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Welcome To Manchester: Jose Mourinho


Will Mourinho’s Midas touch transform Manchester United?

The fans reaction at the sight of a crazy little Portuguese fella running down the touchline at Old Trafford after seemingly losing his mind was one of pure disbelief at the audacity of the man.

That man will get a totally different reaction from the United faithful when he walks along the side of the pitch to take his seat in the dugout at the Theatre of Dreams as the new Manchester United manager come August.

Jose Mario Dos Santos Mourinho Felix or more commonly know as The Special One, a moniker he bestowed on himself, brought his Porto side to Old Trafford back in 2004 and knocked United out of the Champions League on his way to lifting the famous trophy and cementing his place as one of the most sought-after young managers in football.

Fast forward twelve years and the 53-year-old is the man that United have pinned their hopes on to revive the fortunes of the great club after three seasons of underachievement in the hands of Moyes and van Gaal.

The one-time interpreter turned coach certainly will not lack in the self-belief that one needs to succeed at United and can fall back on his experiences at clubs such as Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea again. At each of those clubs, he led them to either domestic or European titles or even both. He also managed to get the backs up of the club owners with his outspoken views.

Mourinho crossed swords with United and Alex Ferguson in his first spell at Chelsea during his three years there and backed by Roman Abramovich’s billions he built a title winning side that became a thorn in Fergie’s side on more than one occasion.

He transformed Chelsea from an average side to Premier League champions for the first time in fifty years. During his first two seasons, he won the league twice, plus the FA Cup for good measure. The Champions League evaded him and this led to disagreements with the owner.

Following his fall out with Abramovich, Mourinho moved to mainland Europe in 2008. He continued his golden touch at Inter Milan guiding the Italian giants to two championships and the Champions League.

Then the lure of a move to Real Madrid proved too strong and he found himself pitting his wits in Spain against Pep Guardiola the coach at Barcelona. Even though he guided them to the La Liga in 2012 he missed out on the Champions League the following season and departed by mutual consent.

He surprised everyone by rebuilding his relationship with Chelsea supremo Abramovich and returned to West London for a second spell at the Bridge in June 2013.

In his first season back, he only managed to guide them to third in the table, but the following campaign, they completed the double of the Premier League title and League cup.

In August 2015, following the success of the previous season, Mourinho signed a five-year contract. However, come December, all was not well at the Bridge after losing nine out of sixteen games the pressure was on. There were clear signs coming from the club that they had problems. The players’ body language and the fall out with the club doctor played out in the press and eventually club and manager parted company yet again.

Since the start of his enforced sabbatical, his name has been linked with the position at United on a daily basis and the worst kept secret in football was finally confirmed on May 27 following the dismissal of Louis van Gaal.

There is no doubting his winning mentality and it seems perfectly in tune with United’s desire to return to the days of success enjoyed under Fergie. And his old friend and foe won’t be too far away as Pep will be close at hand at the Etihad to ensure that their fight to be the dominant force will continue at a pace.

With the United faithful wholeheartedly behind him, Mourinho has already jumped over the first hurdle that Moyes and van Gaal managed to trip over through their inept tactics and philosophies, the fans’ support.

Many have voiced their concerns that his ego might be too big for the hot seat at Old Trafford but consider United’s past managers. They were not exactly shrinking violets Busby, Docherty, Atkinson and Ferguson were never ones to hide behind closed doors when something had to be said so expect some delightfully interesting press conferences.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing how Mourinho sets out his stall in the transfer market. Who he brings in and more importantly, who he releases as he attempts to make his mark on the club from the start.

Mourinho’s preference for playing with three central defenders and a strong midfield may not sit well with the present set of players who struggled with a similar system under van Gaal. He needs to build his own team, which may take more than one season to fulfil.

Many existing United players will be worrying whether or not they fit in with his plans or will be surplus to requirements. Mata springs to mind as he was allowed to join United while Mourinho was in charge at Chelsea.

