Manchester United’s victory over Burnley on Sunday brings José Mourinho’s side to within a point of Manchester City in the fight for Champions League places. After all, it may be just two from four, with only one of City, United, Liverpool or Arsenal likely to make it to Europe’s top table next season. Thursday’s clash may not come in the midst of a fight for the league title, but it is the most important derby for some time. Victory for Mourinho’s side at the Etihad will push the Reds into the top four for the first time in 2017; a City win might secure Pep Guardiola’s side Champions League football. But who has the advantage on Thursday? Rant investigates…
Manchester United scored victory over Anderlecht and Burnley to continue the push for silverware and Champions League qualification on two fronts. Those victories came at a heavy price, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Marcos Rojo struck down by serious knee injuries. Good week or bad week? Ed & Paul discuss.
What a game, what an approach, what a result! José Mourinho’s ‘tactical masterclass’ in United’s defeat of Chelsea at Old Trafford was, perhaps, the manager’s finest performance as Old Trafford boss. Victory puts United back in the frame for Champions League qualification and buys Mourinho significant credit for the months ahead.
It was archetypal José Mourinho. On Sunday, the Portuguese manager found the perfect tactical riposte to the champions elect at Old Trafford. His Manchester United side emerged victorious after nullifying Chelsea in impressive fashion. Not that Mourinho’s team was on the defensive in victory against Antonio Conte’s side on Sunday. Far from it. The Portuguese manager reimagined his natural and historical inclination towards destructive football in his finest performance as United manager to date.
Which is the greater priority: finishing inside the Premier League’s top four or winning the Europa League? With each comes Champions League qualification, although only victory in Europe’s second tier competition brings with it silverware. Certainly, the regularly dropped points in the Premier League this season has placed greater emphasis on European competition. The latest side in United’s path – Belgian league leaders Anderlecht.
Manchester United came, Manchester United saw, Manchester United stuck it to David Moyes on Wearside. So, it wasn’t the finest performance, but after two draws at Old Trafford in the past week, three points offer a great fillip to the Reds’ hopes of making the Champions League
Has Manchester United manager José Mourinho regressed into his bad cop routine just a little too early? The pattern is familiar, the one in which Dirty Harry challenges his punk players to try their luck. Just one more time. It begins with key players being ostracised in an increasingly public fashion, as if to distract from on-the-pitch failings, and ends with Mourinho leaving his post ignominiously, player power having won. Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Chelsea again. Bad cop gone bad. The red flags are many at Old Trafford as well. In the course of a week Mourinho launched into an astonishing and public attack on his creative players, before throwing youthful defender Luke Shaw under a lengthy bus. Yet, for all the concerns raised by Mourinho the man manager this week it is another pattern that is troubling the Portuguese coach most – the inability of his team to win games at Old Trafford. It will probably cost the club a place in next season’s Champions League.
Relief, at last, from the many long nights of international boredom. The real stuff happens this weekend, with José Mourinho’s Manchester United in Premier League action against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. Such is the malaise surrounding FIFA’s lengthy two-year World Cup qualification process that the nation awaits the Premier League’s return, save for Arsenal supporters, for whom a meaningless friendly between Andora and Vanuatu is merciful respite from the soul crushing misery of their reality.
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long-proposed move to Chicago Fire was finally completed this week, with the German heading Stateside ahead of the new MLS season. The World Cup winner left with a classy parting message to Manchester United fans and seemingly no bitterness, despite what has been a difficult and unproductive 18 months at Old Trafford. Schweinsteiger’s departure means that five of Louis van Gaal’s 10 signings as United manager have now left the club. Of those who remain perhaps only two can be considered successful, each with caveats attached. It is a truly rotten legacy.
After a two-week break, Ed & Paul look back on United’s past few games – against Bournemouth, Rostov, Chelsea and Middlesbrough. It has been a turbulent fortnight, with United now out of the FA Cup, out of sixth place in the league and one step further forward in the Europa League.