Will Power

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Carra Questions Jose's Record

Jamie Carragher told Monday Night Football he didn't object to Jose Mourinho's tactics at Liverpool - but his approach against top-six sides could cost Manchester United the title.

United faced one of last season's top six for the first time on Saturday, but the result was an uneventful 0-0 draw and they had just one shot on target in the entire match.

Mourinho was described as an "enemy of football" in the newspapers on Sunday morning, but Carragher refused to criticise the Manchester United boss.

However, he says some harsh words may be due if United continue to play like that in big matches.

Carragher said: "First of all I should say I had no problem whatsoever with what Jose Mourinho did. He's always done it and I expected it before the game.

"Jurgen Klopp said afterwards that Liverpool could never play like that; well maybe his Liverpool could never play like that, but my Liverpool did and we did it plenty of times and got results on the back of it.

"I think the criticism will be saved until the end of the season if results in big away games don't improve and it costs Manchester United the title."


Mourinho has not won any of the last 10 matches his sides have faced away at Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham - and his team has not even scored in the last nine of those.

And Carragher, who was joined in the MNF studio by five-time Premier League champion Peter Schmeichel, feels those damning statistics prove that his approach in big games is not working.

He added: "Jose Mourinho has always been lauded - and rightly so - as the man for the big occasion, the man in a big game, a 'Mourinho masterclass' winning these games.
"His way, of late, is not working.

"I go back to when Peter Schmeichel was winning titles with Manchester United and they possibly had six big games - Liverpool home and away, Arsenal home and away and someone else challenging, whether it was Chelsea or Newcastle.

"That's 18 points. With the top six now that's 30 points. That's a big part of the season. You've got 10 games home and away.

"If that doesn't improve they won't win the league and that's when the criticism will come.

"I won't criticise him for the way he played at Anfield because you can still win a game playing like that - but if those results continue I think it will be very difficult to win the title."

United now trail Manchester City by two points in the title race - and Carragher feels the results of the big head-to-head matches could prove decisive.

He said: "Manchester City have already got six points out of six in the head-to-heads with Liverpool and Chelsea.

"Manchester United have had one game and one point against Liverpool and it's a good result for Manchester United, not a bad result.

"But somewhere along the line he's got to pick up these points. If he doesn't, and City continue in the head-to-heads, that's where the criticism will come that he's been too negative."

Credit: Skysports.com

Pogba Lends Support To UEFA's #EqualGame Campaign

Paul Pogba has lent his support to UEFA's #EqualGame campaign, and said that football has the power to help to "stop war".

The campaign is part of FARE network's Football People action weeks, running during the first half of October.

The aim of UEFA's campaign is to tackle discrimination, and to promote 'inclusion, diversity and accessibility'.

Manchester United and France midfielder Pogba has released a video showing his support for the campaign. In the video, he says: "I always wanted to help people in the world because we have the luck that we are playing football, so people can see us.

"The player next to me comes from Africa or Serbia or Croatia but we play together. We are in the same team and we have the same objective, the same love of football. Share love together and that's it.

"Football can help the world to be better. You can have a war between two countries, then when you see each other you become friends because you play in the same team.

"You can see the love that you share between you and the world can see that and they can stop war for that.

"I am still young but I want to give an example to the young guys that are coming up, to see a different image of football."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said: "We want to highlight our commitment to leading the way in making discrimination a phenomenon of the past and celebrate diversity in the game."

Activities are taking place at a total of 58 matches in the Champions League, Europa League and the Women's Champions League.

Credit: Skysports.com

Lovren Blaming Lukaku Irks Jose

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho says Dejan Lovren's thoughts on his clash with Romelu Lukaku at Anfield do not add up.

The Liverpool centre-half claimed on Monday that the United striker deliberately stamped on him during Saturday's goalless draw at Anfield.

With Sky Sports News reporting that the FA would not pursue a case against Lukaku, Lovren believed there was intent.

"My honest view was he did it on purpose," Lovren said. "Even if he didn't do it [on purpose], he would usually apologise, he was nervous during the game, that was also the reason.

"I cannot say I'm disappointed, it is what it is, we need to move on, that's football."

It was a view that rankled with Mourinho, who hit back at the Croatian defender during United's Champions League press conference in Lisbon on Tuesday.

"There is a big contradiction," said Mourinho ahead of Wednesday's clash against Benfica.

"He said let's move on and forget what happened but then he spends 10 seconds talking about what he thinks what happened and didn't happen.

"For me, the FA committee is there to make decisions so I have no comment."

Credit: Skysports.com

Lovren: Lukaku Kicked Me In The Face

Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren accused Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku of deliberately kicking him in the face in Saturday's Premier League match.

The pair were involved in a clash shortly before half-time in the 0-0 draw at Anfield, with Lovren left rolling on the floor holding his face.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said he thought Lukaku "maybe" deserved a red card, but no retrospective action has been taken.

"My honest view is that he did it on purpose," Lovren said.

