Jose Mourinho is seriously risking Man Utd’s transfer plans and his own reputation by rowing with Pogba and Shaw, while Thomas Tuchel to Arsenal and England’s midfield are also discussed in this week’s Monday Verdict.
Mourinho playing with fire over Manchester United’s summer strategy
From day one, Manchester United knew what they were getting with Jose Mourinho. For all the success he can almost certainly guarantee, his presence comes with a massive negative: the often negative tactics and, much worse – the uncanny ability to alienate and divide those around him.
It’s happened now at Chelsea twice, Inter Milan and Real Madrid; the Portuguese coach picking fights and squabbles which, while keep him in the public eye, ultimately damage his reputation and lead to his downfall at said previous clubs.
Now the same appears to be happening at Manchester United – and this time, the risky strategy could have far more serious consequences…..
Claims over the weekend that Gareth Bale has been put off a move to Old Trafford due to the treatment of Luke Shaw, point to the danger of Mourinho’s actions.
In Jonathan Barnett, Bale shares the same agent of Luke Shaw and there’s little doubt the man in control of their destinies will have had been less than impressed with the actions of the United manager.
Shaw has been brutally victimised by Mourinho at Manchester United. A player of outstanding ability, tipped to be England and United’s left-back for 10 years when he signed. Why it’s all gone wrong, we’ll probably have to wait until either leaves Old Trafford. But one thing is for sure….Shaw’s decision to keep a diplomatic silence reflects well on the player. It also reflects well on Barnett, whose professional approach has shaped Bale’s career extremely well to date.
But having seen Mourinho’s treatment of his client, it would come as no surprise to see Barnett try to dissuade Bale from making the move to Old Trafford this summer. Get on the wrong side of him, and your career can go downhill fast.
With Ed Woodward having once having named Bale as one of his four ‘fantasy signings’ for Manchester United, the club probably have as good a chance as ever of landing the Welshman this summer. Or at least they may have done, until Mourinho started on Shaw.
And then there’s Paul Pogba…
For everything you read about Shaw, you can almost say the same with the Frenchman. Only this time, the imminent divorce between Pogba and United could make life extremely difficult for Mourinho – and it’s all down to Mino Raiola.
In fact, given a large chunk of Mourinho’s transfer market strategy while at Old Trafford has been based around the Italian-Dutchman’s extensive list of clients, the falling out with Pogba proves more than any other factor why the United boss is playing with fire.
I don’t want to further the all-too-great power that the game’s super-agents seem to have these days, but when Mourinho’s first summer at Old Trafford saw Raiola clients Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic all sign (only Eric Bailly proved the exception), and 2017 saw another arrive in Romelu Lukaku, you can see why Raiola is a man Mourinho would be wise not to p*** off any further.
There’s every chance United could look to sign another Raiola client this summer in PSG midfielder Marco Verratti, while what when David De Gea eventually leaves Old Trafford? If some observers would cite Gianluigi Donnarumma as the perfect replacement, they may need to revisit that approach if Raiola and Mourinho fall out on the back of the latter’s dispute with Pogba.
Whether Bale or Verratti are top Manchester United, but Raiola appeared to serve notice of his frustration with Mourinho and Manchester United on Sunday.
Discussing the fee United paid for Pogba, Raiola has suggested he did the club a massive favour by helping them land the player at a “reduced cost”.
If there’s a falling out to come, expect that perceived good will to be well and truly extinguished as a result.
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Time will tell if Bale and Verratti prove bona fide transfer targets for United this summer, but the hard truths for Mourinho might yet just lie in wait….
The thing is Jose, you can’t play the bully without facing the consequences at some point down the line….
Why Thomas Tuchel could be just the man Arsenal need
Arsenal fans will have woken up to quite a shock on Sunday. Multiple reports – seemingly originating in Germany – stated that former Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel is in ‘advanced talks’ over taking charge at the end of the season.
Tuchel has reportedly even rejected the possibility of succeeding Juup Heynckes at Bayern Munich, preferring a change of scenery and a move to Premier League this summer.
The reaction to the rumours has been mixed to say the least, with responses ranging from ‘I would be totally uninspired’ to ‘keep him away from North London at all costs’.
Sure, Tuchel is not yet considered to be an ‘elite’ manager (but, honestly, who is nowadays), but there is absolutely some rationale to back it all up.
The link to Arsenal appears to make sense, given his past working relationship with the Gunners’ recently-appointed director of football Sven Mislintat.
The player will also be familiar with former Dortmund duo Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Granit Xhaka and Sead Kolasinac also having had spells in the Bundesliga.
