Three players Mourinho needs to drop at Manchester United

Jose Mourinho’s start to life as Manchester United manager has not been as smooth as he would have hoped. While this is not a time to press the panic button, it was apparent his side were lacklustre and out of ideas in the 4-0 loss at Chelsea. Lewis Addley explores some potential changes he can make to freshen things up and stop his side from carrying passengers…

Being coached by Mourinho is something a whole host of the world’s best players have enjoyed since he put his name on the map as Porto manager 14 years ago, but the same cannot be said at this moment in time, as his ongoing struggles at Manchester United are not improving.

Mourinho admitted himself that life in Manchester has been difficult to adapt to and his time away from football is something he is not familiar to, living in a hotel and separate from his family.

While United are only six points off the top of the Premier League table in what already looks set to be the most competitive season ever, there is plenty of work to do to get the 20-time champions firing again.

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A number of Mourinho’s marquee summer signings haven’t yet clicked into place and the squad appear to be disjointed and out of ideas, even more so apparent after going 1-0 down to Chelsea without touching the ball on Sunday.

Mourinho has a squad full of talented players and just three changes could potentially make a difference in terms of unpredictability, solidity and energy.

So let’s have a look at those three potential changes…

Forward play: 

Regardless of how many career titles and goals he has to his name, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has struggled in his last few appearances. He started the season well, scoring four goals in his first four games, but the big Swede needs a rest. He clearly has the ability to cause havoc to any opposition defence, but he seems to be getting lost and committing more fouls than creating chances.

He will be the last thing defenders want to see if Mourinho gives the 35-year-old legend a rest and brings him into a couple of games on the bounce with half an hour to go after some of his younger, more energetic teammates have worn down the opposition.

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Verdict: Rest Ibrahimovic and play Rashford in his natural position as a striker. The Englishman will bring in more energy and pace to the attack, leaving the option for Ibra to swoop in for the kill later in the game.

In the middle: 

Everybody knows Mourinho loves a holding midfielder to dominate games with strength and the ability to break up play. But at the moment, the United midfield as a whole have failed to get to grips with fast-paced games, and they’re not being streetwise enough to stop counter attacks as well as creating moves of their own.

Mourinho should look at pulling Marouane Fellaini out of the side. Yes, the big man can cause chaos in the box offensively, but he isn’t doing it. Fellaini has features of his game that make for a player who can have an influence, but he is not a controlling midfielder, he doesn’t dominate games and doesn’t bring an atmosphere of calm to the side.

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Verdict: Drop Fellaini for Michael Carrick or Bastian Schweinsteiger. Mourinho won’t want to backtrack on his decision to ostracise Schweinsteiger from the squad but these two players have unparalleled experience compared to their teammates and can instil a sense of calm to any top-class midfield.

The world’s most expensive player:

An awful lot has been made of Paul Pogba’s slow start to life back in Manchester and it is so obvious he needs some help. While he may be the most expensive player in the world, the Frenchman didn’t ask for that price tag and it is weighing him down. The pressure becomes more intense in each game he underperforms.

Pogba will clearly become a great, he has the talent, personality and is likeable, but he needs a bit of time out of the side to find his feet again. His confidence has been rocked and now is the time for Mourinho to offer him support, like he has done down the years with key players everywhere he has been.

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Verdict: Make Pogba work for this place by pulling him from the starting XI, get an arm around him to make him feel valued and under less pressure. Bring Juan Mata back in, he has plenty of Premier League experience and the creative edge to his game Pogba hasn’t yet shown.

There is work to be done at United, but if they can get on a run of form they will soon silence their critics and despite some poor results, they can close the gap on the title chasing pack.

Should Mourinho make these changes at United? Who do you think should be recalled to the starting XI?

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Are Everton be right to be chasing this £30m rated United star?

New Everton boss Ronald Koeman is looking to bring in one more attacking midfielder before the start of the new season according to The Times. The club have moved quickly to use some of the money raised by the £47.5 million sale of John Stones.

The paper suggests Mata will push for an exit from Manchester United with the Everton manager keen on trying to sign the 28-year-old midfielder, despite the fact that United have stated he is not for sale.

Mata’s unstable relationship with manager Jose Mourinho was thrown into the melting pot once again as he was subbed off after being subbed on in the Community Shield final last weekend.

