his list of players to Woodward and that’s all he can do. Sir Alex Ferguson and Martin Edwards (then David Gil later on) were pros at getting deals done for United. Fergie would set them up, Edwards or Gil would get them done. Mourinho and Woodward are doing neither and the pressure is cranking up on both.


2. Players getting sick of constant mind games – Instead of congratulating Paul Pogba on his stunning displays in the World Cup or Anthony Martial on the birth of his new child, Mourinho went in an opposite direction over the summer. He said it is time for Pogba to “figure out” what his best position is and how to play it at United like he did so brilliantly for France during their World Cup success. He also questioned why Martial was gone for so long of United’s U.S. tour during the birth of his child. Mourinho’s coldness knows no bounds. It’s not even the star players who should be upset. Mourinho calling out most of the squad on the U.S. tour as not being good enough to play with Alexis Sanchez was such a poor move considering that was the hand he was dealt after the World Cup. It was the same for Man City and Liverpool, but you didn’t hear Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp complain about it. The opposite was very true.


3. Even the fans are getting tired of Mourinho – If you listen to talk shows discussing United’s summer, you have two camps. 1) There are fans who love Mourinho no matter what and they blame Woodward for not giving him the squad he needs, despite $400 million being spent since he arrived in 2016 as boss. 2) Fans who are sick and tired of Mourinho’s constant negativity and they can’t even point to a particularly exciting brand of play despite finishing best of the rest last season behind runaway winners Man City. Even FA Cups, League Cups and the Europa League won’t sway them in wanting Mourinho out, even if there isn’t a better alternative.


4. The kicker: Man City are amazing and Liverpool is spending big – The truth of the matter is, Mourinho has arrived at United during a time of transition and where their closest rivals are further ahead in their projects, due to vast resources, having more time and support, or both. Pep Guardiola has been backed in the transfer market and already had a plethora of superstars to work with when he arrived in 2016. He’s already delivered a title and stunning teams to watch at City. As for Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, he’s spent huge sums of cash upgrading his defense and midfield this summer and despite Mourinho’s snipes he is backed by his board and the fans almost unanimously after arriving in October 2015 and fostering an exciting, attacking style of play.

Season preview: Negative vibes surround Man United

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Manchester United at a glance

Premier League titles: 13 (English First Division titles – 20, the record)
FA Cups: 12
League Cups: 5
European Cups: 3 (1968, 1999, 2008)

[ MORE: 2018/19 PL season preview hub ]  


They will be challenging Man City for the title… because on paper they probably have the second or third best squad in the PL. Lukaku, Sanchez, Pogba, Bailly, De Gea, Martial, Rashford, Mata, Matic… Yeah, you get the point. United’s current situation regarding a lack of incomings this summer isn’t as bad as Jose Mourinho is making out (more on that further down) and if they can get their act together and stop squandering chances, they’ll cut the 19-point gap to Man City from last season.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Most likely Jose Mourinho will be out before December and they’ll be in midtable… it seemed ridiculous to write that sentence, but right now it really isn’t. Is it? Mourinho is approaching meltdown mode in his third season at United. Just like at other clubs he has hung around long enough to upset plenty of people and he appears to be quickly running out of friends on the board, among his squad and just about everywhere else. The fact that he’s one of the favorties with the bookmakers to be the first PL manager to be out of job this season says it all.


Best possible XI

—– De Gea —–

—- Valencia —- Jones —- Bailly —- Young —-

—- Matic —- Fred —-

—- Sanchez —- Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —–


Transfers in: Fred ($67 million, Shakhtar Donetsk), Diogo Dalot ($24.6 million, FC Porto), Lee Grant ($1.9 million, Stoke City)

Transfers out: Joe Riley (Bradford City), Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Daley Blind (Ajax)


Ranking their offseason: 2/10 – Couldn’t have really gone much worse for Mourinho’s` men as his constant complaints about most of their squad not being on their U.S. tour has whipped up a severe air of negativity around the Red Devils. Add that into lacklustre displays against the San Jose Earthquakes, AC Milan, Liverpool and Bayern Munich and there’s not a good vibe heading into the new season. Mourinho slamming the quality of United’s young players on the tour will not do wonders for their confidence, plus the likes of Lukaku and Pogba rushing back from their summer break early (as Mourinho hinted he’d like them to do) will likely create tension.


AP

Star man: Romelu Lukaku – He scored four times for Belgium this summer at the World Cup but the most impressive thing about his displays was the timing of his runs and how unselfish he was. Lukaku scored 27 goals in all competitions in his debut season at United, which was pretty good going and kind of flew under the radar. David De Gea is always a star for United but he had a few wobbles over the summer, while Alexis Sanchez looks refreshed after his summer off with Chile not at the World Cup. All three will be key to United’s success but Lukaku’s goals are vital and if Mourinho can figure out where to play Pogba, he will become a star.


Coaches’ Corner: Ah, yes, the old third-season syndrome is kicking in once again for Mr. Mourinho as he has publicly slammed his club for failing to buy the players he wants, plus has had a pop at rivals for spending too much. Add to that his grumpier than usual demeanour (yes, that is possible) and losing his top assistant Rui Faria over the summer, and you have the start of what is now becoming a predictable demise. Mourinho will still set his teams up to grind out wins but United’s supporters could soon turn on both him and Chief Executive Ed Woodward if they have a slow start to the season.


PST predicts: Finishing in the top four may well be a struggle for United this season considering Liverpool have bought well, Tottenham have kept hold of their stars and Manchester City look irresistible, plus Arsenal and Chelsea will be there or thereabouts. United will focus on going far in the UEFA Champions League and finishing in the top four and the latter will probably be as good as it gets.