Reds ready for return as pressure to deal mounts

July 2, 2017 Tags: , , Reads 19 comments
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Picture the scene. Thursday, 17 December, 2015. Chelsea’s annual Christmas lunch at the club’s Cobham training ground has just concluded. The mood is downbeat. The Blues had lost 2-1 at Leicester City the previous Monday to record a ninth Premier League defeat of the season. José Mourinho’s low-key pre-lunch training session does little to lighten the atmosphere. The manager is sporting a newly shaven head and the stubble of a man too distracted to shave. As the players drift home, chairman Bruce Buck and director Eugene Tenenbaum arrived to sack Mourinho as Chelsea manager for the second time. A brutal assasination.

It was little more than seven months since Mourinho led Chelsea to another league title, bringing the Blues back to Roman Abramovich’s promised land in the manager’s second spell at the club. Inside two years Mourinho built a freshly dominant side; one that lost just three times in the 2014/15 league campaign  – one of those a end-of-season dead rubber.

"Mourinho’s dismissal came little more than seven months since he led Chelsea to another league title, bringing the Blues back to Roman Abramovich’s promised land"

Premier League victory was vindication for taking Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge, despite the chaotic end to the manager’s time at Real Madrid and the still fresh memories of a relationship so soured with Abramovich that it ended the Portuguese’s first spell at the club.

The second time around Mourinho’s dismissal wasn’t stimulated by old tensions, but by a manager who alienated much of his squad, some of it with behaviour that bordered on nihilistic self-destruction. By the time Buck and Tenenbaum arrived in an unseasonably warm Cobham, a town of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants on the London-Surrey border, the game was already up. Key players wanted Mourinho out, including some of the very few that the manager actually trusted.

Jose Mourinho

The manager’s general distrust, both of the players in the Chelsea dressing room and of their moral fibre, proved to be the genesis of Mourinho’s staggering fall from grace and the complete destruction of team morale.

Mourinho had accused his players of “betrayal” at the post-match, post-defeat press conference covering Chelsea’s reverse at Leicester. History now records that the manager repeated the accusation inside the dressing room, an action that proved to be the final straw for some.

In the months leading up to his dismissal, Mourinho had increasingly come to believe that his players were leaking team selections and training ground gossip. The former Porto boss complaining of the “rats” inside the club in one of several extraordinary press conferences that season. To outsiders Mourinho appeared to be unravelling in the most undignified way.

Poor training performances and a perceived lack of enthusiasm – or outright desperation to move in some cases – had convinced Mourinho that he needed to freshen up a title-winning squad.  The manager was happy to let a clutch of fringe players go in the summer of 2015, but fought to retain others, including the perpetual want-away Diego Costa. In return he had a long list of desired acquisitions for technical director Michael Emenalo to action.

By the time pre-season started Emenalo had secured just Radamel Falcao and backup ‘keeper Asmir Begovic, much to Mourinho’s evident frustration. Hardly star quality given Falcao’s performances at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, the club had failed in an embarrassing series of bids for Everton defender John Stones, before adding no-name defender Papy Djilobodji and Barcelona squad player Pedro as transfer deadline day approached.

Radamel Falcao

The parallels between Mourinho at Chelsea in summer 2015 and the manager at United this summer are far from neat. For one, Mourinho can boast a far tighter-knit dressing room at Old Trafford, one emboldened by victory in the EFL Cup and Europa League last season. Few obvious signs of tension exist, even among those players already encouraged to find a new club. Wayne Rooney has kept a dignified council.

Yet, nor does Mourinho trust his squad. He has already identified up to half-a-dozen players that he is willing to lose this summer. It would be more but for the risk that total overhaul brings.

Mourinho spent much of the past season trying both carrot and stick with expensive acquisitions such as Antony Martial, Luke Shaw, and Henrik Mkhitarayan, while the manager quickly dispensed with Morgan Schneiderlin, Memphis Depay and Bastian Schweinsteiger. If he can, Mourinho will be similarly brutal with the unwanted this summer.

In return for trimming the squad, Mourinho wants at least one new striker, to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a winger and a defensive midfielder – all in addition to the £31 million acquisition of Swede Victor Lindelöf.

“Ed Woodward has my list, what I want, what I would like for more than two months,” Mourinho told BT Sport after the Europa League final. “So now it’s up to him and the owners.” That was far more than a throwaway comment.

