As the saying goes you’re only as strong as your weakest link. It certainly applies in football. For all a team’s strengths, opponents will target and exploit any weakness. World’s best attack? There’s little point if the midfield can’t deliver the ball or the defence can’t keep opponents from scoring. This is the difficulty of team building, as José Mourinho is discovering.
Three defeats in succession and the talk of “crisis” now hangs over Old Trafford. How quickly José Mourinho’s Manchester United honeymoon has ended. The warm glow of a successful summer transfer window and solid start to the new campaign is now obliterated after losses to Manchester City, Feyenoord and Watford in the past week. It is as if the last three seasons hadn’t been enough; the circus is now once again in full swing. Yet, the fundamentals that had United supporters feeling confident back in August remain – and Rant has 10 actions that could help Mourinho turn around the slump…
“Exclusive! Water is wet! Grass is green! The world is round!” Statements of a similar ilk greeted the news that Phil Jones has suffered yet another injury. This time around the Manchester United defender is out with a knee injury that will see the Lancastrian sidelined for a month. Yet another setback for Jones who is struggling to salvage his Old Trafford career. The defender’s injury history has become a sick joke. The real question becomes: when does the laughter stop?
Patience is a virtue, they say. Not simply waiting, but the ability to maintain a positive attitude throughout. This can be tough for footballers. Sitting on the bench watching your teammates play is no mean feat for men made of equal parts ego and talent. Top players believe in the very best of their abilities, and it is hard for them to take being told to “take a seat.”
Derby week is done, with round one taken by United’s noisy neighbours as the world’s gaze focused on Manchester for the season’s most anticipated match. Manchester City won a tough battle 2-1, with an electric opening period enough to secure Pep Guardiola victory at Old Trafford.
On the surface José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola appear to be polar opposites; the brash Portuguese man of war against the Catalan revolutionary, the pragmatist versus the visionary, the provocateur of “anti-football” dancing with the purveyor of “tiki-taka.”
It has been a case of “that’s much better” after three frustrating summers under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. For once Ed Woodward got the business done, and mostly early in the summer as well. No more does the club over-spend on mediocrity as happened too often since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. Indeed, in bringing in four high-quality signings Woodward has executed on a nine out of 10 summer. But how do each of the players bought, sold or loaned rate for quality and value for money? Rant has the answers…
Competition for places is a necessity for success. It keeps players at their sharpest, maintains motivation and, ultimately, is a factor driving the club forward. The introduction of a new manager can create a situation where competition is particularly important. Early performances create lasting impressions – a fact players under José Mourinho’s new regime already know.
It is, for the most part, a draw indistinguishable from the early stages of the Champions League. Manchester United’s Europa League group draw offers no glamour ties, but then with the seeding system, there rarely are in the main competition either. José Mourinho’s team is set for trips to Netherlands, Turkey and Ukraine, in a group that United should walk. But then, with Premier League revival the clear priority this season, it is also a competition in which nobody at Old Trafford is truly interested.