Tue. Oct 27th, 2020

Man Utd

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Jose Mourinho exploits Manchester United’s weaknesses he had warned them about

5 min read

Manchester United supporters used to chant ‘Jose’s at the wheel’ before it was changed to ‘Ole’ and Solskjaer is taking them towards the precipice.

At 4-1, the broadcasters homed in on Ed Woodward, grateful for the mask to conceal his embarrassment at another home thumping, United’s result immediately entered the pantheon of modern meltdowns with Arsenal’s 8-2 destruction at Old Trafford, Brazil’s 7-1 evisceration by Germany, Barcelona’s 8-2 annihilation by Bayern Munich in August. At 6-1, Woodward was on his phone, possibly tendering his resignation or suggesting Solskjaer’s sacking.

Mourinho finally got his five-goal victory at Old Trafford and then some. This was a worse United performance than the 6-1 capitulation in the 2011 derby and Sir Alex Ferguson’s most succinct team talk of ‘lads, it’s Tottenham’ now has a more haunting meaning. 

The final score did not do justice to the humiliation. Whatever the mitigation of a lack of pre-season and the swift, inevitable onset of fatigue felt by some players, United are the makers of their downfall. Another dilatory transfer window is about to end with the arrival of an over-the-hill 30-something striker and key areas not reinforced.

United will announce two signings before Monday’s 11pm transfer deadline and neither are a centre half. Nobody – not even Solskjaer – demanded one more than Mourinho and United’s most successful manager in these fallow years returned to trample over a defence that is regressing.

United shipped four goals in a Premier League first-half for the first time with a back four that cost £191million and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is responsible for signing two of them. He made Harry Maguire the world’s most expensive defender and appointed him captain and Tottenham’s triumph signalled his nadir. The irony is Maguire was shortlisted by Mourinho a year before United spent £80m on him.

Edinson Cavani touched down in Manchester on Sunday and is all but certain to start at Newcastle on October 17, with Anthony Martial suspended for petulantly reacting to Erik Lamela’s aggressive shove with United 2-1 down. Lamela dubiously avoided expulsion by the Video Assistant Referee and Martial waited around for a review that was not forthcoming. Cavani’s arrival is especially timing with Martial also unavailable for the visits of Chelsea and Arsenal.

Spurs were threatening a third before Martial departed in the 28th minute and, just like in the simmering summer of 2018, the defence has left United paralysed in the market. Alex Telles, the Brazilian left-back, checked in at Carrington for his medical with United 4-1 down at half-time but, at 27, is unlikely to plug the gaps while United are devoid of a world-class centre half.

The peaks and troughs of a window are partly dictated by the matches. Before the game, it emerged United had scheduled medicals for Cavani and Telles. Then Maguire flattened the curve with his haphazard heading and cumbersome calamities.

Maguire played United into trouble twice in as many seconds to gift Tanguy Ndombele a swift equaliser and fouled Harry Kane, alert enough to send the slick Son through to motor past Eric Bailly and nervelessly dink the ball over De Gea.

This was the first Premier League pairing of Bailly and Maguire and it was a minor miracle it lasted beyond the interval, when Solskjaer hooked Nemanja Matic and Bruno Fernandes. Bailly’s stock has soared through one league start in 17 months and Lindelof’s has headed in the opposite direction amid Solskjaer’s Scandinavian solidarity. Lindelof’s demotion was overdue but Bailly has form for clangers and he duly delivered with the errant pass that led to Tottenham’s third. Axel Tuanzebe, nearing match fitness, is overdue a run if he stays free of injury.

“Talk. Talk, Eric,” Maguire commanded. He needed to give himself a talking to. Spurs exposed Maguire on their own patch through Steven Bergwijn in June and United paid £80million to ensure there would not be a repeat of their porous 2018-19 campaign; their worst in the top flight in 40 years. United have already sieved four more goals than they did in their first three matches two seasons ago but an undisputed world-class centre half is going to have to wait until next year.


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Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw, full-backs who cost £81m between them, needed telling when to venture forward and when to hold the fort, not that Spurs had any trouble breaching United. A cruise liner could have occupied the space down Shaw’s side as he repeatedly abandoned his station and Spurs scored twice through moving the ball down their right. Mourinho predicted as a pundit on Maguire’s United debut he would soon discover he has to cover for Shaw going AWOL and Spurs exploited it with alarming ease.

David de Gea has not looked as animated as he has in United’s first three league games and they have already shipped more home league goals than they did in the entirety of 2007-08, back when world-class defenders occupied almost every role in their back five. One of them, Patrice Evra, was on punditry duty and demanded all XI starters be dropped. Evra had already lacerated Maguire and his leadership credentials.

Evra’s one-time prodigy, Paul Pogba, was abject against his renascent compatriot Ndombele and gifted Kane a spotkick for the sixth. The midfield trident of Pogba, Matic and Fernandes were powerless to mollify Tottenham, devoid of the influential Giovani Lo Celso and Son and Kane were impressible, both registering twice.

It had started so auspiciously for United. Martial clumsily upended by Davinson Sanchez inside 24 seconds and Fernandes converted his 10th successive penalty for United. Then Maguire misjudged a header and the dam burst.

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