Implicit in Mourinho’s demand is the understanding that the manager’s frustration could boil over if Woodward fails in his mission – as happened at Chelsea in summer 2015.

It is no simple task. United’s executive vice-chairman is working off two lists – A and B – with targets in order of priority and plenty of contingency options should Mourinho’s primary choices prove unobtainable.

Lindelöf was one of several options drawn up to bolster Mourinho’s defence, including Michael Keane and Paris Saint Germain’s Marquinhos. The former has now transferred to Everton; the latter signed a new contract in the French capital.

Antoine Griezemann

Up front, with Antoine Griezemann opting to stay at Atlético Madrid, Woodward has moved on to Andrea Belotti, where Torino is holding out for the full €100 million contract release clause, and Alvaro Moratta, where Madrid and United remain about £20 million apart in valuation. Romelu Lukaku is also a striking option, although it might take a world-record fee to prize the Belgian away from Merseyside.

In wide areas Mourinho seemingly prioritised Chelsea winger Willian, with Inter’s Ivan Perisic also an option. Neither may happen this summer, and Mourinho might have to settle for a player further down the list. In midfield, United will seemingly capture  Nemanja Matic as soon as Chelsea ties up a deal for Monaco’s Tiemoue Bakayoko. All are pragmatic team-focused options, and not the eye-catching names some fans seek.

Yet, Woodward has not completed the summer’s business quickly. Negotiations with a myriad of clubs, agents and middlemen are almost certain to spill over into pre-season. Perhaps even right up to transfer deadline day.

Frustration is rising, not least because Mourinho will likely suffer another summer without a full squad at pre-season training. It is not what the manager wanted.

Most of the manager’s players return to training next weekend, with an an eight game pre-season is to follow. The schedule takes in the USA, Norway, and Ireland, before the UEFA Supercup against Real Madrid in Macedonia. The Reds face West Ham United in the Premier League on 12 August.

“Without the European Championships or the World Cup this summer, I think every club will start the pre-season period with all of their players,” Mourinho said earlier this summer. “I’m going to have the chance to try things and to work on things.”

He might not. Few, especially Wooward, want that tour to begin on the wrong foot.


NazManUnited - July 2, 2017 Reply

Ed needs to pull his finger out

Gary Ash - July 3, 2017 Reply

Looks like a wood ed transfer desaster as normal that guy has to go

Denton Davey - July 3, 2017 Reply

Would you pay double for x or y ?

Right now, the EPL is awash with money – and UTD is at the top of that group. So, it’s hardly surprising in a world of supply and demand that those who have the wanted players (i.e., the supply) will demand double. That’s not rocket science.

The real issue is who blinks. Will UTD pay over-the-odds ? Will InterMilan lower their bizarre valuation for Perisic ? Will Torino reduce the buy-out clause for Belotti ? Will Monaco sell Fabinho (and all the rest of their first-team players) ? Who blinks first ?

The alternative to being taken-to-the-cleaners is a future in which Fosu-Mensah gets a genuine chance to play AND Tuanzebe is part of the first team AND Andreas Pereira is able to have an opportunity to showcase himself AND Marcus Rashford is the first-choice #9 AND Anthony Martial is always on the team-sheet AND Juan Mata AND Henrikh Mkhitaryan get game-time AND Luke Shaw is able to show that he has finally recovered from his near-catastrophic injury AND so on.

Were all this to happen then maybe Jo$e might have to re-prove his coaching prowess rather than just splashing the ca$h. Would that be so bad ????

Julian - July 3, 2017 Reply

Excellent comment. Love it if he has to coax the best out of the youth at his disposal – in true United tradition. It’s not Mourinho’s way though is it. Josh Harrop, for one has seen that.

Denton Davey - July 3, 2017 Reply

Thanks; but I’m not sure that Harrop would get game time ahead of the incumbents – Mata, Mhkitaryan, and Lingard. He knew it and he decided – like Michael Keane – that he wanted to actually play the game. Moreover, Harrop must know that the very best talent among the next generation – Chong, Gribbin, and, especially, Angel Gomes – all have much higher ceilings.

