Monday Verdict: Top-four bid already over for ‘mediocre’ Man Utd?

Date published: Monday 28th November 2016 8:58

We call for a mediocre Manchester United to lower their expectations this season, while we also have thoughts on why Bob Bradley is belittled by prejudices and a potted history of nine-goal thrillers.

 

Disappointing United need to revise expectations

It doesn’t matter what approach Jose Mourinho uses to disguise current failings at Manchester United, the simple matter of truth is that results have not been good enough at Manchester United this season.

A promising start which saw the new manager claim four straight wins seemed to suggest all was well in the camp and the Mourinho masterplan was going as promised. In fact, this very article in the early weeks of the season suggested the club had their swagger back under the Portuguese tactician.

Our analysis immediately after Sunday’s 1-1 draw with West Ham, however, painted a very different picture for United, who after four successive draws at home, are beginning to look lost under Mourinho’s siege mentality.

In fact, Rob Conlon’s excellent piece hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

…’at what point do the excuses, the public displays of disgust at officials, and the bizarre press comments become too frequent? For the fourth consecutive game at Old Trafford, it appeared the Red Devils were starting to believe the conspiracies.’

Mourinho has often sworn by this approach; he seems to believe it can aid, protect and, hell, even unite (for want of a better word) his players….

Jose Mourinho: Sent off for a second time

 

However, as United stare down the barrel of yet another season of mediocrity – and let’s face it, Louis van Gaal and David Moyes were lynched for less – it seems the club may need to lower their once great expectations and accept they’re no longer English football’s royalty.

In fact, if we’re being honest, this United side – for all the money that has been splashed around – are average. Very, very average.

United are now eight points adrift of Arsenal in fourth – and although the Gunners were fortunate to claim a draw in their clash last weekend – the chasm between the two sides already looks vast.

Aside from the obvious squad differences between United and their other top-four rivals, the main concern for United surely must be that even when playing well, the club aren’t getting the desired results. Their rivals, meanwhile, can afford to play badly, yet still have that tenacity about them to grind our results. Compare Man City’s win at Burnley on Saturday to United’s recent 0-0 draw against the same side; it’s that kind of killer mentality that United just don’t have these days.

A lot, of course, can change between now and the end of the season – three positive results in the Premier League will inspire confidence of course – but as things stand, the club just don’t look capable of stringing any kind of run together.

It was reportedly recently that ‘Mourinho believes it will take two more transfer windows for him to sort out the mess at Old Trafford that he has inherited’. I’d argue that on current evidence, it may take much longer.

They won’t ever admit to it, but privately at least, the club and their supporters must surely lower their expectations for the season. Perhaps the much-maligned Van Gaal wasn’t so bad after all…..

 

READ MORE

Talking Points: Arsenal win – but they still have problems

Ratings: Moses impresses, but Wimmer’s woes continue

Mourinho must stop siege mentality, United need to feel like kings

 

Nine-goal thrillers: just how rare are they?

skysports-fernando-llorente-swansea-crystal-palace_3840482

For anyone watching Match of the Day this weekend, they may have noticed the stat that said this was the 21st occasion in which a Premier League game has had nine goals or more scored in it.

Figuratively speaking, that’s just one game every 1.14 seasons, or once in every 941 games. In other words, it’s quite a rare thing.

But while Swansea’s 5-4 success on Saturday against a stricken Crystal Palace will have had their fans beaming, it had some of us (well, me at least) reaching for the record books.

Jurgen Klopp: Lost glasses in Saturday's celebrations

  • Remarkably, this was only the second time in Premier League history that a home team had won 5-4; the other being West Ham 5-4 Bradford as far back as February 2000.
  • The most recent nine-goal thriller was as ‘recently’ as January this year when Liverpool beat Norwich 4-5 in a crazy game as memorable for Jurgen Klopp losing his glasses in the melee that followed Adam Lallana’s 90th (+5) minute winner.
  • In total, there has only been five occasions when a Premier League match has finished either 5-4 or 4-5 (the three mentioned so far) and Tottenham 4-5 Arsenal (in November 2004) and Norwich 4-5 Southampton in April 1994

And what of the other matches where nine or more goals have been scored? Here’s what I discovered….