So what could Mata bring to Everton?

Experience:

Mata has a wealth of experience at the highest level. He featured in the Spanish World Cup and European Championship winning sides and he has also won the UEFA Champions League.

At just 28 years old his is now heading into his prime and has already played a staggering 418 domestic career games, racking up 107 goals and 130 assists.

Utility:

The Manchester United man can play as a number ten as well as a left or right sided midfielder. Although Mata isn’t blessed with blistering pace, his ability to hold onto the ball and pick passes makes him a great option in any position in the final third.

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Set pieces:

Mata has a knack of scoring free kicks and creating chances from set pieces. One of his most notable assists from a set piece was in the Champions League final of 2012.

Temptation:

Signing a world class star like Mata arguably increases the possibility to sign other players. The Spaniard has close relationships with players at United, Chelsea and a whole host of Spanish league clubs.

Consistency:

Mata averages a goal ratio of just over one in four and he has contributed directly to 237 goals in his 418 domestic career appearances. His Premier League statistics to date make him an ideal player for any club. In the 168 games he has featured in he has scored 38 goals and registered 48 assists. He also has an incredible record in the FA Cup, where he has scored 12 goals in 23 games and registered nine assists.

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While it is unclear whether Everton will make a move for Mata or if United would overturn their decision to make their midfielder unavailable in this transfer window, he would offer a lot to the Merseyside club.

Would Mata be a good signing for Everton? Will Manchester United let the Spaniard leave this summer?

What does signing Paul Pogba actually mean for Manchester United?

The summer-long transfer saga regarding Paul Pogba was finally and perhaps unsurprisingly put to rest today as the Frenchman completed his £89 million return to Manchester United. But what does his arrival actually mean for the club? Lewis Addley explores…

In a summer market of crazy transfer fees, Paul Pogba has become the world’s most expensive player at £89 million, how long that fee will remain the highest remains to be seen. Pundits and fans alike have cast their opinion on just about every talking point regarding the 23-year-old Frenchman, from topics such as how Pogba is or isn’t worth the money to whether Manchester United actually need him.

So let’s have a look at what Pogba’s sensational return to United actually means for the club in terms of how Jose Mourinho will be able to get the best out of the highly-rated Frenchman and the impact his arrival could have on their current midfielders.

Where exactly can we expect Pogba to play?

Pogba netted eight goals last season for Juventus in Serie A from a central midfield role and in the modern game he plays a somewhat old-fashioned style. Pogba doesn’t tend to be deployed as an attacking midfielder, despite the fact that he can be a sensational finisher from inside and outside the box. He dictates the play, evident from the fact that his passing statistics are far more impressive than his shooting statistics. Pogba managed an average of 83% passing accuracy compared to 37% shot accuracy in Serie A last season.

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Jose Mourinho is widely expected to play his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation on the opening weekend of the Premier League season. We can expect the new signings to feature from the off, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic set to lead the line. Behind him, Anthony Martial should start on the left, captain Wayne Rooney in behind in his preferred number ten role with Henrikh Mkhitaryan on the right to form a frightening trio of attacking support. With those front four slots occupied, it is clear Pogba is likely to be used in an anchoring role, deep through the centre of the park, most likely alongside Morgan Schneiderlin.

Will midfielders be leaving now Pogba has joined?

As everyone was still waiting for Pogba to be announced, Mourinho made it very clear that he was looking to bring in one more ‘high-quality player’ and have his business done before the opening weekend of the season. With that in mind it doesn’t look like the United boss is looking to offload any other players than those who have already been reported.

Juan Mata’s torrid relationship with Mourinho came into question once again after he was substituted just 27 minutes after coming on in Sunday’s Community Shield final win over Leicester City. Despite Mourinho giving what some may accept as an appropriate reason for Mata being replaced, it has only increased speculation on the Spaniard’s future at the club.

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The future of Bastian Schweinsteiger remains up in the air. It has been made apparent that the German is surplus to requirements and he looks set to be on his way out from the club just one season after joining.

It looks likely that Mourinho has Ander Herrera, Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in his plans, but just how much playing time the three midfielders will amass is unclear.