"He was over me, he could have moved away. Even if he did it normally he would apologise after that, but I saw he was nervous during the game so maybe that was also the reason."

Asked whether he was disappointed Belgium striker Lukaku would not face any further punishment, Lovren said: "This is not my decision. I cannot say I am disappointed but it is what it is.

"We need to move on. That is football, part of the game."

Liverpool next play in the Champions League at Slovenian side Maribor on Tuesday. United are away to Benfica, also in the Champions League, on Wednesday.

Credit: BBC Sport

Mourinho Dismisses Rumours Of United Exit


Jose Mourinho has dismissed reports in the media linking him with a Manchester United exit.  

Speaking at the pre-match press conference for the Reds' UEFA Champions League match against Benfica, the manager was asked about comments that he made to a French TV station regarding the very few modern football managers who remain at single clubs for lengthy periods of time.

Mourinho admitted during that interview that he does not foresee himself finishing his career at Old Trafford, but stated he has no desire to leave the club.

Speaking to reporters, Jose said: “I think you English media have the answer for that because, in one day, it says that I am going to sign a five-year contract, for £1billion per season and then, the next day, you say that I am leaving and going to PSG. I think that is the answer.

“The answer is that nothing is happening. I am not signing a new five-year contract and I am not leaving for PSG. I am at Manchester United and I have a contract. And that is it.”

Expanding on the subject, Mourinho said: “The only thing that I told is true and there was not a misinterpretation of my words was I am not going to end my career at Manchester United." 

He added: “I was asked how is it possible in modern football that any manager is going to last 15 to 20 years in the same club. I think Arsene Wenger is the last one at Arsenal. I think it is impossible for us with everything that surrounds the job, all of the pressures that surround the job.

"I think it is impossible to last for so long. If, in this moment, I wanted to finish my career in two, three, four or five years then I would say yes, I want to finish my career with Manchester United.

“But I think I am going to be a manager for 15 more years, minimum, in the job, and I think it is impossible to stay for 17 years in the same club. I think it is the impossible mission. Even if you want to, you can try, but I think it is impossible. Wenger is the last one. That was my answer. I don't think I am going to end my career at Manchester United. That was my answer.

"After that, some people tried to be clever, some people tried to be malicious and they said many different things. But the reality is simple. I did not sign a new contract but I am not thinking about leaving."

Mourinho Reveals Team News For Benfica

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has provided an update on his selection plans for Wednesday's Champions League tie at Benfica.

The boss admits he is short of options for the match at the Estadio da Luz and feels it could be simple for journalists to guess his line-up. Marcos Rojo travelled to Lisbon but is not available yet, while Luke Shaw came through another Reserves outing at the weekend and was also included on the trip.

Eric Bailly is still out with the injury he suffered while on World Cup qualifying duty with Ivory Coast but the positive news on fellow centre-back Rojo is he should be available again soon.

During an exclusive interview with MUTV, the manager said: "Rojo is not coming to play but he is coming with the team to train today with the group. Tomorrow, individually, but he's coming [back].

"I would say, probably in two weeks, Marcos is ready to play. There is no Bailly - he was injured in the national team."

Jose was asked if he could name his starting line-up to the press. "I will not tell you the team," he replied. "Firstly, because the players don't know yet but, secondly, we have so many injuries, I think that should be something that you can view with almost a guarantee of success because our options are so few that it is easy for you to guess the XI."

The Reds have won both games in Group A but face a team fighting to stay in the competition after a surprisingly poor start to the European campaign, losing 5-0 at Basel after a home reverse to CSKA Moscow.

"I think the [United] players were convinced in the meeting that we had in the morning, that the results are not the real indicator of the value of a team," he said. "Benfica have a good team. They will be tricky adversaries for us."

United's Portuguese Connections

Manchester United are set to face Benfica in the third Champions League tie of the season on Wednesday night, which also marks the club's first trip to Portugal in five years.

The Reds' last Portuguese away day was a successful one as Sir Alex Ferguson led his team to a 3-1 victory over Braga at Estadio AXA in his final season in charge.

The upcoming clash with the Eagles will take place at Estadio da Luz, in Lisbon. Ahead of the game, ManUtd.com outlines some of United's most famous Portuguese connections...

EUROPEAN CUP WINNERS

There’s no better place to start than with United’s famous European Cup win in 1968, in which Matt Busby’s Reds beat Benfica 4-1 at Wembley. Despite being held to a 1-1 draw over the course of 90 minutes, a three-goal blitz from George Best, Brian Kidd and Bobby Charlton early in extra time ensured United claimed our first European title.

Of course, the match also pitted two of football’s all-time greats against each other, as Charlton and Eusebio faced off. It took a superb save from Alex Stepney in the United goal to prevent the Portugal star winning it for his side late on. However, in the end, it was Charlton who came out on top, as it was his second goal of the final which sealed the victory.

