What now for Mourinho, Man United?


MANCHESTER — His eyes fixated on the journalist sat in the corner of the press room at Old Trafford. He held three fingers aloft. He demanded “respect, respect” as he stormed out of the press conference room after letting everyone know how many Premier League titles he had won (three, in case you didn’t know).

This feels like the moment when Jose Mourinho finally flipped given all of the criticism and all of the negativity swirling around his Manchester United side.

Not to sound like a kid in a schoolyard but, well, he started this. Some of the criticism he has received is unfair given his record of winning trophies at some of the biggest clubs on the planet. But this is the here and now we are talking about, Jose.

[ MORE: Mourinho’s meltdown in full flow ]

At the start of their preseason tour in the United States this summer Mourinho spoke about a tough season ahead as he presumably tried to cajole the board, mainly executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, into action in the transfer market. Despite handing Mourinho a new long-term contract in January 2018, that didn’t happen as new center backs failed to arrive with combative midfielder Fred the only major signing. But Mourinho has still spent the second-highest amount on transfer fees since he arrived at United in 2016, so perhaps his previous buys persuaded Woodward that he’d keep his cash in the bank, for now.

Despite Mourinho’s spending there is no clear identity, no real plan for the way he is setting up his United team every time they step on the pitch. Pep Guardiola has it at Man City and so does Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Mauricio Pochettino at Tottenham. Mourinho seems to be muddled in his tactical approach, with his players unsure what the real message is each time they step out onto the pitch.

With the negativity spreading to his players and the majority of the fans, Mourinho is now asking for “respect” and demanding journalists to stop asking him questions about defenders making horrendous mistakes because United played well for the first 45 minutes against Spurs.

The respect he is craving from the media and the wider public wasn’t afforded to his players this summer. Yes, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof in particular may not be good enough to play week in, week out for United but the huge mistakes they’re making are a product of doubts creeping into their minds about their manager, the way they’re being asked to play and all of the madness Mourinho has whipped up.

He’s a master of creating a siege mentality but the other inmates, his players, are being housed in a different asylum. They are not on the same page.

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But what now? Where does this leave Mourinho and, more importantly, United?

The most important thing is that he now goes back to basics. Part of his rant on Monday involved asking journalists whether playing well or getting results mattered more.

“When I win matches, I come here many times and you are not happy I won matches and you say the most important thing is the way of playing. You have to make the decision. I need to know from you what is the most important thing. To play well and play offensively? Or to win matches?” Mourinho asked, rhetorically.

He’s a man who has been hammered time and time again for being pragmatic but getting results. He grinds out wins. He wins trophies. He’s even won trophies at United that way in 2016-17. So, he has to go back to that system. He tried to play a more attacking way, with a 3-5-1-1 formation ripping Tottenham apart at times in the first half but United were so susceptible to counterattacks. Mourinho is trying to adapt his tactics but can he complete that transformation into the modern era of high-pressing and five-man defenses quickly transitioning into attackers?

Mourinho claimed United won the “tactical and strategic” battle against Tottenham on Monday and for the first half they did. And maybe that is the way Mourinho now wants to play, to be more open and hope that the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and others take their chances when they fall to them.

The safer option, and the route Mourinho will probably go down, is reverting to type. A solid 4-3-3 (4-5-1 when defending) and playing off Lukaku as the targetman as the rest of the team stay in their shape and try to get crosses from out wide as soon as they can. Those tactics delivered the League Cup and Europa League in Mourinho’s first season at United but his ideas were new, the players were more eager to adapt to his way of playing.

Now, as he enters the meaty part of his third season in charge at United, his players are questioning not only Mourinho’s tactics but his man-management as he’s fallen out and criticized many of them by now.

Therein lies the magic of Mourinho’s third-season syndrome. His abrasive, aggressive nature gets results for the first few years at a club but then, unless he adapts his methods, everything starts to turn against him. Speak to employees of Chelsea, Real Madrid or now United. They have eerily similar stories and this situation is eerily similar to what happened at Chelsea in 2015.

Mourinho must adapt his tactics and his attitude if he’s going to turn this around at United. The likelihood is that he won’t do either and that means more pain is on the horizon for the Red Devils.

Man United 0-3 Tottenham: 2-minute flurry deepens Mourinho’s woes

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One team stayed perfect, the other is in real trouble. All it took was one fateful two-minute stretch.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Manchester United and Tottenham went back and forth punching and counter-punching, but nobody could break through. Then in a flash, it was all over for the home fans at Old Trafford.

Harry Kane and Lucas Moura scored goals within a minute of each other as Spurs beat Manchester United 3-0 to pile even more pressure on Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho. Kane’s – an absolutely spectacular header – was his second goal ever at Old Trafford, his worst performance at any Premier League venue coming into the match based on minutes played. Moura then capped things off late with his second of the match.

