Pogba’s time will come as a Manchester United Leader

maxresdefault

Paul Pogba’s season was all about hitting the woodwork. He has hit the post eight times in the Premier League which is more than any other player. This makes the metaphor feel like an obvious one and his first year back at Old Trafford seems few frustrating inches from doing so much better.

According to Frank Lampard, Pogba is not being played in his best position which is making it difficult for him to perform effectively. Pogba could argue about his statistics that his fortune is not on his best side but that would be half true. He has not yet reached the heights that are expected from him. Many have started to believe that he does not have the quality to be a dominant player.

His year has been an odd mix of startling brilliance, apparent disinterest and visible anxiety so far. Those characteristics were often seen in the same performance. The thing with Pogba is that he is an inspiration to many just because of who he is. He symbolises the expectations around him and that is why his marketing appeal is so huge. He is stylish, likeable and photogenic. He has found the key to the world but he is unsure about how to drive forward.

He is a player of exceptional gifts undoubtedly and that will never be in dispute. He is accurate regarding long passing and his feet are quicker than most of the centre forwards. Right now he is forcing his game to its significant detriment but he has a shot of fearsome power. Pogba is always in a hurry. He took around 124 goal attempts last season and it was more than any other Europe’s five major leagues. His target is to end up somewhere near that total this season. Unfortunately, his performances have shown a pattern this season which rise steadily in quality until it comes to a match where the stage is set for him to prove himself.

The same happened against Liverpool in the Premier League and Southampton in the League Cup final where he started the game with his brilliance. He was close to scoring a gol that could have settled his nerves but both the times his confidence crumbled. Zlatan’s goal came as a rescue in both the matches.

The next few matches are going to be interesting. Pogba will take the leadership for the team at some point of time in Ibrahimovic’s absence due to suspension. He is an interesting character who does not seem to enjoy the limelight too much. He needs to refine his playing style and add more structure to it. Pogba needs reinforcement in order to perform better in summer and show his best.

He might be already taking advice from Patrice Evra of Manchester United who had a difficult start at the club. He became one of the finest full-backs to grace Old Trafford. Pogba has been uplifting during the two month stretch and he is one of the main reasons that United have been unbeaten in the league for a long time.

 

EFL Cup is the beginning for Man Utd and Southampton’s end

TOPSHOT - Manchester United's Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho holds up the trophy as Manchester United players celebrate their victory after the English League Cup final football match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley stadium in north London on February 26, 2017. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed the first major silverware of Jose Mourinho's Manchester United reign and broke Southampton's hearts as the Swedish star's late goal clinched a dramatic 3-2 victory in Sunday's League Cup final. / AFP / Ian KINGTON / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications.  /         (Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

“The reality is I want more” were Jose Mourinho’s words after the EFL Cup final win over Southampton on Sunday. He chose to say this out of everything else and this was among the least surprising. After all he is a manager who has won 21 trophies in the last 13 years of his career.

He talked about Man United’s third or fourth biggest priority success and also mentioned that the plan is to work on bigger things now. In the press conference after the game, Mourinho said that he is relieved finally. He is relieved about the fact that they have won and also they have defeated Southampton who played very well in the season. He also said that he can delete one more competition from his mind as it is over now.

Mourinho didn’t seem overwhelmed after the victory even though he insisted that he was. His glum expression suggested that he was about to embark on his humility acts while praising the unlucky saints. Another reason was because he knew that this was rather a beginning for them and not an end.

The victory was just a staging post for Manchester United but it would have been the greatest moment in 41 years for Southampton. They defeated United in FA Cup in the year 1976 and the win would have represented the pinnacle for many players. They had fairly remarkable but relatively low-key achievements since there return to Premier League in 2012 and the EFL Cup victory would have provided them a tangible reward.

This victory has brought back the winning mentality at Old Trafford but their last major domestic trophy didn’t do much good to the manager. Louis Van Gaal’s sacking news leaked even before he could put down the FA Cup down on his own post match press conference.

Van Gaal lacked consistency and achievement in the league and Mourinho needs to improve Man United from here. United have maintained a comforting constant position since past few months and they have been in the sixth in place since November despite being unbeaten during this span. This shows how bad the start of the season was for them and how relatively mediocre the rest of the division is.

Mourinho’s season has been a transitional one for Manchester United. They have spent a lot on their squad and even though they have been depending on a 35 year old to bail them out of questionable positions, if they continue with their league form they will improve their position. The team is still a work in progress and with the Champions League qualification and atleast one trophy, it will turn out to be a decent first season for Mourinho.

