Records on the line in Hull, United match Man U meet Fenerbahce, Feyenoord
THAT a Manchester United side boasting world-record signing Paul Pogba have won their opening two games of the Premier League season is no surprise — but that newly-promoted Hull City have done so certainly is.
United, managed by Jose Mourinho, who guided Chelsea to several English titles, splashed out £89 million (105 million euros, $116 million) to bring midfielder Pogba back from Juventus and have since beaten both Bournemouth and Southampton.
Hull, by contrast, have no permanent manager, a squad of just 13 fit players and no new signings, while the owners of the northern club are contemplating a sale.
Yet despite all that, Hull, who only won promotion via the play-offs, have beaten Premier League champions Leicester and Swansea to join United, along with fellow heavyweights Manchester City and Chelsea, as just one of four teams to make a perfect start in English football’s top-flight this season.
Something, however, will have to give in terms of a 100 percent league record when Hull, under the caretaker charge of Mike Phelan — a former United player who then moved onto the coaching staff to work alongside manager Alex Ferguson as the silverware piled up at Old Trafford — meet Mourinho’s men at the KCOM Stadium today.
United look re-vitalised under their Portuguese coach, while pre-season signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not wasted any time in making his mark.
The 34-year-old superstar striker, MANCHESTER United will come up against their former striker Robin van Persie after being drawn in a tough Europa League group yesterday alongside Fenerbahce, Feyenoord and Zorya Luhansk.
Three-time European champions United must negotiate a competitive group if they are to win one of the few titles that has eluded them.
The Premier League side will face 19-times Turkish champions Fenerbahce, who missed out on the Champions League group stage after a 4-3 aggregate defeat by AS Monaco in the third qualifying round.
They are managed by former Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat and include ex-United forward Van Persie who began his career with Feyenoord.
The Dutch Cup holders finished third in
recruited on a free transfer after leaving Paris St Germain, has scored four times in his first three United games, including their Community Shield win over Leicester.
Should he extend his run at Hull, former Sweden international Ibrahimovic will become the first United player in 91 years, and only the second in all, to score in his first four matches for the club.
Mata warning Already United are looking as though they will challenge for a first league title since 2013, with midfielder Juan Mata insisting there is better to come.
“It’s still August and that means we are still the Eredivisie last season. Zorya qualified as Ukraine’s fourth-placed team.
Southampton, the Premier League’s other representatives, have been drawn alongside Inter Milan, Sparta Prague and Hapoel Be’er Sheva.
Villarreal, beaten semi-finalists last season, meet former European champions Steaua Bucharest, FC Zurich and Osmanlispor.
Group-stage first-timers Dundalk of Ireland meet AZ Alkmaar, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Zenit St. Petersburg, who reached the Champions League round of 16 last season.
The top two teams from each of the 12 groups advance to the round of 32 where they will be joined by the eight third-placed teams from the Champions League group stage.
The final will be played in Stockholm on May 24. — Reuters
working on a few adjustments,” said Mata. “We know there’s still room for improvement. We are laying the foundations of the team for this season.
“We have a tough game ahead at Hull City. It’s never easy and they are one of the four teams that have won the first two games this season,” the Spaniard added.
“They are back in the Premier League this year and are having a surprising start. We will try to win and keep our good streak.”
Midfielder Jesse Lingaard will return to the United squad following a hamstring problem, with the out-of-favour Bastian Schweinsteiger — who this week said he would not move to another club in Europe — the only senior player not under consideration.
Phelan, who took charge after the resignation of former Manchester United teammate Steve Bruce last month, is on the verge of being appointed Hull’s manager fulltime.
And the 53-year-old has credited the two decades he spent as a player, coach and assistant manager under Ferguson as playing a major role in shaping his readiness to take the step into management.
Phelan won the Champions League, six Premier Leagues and the FA Cup during his time working with Ferguson, and he said: “I had a fantastic 20 years there.
“Sir Alex would give you an opportunity to do the work which was good in terms of my development and it was a great place to learn about so many aspects of coaching and management.”
Hull, who are unbeaten at home in the league since November, haven’t signed a senior outfield player on a permanent deal for almost a year, but remain hopeful of bringing in reinforcements in the final week of the transfer window.
Meanwhile defender Josh Tymon and striker Greg Luer, who were both injured in Hull’s 3-1 EFL Cup win at fourth-tier Exeter in midweek, face fitness tests ahead of today’s match. AFP/SuperSport
Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic