Man United’s biggest problem ignored amid Mourinho’s excuses

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MANCHESTER — Jose Mourinho refused to blame his players for a sub-par display in the Manchester Derby on Sunday, as his Manchester United team lost 3-1 at Manchester City and are now closer to the bottom three of the Premier League than the top.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned ] 

Instead, Mourinho rattled off excuse after excuse as United lost for the fourth team in 12 games this season after yet another slow start. In the aftermath of the defeat, instead of highlighting United’s issues, Mourinho delivered excuse after excuse. He took the easy option.

City are 12 points ahead of United and along with Liverpool, Chelsea and even Tottenham they look set for a title tussle. United are so far from that it is scary as they’ve had to rely on late comebacks to drag them up the table in recent weeks. The wins over Bournemouth and Everton, plus the miraculous late comeback at Juventus in the UEFA Champions League, have given United’s fans false hope that this season could still be a success.

[ MORE: Player ratings ]  

Despite their late shows, the Red Devils are seven points off the top four and currently sit in eighth place in the Premier League. They’ve now conceded 21 goals in their opening 12 games of the season and for the first time since 1977 they have a negative goal difference at this stage of a campaign. That porous defense is a stain on Mourinho’s proud record as a defensive mastermind, and the fact he is ignoring that issue is most concerning as United continue to struggle.

Once again United could not carry out Mourinho’s defensive plan as he set his team up in a 4-5-1 formation and had three scrappers in midfield (Matic, Herrera and Fellaini) and the pace of Marcus Rashford to unleash on the break. It didn’t work, at all, and United looked far better when they chucked players forward in the second half as they tried to get back in the game after going 2-0 down. In truth, it was Ederson who handed them the initiative with a poor challenge to give United a penalty kick.

After the game Mourinho was asked if the derby summed up why City are pushing for a second-straight title and United, who finished a distant second behind them last season, are now solely focused on trying to finish in the top four.

“If you focus on all of the game today. The game was open for 80 something minutes, I think nobody left the stadium before their third goal, for sure, because the game was open until then,” Mourinho told reporters. “In a week where Man City played at home three matches and we played three matches away, in a week where they enjoyed two 6-0 and 6-1 victories, relaxed, no pressure, no mental effort, everything nice and easy. We played two matches away, difficult ones and the second one was like a final for us against one of the best teams in Europe, a game that demanded from us everything we had to give physically and mentally.

“When I analyze the game today I think the difference was — you can go for stats, that is the way people that don’t understand football analyze football, is with stats — but I don’t go for stats. I go for what I felt and what I watch in the game. The game was there until minute 80 something. I consider the performance of my team as a performance with mistakes. That is different than a bad performance. We made mistakes, we were punished for these mistakes. The performances, the mentality, the togetherness, belief, the fight until the end is something we are building and we are not going to lose that because of a defeat.”

That excuse about suffering from fatigue surfaced again and although United’s four-game PL unbeaten run is over, Mourinho is adamant they’re moving in the right direction.

After being asked if their poor defensive record shows he should have been handed a new center back in the summer transfer window, Mourinho praised the displays of center back pairing Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof and said he would not hammer Luke Shaw as he has played week in, week out this season.

“The game against Juventus was hard physically and mentally. I am with my players,” Mourinho said. “I am even with my players that today made the mistakes that led to Man City’s goals. We are together. We are not going to be effected by this. I am sorry we don’t play the next match soon and we have to wait 15 days for that but we are improving. We are improving and we go together until the end.”

What is at the end of this season remains to be seen, but United’s slim chances of winning the title are now over and a top four would now be a remarkable achievement.

Mourinho was asked about Paul Pogba being out injured for the derby and how that impacted his team. Another excuse soon arrived.

“I don’t like to lose a game and talk about this player who wasn’t here. But he is important for us in many aspects of the game. Because he didn’t play we had to play Fellaini who wasn’t ready to play for 90 minutes,” Mourinho said. “I can imagine when the result was 2-1, if we bring a fresh Fellaini on, I think they (Man City) would be in big, big trouble. When the result was 2-1 and it was the moment we had that final push, it was the moment Fellaini was doing an incredible effort to stay on the pitch. Not fit at all. Risking his injury and his condition and giving everything to the team. Clearly one thing is to have a fresh Fellaini and another to play him for 90 minutes in this match. Yes, we missed Paul but that doesn’t mean with Paul we win the game. That is not an excuse.”

The fact is, Mourinho delivered many excuses as to why United didn’t turn up for the derby and why they were dominated by Man City. The one thing he hasn’t delivered answers to are the same issues which have plagued United so far this season and leave them languishing outside the top four.

Player ratings: Man City v. Man United

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MANCHESTER — Manchester City beat Manchester United 3-1 in the Manchester Derby on Sunday, as Pep Guardiola‘s men stayed top of the Premier League table and Jose Mourinho’s United are in eighth place and 12 points behind their bitter rivals.