The game exploded off the opening kick, and both teams had opportunities early on. Manchester United started things off as Fred had a dangerous chance on Hugo Lloris‘s net just 16 seconds into the match, but he put it just wide right on the volley. Christian Eriksen nearly chipped Harry Kane in down the other end on 12 minutes, but Kane just couldn’t control. Then at 15 minutes there was the biggest missed opportunity, as Romelu Lukaku rounded Lloris but from a relatively tight angle put the ball agonizingly wide of the open net, a chance he should have taken.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

On 25 minutes, Nemanja Matic was caught in possession by Dele Alli who charged forward on net one-on-two, but Chris Smalling went to ground and won the ball to end the chance.

It went end-to-end on the half-hour mark, as Lucas Moura made a marauding run forward before collapsing under a challenge from Phil Jones, but no call was given. Then down the other end, Jesse Lingard rifled a curling shot past Toby Alderweireld but missed just wide. The Red Devils came so close again three minutes later, first with Paul Pogba lashing a low shot saved by Lloris, and a follow-up took a dangerous deflection but skittered just wide.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Matic was required to make a critical block on a close-range Alli shot on 42 minutes, thanks to his own lack of awareness allowing Alli to slip in behind. Overall, the quality of the first half was severely lacking.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

After halftime, the chances continued to pour in, and finally one side capitalized. Five minutes out of the break, Kane ended his goalscoring hi jinx at Old Trafford with an absolutely brilliant header to put Spurs one-up. Kane’s strike came from a great distance out, perfectly targeted to the far corner leaving David De Gea no chance.

The game would not calm, and Manchester United nearly had an immediate response. Lukaku picked off a back-pass in traffic, and he rifled a shot from a tight angle which Lloris saved expertly. That would not come off, and Spurs would hit back immediately. Down the other end, Christian Eriksen fed the middle of the box from the right-hand side, and Moura struck a low shot into the bottom-left corner past a diving de Gea.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Alli had another big chance past the hour mark, as he picked off a poor back-pass from substitute Victor Lindelof, but de Gea saved the mistake by coming off his line and snuffing the chance. On the ensuing corner, Kane missed a wide-open header at the far post, putting it wide. The game was finally put away in the 84th minute as Moura killed off the match by taking a pass from Kane near midfield, beating Smalling one-on-one, and striking his shot past de Gea inside the left post.

The loss leaves Manchester United floundering on just three points, meaning they sit six points off the four unbeaten teams at the top which includes Tottenham. Spurs find themselves level in second place with Watford and Chelsea thanks to their +5 goal differential.

Manchester United baffled by Brighton

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Brighton and Hove Albion stunned a haphazard Manchester United 3-2 at the Amex Stadium on Sunday.

The win puts both teams at 1-1, with the Gulls getting goals from Glenn Murray, Pascal Gross, and Shane Duffy. Romelu Lukaku scored for United in the first half, before Marouane Fellaini drew a Paul Pogba-converted penalty.

Manchester United next meets Spurs at Old Trafford, while Brighton travels to Liverpool.

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Pogba played Romelu Lukaku through on goal, but the Belgian’s hard low strike zipped wide of the near post.

It was mostly United in the first 20 minutes before Anthony Knockaert raced onto a long ball and spun a 20-yard shot wide of David De Gea‘s far post.

Brighton did indeed take the lead through Murray, who cut in front of Victor Lindelof to flick a pretty ball from Solly March beyond De Gea.

Duffy then settled a cross in the heart of the United box before doubling Brighton’s advantage, and it would be a big dig for United.

Lukaku made it 2-1, rewarding for a fine first half-hour with a knockdown header from Luke Shaw‘s partially blocked shot.

But a poor pass from David De Gea led to Eric Bailly‘s sliding challenge on Pascal Gross. He converted the penalty to make it 3-1.

Mourinho completed his substitutions early, taking off Anthony Martial, Andreas Pereira, and Juan Mata for Marcus Rashford (HT), Jesse Lingard (HT), and Marouane Fellaini (60′).

United snapped to life with 16 minutes to play, Paul Pogba forcing Mathew Ryan into a flying parry.

But only a Fellaini-won penalty arrived deep in stoppage time, with Pogba converting his effort.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Murray scores beauty as Brighton thumping Man United at half

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Might we have an upset on our hands at the Amex Stadium?

Manchester United trails Brighton and Hove Albion on a deft goal from Glenn Murray against the run of play and a quickfire addition to the score line from Shane Duffy.

[ STREAM: Brighton-Man Utd ]

It was mostly United in the first 20 minutes before Anthony Knockaert raced onto a long ball and spun a 20-yard shot wide of David De Gea‘s far post.

Brighton did indeed take the lead through Murray, who cut in front of Victor Lindelof to flick a pretty ball from Solly March beyond De Gea.

Duffy then settled a cross in the heart of the United box before doubling Brighton’s advantage.

Lukaku answered with a headed goal, but a poor pass from David De Gea led to Eric Bailly‘s sliding challenge on Pascal Gross. He converted the penalty to make it 3-1.

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.”