Man U not quite the lost cause they seemed to be at the start
● There is something rather uncomfortable about the club with the biggest wage bill in the Premier League being characterised as the underdog but, in the context of a week when plenty have been predicting misery for Manchester United, it was possible to see where Paul Pogba was coming from.
“I think it’s always good to be the outsider, so people expect bad of us and then we surprise people,” the United midfielder said after his team’s 2-1 smash-and-grab win against Juventus on Wednesday night and, no doubt, with one eye on today’s derby at Manchester City.
It is not a look that will always wash, of course, Goliath repainted as David, but United have enjoyed two enormous shots in the arm over recent days — one entirely of their making, one not — that have given Jose Mourinho more wiggle room, scope for optimism and armoury than he could possibly have imagined several weeks back when he woke to headlines that he would be sacked.
A fortnight after being outclassed by Juventus at Old Trafford, victory at the Allianz Stadium represented a lot more than just a boost to United’s prospects of reaching the Champions League knockout stages. It was not the best performance under Mourinho that some have rather hysterically suggested. As Cristiano Ronaldo was keen to point out, Juventus should have been three or four up by the time Juan Mata equalised with that sumptuous pressure free-kick.
Yet, following on from Saturday’s lastgasp 2-1 win at Bournemouth, United had dug deep to come from behind to win for the second game running.
Naturally, Mourinho never seems too far away from a crisis, but there has been a spirit, resilience and endeavour to United’s recent displays that, amid the many obvious flaws, suggest they are not quite the lost cause they seemed during a hopeless start to the campaign.
Whether he now opts to aim his fire across the road remains to be seen, though the opportunity to question the validity of City’s recent success in the wake of accusations they systematically cheated Uefa’s financial fair-play rules would appear an open goal for Mourinho.
You had to wonder if he was simply biding his time, waiting for the right moment to go on the offensive, when, asked this week about the leaks to German magazine Der Spiegel, he resisted the chance to stick the boot in on City.
The Der Spiegel allegations this week are certainly perfectly timed from United’s perspective. They offer a chance to get under City’s skin but, if United lose today, and certainly if they lose big, Mourinho will have a ready-made excuse. How can United expect to compete with a team accused of cheating the system? — © The Daily Telegraph, London
Advantage MourinhoJose Mourinho, right, has a chance to go on the offensive against Pep Guardiola after accusations that City cheated Uefa’s financial fair-play rules.