The Michael Keane comparison is interesting because his evolution since he left UTD highlights a contradiction in the present set-up. Guys like Keane (and Harrop) are simply too good to be “reserves” – same went for Josh King and a bunch of others who have found their level in the lower half of the EPL. Really, for UTD to do the right thing by these guys there needs to be something like the Spanish system where BarcelonaB and Real Madrid’s reserves play in the second level and get proper experience. Without this kind of opportunity, most of these guys are stuck between a rock and a hard place – too good for “reserves” but not yet experienced enough for consideration for UTD’s first-team squad. Of course, most wouldn’t make the last (and largest) step-up but as long as UTD are competing for trophies then they won’t get much significant action by staying at the club.

Mike - July 4, 2017 Reply

Great point Denton!!

NazManUnited - July 3, 2017 Reply

Everton have been busy.

NazManUnited - July 3, 2017 Reply

Wengers being Wenger

NazManUnited - July 3, 2017 Reply

MUFC need to sign a big hitter

Gilbert - July 3, 2017 Reply

Ed wood need to be replaced by somebody who will work on deals quickly ,he does not care about the team success.why is it so hard for him to buy players that mourinho gave him names of the players he needs very early?is he getting the money from his pocket.come on guys,we need perisic,morata and matic or fabihno.

Mark - July 3, 2017 Reply

Woodward had a list of targets, but has again failed to deliver. United will be required to pay a premium, having spent £89,million last year on Pogba, and are known to be at the top of the list of richest football clubs. However, there must be alternatives?
Defensive midfield – Matic, Dier, Naingolan and Fabinho are the supposed targets none have arrived. Magic and Naingolan are at their peak / end of their careers, but United are quoted silly money. Dier was never going to be allowed to leave Spurs unless he demanded a move. Fabinho is waiting for an offer to be made? However Verratti does want to move, William Carvalho is also a very good midfield enforcer; why not target those?
A Striker- Morata, Lukaku Kane and Bellotti are the reported targets. Lukaku and Bellotti are reported to be available for silly money, but Mourinho has already jettisoned Lukaku once and Bellotti may be a one season wonder. Kane, like Dier, will never be allowed to leave (not that he wants to) Spurs. That leaves Morata, and Real Madrid would rather keep him and the eventual replacement for Benzema, unless David De Gea is thrown in. United already have the options up front with Martial and Rashford. They need a chance and supply.
Winger – Griezman, Willian and Perisic are targets. Griezman has shown his support for Athletic Madrid and you have to take your hat off to him for that; he would have been excellent on the left wing for United. Willian is a key member of the Chelsea first team and is not keen on a reunion with Mourinho, so that wasn’t going to happen. Perisic has a vastly over inflated price again Inter Milan do not want to lose him. Instead, there are alternatives although Mourinho would need to take a chance on players a little younger; Bernardeschi, Ousmane Dembele, Kingsley Coman or Lucas Maura (who Paris St Germain want to sell), but very little appears to have been done on any of those. Or buy Fabinho as a right back to allow Valencia to operate as a winger?

Woodward needs to be replaced as the man United trust with transfers, excellent at commercial contracts but no idea when it comes to negotiating for players.

It’s time to look at other players; Verratti, Bernardeschi and Dembele.
We also need to expand the squad with another left back and midfielder; Tierney and Renato Sanches ??

David De Gea (Romero)
Fabinho, Bailly, Lindelof, Shaw (Valencia, Smalling (or Jones), Rojo, Blind)
Verratti and Pogba (Fabinho and Herrera)
Dembele, Mkhitaryan, Coman (Lingard, Mata, AN OTHER)
Rasford (Martial)

Dave - July 3, 2017 Reply

Hopefully Ed can get a few deals over the line before setting off for the tour but i don’t see it. All the top prem clubs are being held to random this summer. Foreign clubs know how much money our clubs are now receiving from the international tv rights and they can demand more for their players.

Jeremy Kershaw - July 3, 2017 Reply

DONT LET ANYMORE KIDS GO….. Apart from Ronaldo I don’t see any other players with the moral fibre needed to represent Manchester United

leslie j smith - July 3, 2017 Reply

Why not stick with what we’ve got I think all players need game time to show their true form and maybe a slightly different way of playing could bring out the best in them

Ben - July 3, 2017 Reply

“counsel” not “council”

James Ryddel - July 3, 2017 Reply

You can almost feel the tension building in what could turn out to be another summer of discontent and missed opportunities. Why is it City can target top quality young players like Sane, KDB and Jesus and UTD can’t? We are being linked to 29 year old average players who will cost a packet and therefore have no long term value regarding sell on fees. Until we sort out our scouting we will continue to struggle. Anyone who says that I am wrong should ask themselves where UTD were in the bidding for the players mentioned. Nowhere is the answer. With all that said I think Morata will be a good signing and I hope Lindelof will be too. We should have really pushed the boat out for Fabinho, Mendy and Verratti. As for Jose and his combustible temperament, Ed Woodward will know about it as we all will if Ed fails to meet Jose’s demands.