[ MORE: 4 things we learned ]

It was an intense encounter at the Etihad Stadium, as City dominated but United threatened to launch yet another comeback.

Here’s how each player ranked out of 10 during a frantic derby.


Manchester City

Ederson: 5 – Didn’t have too much to do but gave away a penalty kick rashly at a pivotal moment in the match. Another rush of blood to the head.
Kyle Walker: 6 – Some decent runs forward but United always looked more dangerous down his flank. Work to do defensively.
John Stones: 7 – Some key clearances and headers and dealt with Marcus Rashford easily.
Aymeric Laporte: 7 – See above. Another easy afternoon for Laporte who continues his incredible unbeaten run.
Benjamin Mendy: 6 – Not his best afternoon going forward but more than solid defensively. Edging back to his best.
Fernandinho: 7 – Scrapped away in midfield and had a decent effort from distance. Unsung hero. Again.
Bernardo Silva: 8 – Involved in two of City’s three goals and his pass to Gundogan for the third was sublime.
David Silva: 8 – A goal from City’s captain to get things going and Silva was at his best.
Raheem Sterling: 9 – Fine individual display. Set up the first goal, ran United ragged on the break. Has it all.
Riyad Mahrez: 7 – Involved in Aguero’s goal and drifted in and of the game. Started well but faded in second half.
Sergio Aguero: 8 – Hammered home City’s second and was a constant pest. Subbed off late on to a standing ovation.

Subs
62′ Leroy Sane on for Mahrez: 6 – A few decent chances but didn’t make the most of them. Worked hard down the left.
75′ Ilkay Gundogan on for Aguero: 6 – Missed one good chance and finished another. Nice little cameo.
90+2′ Phil Foden on for D. Silva: N/A – On for the final few seconds.


Manchester United

David De Gea: 7 – A couple of decent saves down low and solid as ever. Should he have saved Aguero’s shot?
Ashley Young: 7 – Kept plugging away down the right flank and whipped in some dangerous crosses.
Chris Smalling: 6 – Headed a few balls clear but like Lindelof, never looked at ease.
Victor Lindelof: 5 – Caught out by Aguero’s one-two with Mahrez for the second goal. Didn’t look comfortable.
Luke Shaw: 5 – Caught out with Sterling’s cross for the first goal. Shaky in possession. Not his finest display.
Ander Herrera: 6 – His kind of game. Tried to snap away at City’s midfielders but ended up chasing shadows.
Nemanja Matic: 6 – Tried to start some of United’s attack and calm them down as best as he could.
Marouane Fellaini: 5 – Added little threat going forward and didn’t add much defensively.
Jesse Lingard: 4 – Apart from one good run in the first half when he was brought down, failed to impact the game. Subbed off.
Anthony Martial: 5 – A frustrating afternoon with little service out on the left. Summed up by passing the ball out of play in the first half. Scored a penalty kick but did little else.
Marcus Rashford: 4 – Some poor first touches and hooked off in the second half.

Subs
57′ Romelu Lukaku on for Lingard: 6 – Won a penalty kick but did little else
73′ Juan Mata on for Herrera: 6 – Whipped in some decent deliveries. Too little time.
73′ Alexis Sanchez on for Rashford: 5 – Struggled down the right and gave away some needless fouls.

Report: Man United prepared to spend big in January

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Should Jose Mourinho still be manager in January, it appears he’ll have quite a big transfer budget to work with.

After a summer in which the club made just one major signing, midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk, Manchester United are reportedly prepared to spend upwards of $128 million for a new centerback and a new striker during the January transfer window. Mourinho has complained bitterly during the first three months of the season about his lack of talent both in the back and up top. At times he’s turned to Scott McTominay to play centerback and even had a failed experiment with Ander Herrera in a three-man backline.

Meanwhile, both Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku, who was benched last match in Man United’s 2-1 win over Everton, have both failed to score for the Red Devils since September in all competitions.

Of course, a lot of this is Mourinho’s own doing. He signed Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez (last winter), Eric Bailey and Victor Lindelof since taking over at Man United, and none of the foursome have lived up to expectations at Old Trafford, only showing flashes of brilliance. Mourinho deserves some blame for this, failing to develop them as players after signing them and playing up their potential.

It will be interesting to see now only who is possibly available in January, but whether Man United CEO Ed Woodward will approve the deals, with Mourinho sitting on the hot seat all season.

Four things learned: Chelsea v. Man United

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LONDON — Chelsea secured a dramatic late 2-2 draw against Manchester United, as Ross Barkley scored a 96th minute equalizer at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Maurizio Sarri‘s unbeaten record in charge of the Blues remains intact, while Jose Mourinho’s United side performed well but will be disappointed to let in a late goal which cost them their first win at Chelsea since 2012.

Sarri’s men took the lead through Antonio Rudiger‘s header but United struck twice through Anthony Martial‘s in a much-improved second half display from the Red Devils. Barkley then equalized as wild scenes on the touch saw one of Chelsea’s assistants, Marco Ianni

Here’s what we learned from a dramatic encounter in the sun in west London.


