Getty Images

Mourinho’s mixed messages over Man United progression

Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho believes his Manchester United side will progress this season. Even if the table or points tally doesn’t show it.

Work that one out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Speaking ahead of United’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves on Saturday — Paul Pogba has already had his say as he urged United to ‘attack, attack, attack’ at home — Mourinho said he is pleased with the overall development of his side.

“I am not saying we are going to have more points than last season because last season we collect a very acceptable level,” Mourinho said. “I think we are going to be a better team. We are going to play better than we did but I think it’s going to be a very difficult season. Not just for us, also for the others because the others they can say exactly the same as I am saying and they can say: ‘Oh, Manchester United, good team, good squad, City good squad, good team.’”

“I am optimistic, but a difficult season, yes,” Mourinho added. “I don’t change that because we won two matches in the Premier League. You see the level of the teams: you see [the] Liverpool squad, City squad, Chelsea squad, Tottenham squad, Arsenal improving. It’s going to be difficult.”

As Mourinho mentioned, they’ve won two of their last three but just three of their opening six PL games this season and they’re already eight points off league leaders Liverpool in the table.

Surely he can’t be too happy with the development of his team? Mourinho questioned the attitude of his players after the draw with Wolves, which isn’t a sign of him believing they’re moving in the right direction.

The Portuguese coach is sending out mixed messages.

United’s dropped points against Tottenham, Brighton and Wolves were deserved, although the game against Spurs was a strange one as they played well and should have led but they were then punished in the second half. Wolves could’ve easily nicked a win at United on Saturday and United’s defensive deficiencies are the biggest problem for Mourinho to sort out as he chops and changes defensive players.

Do they need to attack more? Well, that is always the objective for any team and United are no different, especially at home, but Mourinho doesn’t seem to know his best attacking lineup aside from Romelu Lukaku. There’s no doubt Alexis Sanchez is in a severe slump, while Marcus Rashford is being played out of position on the wing and the likes of Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial are in and out of the team. To become a better attacking unit you need to have a settled system and personnel who can create and combine effectively. United do not have that. At all. And they haven’t since Mourinho arrived in 2016.

Over the past three seasons, United have scored 131 goals, the fewest amount of the so-called ‘big six’ in the Premier League.

They’ve scored nine goals in their opening six games of this season and they’ve conceded nine. That points to fine-tuning needed in both defense and attack if they’re not only going to finish in the top four but also drag themselves into the title race.

At this point Mourinho needs his players to put points on the board and more trophies in the cabinet at Old Trafford because his team aren’t showing serious signs of progression and aren’t enjoyable to watch on a weekly basis a la Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham and even Arsenal.

Wolves, Manchester United equal at Old Trafford

Leave a comment
  • Pogba makes star pass to Fred (video)
  • Moutinho with equally clever goal
  • United sits sixth

Joao Moutinho‘s terrific second half goal helped Wolverhampton Wanderers to a 1-1 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Fred scored United’s goal off a clever Paul Pogba feed, with the Frenchman having a decent day in the stalemate. United had the better of the chances, but could not find a second goal.

United is sixth with 10 points, behind Bournemouth on goal differential, while Wolves are 10th with one less point.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

David De Gea was called upon for a prime 7th minute save when Wolves unlocked the United defense to afford Raul Jimenez a point blank turn-and-fire.

Fred but United ahead in the 18th minute, the Red Devils’ Brazilian addition hitting a low ball past Rui Patricio after a breathtaking touch bass from Paul Pogba.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Hold on just one minute, though, as Wolves leveled the score with a scintillating strike from Moutinho, who curled a pass from Raul behind a helpless De Gea.

Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard posted dangerous chances for United, and an offside Romelu Lukaku missed with a header from a Pogba cross.

De Gea and Patricio traded saves as the final 20 minutes began at Old Trafford, with Marouane Fellaini threatening the latter with a 72nd minute header.

PL Preview: Manchester United vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers

Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Manchester Uniited midfielder Nemanja Matic and striker Marcus Rashford are both suspended following red cards against Watford and Burnley respectively.
  • Manchester United have won their last six league matches against Wolves at Old Trafford, including all four in the Premier League, one of six sides they have played against on at least four occasions at home in the competition while retaining a 100 per cent record.
  • Wolves have won their last two Premier League matches, both by a 1-0 scoreline. They have not won three in a row in the top-flight since March 1980.
  • Man United are looking to avoid consecutive home defeats in the Premier League for the first time since March 2014, while manager Jose Mourinho has never suffered back-to-back home league defeats in his managerial career.