UNITED’S RECORD V PORTUGUESE SIDES

The Reds have faced five different Portuguese sides, on a total of 21 occasions in Europe’s premier competition, winning 14, drawing five and losing just two. Notable victories include: the 5-1 thrashing of Benfica in 1966, the 4-0 beating of Porto in 1997, and, of course, 1968 European Cup final win. Meanwhile, United’s first loss to a Portuguese outfit came in 2004, against a Jose Mourinho-led Porto, while our second defeat was inflicted by Benfica a year later.

GOALS V PORTUGUESE OUTFITS

Quinton Fortune became the first and so far, only South African to score for United in Europe when he netted in the 2-1 defeat to Porto in 2004.

Ryan Giggs scored in the 1-1 draw with Benfica in 2011 to become the Champions League’s oldest scorer, at the age of 37 years and 289 days. However, Francesco Totti later broke Giggs’ record, by chipping in against Manchester City in 2014 aged 38 and three days old.

United have faced Sporting twice, both in the 2007/08 group stages, and Cristiano Ronaldo netted on both occasions to put his boyhood club to the sword. First away in Portugal, as he headed home the winner for United on his first return to the Lisbon side, and then again at Old Trafford as his 90th minute free-kick handed the Reds a 2-1 victory.

PORTUGUESE REDS

When an 18-year-old Ronaldo arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2003, he became the club’s first Portuguese import but, by the time he departed for Real Madrid in 2009, he was an adopted Mancunian, and a world-renowned star.

The attacker won three Premier League titles, two League Cups, an FA Cup, a Champions League title and the Club World Cup while at United, amassing 292 appearances, 118 goals, and numerous personal honours along the way.

The second Portuguese player to grace Old Trafford was Nani, the tricky winger made 230 outings in red between 2007 and 2015, scoring 41 goals. Bebe was the third, while in United’s current squad, Portugal’s sole representative is talented keeper Joel Pereira.

MEN IN CHARGE

Of course, current Reds boss Mourinho also hails from Portugal and, earlier in his career, he spent time managing Benfica, Uniao de Leiria and Porto in his homeland. His greatest successes on home soil came with Porto, whom he guided to two league titles, and three further major honours, including one Champions League title.

As we know, the 54-year-old went on to manage Chelsea, Internazionale and Real Madrid, before returning to Stamford Bridge in 2013. Across those spells, Mourinho confirmed himself as one of the game’s leading tactical minds, guiding each side to a league title, and numerous other honours. And he brought his success with him to Old Trafford. After joining the Reds last summer, he has clamimed the Community Shield, the League Cup and the Europa League in his first season.

Meanwhile, Carlos Queiroz was twice appointed Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant, either side of a spell as Real Madrid boss, highlighting his coaching pedigree. The Portuguese tactician played a pivotal role in securing three Premier League trophies, the Champions League title and one League Cup.

He also helped galvanise the club off the field, with pioneering training methods and scouting links which helped the Reds steal a march on youngsters Nani and Anderson. Sir Alex paid tribute to Queiroz when he left to manage the Portugal national team in 2008, saying “Carlos improved a lot of things around United. I recognised progress needed to be made in different areas to those in which I’m expert. Carlos increased it in all sorts of ways.”

CANTONA CONNECTION

Following a vastly successful footballing career, and a move into acting, United all-time great Eric Cantona moved to the Portuguese city of Lisbon, where he now resides. The Frenchman also made his unofficial Reds debut against Benfica, in an exhibition match to mark Eusebio's 50th birthday.

Matic: How Benfica Changed My Career

Ahead of Manchester United’s Champions League clash with Benfica, midfield ace Nemanja Matic has revealed how his time in Lisbon with former Eagles coach Jorge Jesus helped him refine his game.

The Serbia international spent the better part of three seasons at Estadio da Luz from 2011 to 2014, in a period sandwiched between two spells at Chelsea.

During that stint in Lisbon, he became an important member of Jesus’ squad, and his three years at the club yielded 97 appearances in all competitions, one Player of the Year award, a league title and three domestic cup wins.

In an interview with MUTV, Matic spoke of how Jesus’ influence helped transform him from a forward-thinking playmaker, into the expert anchor-man he is today.

“When I first came to Benfica, the manager Jorge Jesus told me on my first day I would be playing as a no.6 or as a defensive midfielder,” Matic explained. “At the beginning, it was strange for me because I didn’t know I could play that position but, slowly, I trained with the team and the manager explained to me how to do it. And after a lot of hard work, now, I’m at Manchester United, so I must have done the job well!”

Matic, who has been an integral part of Jose Mourinho’s team this season, also admits his former club retains a special place in his heart, but it will not stop him giving his all for United on Wednesday.

“It’s a special club, a club that I love,” said Matic. “At Benfica, I learnt a lot about football and about the pressure of playing for a big club, because they are one of the best clubs in Europe.

“I will support them for the rest of my life and they will have a special place in my heart but, in the Champions League, I hope we can take points from them,” he smiled.