MARTIAL ISSUES TIMELY REMINDER

Anthony Martial scored twice to remind everyone of what he’s truly capable of. With his contract set to expire this summer (although United have an option to extend it for a further year) and talks not progressing, his agent will be waiting by the phone intently over the next few days. Martial’s clinical finishes reminded us of the teenager who burst onto the scenes in 2015 after United signed him from AS Monaco. That season he scored 17 times and he now has four in his first nine games of this campaign in all competitions. Martial is still just 22 years old and just as impressive as his cool finishes was his tracking back. That earned him a pat on the back and a warm embrace from Mourinho when he worked back on the left flank in the second half.


DEFENSIVE ERRORS CONTINUE TO HAMPER CHELSEA

It is something Maurizio Sarri has stressed time and time again since he took charge in July, but Chelsea do not seem to be improving defensively. With limited time to work with his squad on defensive shape they have instead focused of possessing the ball and getting the best out of Eden Hazard. That has worked well all season but without Olivier Giroud as the targetman they seemed to lose a cutting edge to their attacking play on Saturday with Alvaro Morata shackled and bullied by Chris Smalling. But it was a sense of panic in the box which saw Chelsea come unstuck, as they failed to clear on numerous occasions for United’s first goal and were then completely caught on the counter for the second.

As much as David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger are comfortable on the ball, they need to stop being turned around so easily as United’s powerful midfield ran at them time and time again in the second half. If Sarri’s Chelsea are to be serious title contenders this season in the Premier League, they need to shore things up defensively.


MOURINHO FIGHTS BACK WITH MORE BANS LIKELY

As Barkley equalized in the 96th minute to keep Chelsea’s unbeaten run intact, a member of Chelsea’s coaching staff, Marco Ianni, celebrated in Mourinho’s face and that of the United bench.

What came next was an huge melee as Mourinho stood up for himself and his team. It would be a shock of Ianni isn’t banned for this.

As Mourinho came off the pitch he then responded to jeers from Chelsea’s fans by reminding them how many titles he had won in charge of the Blues. Classic Jose.


POGBA REMAINS INFURIATING

The way Pogba threw his arms in the air and stamped his feet after Antonio Rudiger scored the opener for Chelsea told the whole story. Pogba lost Rudiger from the corner and he looked to be blaming Victor Lindelof as David Luiz blocked his run slightly. Instead of putting his hand up and taking responsibility for a lapse in concentration Pogba launched a tantrum a toddler would be proud of. In the second half Pogba was again at his infuriating best as he hurdled clear of two Chelsea challenges and was running at the heart of their defense. He then tried a clever flick which went straight to a Chelsea defender when an easy through ball to Marcus Rashford was on. It is a moments like this when you realize why Pogba must enrage Mourinho so much. Yet as the game opened up late on he got on the ball more and did cause problems with his slaloming runs but his passes were off. This was a display full of flaws from Pogba as he proved how infuriating he can be.

Chelsea grabs late equalizer vs. Man Utd as chaos engulfs finish

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  • Rudiger gives Chelsea lead (VIDEO)
  • Chelsea out-attempts Utd 21-7
  • Martial scores twice in 18 mins
  • Barkley ties it at the death

Chelsea scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time, igniting skirmishes on-and-off the pitch in a 2-2 draw between the Blues and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Chelsea assistant Marco Ianni charged in front of Jose Mourinho, pumping his fist inches from the Manchester United manager’s face before screaming at the boss on the way back. Mourinho and his staff had to be separated from getting to the Chelsea bench.

Anthony Martial‘s second half double looked to have given Jose Mourinho and Manchester United a marquee win.

Juan Mata was a key part of both United goals, as United moved to 14 points. Chelsea could drop from its table lead to as low as fifth pending other results.

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Manchester United was extremely lively, rewarding Mourinho for going attack-first with his lineup, and Romelu Lukaku just missed with a looping header after the first quarter-hour.

But it was Paul Pogba who let the team down.

The superstar midfielder let Antonio Rudiger use a pick to create some space on a corner kick, and couldn’t catch up to the German. Rudiger powered Willian‘s offering across goal and David De Gea couldn’t get a hand on the header. 1-0.

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United got a deserved equalizer when Kepa Arrizabalaga saved Juan Mata’s 54th minute effort. It wound up back atop the box, where Marcus Rashford‘s shot deflected to Martial in the catbird seat. 1-1, 55’.

There were chances for each team to go ahead, but it was that fella Martial who did the trick again.

It came via a terrific team play. A long ball allowed Mata to flick delightfully by a mark and into the right corner. Chelsea was very scrambled, as Mata fed Rashford, who found Martial for a pretty finish.

Olivier Giroud thought he’d won a penalty off Victor Lindelof in stoppage time, but it was far too hopeful.

David De Gea denied Rudiger a second, but Barkley slotted the loose ball to set off chaos at the Bridge.