  • The highest scoring Premier League game of all time was the 11 goals netted in Portsmouth 7-4 Reading in September 2007.

  • Only on five occasions have exactly 10 goals been scored in a single Premier League game: Tottenham 6-4 Reading (Dec 2007), Tottenham 9-1 Wigan (Nov 2009), Man Utd 8-2 Arsenal (Aug 2011), Arsenal 7-3 Newcastle (Dec 2012) and West Brom 5-5 Man Utd (May 2013)
  • The biggest winning margin recorded in the Premier League was Man Utd 9-0 Ipswich in March 1995

So in other words, these occasions are pretty infrequent. And while Swansea will no doubt enjoy this latest crazy history-maker, spare a thought for Palace who scored four goals in a single Premier League game for only the third-time ever, and for the first time in their history scored four times in a single game and still finished on the losing side!

 

Relief for Bradley – but is Bob belittled by prejudices?

bob-brad

I’ve written in the past how Jurgen Klopp is a man you’d simply want to run through a brick wall for; well if there’s a polar opposite in the Premier League, it has to be Swansea manager Bob Bradley.

That’s not to say the American is a bad manager, and he certainly seems like a decent bloke too. But in terms of inspirational leadership, he’s a man who falls woefully short for me.

Saturday’s 5-4 success against Crystal Palace was Bradley’s first Premier League win at the sixth time of asking, and while they were moments away from victory in their last game – a 1-1 draw at Everton – the club look like they’re in for a long hard season under the American.

Admittedly, I’m judging Bradley as a coach before he’s had chance to prove himself, but when I hear him interviewed and listen to his pressers, I find it hard to look beyond his American accent and worse still, his Americanisms.

While this is by no means a bad thing, or, to make it clear, something I have a problem with, I do wonder how these lend themselves to the cut-and thrust of the Premier League….?

Bob Bradley: Swans players already impressed

But while references of Americans playing ‘soccer’ and their phrases associated with the game still haunt me – calling a goalkeeper a ‘frame landlord’ and referring to a penalty as a ‘PK’ being the worst – it’s hard to listen to Bradley speaking about the game with anything other than a preconceived motion that he’s something of a comedy character.

You’re nothing as a Premier League manager if your players can’t respond to you as a coach, or more accurately, as a human being, and I do wonder what the mood at Swansea is really like?!

Yes, players will always say the right things and stay professional when in the public eye – particularly when referring to their manager –  but tell me I’m not the only one to judge Bradley and have a pre-conceived perception that this man will simply fail?

Even in victory on Saturday, the internet was flooded with jokes about Bradley and the manner of Swansea’s win. So it seems I’m not alone after all….

 

Pardew out, Allardyce in at Palace?

Alan Pardew (right): Rates Sam Allardyce highly

I’m not sure who Alan Pardew is trying to convince when he says he believes he will be given time to turn around Palace’s poor form?

But with the club now sitting above the relegation zone on goal difference only, and the club having failed to keep a clean sheet for an 18th straight game, the writing could be on the wall sooner, rather than later for a man, who has never lacked in self belief.

With just five wins from 32 games over the calendar year, Palace are in wretched form. Saturday’s setback at the Liberty was their sixth successive defeat and other teams have sacked managers for less.

It’s often bleated out that the Premier League is a results business and on that form alone, Pardew is lucky to still be in his job.

 

WATCH: Pardew berates Palace defending

The papers claim Sam Allardyce is being lined up by the Eagles as a replacement for Pardew, and given the way he steered Sunderland to safety last season, you can certainly see the appeal…..

 

Southampton’s production line keeps on producing

On the day Everton boss Ronald Koeman returned to Southampton for the first time, the past met the future as Saints’ teenage debutant Josh Sims became the latest prodigy to catch the eye in red and white stripes.

The 19-year-old provided the assist for Charlie Austin’s first-minute goal as Koeman’s last signing on the south coast grabbed the winner to inflict more misery on the Dutchman’s current outfit, who have just one win in their past eight league games.

Players, and managers, may leave Southampton, but while they continue to unearth gems from their academy system, they will be just fine.

 

James Marshment

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