The Eagles have begun their Champions League campaign in forgettable fashion, with a 2-1 home defeat to CSKA Moscow, before a 5-0 thumping away at Basel, but the Serbian star still feels they are a dangerous side.

“I was surprised because Benfica is a team who’s used to winning games,” Matic stated. “But they are a big club and they have good players, I think everyone there is hard to play against.

“There are six or seven players still there that played with me, and they have a few younger guys who want to show their quality, but I cannot mention any stand-outs because, as a team, they are really good.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

LVG Unhappy At Man. United Exit

Louis van Gaal says his exit from Manchester United and Jose Mourinho’s subsequent appointment after he left the club was "not elegant at all".

The Dutchman spent two seasons at Old Trafford but was sacked the day after winning the FA Cup in 2016, and has said in the past that he was unhappy about the way he was treated by the club and Mourinho's arrival.

Van Gaal met his successor at Anfield on Saturday ahead of United's 0-0 draw with Liverpool as part of his role for Dutch TV but also claimed that Mourinho, with whom he worked while manager at Barcelona, allows himself to get "out of control" too often.

"How I have suspected it, the way his transfer as a manager to Manchester United went was not elegant at all, that resulted in my sacking," Van Gaal was quoted as saying in various newspapers.

"In principle, he is not a bad guy. He can be sympathetic and he was this way when he was my assistant in the past.

"But he lets himself go out of control too often."

However, Van Gaal also said he looks back fondly on his time with the club.

"I have great memories and my relationship with all the staff and fans was great during my time at United," he added.

Credit: Skysports.com

Lukaku Brushes Off Criticism Of Record Against 'Big Six'

Romelu Lukaku has brushed off criticism of his scoring record against the Premier League's 'big six', saying that high expectations are "something I relish".

Since arriving in the Premier League, Lukaku has scored just 15 goals in 57 matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham.

The Belgium international has scored more than half of his last 24 league goals in the last ten minutes of matches - which has led to suggestions that he is a flat-track bully.

"I know expectations are really high but that is something I relish," Lukaku said.

"When I was at Everton we had a different mindset going into games. Sometimes it was difficult against some teams when you play not to win and you don't really create chances.

"Now I am in a team who want to win against big teams so I think the situation will change."

The 24-year-old believes he has already shown he can score against the biggest opponents, after he netted in United's 2-1 defeat to Champions League winners Real Madrid in the Super Cup in August.

"That was the game when everyone was looking at me thinking 'Will he do it?' That game freed me from everything," he added.

"A lot of strikers miss bigger chances than me but with me it is always, 'Rom did this, Rom did that'.

"That is the standard I've set myself. It is something that happens in football and I am relaxed about it."

Since joining United from Everton in the summer, Lukaku has scored 16 goals in just 13 appearances for club and country.

Credit: Skysports.com

Pogba Hints At Injury Return

Paul Pogba has hinted he could be close to a return from injury after returning to Manchester United's Carrington training base.

The France star has been suffering with a hamstring problem after limping off early in United's 3-0 win over Basel last month - an injury manager Jose Mourinho later bracketed as "long-term".

He was absent during United's 0-0 draw against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday but his latest Instagram post suggests he could be nearing a return to first-team action.

The post shows the midfielder working away at Manchester United's Carrington training complex with the caption "Loading...". He had previously been working on his recovery in Miami.

The news Pogba could be nearing a return will please Mourinho, who is currently facing a midfield crisis with Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick also unavailable through injury.

The United manager will need all of his players at his disposal as he prepares for a busy October schedule - his side are set to play five games in the final 12 days of the month.

Credit: Skysports.com

Monday Briefing: The Weekend In 11 Key Points

We understand it is difficult to keep up with events surrounding our great club, Manchester United, which is why Your Monday Briefing is here to provide a round-up of the weekend...

A ‘POSTIVE’ POINT AT ANFIELD
That’s how Jose Mourinho described Saturday afternoon’s 0-0 draw at historic rivals Liverpool, who had the lion’s share of the possession and shots but ultimately failed to break our in-form defence. The result means we are still unbeaten in the Premier League, but now sit two points behind leaders and local neighbours Manchester City following their remarkable 7-2 win over Stoke City.

DE GEA STOLE THE SHOW
David’s awesome display in Liverpool backed up our claim that he is the world’s best goalkeeper. He made five saves in total, but it was his first-half stop to deny Joel Matip with an outstretched boot that really caught the eye and the three-time Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year later said: “Everything happened so quickly. I put my foot out and saved the ball, so I’m happy for that.”

WHY BAILLY WAS MISSING
Jose confirmed Eric picked up an injury while representing Ivory Coast over the international break, and that is why he was not in the squad at Anfield. It remains to be seen when he will return to action.

VALENCIA IN THE 300 CLUB
With the captain’s armband proudly stretched around his formidable bicep, Antonio registered his 300th United appearance in the cauldron of Anfield and the Ecuadorian, now in his 9th season as a Red, later posted on Instagram: “Very happy to have played my 300th match with this great team. Let’s go for the main objectives!” Tony V is now joint 56th on the all-time list with Nemanja Vidic.