He has already made the statement that the past three years has not been good enough for the club. However, he will need to rejuvenate a side bereft of that all important winning mentality added with a mixture of new blood that will also show his intent in the transfer market with a reported £200 million at his immediate disposal.

Bringing in new players without the promise of Champions League football is never easy, but his name and stature in the game should be enough to lure marquee signings to Old Trafford. Zlatan would be a good start.

United will surely go into the 2016/17 campaign on a more positive note than if van Gaal had remained. And you can expect the special one to produce a special season that will have all the United fans forgiving him for his over the top dance down the touchline all those years ago. In fact, they would love to see it again if it was in celebration of winning the league.

One thing is for sure and that is there will be no shortage of entertainment during his reign as manager.

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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Manchester United Season Review 2015/16


He came, he saw, he failed to conquer. Louis’ reign as the Manchester United manager came to an end 48 hours after lifting the FA Cup.

He was fired by the United board for not achieving the aims of the club mainly the failure to qualify for Champions League football next season.

Van Gaal has departed without anybody being any the wiser on what exactly the Dutchman’s philosophy was. All he has left is a legacy of tactical ineptitude that bemused the fans and left them frustrated.

Louis van Gaal came to United in 2014 saying all the right things, but ended his second season, saying all the wrong things. Of course, the fans’ expectations are high we are talking about Manchester United after all but to say that we put too much expectation on the team is ridiculous, to say the least.

The Dutch coach arrived at the club with an impressive CV after many successful years in club football and at the helm of the Dutch national squad. However, in two full seasons his philosophy got us absolutely nowhere, in fact, in the league they even went one step backwards.

Last summer Old Trafford was all abuzz with the marquee signings van Gaal had made, including the German international Bastian Schweinsteiger, Morgan Schneiderlin from Southampton, little-known Italian defender Matteo Darmian, exciting young prospect on the wing Memphis Depay, Argentine keeper Romero and the most expensive teenager at the time Anthony Martial.

Out of those summer buys only Martial proved his full worth as was evident on his scoring debut against bitter rivals Liverpool. That scoring form continued throughout his debut season ending up United’s leading scorer with 17. A total that sounds low until you consider that he spent the season out on the left wing.

Schneiderlin also performed admirably as did Darmian, but the others not so much. Schweinsteiger spent the last two months out injured and Memphis endured a torrid season blighted by a dramatic drop in confidence which meant he spent most of his first season on the bench. Romero played the first six games until De Gea’s new contract was signed then he managed only four more appearances.

Van Gaal, like a lot of the players, talked up a good game especially in his famous press conferences. But when it came to the important part they failed to deliver time and time again on the pitch. Ten defeats in a league season is simply unacceptable.

The biggest problem had to be the distinct lack of goals that cost us a top four place as we ended the season on equal points with Man City who enjoyed a far greater goal difference.

In total United scored only 49 goals in the Premier League, which is the lowest achieved by a United team since the 1989-90 season, 46. The top scorer in the league was Anthony Martial with 11. Therein lies the problem. For all the possession they enjoyed the main problem was the inability to put the ball in the back of the net especially when you consider Wayne Rooney scored the only hat-trick of the season in August against FC Club Brugge in the Champions League qualifier.

In the past, all the players contributed to the goals for column, but this season, the highest scoring midfielder was Mata with 6 and the defenders only managed two goals between them. On the subject of the defence it was one of the meanest in the league conceding 35.

At Old Trafford, the visitors only managed to score 9 times. This was down mainly to the partnership of Smalling and Blind and of course the brilliant De Gea who rescued his team on countless occasions.

Playing players in different positions, also had the fans scratching their heads in disbelief and at times amusement. Young, a winger, as the main striker while Martial, a centre forward, was on the wing. Rooney was utilised more in the midfield where he had some decent games. But Paul Scholes he is not and his scoring ability was wasted there.