Andy - July 4, 2017 Reply

I think a large part of the issue is the need to constantly sell and buy players under managers like Mourinho rather than taking a season or two to develop the squad. Star and key acquisitions are great but at the moment the prices being quoted for potentially average players are outrageous, I agree we need a central midfield player a striker and a winger that can operate on either flank has pace and works hard must carry a goal threat though as that is the one thing Valencia really misses, great right back though.
Anyway beside the point maybe its worth letting the kids play a lot more in rotation with the first team as Fergie and Barcelona used to do. Its the only way to ensure success for the youngsters, who as a team gave Palace an excellent game at the end of the season, admittedly a dead rubber for both sides.
The trick is to maintain competitiveness while the most talented of the squad matures and allows success to flourish. I think it would be foolish to stunt the development of a player like Rashford in his more natural position as a striker by purchasing a different prospect, if Rashford had been allowed to play as the leading man more he would have had numbers and highlights relative to Mbappe, of that I am sure.
The problem we have is for letting our promising youth be sold for such small sums when we and other clubs buy foreign talent for in excess of £30million. why would world respected Manchester United talent get sold for a bigger fee? Is it the stigma attached to some British players, aka the non ‘Media Darlings’?

Finally back to my original point I would like to see a team of
GK-De Gea, No questions
RB-Valencia, proved himself as an excellent right back last season
CB-Baily, looks a monster similar to Vidic but with better pace, lets hope he can stay fit
CB-Lindelorf, supposedly the Rio to Baily’s Vidic, time will tell
LB-Shaw/Darmian One or the other needs to be allowed a solid run in the team to seen where their ability can carry them, both have good potential in different roles.
CDM-Blind/new signing, I would like to see Blind given an opportunity here it is his natural position and he can drop back to form a defensive three, although a new signing would be nice. Has a tendency to make mistakes but also has the ability to pick a pass and is rarely beaten in a one on one duel.
RCM-Herrera, my pick for captain and has a great understanding with players like Mata, Pogba and Rashford.
LCM-Pogba, has showed glimpses but needs to dominate the bigger games more.
RW/RST – Mata, you need some experiance and he scores and creates plus worked well as a front free for Van Gaal in that position.
LW/LST – Martial, has masses of potential and needs regular games and a licences to roam around the attacking line when we are in possession but will have to be more disciplined when taking his shape.
ST-Rashford, I’m a big fan and from the matches I watch we are more of a threat with him than without with regular games he would get 20 goals in the premier league defo.

GK-Perera looks very promising
Mid-Fonsu Mensa/Felliani/Blind/Academy graduate
Attack-Veteran new signing like Zlatan but not so many games Giroud perhaps?/Mikitaryan/Lingaard/New winger/academy graduate

My base works best for games when we want to control possession rather than the spaces. We would play a high press but not excessively so but look to contain the game to the oppositions half as much as possible. Front three working fluidly with the full backs providing the width and the CDM dropping to form a back three against counter attacks and overloads with teams that play with two strikers.

Bonehead - July 5, 2017 Reply

in summary our rivals in Europe and in the PL won’t sell to a rival cheap. This is what is holding up many of the transfers that Jose wants.

I want signings before the US tour he says, ok then that will be 10 million pounds more and we are in no rush either! Jose’s style of management is outdated.

We need a director of football with a young management and coaching team who understand the club. Fergie + the Class of the 92 anyone? That will bring a soul and some belief back to the club! And throw Arsenal 15 mill for Welbeck too, surely we can get that one over the line!

Lingard, Rashford and Welbeck up front with Mata pulling the strings! Bring the noise!

Wayo.ghana - July 7, 2017 Reply

De Gea
Valencia Bailly Linderlof Shaw
Hererra Fabinho Pogba
Mkyitaryn Lukaku Perisic
(MATA RASHFORD LINGARD)….with Jones Rojo Carrick and lingard as rotating bench players….wow the league is already won for United

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