SMALLING ALSO REACHED 250
Chris was the second player to reach a personal milestone with the club, after appearing in the United shirt in a competitive outing for the 250th time. “A good clean sheet away from home and our unbeaten start continues,” he posted on Instagram. “Proud to have made by 250th appearance.”

MIXED RESULTS FOR THE YOUTH
United's Under-18s blazed to a sensational 6-1 win with a terrific performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Aon Training Complex on Saturday, thanks to goals from Dylan Levitt, Nishan Burkart, Aidan Barlow and a Mason Greenwood hat-trick.

On Sunday, the Under-23s slipped to a 4-2 Premier League 2 defeat in a six-goal thriller against West Ham at the London Stadium. The Reds twice led but the Hammers recovered both times and, with the help of a Toni Martinez hat-trick, claimed all three points. Luke Shaw played a full game for the youngsters.

GOAL FOR PEREIRA
Andreas scored for loan club Valencia on Sunday night, in their 6-3 La Liga win at Real Betis. It was his sixth appearance of the season, following his decision to temporarily join the Spanish club in August.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDY COLE
The Reds legend celebrated his 46th birthday on Sunday and, as followers of his social media accounts will now, he's currently working hard in the gym following his kidney transplant surgery earlier this year - and everybody associated with the club is proud of his progress. Andy will travel to Portugal this week for the UEFA Champions League match against Benfica, so look out for quotes from him in the coming days.

SPEAKING OF BENFICA...
Our next opponents secured a 1-0 win over Olhanense to progress to the next round of the Portuguese club. Svilar became the club's youngest-ever goalkeeper at the age of 18 years, one month and 18 days.

HEADING TO PORTUGAL
The first-team squad will fly to Portugal this Monday afternoon and Mourinho will hold his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, moments before training at the Estádio da Luz. The game will kick off at 19:45 BST on Wednesday night, with live coverage beginning on MUTV at 17:45.

Reds Trio Set For Lisbon Return

Manchester United's UEFA Champions League campaign resumes on Wednesday night with a trip to Lisbon to face Benfica.

After comfortable wins over FC Basel and CSKA Moscow, the Reds will be hoping to maintain an impressive 100 per cent start in Group A in the first match of a double header against the Portuguese champions, who will visit Old Trafford on 31 October.

The game at the Estadio da Luz will evoke memories for three Reds in particular, as boss Jose Mourinho, defender Victor Lindelof and midfielder Nemanja Matic return to their former club.

Here, we take a closer look at the trio's spells at Benfica at various stages in their careers...

JOSE MOURINHO

Even before arriving at Old Trafford in the summer of 2016, the United boss had been in charge of several top European clubs, including Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. But his successful managerial career began in his home country when the opportunity to take his first step into management arose at Benfica. After acting as assistant manager at Porto and Barcelona under Sir Bobby Robson and former United boss Louis van Gaal respectively, Mourinho fulfilled the same role at the Portuguese giants, until he replaced current Bayern Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes at the helm just a month into the 2000/01 season after the club had made their worst start to a league campaign since 1934/35.

Aided by right-hand man and former Benfica defender Carlos Mozer, Mourinho enjoyed a good run with six wins in his first 11 games, including a 3-0 victory over fierce rivals Sporting Lisbon. But, less than two months after taking the post, a change at the top saw Manuel Vilarinho elected as the club's new president and he opted to bring in ex-Benfica player Toni as his new coach. However, Vilarinho later admitted that he regretted his decision and expressed frustration at losing Mourinho. It won't be the first time he will have returned to the Portuguese capital in a football capacity, having brought his Real Madrid team to play Benfica in a Eusebio Cup match during pre-season in 2012. This time around, the boss has already pinpointed Benfica as United's main opponents in Group A, despite the Portuguese side losing both of their opening two matches, and will no doubt be looking forward to returning to the place where his journey to become one of the world’s best coaches began. He also has a good record when it comes to beating former clubs – one he'll be hoping to continue across the next two Champions League matches.

VICTOR LINDELOF

The Reds' centre-back began his career at his hometown club Vasteras SK but it was during his six years at Benfica where he made a name for himself. Arriving in the Portuguese capital as a 17-year-old in 2011, Lindelof initially had to earn an opportunity to prove his credentials by representing the club at youth and B levels. He made his first-team debut in a Portuguese Cup tie in September 2013 and went on to establish himself as first choice at the heart of the defence. Such was his impressive form, the departures of Ezequiel Garay and Raphael Varane weren't keenly felt as Lindelof enhanced his reputation as an excellent reader of the game and a tough tackler. Earning the nickname ‘Iceman’ for his ice-cool displays at the back, he helped Benfica win three Portuguese top-flight titles and performed well on the European stage, scoring two goals in 73 appearances for the club in total. After his dream move to Old Trafford in the summer, Lindelof will be making his first return to the club which gave him the platform to develop into a top player and will undoubtedly look back on his time at the club with great fondness.