Some players were used sparingly during the season and others too much. Herrera often had to take a back seat to Felliani and Carrick looked off the pace at times.

Goalkeeper David De Gea picked up his third player of the year award in a row and this shows how inadequately the outfield players grasped the manager’s tactics and were left to play without any urgency or in a cut throat attacking style.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. United did play well against the so called big teams, including a double over bitter rivals Liverpool, a tremendous performance against Arsenal at home, beating City at the Etihad and the 3-0 win at Goodison which was probably the best away performance of the season. And they ended the campaign with their 12th FA Cup win and their first silverware for three seasons.

However, it was the inability to put the lower sides to the sword, especially in defeat to the likes of Swansea, Bournemouth, Sunderland and relegated Norwich after dominating in those games that hurt the most. Newcastle, also relegated, held United to two draws. Lost points that had an adverse effect on the final league position.

The fact that Leicester City have been crowned Premier League champions shows that there has been a shift in power from the standard big four. It will be interesting to see how the Foxes fare next season along with West Ham, Spurs and Southampton who all brought a breath of fresh air to the league.

If there is any consolation in finishing fifth in the league it is that Chelsea and Liverpool will miss out completely on Europe after both had replaced their managers and still failed to deliver.

As regards United’s endeavours, or lack of, in Europe that didn’t go so well either. They finished third in what looked a fairly easy group and ended up in the Europa League where they were eventually knocked out by Liverpool after basically a no show at Anfield in the last 16 first leg.

The terrible double leg fracture suffered by Luke Shaw early in the campaign was a major blow to the United defence, but it did signal the rise of the youngsters to be given a chance by van Gaal in the first team.

There is one thing that van Gaal can take from his two-year tenure and that is, he brought the youngsters through from the lower ranks and gave them their chances in the first team. However, it has to be said that was due mainly to necessity rather than choice. He had released Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson on loan before the new year and didn’t make any cover signings during the January transfer window, so in effect he had no choice but to turn to the reserves and Under-18’s academy players.

The first of those introduced to join by now regular and cup final hero Jesse Lingard was Cameron Borthwick-Jackson at full back then the likes of Love, Varela, Poole, Weir and the great young talent Fosu-Mensah also had opportunities presented to them due to many injuries in the defence. Marcos Rojo missed a huge chunk of the season after shoulder surgery and the same went for Antonio Valencia.

It has to be said that the youngster that had the biggest impact on the side had to be 18-year-old local lad Marcus Rashford. Talk about a Roy of the Rovers introduction to life as a Man United hero.

Two debut doubles in two matches against Midtjylland in the Europa League and Arsenal in the Premier League had the fans and media foaming at the mouth at this talented goal scorer who clearly wasn’t daunted by the prospect of playing regularly for the first team.

The United reserves retained their League Champions crown which speaks volumes for the work that the coach Warren Joyce did to bring such a talented group of players together and become a feeder for the first team.

So, another chapter in Manchester United’s illustrious history has come to an end and now it’s time to turn the next page. One that will hopefully see our great club return to where it belongs and knock Leicester off their perch. Over to you Jose!

Thanks for reading.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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Rooney Runs The Show


Manchester United 3 Bournemouth 1

The final day of the season is not usually known for its drama off the pitch, but on it. That was exactly the case at Old Trafford on Sunday following the bomb scare that caused the stadium to be cleared and the match to be rescheduled.

After the suspect package had been discovered the security staff have to be praised for the calm way they conducted the evacuation of 75,000 people in such an orderly fashion.

However, questions have to be raised at the club in regards to the way a suspect package had been left unnoticed for four days. And the security company that left it there have to be dragged over the coals for their ineptitude.

The last league game of the season eventually saw United welcome Bournemouth to Old Trafford after the understandable postponement of the match on Sunday.

This rescheduled match meant two things. Firstly,  United knew that barring a victory of 19 plus goals, there would be no Champions League football next season. Secondly, it would interrupt preparations for the upcoming FA Cup final against Crystal Palace this weekend.