The remaining midfielders in question will not be expected to challenge for a holding role at the club as they are either wingers or upcoming youth talent. One worth mentioning is Daley Blind, the dutchman can play in the holding role but he has predominantly featured at the back for United.

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There is no doubt the arrival of Pogba will be a boost for the United camp and some of his teammates have already taken to social media to show their excitement of his return. It is clear he has already made a huge impact in terms of talking points but now it is time for him to step up and deliver, to show any doubters that £89 million is a worthwhile fee for his services.

Is Pogba worth £89 million and are United right to have resigned the Frenchman?

STATS: Was Jose Mourinho wrong to let these seven players leave Chelsea?

Chelsea‘s form has been a huge topic of conversation after each game so far this season for one reason or another, mostly down to below-par performances.

Key players are failing to provide quality in the same way they did last season, with the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa the subjects of heavy criticism.

Jose Mourinho has let some big names leave the club since his return in 2013, some of whom are enjoying great form in their domestic seasons with other clubs.

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With Chelsea under such pressure at current, it’s difficult not to ask whether some of those names should have been let go, so we took a look at some of those players’ statistics this season.

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 Former Chelsea players’ domestic league stats for the 2015/16 season (via Squawka)

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Petr Cech’s domestic league stats for 2015/16 as a goalkeeper (via Squawka)

Petr Cech comes out on top in terms of win percentage with an impressive 66.6% in the Premier League with Arsenal, which is 41.6% better than Chelsea’s overall win percentage of 25% in the top flight.

Romelu Lukaku, now at Everton, has bagged seven league goals so far this season. Chelsea’s highest individual goalscorer only has two (Diego Costa, Ramires and Willian).

The highest number of assists from those who have departed have come from Lukaku and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne on four. Cesc Fabregas, arguably Chelsea’s most creative player, has just one league assist after 12 games.

And perhaps most staggering is the fact that the highest number of losses suffered domestically out of the seven players is only three, four less than Chelsea’s worrying total of seven so far.

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While we are not suggesting Mourinho’s transfer policy is wrong, it is clear that his squad is lacking in creativity and goals this season. What we must not forget is that out of these seven players only Petr Cech and Andre Schurrle (departed January 2015) were in the Chelsea squad who won the Premier League last season.

But Chelsea fans would be forgiven for looking at the names in the table above and wishing they could bring them back to Stamford Bridge to try and turn the Blues’ campaign around.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Manchester United vs Manchester City

Competition – Barclays Premier League – Manchester United vs. Manchester City 

Venue: Old Trafford – Sunday, October 25 – 14:05 GMT – (10:05 ET)

Match Odds: Manchester United 6/4 – Draw 5/2 – Manchester City 13/8

Match Preview

Manchester United welcome rivals Manchester City to Old Trafford on Sunday in the Manchester Derby and a standout fixture of the weekend in the Premier League.

This is a huge fixture for both sides even this early into the season. Manchester United sit third in the Premier League, on 19 points, trailing their opponents by two points.

Louis Van Gaal’s side have won four of their last five domestic games but come into this one off the back of a tough, well earned draw in Moscow in the Champions League in midweek.

Last weekend Manchester United thumped Everton 3-0, and they look like they mean business. Picking up points in games like these have huge implications on the title race.

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Manchester City will be looking to continue their great run of form against their rivals. They have won four of the last five meetings between the sides.

City have been in great domestic form, winning 13 of their last 15 Premier League games, but have lost two in their last five. They have scored 11 in their last two domestic games.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side come into this one off the back of thumping Bournemouth 5-1, where Raheem Sterling bagged a hat-trick. Wilfred Bony impressed, stepping in for the injured Sergio Aguero.

Manchester City have some injury problems with key players missing, but will be more than up for the task of taking points from United this weekend. They scored a late winner to take all three points against Sevilla in the Champions League in midweek, thanks again to Kevin De Bruyne.

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Team News

Manchester United have four injury concerns. Luke Shaw remains out as he recovers from his broken leg. Ashley Young, James Wilson and Paddy McNair are all doubts.

Manchester City’s injury woes continue. They’ll be without key players Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and summer signing Fabian Delph.

Key Points

Manchester United’s Form: W/W/W/L/W

Manchester City’s Form: W/L/L/W/W

Key Stat: City have won four of the last five in the Manchester Derby.