NEMANJA MATIC

His influential performances as a defensive shield in the engine room have been one of the highlights of United's start to the season and it was during his three-year stint at Benfica where his transformation from playmaker to anchorman first took place. Sandwiched in between his two spells at Chelsea, Matic joined the Lisbon giants in a swap deal with David Luiz in January 2011, just a few months before Lindelof arrived. He quickly became an integral member of the team and the go-to midfield man for boss Jorge Jesus, with his performances in 2012/13 earning him the Player of the Year award in the Portuguese top-flight and helping Benfica reach the Europa League final, where they narrowly lost to his old club Chelsea. Despite only featuring in the first half of the 2013/14 season, he played his part in Benfica's league and cup double with three goals in 22 games, before Mourinho took him back to Stamford Bridge. Overall, the Serbian was one shy of a century of appearances for the club, scoring nine goals, but proved he had what it takes to succeed at the top level after struggling to make an impression in his first spell at Chelsea. Wednesday's European clash will also represent Matic's first reunion with Benfica since leaving the club and he is sure to receive a warm welcome from the passionate Portuguese patrons.

Mata Confident Ahead Of Benfica Test


Each and every Monday during the season, Manchester United star Juan Mata pens a personal blog. In his latest entry, the Spanish maestro reflects on the draw at Anfield and the upcoming trips to Benfica in the Champions League, and to Huddersfield in the Premier League...

Hi everyone,

This time I can’t start this post talking about a win, unlike most of the previous weeks this season, but I keep being optimistic and I believe I have reasons for that. I’m writing to you at the end of a day off, a nice Autumn day which has been ideal to switch off. In my case it was with a good walk by Peak District, an area of England that I highly recommend and it’s not far from home. The draw at Anfield on Saturday was the consequence of the team’s hard work and solidarity. Obviously, we wanted to win, but it’s not a bad result given the circumstances. We added one point and got a clean sheet, and now we are already focused on the Champions League.

On Wednesday we visit the Estadio da Luz in the third game of the group stage. We are looking forward to extending our good run after getting six valuable points in the first two matches. Personally, Benfica brings back good memories for me. I played against them in 2012 in the Champions League quarter-finals and that season I was lucky to win the title with Chelsea. The following year, 2013, we also played them in the final of the Europa League, at the Amsterdam Arena, and won the title again.

Despite these good memories I don’t want to be overconfident. They are a team with very good players and a big supporting crowd. They need the points and we will have to be at our best in order to get a positive result. At the end of the day this is the Champions League and you have to beat great teams if you want to go far.

Next weekend we will be back in the Premier League with our third away game in a row, this time against Huddersfield. I’ve never played in that stadium so I will have to add it to the ‘Matamundi’. Again, we will have to be really competitive there, but the truth is we are doing it this season and that’s why I said above that I feel optimistic.

I'm leaving you now. I hope we can have a positive return to the Champions League. Have a nice week.

Hugs,

Juan Mata

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Did Mourinho Get His Tactics Right Against Liverpool?

Did Jose Mourinho get his tactics right against Liverpool? The Sunday Supplement panel give their views, with Neil Custis saying he was "spot on".

Many of Sunday's back pages have criticised the Manchester United manager for his game plan at Anfield - which ended in a 0-0 draw - with some arguing that he is "killing football".

However, Custis, The Sun's chief northern football writer, and James Ducker, The Telegraph's northern football correspondent, believe that Mourinho did use the right tactics on Saturday afternoon and do not think he should shoulder all the blame.

The Daily Mail's chief sports writer, Martin Samuel, had a slightly different view and does not think that the goalless draw at Anfield will be good enough for Man Utd this season.

Read on to see what the Sunday Supplement panellists had to say...

Neil Custis

I think he got it absolutely spot on. I can't remember a time when going to Anfield was a given for any away team, no matter how good they are. This man is supposed to be anti-football but has scored four goals on four occasions in the last seven games.

There were two chances in that game - Manchester United one and Liverpool had one - but it's Mourinho's fault that it was 0-0. Mourinho was inviting Klopp to take a risk yesterday - but he didn't take one. Klopp claimed all of his substitutions were positive, but they were like for like. He didn't take a risk by taking out a midfielder and putting another forward up so he was as concerned about Mourinho as Mourinho was about Klopp.

When you talk about parking the bus, I think of desperate defending. This is Man Utd's seventh clean sheet in eight games. They were totally comfortable defending yesterday. Where the plan fell down, for me, was with Romelu Lukaku. He couldn't hold the ball up when it came out. Yes, he had men around him and what have you but if he holds the ball up, he can then feed it off to people and they can play on the break. Lukaku was poor yesterday and Henrikh Mkhitaryan went missing but that's not Mourinho's fault.

