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.

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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.

Preseason roundup: Arsenal clobbers PSG, Liverpool swamps Man United

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The preseason is in full swing for Premier League teams, with the start of the 2018/19 campaign less than two weeks away.

Almost all top PL clubs were in action on Saturday somewhere around the world, with the International Champions Cup continuing to pit top teams against each other all across the globe.

Earlier in the day, Arsenal stomped new manager Unai Emery’s old club PSG 5-1 in Singapore in a game that actually started out in the French club’s favor. American Tim Weah started the match and was instrumental as PSG began on the front foot, but it all went wrong when Mesut Ozil scored in the 13th minute on a 2-on-1 counter-attack. It was 1-0 until after halftime when Arsenal ran riot, as Alexandre Lacazette bagged a pair plus efforts from Rob Holding and Eddie Nketiah. Holding’s goal especially was a thing of beauty, an absolutely stunning header from a good distance out that looped perfectly into the top-left corner. Mesut Ozil, fresh off his controversial international retirement, had an inspired performance for Arsenal while wearing the captain’s armband.

Chelsea drew with Inter 1-1 with their only goal scored by Pedro inside the opening 10 minutes. Alvaro Morata picked a defender’s pocket on the end line and shot from a tight angle, and Samir Handanovic’s save fell to Pedro who poked into the open net. The Italian side drew level just after halftime as the Blues were punished for a bad giveaway in their own half and Roberto Gagliardini slid it past Willy Caballero for the equalizer.

Liverpool and Manchester United met at the Big House in Michigan, and unlike many of this summer’s ICC matches, it was an exciting affair with Jurgen Klopp‘s men winning 4-1. Right from the start, both teams were flying, and it produced plenty in front of net. Liverpool forced Manchester United goalkeeper Lee Grant into some early saves, while a fabulous Alexis Sanchez long-ball saw the ball in the net but ruled out for the offside flag. Just before the half-hour mark, Liverpool drew first blood as Mohamed Salah was fouled by 21-year-old Demetri Mitchell and Sadio Mane bagged the effort from the spot. Manchester United responded almost immediately as 22-year-old Andreas Pereira unleashed a spectacular free-kick from 30 yards out.

After halftime, the pace dropped a bit and Sanchez struggled to influence things as he did in the first half. Liverpool capitalized and took off. New Reds signing Xherdan Shaqiri came on and made a difference, teeing up Daniel Sturridge for their second. A third came from the spot as Sheyi Ojo slotted it home, and then Shaqiri marked his Liverpool debut with a stunning bicycle kick to cap things off.

Manchester City picked up an impressive comeback against German giants Bayern Munich in Miami, Florida in a 3-2 victory, their final ICC match of the preseason. Both teams fielded relatively weak teams, and it resulted in an exciting match. Bayern took a 2-0 lead before halftime behind goals from 19-year-old Meritan Shebani and veteran Arjen Robben. Despite the scoreline, City was impressive in patches before the break, and they snagged one back before the break on a low drive by Bernardo Silva, who is seeing plenty of playing time this preseason. After halftime, Phil Foden put one on frame that Sven Ulreich parried directly into the path of 19-year-old Lukas Nmecha who brought City back level. They would win it on a second from Bernardo Silva, who somehow got a shot off through a double-team and past Ulreich to put City on top with 20 minutes to go.

Outside the ICC, Leicester City fell to Italian club Udinese 2-1 in Austria, held without a goal until Kelechi Iheanacho grabbed a consolation with a minute remaining in the match. Claude Puel named a strong side, with Kasper Schmeichel the only international left out of the squad, but they struggled to keep up. Wes Morgan was done for the first Udinese goal just four minutes in, while the Italians added a second before the break, with it clear that the Foxes need Maguire – who did not see time – to return along the back line. Leicester takes on Valencia on Wednesday to round off its preseason fixtures.

Still to come:

Barcelona vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Pasadena, CA) — 11:05 p.m. ET