How would these factors effect van Gaal’s team selection from the one he chose for the original game? The answer was it didn’t as he picked the exact same eleven: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, Blind, Borthwick-Jackson, Carrick, Rooney, Lingard, Mata, Martial and Rashford. In came the recalled trio of Borthwick-Jackson, Carrick and Lingard at the expense of Rojo, injured in training, Schneiderlin, ill and Herrera who started on the bench.

In all honesty, there was very little to say about the first half as it had been pretty much unremarkable until Rooney gave the fans something to cheer as he netted his 100th Premier League goal at Old Trafford in the 43rd minute.

The captain had the easiest of finishes as he buried the ball into the back of the net after Martial and Mata had played a neat one-two with each other and the former produced a cross that Rashford stepped over which left Rooney able to pounce. One down, only 18 to go.

Before the opener the closest the sides came to raising the pulse of the fans was when Carrick almost got a touch to a Rooney delivery from a free kick and at the other end, Pugh had an effort blocked by Valencia. The match had that feeling of a pre-season friendly written all over it.

At least at the start of the second half, both sides had decided to make a go of it with Rooney eyeing up a shot that was blocked and Mata who went to ground in the penalty area after being caught from behind but referee Jon Moss waved play on.

The visitors had their moments when Pugh and Wilson tried their luck from the edge of the area but would need to do better to beat De Gea.

Carrick was the next player to jolt the fans into life as he blasted a swerving, long-distance drive against the crossbar.

At the centre of United’s attacking forays were Martial’s quick feet on the left and the precise passing of Rooney from his midfield position.

Somehow the score remained 1-0 after a spot of football pinball inside the Cherries box after great play by Rashford. The ball just wouldn’t go in after every shot was blocked by the defenders.

United had found the desire to kill the game off and Valencia came close with a cracker of a shot that Bournemouth keeper Federici brilliantly saved with his fingertips.

What a difference the two halves were proving to be.

The home side had another penalty shout when Lingard was brought down. However, the referee wasn’t interested in the appeals of United.

The visitors did manage to put the ball in the net, but to their disappointment, Wilson was correctly ruled offside. It was a reminder to United that one goal might not be enough.

Right on cue Rashford made it 2-0 in the 75th minute. The move started with a delightful ball played deep into the box by Rooney which was headed back into the danger area by Valencia and there was Rashford to fire a low shot into the net and celebrate his call-up to England’s provisional squad for the European Championships.

Van Gaal made three substitutions in the last ten minutes with Herrera, Memphis and Young replacing Mata, Rashford and Martial. And it was the forgotten man Young, who produced the icing get on the cake in the 87th minute with United’s third goal of the game after great work from the man of the match, Rooney. He beat the defence with a well-timed chip to provide Young with the easiest of chances to score to which he duly obliged.

The match had time for one more twist when in added time Smalling managed to put the ball into his own goal which denied De Gea a share of the league’s golden glove, much to the Spaniards dismay judging by his reaction.

After an anti-climatic first half at least the players brought the game to life in the second half. Rooney pulled the strings from his midfield role and provided a master class of passing combined with his never say die attitude when chasing back.

The main objective apart from the win was to not sustain any injuries before the cup final. In that respect mission accomplished.

United had chances so many times this season to make sure they booked their seat at the caviar and champagne table of the European elite and only have themselves to blame for ending up picking up the scraps in the Europa League.

Have we witnessed the van Gaal farewell at the Theatre of Dreams? Which in all reality has turned out to be nothing less than a nightmare for the coach who arrived with such high expectations following an impressive career across Europe. However, once again the season has fallen short for the club under his so-called philosophy.

Surely the time has come to put everyone, including van Gaal, out of their misery. No matter what happens in the FA Cup final the board have to find the right person who can take United in a new direction or witness the further demise of our great club.

Thanks for reading. Next stop Wembley.

Miles Dunton | FacebookTwitter

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