Sir Alex Ferguson's last six visits to Anfield finished with four defeats and one win but of course, with Man Utd traditions, he played it the right way and what have you but Mourinho got it spot on and stopped Liverpool at Anfield in front of a passionate crowd.

It's easy to criticise him, it's easy to blame him but Klopp wasn't taking any great risks yesterday either. He's got a great PR team and he can come out afterwards and be the defender of all that is great in football, but he has had one win in eight. Look where they are and look where United are. I think Mourinho did the right thing for Manchester United yesterday.

James Ducker

We've spent the last few months lauding United's expansive, attacking football and now they draw at Anfield and suddenly it's all doom and gloom and they can't attack at all. I think they could have played a slightly more expansive game, taken a few more risks and still have been very secure defensively. It was there for the taking and I would say it was probably the best chance you'll get of going to Anfield for a while and really turning them over.

But in Ferguson's last 16 visits to Anfield, they scored 14 goals. It was a 0-0 draw in September 2005 when he came out and said 'this game is now too important for Man Utd to lose'. This is not just a Mourinho thing, Ferguson would regularly be very pragmatic and all of these people who are saying 'Ferguson was caviller all the time at Anfield' - it is absolute nonsense.

We are very quick to denigrate teams who are defensively chaotic. Arsenal and Liverpool this season for example, we're moaning all the time about how poor they are at the back. If Wenger and Klopp could organise a defense like Mourinho, they'd have a far better chance at winning the title.

Call him an enemy of football, but he's won 25 trophies in 17 years. I think sometimes it's a very easy tag to throw at him. Also for the second time running, Klopp's plan A has been found wanting against Mourinho's low defensive block. There has been very little criticism of him. I think he had eight shots on target against United in 180 minutes and they haven't found the net.

Martin Samuel

Liverpool did make the game and I don't agree that they only had one chance - I would say three or four. If you draw 0-0, you've failed with the point of the game which is to score goals. Simple as that.

Man City put five past Liverpool, who were down to 10 men, at home but there are different markers. A 0-0 draw at Liverpool is, in most seasons, a really good result but it might not be this year and you might actually be short. When Man City go to Liverpool, they will try and do what they did at the Etihad Stadium which was wipe them off the pitch.

Man Utd are behind the count. They are two points behind Man City now, the goal difference is going to slip away and they are going to have to be ahead of Man City on points at the end of the season because they are never going to win the title on goal difference or on goals scored. City are changing what is a good result.

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Mourinho: United Not My Last Job


Jose Mourinho says he will not end his managerial career with Manchester United and that he has a "desire to do new things".

Mourinho is midway through a three-year contract at Old Trafford after first joining the Red Devils ahead of the 2016-17 season.

The 54-year-old, who has previously said he would like to manage the Portuguese national side at the end of his career, also described Paris Saint-Germain as "special" in an interview with French television.

"What I can say is that I am still a manager with questions, with ambitions, with a desire to do new things and I do not think… I am sure that I will not finish my career here," Mourinho told Telefoot.

"The other day, my son who lives in London decided to go to Paris and not Manchester to watch a match.

"Why Paris? Because at the moment, Paris has something special. There is a magic, youthfulness and quality. It is fantastic."

Mourinho guided United to a hard-fought goalless draw against rivals Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday - a point which keeps them second in the Premier League behind Manchester City.

United next face Benfica in the Champions League on Wednesday night before they return to domestic action with an away game against Huddersfield on Saturday.

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David De Gea Unbeatable At Anfield

Liverpool fans must be sick of the sight of Manchester United's no.1 David De Gea.

For the second successive season, the Spaniard helped secure the Reds a well-earned point at Anfield with a wonder-save to deny Joel Matip from close range thanks to a brilliant reflex save in the first half.

His heroics equally came to United's rescue in the corresponding stalemate last season – memorably diving low to stop Emre Can, before tipping Philippe Coutinho’s curling effort wide of the post when it looked destined to bulge the net.

The 26-year-old has now kept seven clean sheets in eight Premier League matches this season and, with that, the Reds have now beaten our best-ever clean sheet record when it comes to the start of a Premier League campaign, following the shut-out against our arch-rivals. In fact, United now hold a total of 18 clean sheets in 2017, which is the most in the Premier League. Commenting on the crucial save, which denied Liverpool defender Matip, De Gea told MUTV: “Everything happened so quickly. I put my foot out as quickly as possible and saved the ball, so I’m happy for that.”

De Gea was ably assisted by a dogged and professional defensive team performance and his United team-mates had some well-earned praise for their goalkeeper. Nemanja Matic, who made his first appearance in the North-West derby clash, told MUTV: “They [Liverpool] had some great chances and David [De Gea], as always, was perfect and that’s why he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world,” he said.

“I’m happy that he’s playing well and we didn’t concede a goal because of him. It’s always important for goalkeepers [to not concede].” Matteo Darmian, who like Matic was impressive in standing firm at Anfield, added: “Like I have said in some interviews before, I think David [De Gea] in this moment is the best goalkeeper in the world, so we are lucky to have him in our squad. I think he is a great goalkeeper!”