Key Player: Juan Mata – The Spaniard has been in excellent form so far this season and he will be looking to pick holes in the City defence.

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Score Prediction

Manchester United 2-2 Manchester City – The sides to share the points in a game full of action.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Arsenal vs Manchester United

Competition: Premier League – Arsenal vs. Manchester United

Venue: Emirates Stadium – Sunday, October 4 – 16:00 BST (11:00 ET)

Match Odds: Arsenal 1/1 – Draw 13/5 – Manchester United 13/5

Match Preview

Arsenal renew their rivalry with Manchester United in a huge Premier League clash on Sunday afternoon with both sides fighting to lead the table after eight games.

Gunners boss Arsene Wenger finds himself under pressure once again after he watched his side lose 3-2 at home to Olympiakos in the Champions League on Tuesday evening.

They have been better domestically than on the continent so far this campaign and will be looking to follow up last Saturday’s 5-2 win away at Leicester here.

Arsenal’s Premier League record: P7 – W4 – D1 – L2

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Manchester United lead the Premier League after seven weeks of the new season, having only lost one game so far this term.

Louis Van Gaal’s side haven’t been dominating opponents by any stretch, but picking up three points more often than not is serving them well so far.

They beat Wolfsburg 2-1 on Wednesday night in the Champions League and have scored three goals in each of their last three league games coming into this.

Manchester United’s Premier League record: P7 – W5 – D1 – L1

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The last meeting between these rivals ended 1-1 at Old Trafford in May, though United were victorious at the Emirates last season, winning 2-1.

Team News

Arsenal will be without Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Laurent Koscielny as all are ruled out through injury, while Mathieu Flamini and Petr Cech are doubts but should be passed fit to play.

Manchester United have much less to worry about on the injury front. Luke Shaw remains a long-term absentee, while Marcos Rojo is also ruled out. Matteo Darmian could move back over to right-back with Daley Blind likely to be pushed out to left-back.

Key Points

Arsenal’s last five: D/W/W/L/W

Manchester United’s last five: D/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Arsenal have only won one of their last 13 Premier League games against Manchester United.

Key Player: Juan Mata – The Spanish playmaker has been in excellent form so far this season and put in another special show in the Champions League on Wednesday. Expect him to create chances galore for United.

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Score Prediction

Arsenal 1-1 Man United – Very difficult to split these two coming into the game. United may boast better form, but they are on the road against an Arsenal side that needs to put in a really positive performance. Wenger is under pressure to get his side winning matches and this should be a highly entertaining game as a result.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Everton vs Manchester United

Competition: Premier League – Everton vs. Manchester United

Venue: Goodison Park – Sunday, April 26th – 13:30 BST (08:30 ET)

Match Odds: Everton 12/5 – Draw 23/10 – Manchester United 23/20

Match Preview

Everton host Manchester United at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon in a game which could see Louis Van Gaal’s side finish the weekend in second place in the Premier League if results go their way.

Roberto Martinez’s side have had a disappointing season and the distraction of the Europa League hasn’t helped them. Sitting 12th is not where he would have expected his side to be this late on in the season and it looks more than likely they will finish in the middle of the table.

Everton have put together a great run of form in their last five games, winning four a drawing one – form we are more used to seeing from the Toffees, but it has come a little too late in the season.

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This weekend’s game is probably their toughest remaining fixture and if they can finish their final five games unbeaten it will fill the squad and the fans with confidence ahead of next year.

The reverse fixture saw United narrowly come out on top, winning 2-1 at Old Trafford, and we can expect another tough matchup in this one.

Louis Van Gaal’s side can consider themselves unlucky to have lost last weekend to the league leaders, Chelsea, after United had won six on the bounce prior to that game.

Manchester United have hit some impressive form of late and have shown their capabilities of climbing back into a more familiar league position, and look like they are going to be a force next season.

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The Red Devils will be filled with confidence having all but secured Champions League football for the next campaign, barring a disaster, and they will be expecting to win this one.

Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini have been in superb form of late and they will be looking to continue to impress, with the Belgian midfielder returning to his former side once again.

Wayne Rooney also returns to his boyhood club. The Manchester United captain has led by example this season and will be striving to net against Everton once again.

