United strug­gle as Jose rings changes

Daily Dispatch - - Sport -

Jose Mour­inho will be des­per­ate for his strug­gling Manch­ester United side to put their de­fen­sive woes be­hind them against the Premier League’s bot­tom club Ful­ham but the form book sug­gests they may strug­gle to do so.

United have con­ceded 25 goals in their 15 Premier League games to date – more than four times the num­ber con­ceded by Liver­pool.

Alarm­ingly, only the divi­sion’s bot­tom five teams have a worse de­fen­sive record.

In the two com­plete sea­sons un­der Mour­inho’s man­age­ment, United con­ceded just 29 goals in 2016-17 and 28 goals last sea­son. That leaves United fac­ing the real prospect of over­tak­ing those marks for an en­tire cam­paign be­fore the turn of the year.

Against Arse­nal mid­week, Mour­inho made seven changes from the week­end draw at Southamp­ton. This means he has made a to­tal of 46 changes in the open­ing 15 games, more than any other team.

The game against Arse­nal ended in a 2-2 draw.

The past two games have seen Mour­inho opt for a three­man de­fence, em­ploy­ing wing­backs higher up the field, al­though there has again been a lack of con­sis­tency in his se­lec­tions.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, United’s de­fence looked ter­ri­ble in con­ced­ing goals to Shko­dran Mustafi, cour­tesy of a dread­ful mis­take by goal­keeper David de Gea, and a Mar­cos Rojo own goal – a de­fen­sive catas­tro­phe that left Mour­inho jok­ing that his team had scored all four goals against the Gun­ners.

But, given the patched up na­ture of his de­fence, Mour­inho in­sisted he was de­lighted with their at­ti­tude and ef­fort in mid­week.

“We have to be happy with the spirit, the ef­fort, the dy­namism, the in­ten­sity, the un­der­stand­ing of our dif­fi­cul­ties,” he said.

Ful­ham, bot­tom of the ta­ble and with just 15 league goals in as many games this sea­son, should of­fer United’s de­fence a sightly eas­ier chal­lenge on Satur­day, al­though the ar­rival of new man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri may pro­duce a gal­vanis­ing ef­fect, at least based on their 1-1 draw with Le­ices­ter on Wed­nes­day. –

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