Manch­ester derby pres­sure on Mour­inho

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sports -

THE pres­sure is all on Jose Mour­inho. Af­ter a 100 per­cent open­ing to the Pre­mier League sea­son, the Manch­ester United man­ager might have ex­pected to go into the derby against Manch­ester City on Satur­day on a high. In­stead, his im­pact at Old Traf­ford has been over­shad­owed by Pep Guardi­ola’s start at Manch­ester City.

Guardi­ola’s tac­tics have pro­duced spells in the open­ing three games where City have been spec­tac­u­lar. The use of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva as “False 8s” — in­side for­wards with a li­cence to roam — has given Guardi­ola’s side a pleas­ing flex­i­bil­ity when pour­ing for­ward. In phases of the games against Stoke City and West Ham United, City looked like the type of team who could run away with the ti­tle.

There have been shorter pe­ri­ods, too, when their soft un­der­belly was visible. Mour­inho will have noted this. The prob­lem is, so far, United’s per­for­mances still be­tray signs of a Louis van Gaal hang­over as Mour­inho con­tin­ues to put his stamp on Old Traf­ford, a process that will take time.

Few imag­ined Juan Mata and Marouane Fel­laini would start thee firstst tthreeee gagame­ses oof hiss tetenure.ue. Itt was more pre­dictablele that Wayne Rooney would be in­volved, but de­spite Mour­inho’sour­inho’s pre­sea­son as­ser­tion that the Eng­land cap­tainn would not play in mid­field, the 30-year-old hass reached the point in his ca­reer when he has to drift ever deeper in the quest to stay in­volved in the game.

United’s mid­fi­field­eld has been static and has lacked dy­namism. Paulul Pogba will even­tu­ally change that, but it has been sur­pris­ing that Hen­rikh Mkhi­taryan Mkhde has made such a scant con­tri­bu­tion. The Ar­me­nian has played less than an hour’s foot­ball as a sub­sti­tuteb­sti­tute in the first three matches andnd may miss the derby with an in­juryn­jury picked up on in­ter­na­tion­alal duty. With Fel­laini also in a race to get fit, United’s mid­fieldld will have a mix-and-matchh feel about it once again.

