Cleat Geeks

Jose Mourinho “We Want To Win The Title” Well 3 Wins Out Of 3 Is A Good Start, Jose

If you visit the South Coast of England in August it is very likely you will need shades, sunscreen, hats, shorts, T-shirts and a bountiful amount of ice-cream. August in the United Kingdom tends to be a warm and inviting place almost anywhere within its borders. It is also the start of the football (soccer) season and this season will see new men in charge at some of the more elite clubs. A microcosm of which can be seen in Manchester with Pep Gaurdiola in charge at Manchester City and Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

So it was that on Saturday, August 13th the new football season began in earnest with the start of the Premiership, the Championship having started seven days before. As if to cement the idea in peoples minds that the game is unpredictable at the best of times the opening fixture saw champions Leicester City beaten 2-1 at Hull City. The same Hull City who were promoted to the Premiership winning the play off final at Wembley. The same Hull City who do not have a full time manager, who have bought no new players and whose fans are holding protests against the owners.

Yes, football is back, although to some it has never been away, with the European Championship Finals only a couple of months ago and pre-season friendlies prior to the season’s opening weekend. Manchester United, new manager, new players and a frustrating pre-season tour of China are not the exception to this rule anymore.Manchester United vs Leicester City 2016

Seven days before their big kick-off at Bournemouth, on August 14th, United beat Leicester City in the Charity Shield at Wembley 2-1. The traditional curtain raiser that is seen by the winner’s as their first trophy and by the loser’s as only a prelude, a warm up, for the big kick-off.

The match against champion’s Leicester City saw a first goal of rare quality from Jesse Lingard. A slaloming run into the Leicester defence and a crisp shot beat goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel and nestled into the net. Scoring at the new Wembley is getting to be a habit for Lingard as it was the same player who won the FA Cup for United in extra time last May, and in the same net, a case of lightening striking twice.

Although Jamie Vardy gave the Leicester supporters some hope when he equalised in the 52nd minute, United won the match in the 82nd minute with a powerful header from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

A few days later Manchester United with the ‘Charity Shield’ already on display in their football museum at Old Trafford, set off for the warm South Coast and a lunch time meeting with Bournemouth Town. Manchester United’s pre-season friendlies were over and the time had come for the real work of the season to begin in earnest, the pursuit of the Premiership title.

bournemouth-fc-generic_3374700The match itself was of interest not only because it was the opening match of the season but also because of the imports United had made in the summer. Their latest, Paul Pogba, was unavailable because the player received a one match suspension from the Football Association for indiscretions at his previous club Juventus in Italy last season. However it was more likely that Pogba, who had been on a prolonged holiday after the European Championship Final, in which his team France lost to Portugal, would not have been match fit for the game.
The United travelling faithful and the rest of the watching world however had the expectation of seeing Ibrahimović, Eric Bailly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in a new and exciting team with Jose Mourinho directing his troops from the touchline.

The match ended with a 3-1 win for United with goals from Juan Mata, Ibrahimović and Wayne Rooney who headed in from an Anthony Martial fumbled kick. Ibrahimović’s goal however being the pick of the bunch as he guided a long range effort along the ground into the far left hand corner of the net.

Once the opening goal went in, a lucky close range strike from Mata after a fumble by a Bournemouth defender, the result was not in doubt. Any Bournemouth supporters hoping for a repeat of last season’s score when the home side beat United 2-1 were less energised this time in the ironically named ‘Vitality Stadium’.

It was noticeable that the more tedious and for want of a better word ‘boring’ football United played under Louis Van Gaal had been superseded by Mourinho’s more aggressive style of football. Mourinho who told reporters that the first day he met his new team they seemed ‘sad’ has, it seems. given the team a new lease of life and it is beginning to show itself on the pitch.