But it isn’t about the sense of familiarity that should excite Gunners fans, but rather the idea of taking a step into the unknown.
While appointing a manager such as Carlo Ancelotti perhaps makes more sense in terms of credentials, there simple wouldn’t be the level of change that Arsenal needs right now. Of course the Italian has a different style of management to Wenger, but that isn’t enough.
What Arsenal need – and have done for some time – is something fresh. Something new. Something that the fans can really get behind; an identity, if you will. That is exactly what Thomas Tuchel will bring.
The 44-year-old began to demonstrate his philosophy during his time with Mainz, where as a small fish in a big pond he won 72 of his 182 games in charge. It wasn’t his results that impressed Bundesliga watchers though, more so his ability to spot talent and develop youth in a pressing style similar to the one implemented at Mainz and then Dortmund by Jurgen Klopp.
And of course, like his countryman had some years previous, he then graduated to Dortmund in April 2015 – becoming the replacement for the Liverpool-bound Klopp. After looking through a range of more decorated coaches, BVB decided on Tuchel, eager to incorporate a similar footballing philosophy to the one that Klopp had left behind.
His debut campaign at Dortmund ended trophyless, but Tuchel had laid the foundations and convinced the board that he was the man. He amassed the highest points tally not to win the league in German history.
Not only that, but the Krumbach-born technician demonstrated tactical versatility, often switching between a 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 and a 3-4-3. In addition, he had begun his squad overhaul, allowing nine players to leave and convincing exciting players like Gonzalo Castro and Julian Weigl to join his project.
In preparation for his second season with the club, another overhaul came, something which may have eventually resulted in Tuchel’s downfall. Dortmund spent €120m on 11 new signings, including the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Raphael Guerreiro, but had to contend with the departures of Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Despite the departure of key players and the shift towards youth, Tuchel secured his first trophy in black-and-yellow with a German Cup win over Eintracht Frankfurt. They were knocked out in the quarter-final of the Champions League after their bus was literally bombed before the game in Monaco.
Th revolution had taken place, with an emphasis on quick, free-flowing attack that brought out the best in players such as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who bagged 56 goals in 63 league appearances under Tuchel.
Not all was rosy however, as Tuchel grew frustrated with the club’s transfer policy and had notable tensions with senior board members, including CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke. It’s hard to blame him in truth, as he claimed the club had promised that key players such as Hummels and Gundogan would not be allowed to leave.
He decided to take another year out of management, leaving Dortmund with a record of 68 wins, 23 draws, and 17 defeats in 108 games, and a win percentage of 62.96%. The failure wasn’t down to the management; the club let him down.
So, to Arsenal fans who laugh at the idea of Tuchel becoming manager, it must be asked: who would you rather have? The vast majority of fans would agree the club has gone stale over the last two or three years and is now dropping behind rivals.
Where Liverpool constantly finished below the Gunners, they recruited a man with a project and a philosophy in Klopp and now could very feasibly finish second this season. At the very least, they’ll be in the Champions League again, and who knows how far they could go in it this season.
It’s time for change at Arsenal, and although this represents a shift out of the comfort zone, it would be one for the better. As the old saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs….
Steady signs for England – but midfield remains huge concern
England had not won on Dutch soil since 1969, but it didn’t take long to realise that record was going to be set straight on Friday.
The result almost 50 years ago was a 1-0 win and history repeated itself in Amsterdam as England earned themselves a win by the same scoreline – courtesy of Jesse Lingard’s goal.
The Three Lions were convincing winners and the margin would have been greater had Marcus Rashford been awarded the stick-on penalty he deserved.
A win against such opposition would normally receive high praise, and Gareth Southgate was buoyant afterwards at the Amsterdam Arena, but the limitations of the Dutch do need higlighting.
They have failed to qualify for the World Cup after France and Sweden finished first and second in their group, but they had managed six consecutive victories.
Their performance however against England was as bad a display we have seen from the Oranje in recent times. Devoid of any attacking flair they rarely threatened England’s newly-formed back three.
‘The worst Dutch side in living memory’, some observers claimed. It was hard to against that….
Southgate was happy “with the quality of our football” and claimed his players had enjoyed their football.
They certainly played as well as any England team has in the last few years, but I cannot help thinking that the opposition were well below the standard England will face if they reach the knockout stage of the World Cup or their group opponents Belgium.
Southgate made a point of England having possession of the ball – a fact we can usually forget when we get to major tournaments. However, we were hardly as domineering as we should have been and only managed 52% possession.
We were in truth in control of the game and we did have key players missing as Southgate fielded a much-changed and youthful line-up, but against opposition like that we should really have been putting them to the sword.