It wouldn’t be a huge stretch to say that Claude Puel’s side deserved something more than an 87th minute defeat on Sunday. Southampton’s neat summary might be described as a dominating a game but not winning it. They have lost six games out of the eight games in the league. At this point of time, Southampton’s season is about treading water and for them it was virtually the end. But for Manchester United it could be another beginning.

Rooney breaks the scoring record of United to rescue point at Stoke

Wayne Rooney

Rooney breaks the scoring record at a perfect time for Manchester United when the game was neither lost nor won but at the death when it could still be recovered. The 250th goal by Wayne Rooney saved Jose Mourinho’s United from a frustrating defeat against Stoke.

This was a perfect opportunity for United to get back the place in the title race and to close their gaps on the rivals. Juan Mata’s own goal and a few more wasted opportunities were finally saved by the goal from Rooney.

United were restrained in the opening exchanges and they also struggled in the initial phase before wasting their own scores in the first half of the game. Marouane Fellaini constituted their first shot on the 27th minute but Ibrahimovic somehow fixed to chip it over the bar which added to Mata’s misery.

Mourinho’s face told a tale of unsettling storms and darkness. A fine saving block from Bruno Martins Indi stopped a swift riposte from Ibrahimovic. Mourinho could see that nothing was going for United and walked back to his seat.

The afternoon didn’t turn out to be any better for Mata after the break. He threw himself into the air like Andy Carroll to scissor kick the ball inside the penalty area but he missed completely crashing himself on the ground.

Mourinho removed Fellaini and throwed Marcus Rashford into the tussle. 10 minutes later, Mata’s worries were put to an end by Rooney followed by Jesse Lingard. Rooney struck a magnificent free kick giving no chance to Grant on the 93rd minute of the match. With the goal, his position got secured in Man United.

A draw was the best that could be expected from United when all the stars of the team are performing lot below their best. Ibrahimovic’s struggle to get a grip of the game was visible, Pogba’s performance was submissive even though it was not as bad as the match against Liverpool and for Mata nothing went according to his plan.

But Mourinho had his share of positives as well. His players kept it going until the end and also salvaged a point. When all the big names fell short, there was one icon that came through for Mourinho.

Mark Hughes will lament the way the game slipped off their hands but the feeling of being defeated after a draw with United shows how much his season has improved. It took more than two months for Stoke to win a league and they are definitely looking better currently.

It was unfortunate for Hughes to build on a stroke of good fortune and when United started aiming for an equaliser, it seemed inevitable. Hughes has been aiming for a top-class striker and he might have found one but due to the delay in signing he could only wave at the supporters before the kick off. He will be clear for Everton on 1st Feb and before that he will be going through training for 10 days.

Peter Crouch has fought his way to the starting line up but he might not stay there for too long. The top-flight career of the long limbed footballer from England might be drawing to a close. Berahino is a clear upgrade given that he makes up for the lost time and utilises the opportunity.

 

5 Teams that excelled Premiere League in 2016

With the 25th edition of the Premier League reaching its half way mark, perhaps it is time to take a look at the top five teams that have excelled in this tournament so far. The below list is based on performances so far and there is every chance that a sixth team may end up winning the title. But then, that is the beauty of football, isn’t it?

With Chelsea leading the table with 46 points in 18 matches, closely followed by Manchester City in the same number of matches, football pundits are having a tough time predicting the best team of the tournament. Fans are also finding it difficult to digest the fact the reigning champions, Leicester City is currently in 16th position, their chances of holding on to the title all but nil.

Here is our list of five teams who stand a solid chance of winning this year’s title

Chelsea

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29:  The Chelsea badge is seen on the corner flag ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Ham United at Stamford Bridge on January 29, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

The infusion of a new manager in Conte seems to have done the trick for the team, who has brought about some much needed stability which was lacking under the Italian coach Antonio. Having scored 38 goals and conceding only 11, they are easily one of the top favorites in this season. The return to form of Diego Costa have augured well for the Blues’, so has the brilliant coordination displayed by the midfield as well as the defenders. Michy Batshuayi, Gary Cahil, and John Terry all have been in excellent form. The midfield trio of Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, and Oscar have been able to set the tone of the matches and aided some excellent maneuvers through the wings.

