Mourinho Facing Huge Season at United

Manchester United have endured a frustrating summer in the transfer market in their attempt to close the gap to Manchester City at the top of the Premier League. Pep Guardiola’s men left their bitter rivals in their wake last season to clinch the top-flight crown, reaching the 100-point park. After an early burst, the Red Devils were unable to match the pace of City for the majority of the campaign, finishing 19 points behind them at the end of the term. Jose Mourinho is now entering his third season at Old Trafford and only has the FA Cup to show for his time at the club, putting huge pressure on the Portuguese to deliver the title this season.

However, he has only been able to make one significant addition to his squad. Fred was one of the stars of last season’s Champions League for Shakhtar Donetsk, patrolling the middle of the park. He provided energy and a touch of class to the Ukrainian outfit. United moved ahead of City to secure the deal for the Brazilian to bolster their midfield ranks. Other than that Mourinho has added a back-up stopper in the form of Lee Grant and Diogo Dalot – a full-back for the future at the age of 19. With the transfer window scheduled to close on the 9th August, United are running out of time to make further signings to bridge the gap.

Bayern Munich duo Robert Lewandowski and Thiago Alcantara have been linked, but the German outfit will be desperate to retain the services of their key players. If the Red Devils are unable to prise them away from the Allianz Arena they will have to move swiftly to other targets. City are considered the overwhelming favourites to win the Premier League once again due to their dominance last term and unless United bolster the quality of their side they will be forced to watch their rivals lift the trophy once again.

The hope for United will be the improvement of their younger players, who are starting to enter their prime years. Paul Pogba proved at the World Cup that he has the talent to dominate in the middle of the park, guiding France to the world crown. With Fred alongside him in the midfield, the duo could do a lot of damage. Romelu Lukaku scored 16 goals in the Premier League last term and is capable of reaching 30 should he receive the ammunition.

The wildcard could be the development of Marcus Rashford. When he broke on to the scene he looked capable of being an incredible talent. His rise has been stymied by being forced into a wide role. Rashford along with the rest of the England players could be reinvigorated by their experience at the World Cup therefore a surge in form could see United challenge for the crown at odds of 7/1 in the Premier League betting tips & predictions with bet365. Mourinho’s system should allow United to be stoic at the back once again, but there has to be more from the Red Devils in the final third.

The Portuguese has been criticised for his defensive style. However, given that City will be pushing men forward to match their exploits last season and United will have to match them point-for-point. There’s no excuse for Mourinho as he has spent more than enough money and has the talent to produce the same level of goals than their rivals. Another failure could be the end of his tenure at Old Trafford.

El Crapico

I wasn’t massively surprised to see that tonight’s so-called El Classico turned out to be nothing of the sort, but I didn’t expect it too be anywhere near as bad as it was.

I also didn’t expect Real Madrid to go gung-ho and play into Barcelona’s hands, and why should they have? We all know what happened in the Nou Camp earlier in the season when they tried to go toe-to-toe with Barca.

But what I couldn’t believe was Barcelona allowing themselves to get sucked into Mourinho’s trap in the 1st half.

Why did they let the game become scrappy and stop – start with the awarding of endless free kicks? They then also got involved in rolling around and play acting, just adding to the lack of flow and playing into Jose’s hands.

That’s what Jose will have wanted, he didn’t want a classic football match as he knew his side would lose and up until mid way through the 2nd half the plan seemed to be working.

No doubt Mourinho will point to the red card as the reason for Real’s defeat, but I’m not so sure as I thought Barca were starting to get on top at this stage.

I also believe Mourinho played with fire and got burnt with Pepe, as he is one of those players with the potential to get himself sent off. He was always going to be a risk in the heat of the midfield tonight with his brand of tackling.

I heard Andy Townsend saying it was never a red card. I’m not so sure, it was a dirty tackle and I thought Pepe deliberately scraped his studs down Dani Alves’ shin.

It was one of those decisions where the player is a touch unlucky to see red, but lucky to get away with a yellow. Ultimately, if Pepe doesn’t make the reckless tackle, he doesn’t give Alves the excuse to act like he’d been shot in the leg.

The red card will no doubt add fuel to Mourinho’s endless claims of ‘victim status.’ How he can never play against Barcelona with 11 men, etc.

For this reason I was pleased that there were no interviews at the end, as it would just have been Mourinho rolling out his usual mantra about how UEFA, FIFA, the Pope, and everyone else in the world is against him and his team.

He always comes out with the same rubbish time and again, it’s almost as boring and monotonous as listening to politicians. No doubt it will come in time though.

In the end some football was played and again Messi delivered the goods. His 1st goal was good finishing, the 2nd was world class.

I did notice in the disgraceful scenes at the end of the 1st half that Messi just casually walked off the field minding his own business, taking just a glance across at the childish scuffle and choosing to keep out of it.

Messi clearly prefers to concentrate on his football rather than getting involved in all the stupid stuff. Maybe that’s why in a side as good as Barcelona are, he stands out.

Barca come up short again!

Not for the first time in recent years, Barcelona failed at the Semi-final stage of the Champions League as Inter Milan sent them out of the tournament on Wednesday.

Last year against Chelsea, Barcelona rode their luck and only got through after a series of controversial refereeing decisions and a last minute goal, the year before that Manchester United saw them off over two legs with relative ease, and if my memory serves me right, United even missed a Nou Camp penalty as well.

This time was the turn of Inter Milan. The stats from Wednesday’s game show that Barcelona had all the play, but what did they achieve with it?

The answer is ‘not a lot’.

There seemed to be no urgency or tempo to Barcelona’s play. The ball just kept going slowly from left to right and back again, for all Xavi’s possesion he never produced any killer passes.

Did Guardiola get his tactics wrong in picking Dani Alves in a more advanced role? When Alves plays at right back he is forever bombing forward and creating the overlap, and adding an extra attacking option.

On Wednesday we seen none of this, when the ball headed out to Inter’s left I found myself expecting to see another Bacra man come charging into shot to create the overlap, due to Guardiola’s selection this wasn’t happening and I believe it played into Inter’s hands.

In the end all that came from Barca’s right was a series of long aimless crosses that were meat and drink to Walter Samuel and the rest of his well drilled defence.

It all became too predictable from Barca, all they did was come back inside and play narrow, Inter could see it all coming and apart from the disallowed goal at the death, the door was firmly shut down the middle of Inter’s defence.

Guardiola also made a strange substitution for me, taking Ibrahimovic off after an hour made no sense at all. Ok, he wasn’t setting the world on fire, but surely you need to keep the focal point of your attack on the pitch?

There was a ball fired across the Inter six yard box with around 10 minutes left and there was no Barca player there to add the finishing touch. It looked tailor made for Ibrahimovic, on such big calls are matches decided.

The refereeing wasn’t up to much over the two legs either, in the 1st leg Inter scored an offside goal and Barca had a definate penalty turned down.

The disallowed goal for handball at the Camp Nou could have easily stood on another night, and would have knocked Inter out. I suppose all in all you could say Inter had more decisions go their way.

They did have Motta wrongly given a straight red card for a (supposed) elbow on the diving Sergio though. But the fact was that Motta was on a yellow and probably would have collected a 2nd one at least for the incident.

Walter Samuel picked up a lot of injuries for a big man, but apart from his ridiculous time wasting exploits he and the rest of his defence were magnificent. It was a great effort to hold out with only 10 men for well over half the match.

Did Sergio’s play acting decide Inter’s tactics for them when he got Motta sent off? We will probably never know. Given the Italian nature to defend a lead, it was probably highly unlikely that Inter would have been any more attcking with 11 men on the field.

All the talk on Thursday was that it is a foregone conclusion that Inter and Mourinho only have to turn up to beat Bayern Munich in the final. As pointed out on this blog ahead of Bayern’s games against Manchester United, don’t underestimate Louis van Gaal and his team.

van Gaal is proven at this level and is a very tactically astute manager. Will he be good enough to take on Mourinho? That is another question alltogehter which only time will tell.

I just think the final will be a lot closer than people seem to think it will be, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bayern pull it off.

The lucks still with Jose

Mixed feelings from Inter Milan’s 3-1 win over Barcelona tonight. On one hand Inter played really well and exposed Barcelona’s defensive frailties. One the other, it would be fair to say that Inter had the better of some of the referee’s decisions.

In truth, (and as much as I hate to admit it, as I’m no Mourinho fan) Milan were exceptional tonight and fully deserved their win. They could easily have scored two or three more, and Mourinho got his tactics spot on as he nullified Messi by cutting off his supply line from Xavi.

But Milan’s good fortune at the San Siro continued on from the Chelsea game. First, Milito headed in Sneijder’s abysmal headed attempt on goal that was going well wide, from an offside position.

The luck then continued in the last 10 minutes with two Barca penalty appeals going in Inter’s favour.

Wesley Sneijder made a tackle on Alves that was a clear penalty, but only resulted in a booking for Alves for diving. Then Lucio also got lucky after barging Pique out of the way in the penalty area, not a definate penalty, but I’ve seen them given for less.

All this after a blatent penalty was turned down in the Chelsea game at the San Siro in the last 16, an incident that surely turned the tie in Inter’s favour.

It reminds me of the year Mourinho won the competition with Porto and the onside goal that was disallowed at Old Trafford from Paul Scholes. It’s as if his name is on the trophy already.

In a further twist of good fortune for Mourinho, Barcelona had to make a 20 hour coach journey to Milan due to the Icelandic volcano and the ‘flight ban’. It was refreshing though to hear Pep Guardiola not blame the defeat on the journey.

I do hope Barca can turn this tie around, although I think they will have their work cut out next week. Imagine the hype surrounding Mourinho if he can knock out the (supposed) best side in the world. Sky Sports will be able to carry on with their sickening love in of him, and the talk of him returning to the Premier League will reach fever pitch. It would be unbearable.