The first home match of the new season was against Southampton on Friday 19th August. It was on Friday night because Sky Sports in the UK has introduced ‘Friday Night Football’ and United being their first choice to kick it off. However the match itself will probably, I suspect, be remembered more than any Sky Sports razzmatazz because it was Pogba’s home debut.
The most expensive player in world football at the moment, far out shined anything Sky put together on the night, even if they offered the watching public a new way to show football on television.

PaulPogba-manchester-united

Paul Pogba, from a want away reserve four years ago, to an 89 million pound player today, was always going to take centre stage on this night. In truth the man was outstanding with dominating runs, tackles and clever intricate passes the likes of which have not been seen at Old Trafford for many a year.

The opponents, Southampton, started well but two goals from Ibrahimovic, the first being a classic centre forward header, the second a well drilled penalty saw United run out clear winners on the night.

It is already very clear that Mourinho’s United is a far better outfit going forward than Van Gaal’s United. It is to use one of Van Gaal’s favourite words, a different “philosophy” that is in place. Famously Van Gaal said that “United fans expect too much” whereas Mourinho stated in his press conference
“United are aiming to win the title” and there in a nutshell you have it, a different philosophy, a different view.

Finally in their third match before the International break the United squad travelled to Hull City, who had themselves, perhaps surprisingly, won their first two matches. Hull, with ex-assistant Manchester United manager Mike Phelan in charge for the moment, have started off the season better than they could have hoped for.

On Saturday 27th August the United and Hull teams lined up to protect their 100% record. The match itself settled down into a defensive rearguard from Hull and a generally attacking, pressing game from United. The odd attacking break from Hull only highlighted their general play. Hull’s resolute determination to, at the very least, salvage a point from the match grew stronger as the 90 minutes played out in front of the home supporters who have yet to see any new signings on the field.

In comparison United’s chances came thick and fast with Ibrahimovic, Mkhitaryan and Wayne Rooney all coming close to opening the score. With a final push to take the three points Mourinho substituted Juan Mata in the 71st minute with the promising Marcus Rashford.

Rashford is a player who offers something to a United team that others do not, he is aggressive and forceful and drives hard at the opposition with the ball. Shortly after coming on this is exactly what he did, taking on three Hull defenders and curling a low shot which the Hull goalkeeper just about kept out.

Hull-City-v-Manchester-United-1

With the game entering it s 92nd minute, forever called ‘Fergie Time’ by United supporters, Luke Shaw found Rooney driving down to the left wing near the corner flag. Rooney, who has come in for criticism from some United fans recently because of his play, excellently drew and then nutmegged the Hull defender on the goal line. Finally crossing into the center of the goal where, Rashford bursting with pace reached it before any Hull players, and smashed the ball into the net.

In rushing to celebrate with the away fans it was as if all the previous pent up emotions and a last minute winner were excised in that one glorious moment of the match. The celebrations had echoes of the celebrations when Anthony Martial scored the winning goal in the semi-final of the FA Cup last season, that’s how important it seemed to be. Manchester United had won their opening three Premiership matches under Mourinho, a feat which last happened under Sir Alex Ferguson some years ago.

In his post match interview Mourinho acknowledged that getting a goal in ‘Fergie Time’ was indeed an honour. “It will always be ‘Fergie Time’ and I am very happy with that” Mourinho answered. Mourinho is a proven winner and is not fazed by big names, for him the team is all, and winning is all.

While United now have three wins it is also important, as most pundits and fans know not to get carried away. United have yet to play one of the major teams expected to be in the top four at the end of the season. However that point will be remedied in their next match on Saturday 10th September when they face Manchester City on home soil.

A trophy, (Charity Shield), and three wins, two away from home in the Premier League argues well for the season ahead but as Mourinho points out, it is only a start. Yet there seems to be a belief in the squad and in the fans that the last three years under Moyes and Van Gaal respectively will soon be excised with a more attacking, dynamic and exciting team. A team that has the germ of something special within its soul and orchestrated by the so called ‘special one’ who is very much at home in ‘Fergie Time’.

 

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