Facing one of the Premier League’s hottest clubs, Manchester United will look to avoid a second consecutive home defeat when it takes on Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET live online at NBCSports.com/Gold. It’s a reunion of sorts, as Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho meets his countryman Nuno Espirito Santo, who formerly played at goalkeeper for Mourinho while at Porto.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Man United has looked solid in its last three matches, all away from home, but they’ll want to avoid the memories of the last time the Red Devils took the field at Old Trafford, a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham. On the other side, Wolves are unbeaten in four matches and face their biggest test since facing Manchester City earlier in the season. It’s been 38 years since Wolverhampton last won at Manchester United. Can they re-write history in the process?

What they’re saying

Man United manager Jose Mourinho on his team’s improving defense: “I think the team as a team is resolving the defensive problems better than before. I don’t want to say it was Bailly or Jones, and it’s now Smalling or Lindelof. I think the team is more compact, is more solid, the spirit, the co-operation, the empathy, the communication, all of that improved in the team and good results bring confidence. I think we are improving as a team. I don’t want to say that our improvement has the name of Chris or Victor. The team is playing better and of course they are part of the team that played well in these matches.”

Wolverhampton manager Nuno Espirito Santo on not changing his team’s playing style: “There is no game I recall that we changed. That tells a lot about what the players believe. If you change, it doesn’t make sense. You have to adapt, respect and be humble – know you are facing a strong team – but you cannot change and fear. None of those things are part of us. We go there to compete, believing in ourselves.”

Video Preview

Prediction

Even with a better defense, Manchester United will feel the absence of Nemanja Matic in midfield. Wolverhampton won’t back down and on the counter, Ruben Neves will make a late run and score from the top of the box to nullify a goal from Romelu Lukaku. Manchester United 1-1 Wolverhampton

 

Man Utd wins; Watford no longer perfect

Leave a comment
  • Red Devils score in 35′, 38′
  • Gray pulls one back
  • Watford loses first of season
  • Matic sent off late

Romelu Lukaku and Manchester United handed Watford its first blemish of the season, beating the Hornets 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Chris Smalling scored a beautiful goal for United to join Lukaku on the score sheet. Nemanja Matic was shown a second yellow card in the third minute of stoppage time.

The Red Devils improve to 3W-2L and join both Arsenal and Tottenham on nine points.

Watford’s 12 points are good for fourth, two above Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

It was very much United’s game from the opening kick, with Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku especially lively in the first five minutes.

Good movement from United allowed Paul Pogba to cut back and hit a left-footed shot from atop the 18, but Ben Foster stooped to collect the ball. At the other end, Will Hughes forced David De Gea into a similar save.

De Gea then made an outstanding save against the run of play when Marouane Fellaini gave the ball away inside the 18 and Troy Deeney laced an effort top corner.

Alexis Sanchez had the ball in the goal but was whistled for offside in the 24th. And he zipped past Christian Kabasele to cut a shot on goal that Foster palmed over the bar.

Lukaku gave United a deserved lead in the 35th minute, using his belly to turn a cross inside the goal.

Center back Smalling made it 2-0 when he chest trapped Fellaini’s header before swiveling to volley a striker’s goal past Foster. The Watford goalkeeper would stop Paul Pogba on the doorstep in stoppage time to limit the deficit to two heading into halftime.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Watford created a goal in the 65th minute with Gray granted plenty of space to hit a cutback cross from Abdoulaye Doucoure past De Gea.

It could’ve been 3-0 had Antonio Valencia sprung Romelu Lukaku on a 2v1, but the Ecuadorian’s later pass led Lukaku to touch the ball to Alexis Sanchez and the Chilean couldn’t manufacture a shot.

That’s when Matic saw his second yellow for breaking up a late rush, but De Gea made a flying save to deprive Kabasele of an equalizer. The ensuing corner kick led to nothing, and the final whistle blew in favor of the visitors.

WATCH LIVE: Watford vs. Manchester United

Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Watford looks to stay perfect on the season with a challenging visit from Manchester United at Vicarage Road on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Marcus Rashford serves the first of his three-match suspension for United, who use a front three of Jesse Lingard, Romelu Lukaku, and Alexis Sanchez.

It’ll again be Troy Deeney and Andre Gray up top for the Hornets.

LINEUPS

Watford: Foster, Holebas, Kabasele, Cathcart, Janmaat, Pereyra, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deeney, Gray. Subs: Gomes, Mariappa, Femenia, Masina, Chalobah, Sema, Success.

Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Lindelof, Young, Fellaini, Matic, Pogba, Lingard, Lukaku, Sanchez. Subs: Grant, Bailly, Darmian, Fred, Mata, McTominay, Martial.