“We learned several things, really,” the England manager said. “There were a number of players in positions we wanted to have a look at.
“Kyle Walker in a back three, Raheem (Sterling) as one of two forwards, Alex (Oxlade-Chamberlain) in a midfield role that – although he is playing (there) for his club – hasn’t played with us up until now.
“Jesse Lingard as an eight as well, so, yeah, really pleased with the performance and the composure with which we played.”
But while he learned things in Amsterdam, he still has plenty of issues remaining and not much time to resolve them – three games in fact.
His successful trial of a three-man defence looks like the way we will go in Russia and that should give us the stability we need to launch our quick counter-attacks from. John Stones impressed and he could be an effective weapon bringing the ball out of defence and committing midfielders.
Kieran Trippier was also very impressive and he may well have nailed down his place, with Kyle Walker tried out as one of the three defenders.
Rashford looked dangerous, while Sterling looks like a starter against Tunisia in June, but it’s England’s midfield that is the most worrying.
Jordan Henderson had a good game against Holland, but I have serious reservations about his passing and his ability to dictate play from the centre circle. Dele Alli’s form for Spurs has been poor and his indiscipline may well be exposed, while Jack Wilshere’s fitness is so fragile, it cannot be relied upon in a tournament.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has promised so much in a midfield role and he was solid, but unspectacular against the Dutch and it would be a gamble to play him centrally with little experience playing in that role internationally.
Eric Dier is also an option, but his mobility is a concern and seems much more at home in a back three, rather than in a driving midfield role.
Southgate alluded to a lack of guile against Holland: “At times, a bit more quality in the final third was needed, but I think we deserved the win.”
Another concern I have from a midfield that looks average at best. The problem Southgate has is that he has a lack of midfield options, but if he’s looking for a shock wildcard then look no further than Phil Foden.
Foden, 18 in May, is the heir apparent to David Silva at Man City and has been given some Champions League game time this season under Pep Guardiola.
He would be a risk, having not played much first-team football, but he helped England Under-17s win the World Cup last year, scoring twice in the final and he has got valuable tournament experience.
He’s as big as 33/1 to make the plane, but with options limited, Foden’s attacking intent would provide a good weapon in a squad, whose tendency is to pass sideways.
Sheffield United should be proud but must hang onto Brooks
The international break always gives the sides in the top two tiers of English football a chance to sit back, relax and analyse their season to date.
And for all those Sheffield United fans out there, it has the feeling of a bit of an anti-climax about it, after coming up from League One and taking the Championship by storm early on they have somewhat fallen off the pace.
Chris Wilder’s men used the momentum from their 100-point title-winning campaign in League One to set the division alight with a care-free brand of attacking football.
A late David Brooks strike at Elland Road saw them overcome Leeds United 2-1 at the end of October and send the Blades top of the Championship.
That goal meant that United had won 10 out of their opening 14 fixtures after a six-year absence from the second tier – with supporters understandably in dreamland.
However, five months later and the promotion train has slightly derailed with the Blades now on 60 points and two points adrift of Middlesbrough, who occupy the final play-off position.
There’s no doubt that Paul Coutts’ long-term injury has had a major effect on their momentum, with John Lundstrum – his initial replacement – not in the same mould as the Scot.
January recruit Lee Evans has now given the central midfield area a better balance alongside John Fleck heading into the final eight matches of the season.
Whatever happens in the final stretch for United, this term has been a massive success, with most fans reasonably happy to consolidate back in the division again following dark times.
If they don’t make the play-offs then it is essential the club hangs onto centre-back Jack O’Connell and wing-backs Enda Stevens and George Baldock – with all three providing a lot of attacking threat as part of Wilder’s line-up.
Coutts and Fleck in midfield will again be essential for any promotion push, while the underrated Mark Duffy – who is one of the favourites to win the clubs’ Player of the Year Award – must remain.
Jamal Blackman, on loan from Premier League side Chelsea, has impressed in between the sticks and a cheeky bid to keep him at Bramall Lane would be favourable.
Despite their goals this season, it may be time for the club to look at long-term replacements for Leon Clarke and Billy Sharp up front, with the former in particular tailing off towards the end of this term.
Finally, the boy wonder Brooks committed his future to the club with a new five-year deal in the first half of the campaign and made his first senior appearance for Wales.
With his long-term future pledged to the Blades, they are now in the driving seat with reported interest from a host of Premier League clubs, including Liverpool and Tottenham.
A potential fee of £20million was talked about in December and it remains to be seen if United would be able to resist those kind of advances.