Manchester City

Sterling Kolarov Aguero

Perhaps the biggest positive for Manchester City has been the introduction of the new coach Pep Guardiola whose innovative formations and tactics have done them a whole lot of good.  One of the leading goal scoring teams of the EPL so far, Manchester City has been robust in their defense as well. When it comes to goal scoring, Sergio Aguero has been the go-to man for Guardiola, who has found the nets with alarming frequency. The midfield manned by Raheem Sterling Nolito has equally been up to the task, creating goal opportunities and controlling the pace of the game. Those who are familiar with Pep’s ball possession tactic during his stint with Barcelona are amazed how easily he has been able to infuse it into the EPL as well.

Liverpool

p04lz43z

Leading the number of goals scored with 41 goals against 20 conceded, Liverpool stands a good chance as any to lift the coveted title this year. Jurgen Klopp has been a master visionary, conjuring tactics and formations that has unsettled the calculations of many of his opposite numbers. Liverpool has been able to rise above superstar performances and started delivering as a team which is obvious from their points table. Having lost only 2 matches so far, Klopp’s men are one of the strongest contenders this year.

Arsenal

Giroud-Arsenal

The runner’s up of the last season, Arsenal would love to finish top of the table this time around. Arsenal’s bane has always been the finishing touch, however, with 39 goals scored in 18 matches, they have one of the strongest fire power this season, which places them in a strong position to win this year’s title.

Manchester United

Manchester-United-v-Tottenham-Hotspur-Premier-League

The Red Devils have been a different team altogether under the new coach Jose Mourinho and is currently placed sixth in the list. Pogba has been finding his feet consistently and that is certainly good news for them. However, with the final half of the tournament coming up, they would want more worthy contributions from their midfield if they are to proceed further in the tournament.

Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Southampton are also in the race and it is simply too early to write any one off. There is only thing that we can say with conviction at this point of time and that is we are headed for a brilliant finish to this year’s tournament!

Mourinho upset as Manchester United impress but fail to defeat Arsenal

01F3DF4E68AF725B63C516048E43DCA5

Manchester United showed a brilliant performance on Saturday that should have seen off Arsenal but a late goal from Olivier Giroud saved Arsenal with a draw. The effort put by United was remarkable and it had the vintage mark of Mourinho’s performance. The passion, resolute defending and energetic pressing were perfect for a win but an unusual lack of physical presence in the box came as a price of two points.

This left the Portuguese with a bitter taste as he is mostly fond of throwing on big players while defending narrow leads. The hosts had almost everything set right until that last point by Giroud. Arsenal had very few chances as the midfield trio were in dangerous positions and thus Mourinho considered the 1-1 almost as a defeat.

On the other side, Arsene Wenger’s team seemed to have suffered from Old Trafford Syndrome as they haven’t won there since September 2006. They were playing smooth in the first half of the match with Alexis Sanchez pulling the strings but the second half was pretty dull until shrewd substitutions crafted a fine goal.

Mourinho has always been in favour of transitions ahead of patient possession play in case of big occasions. He would mostly ditch his 4-2-3-1 at Arsenal for a 4-3-3 in which two belligerent ball-winners forced fatal turnovers. A similar event took place here and Herrera and Pogba were the weapons of choice ahead of anchorman Michael Carrick.

The strategy often manifested itself in long balls towards Marcus Rashford. Although it seemed a little illogical as Rashford was never going to beat Mustafi and Laurent. But Mourinho wanted his team to come first to the second balls and then bear down on a backtracking backline.

This strategy was pretty evident in the first half of the match as they would wait for spells but when they had a chance to regain possession up field they went all out. United followed this strategy until their goal on 69th minute. By that time they have already made seven interceptions and committed eight fouls in the opposition half.

On the other side Arsenal was trying exactly the opposite. Wenger went with Sanchez upfront but with less creative players in the midfield such as Francis and Mohamed Elneny. The strategy owned by them was very unlikely to break a compact team like United.

At 1-0 and 20 minutes left of the match, Mourinho was quite settled and seemed to be in control. He took of Martial for Wayney Rooney and put Rashford on the left. United continued with several dangerous transitions, while Arsenal kept failing with the final pass.

The danger came for Mourinho when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain replaced Carl Jenkinson as a right-back and this movement caused winger up against Rashford. This led to a goal on the 89th minute by Giroud.

Another factor which caused the goal was due to United’s lack of height. Usually Mourinho would have played Eric Bailly in defence. He would have also introduced Chris Smalling or Marouane Fellaini to stop Giroud. The absence of such players proved costly for Manchester United whereas they deserved more on that day.