Guardi­ola’s sys­te­mys­tem of­fers op­po­nents a chance to ex­ploit weak­nesses.sses. Us­ing a front five of Ser­gio Aguero, Nolito,, Ra­heem Ster­ling, De Bruyneruyne and Silva means thereere can be gaps in the mid­dled­dle of the park. The man­ager’snager’s high press­ing gamee also leaves space be­hind thehe back four. At his best, Mour­in­honho would pick apart his ri­val’s’s tac­tics and iso­late the ar­easas where his team could thrive.ve. An­thony Mar­tial has thee pace and Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic­movic the wit to ex­pose the Ci­ty­ity back four, but United are less likely too take ad­van­tage in the mid­field. It is hard to imag­ine United tak­ing the game to their neigh­bours. Mour­inho does not have the play­ers to out­pass and outrun City. His best sides — Chelsea in the 2000s, In­ter Mi­lan — were dis­ci­plined, kept things tight and broke with real pace when­ever they gained pos­ses­sion. The Por­tuguese’s darker mo­ments have come when he did not trust his play­ers and be­came over­cau­tious. In his sec­ond spell at Chelsea three years ago, Mour­inho took his side to Old Traf­ford early in the sea­son and played for a 0-0 draw against a David Moyes team that of­fered very lit­tle threat. That re­sult was psy­cho­log­i­cally worse than a de­feat. If he gets it wrong against City, the ram­i­fi­ca­tions may be even more sig­nif­i­cant. The United man­ager’s his­tory with Guardi­ola makes this first derby a state­ment game. Like Sir Alex Fer­gu­son be­fore him, Mour­inho de­fines him­self by his feuds. He has had many en­e­mies in his ca­reer — Arsene Wenger, Rafa Ben­itez — but the most com­pelling ri­valry has been his strug­gles to over­come his Cata­lan neme­sis. It reached a peak when Mour­inho man­aged Real Madrid when Guardi­ola was at the helm of Barcelona, but the du­elling coucouldd reacheac a newew in­ten­si­tytesty in Manch­ester.a Like in the days of the Clasico show­downs,sh there is a clash of philoso­phies un­der­pi­un­der­pin­ning the dis­like the two men share for each other.ot Guardi­ola is part of a wider plan to turn Ci­tyC into a sus­tain­able global foot­ball power. HeH will be af­forded as much time as it takes tto re­build the Eti­had hadEti­had in his own im­age, aan iden­tity that dove­tails per­fectly with the am­bi­tions tion­sam­bi­tions of City’s hi­er­ar­chy. Mour­inho’s sit­u­a­tion is dif­fer­ent. He is there to provipro­vide a quick fix. Fer­gu­son fa­mously de­scribed his role at Old TTraf­ford 30 years ago as be­ing to “knock Liver­poolL poolLiver­pool off their perch.” The Por­tuguese has to find a way of putting United back on that perch, one that they ab­di­cated with a se­ries of bad de­ci­sions and two poor man­age­rial ap­point­ments af­ter Fer­gu­son un­ex­pect­edly re­tired. Some in the board­room did not want Mour­inho. They are still sus­pi­cious. At Old Traf­ford, ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the man­ager, pays lip ser­vice to the club’s her­itage and main­tain­ing the United ethos. It is re­as­sur­ing talk, but the re­al­ity is Mour­inho is there to win now. If he fails there will be no fu­ture to plan for and there is no wider vi­sion to be aimed for than top-four Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion (at a min­i­mum) and win­ning tro­phies. Guardi­ola has the lux­ury of plan­ning for the long term. The ques­tion marks hang over Mour­inho, not Guardi­ola. He has to find an­swers and quickly. That’s what he does best. It will not be easy to steal the spotlight from City’s man­ager, one of the game’s golden boys, but Mour­inho will make sure his great ri­val has a dif­fi­cult day at Old Traf­ford. Jur­gen Klopp should play it straight with Liver­pool sup­port­ers. Jur­gen Klopp, like many in foot­ball, hates the way money and huge trans­fer fees have taken over the game. The wide-eyed gush­ing that ac­com­pa­nied Pre­mier League clubs spend­ing more than £1.1 bil­lion in the sum­mer win­dow was cer­tainly uned­i­fy­ing. Some peo­ple ap­pear more ex­cited about trans­fer spec­u­la­tion and “mar­quee” buys that the ac­tual foot­ball it­self. The Liver­pool man­ager’s re­sponse is dis­ap­point­ing, though. Ex­plain­ing the club’s net spend in the sum­mer — the sec­ond low­est in the divi­sion — he called for trust. “If you re­ally love this club then you need to be­lieve in our way.” Leav­ing aside that some­one who has been at a club less than a year can dic­tate what it is to “love” a club that many fans sup­port as a birthright, the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the words “need” and “be­lieve” sug­gests a faith-based ap­proach is the only way to back a team. It is in­sult­ing and im­plies that sup­port­ers who make even re­al­is­tic crit­i­cisms of a club are not real fans. In­vok­ing faith is more suit­able to re­li­gion than a sport. You can imag­ine some­one with Klopp’s charisma, had he taken a dif­fer­ent path, filling sta­di­ums as a preacher. The dif­fer­ence is you don’t have to wait un­til the af­ter­life for your re­ward (or lack of it) in foot­ball. Just the end of the sea­son. Of­fered a choice be­tween faith and mam­mon in the Pre­mier League, it’s prob­a­bly safer to trust the cash. Money talks and when it does, it’s fre­quently more hon­est than man­agers.

Klopp gives great sound­bites but a more straight­for­ward “we didn’t think the play­ers we could at­tract without Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball were worth the fees and wages we would have to pay” would have been a bet­ter re­sponse.

That’s the sort of pol­icy and hon­esty that would re­ally give the fans some­thing they could be­lieve in — whether they liked it or not.— ESPNFC.

Jose Mour­inho Pep Guardi­ola

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