Team News 

Everton have five injury concerns as James McCarthy, Leon Osman, Darren Gibson, Bryan Oviedo and Tony Hibbert are set to miss out. Roberto Martinez will be hoping his Everton side can continue their good form and remind everyone what they are about. Romelu Lukaku will once again be under the spotlight, hoping to prove he can produce in the big games.

Manchester United’s injury woes continue as they have six key absentees. Adnan Januzaj, Rafael, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Daley Blind and Michael Carrick are set to be sidelined. Van Gaal opted to start Radamel Falcao last weekend and he was unlucky not to score after hitting the post, so the Colombian could be in line for another start.

Key Points

Everton’s last five: W/W/W/D/W

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

Key Stat: Everton have won the last two meetings between the sides at Goodison Park.

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Key Player: David de Gea – United’s last line of defence has been in incredible form this season and he can show once again why he is a nominee for the PFA Player of the Year award this weekend.

Score Prediction

Everton 1-3 Manchester United – United to get back to winning ways and prove to be too much for Everton despite their injury problems.

Podcast: FC Dallas, BWP’s Red Bulls & Liverpool vs United thoughts

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford talks to Ben Ashton and Louis East from afar about FC Dallas‘ fine start to the new MLS season as well as Bradley Wright-Phillips and his New York Red Bulls side after their encouraging start. We also look back at last weekend’s huge Premier League clash between Liverpool and Manchester United and discuss Steven Gerrard after his red card cost the Reds.

We also have a brief chat about the international friendlies for both the USMNT and England National Team.

As always, be sure to get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_ or comment below about your thoughts on any of the topics discussed.

Jamie Carragher says being sold by Mourinho has hindered Juan Mata

Juan Mata has struggled to live up to his £37.1m transfer value since moving to Manchester United and Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher thinks Jose Mourinho’s decision to sell him has led people to believe he isn’t the same player he was.

Carragher believes Mata was one of Chelsea‘s best players when he joined from Valencia in 2011.

“Lets not forget about Mata, he was outstanding in those first two years,” he said while working as pundit for Sky Sports during the match coverage of Liverpool vs Manchester United on Sunday.

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But Carragher thinks the sale of Mata has lead to people questioning the qualities of the 26-year-old.

“You can’t argue with Jose Mourinho for what he has done in the game, for the trophies he has won, so if he thinks Mata is not good enough, people have question marks against him.”

Mata was the star of the show at Anfield on Sunday as he scored both goals in Man United’s 2-1 win against Liverpool – one of which a contender for goal of the season.

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The Spanish international has seven goals in 25 Premier League appearances this season – four more than record signing Angel Di Maria. Mata has also created an impressive 31 chances.

Mata needs just five more goals this season to equal his 2012/13 tally in his final full season at Chelsea, which is something he can achieve if he plays with the same intensity and freedom as he did against Liverpool.

Has Juan Mata been worth the fee Manchester United paid for him?

Manchester United enjoying six-game win streak – is Michael Carrick the reason why?

Manchester United have finally got into full swing and Louis Van Gaal looks like a great appointment for the Red Devils, as they sit in third place in the Premier League.

United extended their winning run to six with victory against Liverpool on Sunday and look like a side that can challenge for the title once again.

After a poor start to season by United’s standards they have stormed up the table into third and are just eight points off league leaders Chelsea.

Incredibly, it seems that the return of experienced midfielder, Michael Carrick, has been the catalyst as they have a 100% record when he has started for them this season, compared to a win rate of just 30% when he hasn’t.

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He also possesses the highest pass completion rate of United’s midfielders this term and can even play a role for them at centre-back – where he was positioned for the win on Sunday at Old Trafford.

Carrick has become part of a formidable midfield trio that also involves Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata, both of whom were seemingly heading for the exit door before this fine run of form.

It seems that Van Gaal has decided to structure his line-ups around the pass-master Carrick and his decision has served him well so far.

Louis Van Gaal hasn’t set the world alight in the Premier league as of yet, but his team is sneaking up the table. And with Carrick, they have improved dramatically.

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With a strike force that boasts Robin Van Persie, Radamel Falcao and captain, Wayne Rooney, they could well mount a serious title challenge.

The consistent performances of key players like Michael Carrick will be crucial and the Red Devils will be enjoying what they are seeing at the moment.

Are Manchester United good enough to win the Premier League title?