The Reds are now unbeaten in the last seven Premier League meetings against Liverpool and that is mainly down to De Gea. That has not gone unnoticed by former Liverpool legend Graeme Souness.

He told Sky Sports: "That [save to deny Matip] is a fantastic save. For a goalkeeper, it doesn’t always have to be with your hands. That is David De Gea, you see him making these saves all the time with his feet. He’s alert, he’s alive and he knows that’s his best chance of keeping it out. And then he’s up again!”

De Gea's performances against Liverpool have quite simply been phenomenal and he continues to prove why he is arguably the best goalkeeper in world football. Like Souness, even Liverpool fans would find it hard to disagree.

Klopp Questions Jose's Tactics

Jurgen Klopp said Jose Mourinho's tactics would be unacceptable at a club like Liverpool after Manchester United earned a 0-0 draw at Anfield for the second successive season.

Liverpool dominated possession but could not break down the visitors' defence as Klopp's men drew a third straight game.

The hosts came closest to scoring when David de Gea made a superb save to deny Joel Matip, while at the other end Romelu Lukaku squandered a good chance as Mourinho's United registered just a single attempt on target.

Klopp felt his side dominated the game and reckoned they should have had a penalty after Philippe Coutinho went down under pressure from Ander Herrera.

The Liverpool manager told Sky Sports: "I think the performance was worth three points. We were the better side.

"I think Man United came here for the point and they got it. We wanted three points and didn't get it.

"I'm sure if we played like this, you could not do this at Liverpool. Obviously for Man United it is okay.

"It's quite difficult when a top-class team like Man United has that defensive approach. You're not going to get 20 chances. But we had enough, a big one in the first half, and a penalty on Phil (Coutinho), we were unlucky.

"You need a little bit of luck. I saw it in the game so I thought the referee could see it also, but it's too early for this.

"I'm happy with big parts of the performance. I said to the boys that we have already decided to take the hard way by joining Liverpool, so we have the hard way. Let's carry on.

"We've only lost one Premier League game, it's not what we want but obviously everyone could see we are not miles away from Manchester United, even if they've got a few more points."

United failed to replicate the attacking threat which has propelled them to the top of the Premier League and, asked if he was frustrated with Mourinho's tactics, Klopp added: "It's not my right to feel frustrated with the way they played.

"I'm sure he could not do that at Liverpool. That's how it is, whether it is okay in Manchester is not for me to judge, it's all okay.

"We have to think about our performance and situation and it's not worse. We wanted to win, everyone could see that, we were working for it, all the subs were quite offensive and there were a lot of brilliant individual performances in a difficult game."

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The Lukaku Verdict

The Sky Sports pundits had their say on Romelu Lukaku's display in Man Utd's goalless draw with Liverpool on Saturday, with the striker's lacklustre performance coming in for criticism from Thierry Henry and Gary Neville.

Lukaku, who became United's record signing when joining the club from Everton last summer for a fee that could rise to £90m, headed into the clash at Anfield in red-hot form having scored seven times in their first seven Premier League games.

However, the Belgium international endured a frustrating and at times anonymous display against Liverpool, as well as missing a big chance for United after shooting straight at Simon Mignolet in the first half.

After the full-time whistle, Neville, Henry and Graeme Souness all gave their verdict on how the forward fared.'

GARY NEVILLE
I was disappointed with Lukaku, I have to say that. It's a tough place to come. He looked like he was distracted in the first half. He wasn't himself. He was frustrated. He really didn't make any impact in the game at all. No influence. It's the big matches that will define him as a Manchester United striker, not the matches where he bullies teams.

He's a Manchester United centre-forward. There's a high expectation of what you have to do in a game. Win games for your team. He's done that already this season. He's taken all the praise. He's had a brilliant start to his Manchester United career.

But a game like today is where you are really judged. The service up to him was really poor, but you have to try and make something out of nothing. You have to try and make sure those centre-backs don't have an easy day. I thought Lovren and Matip got around him easily sometimes.

THIERRY HENRY
I think he was too eager to make sure he was going to score that goal that everyone is talking about against a big team. I think he was too eager. I don't think he was in the right frame of mind to finish that one on one with Mignolet. Sometimes that does play on your mind, but he will have other opportunities to rectify that.

GRAEME SOUNESS
I wouldn't be critical of him. I think today the interesting stat that came up is that Manchester United had six touches in the opposition box. That tells you that midfield players have been told to stay in their positions, very rarely go in front of the ball, always stay goal side. For a striker, are you going to be happy being isolated like that? No striker is.

When the ball gets up to him, he's having to fend off one while the other central defender tries to nick it off him. I wouldn't be too hard on him.

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Neville's Liverpool - Man. United Verdict


Gary Neville felt both Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho were overly cautious in Liverpool and Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Anfield.

Liverpool dominated possession and went closest to breaking the deadlock when Joel Matip's close-range effort was brilliantly saved by David de Gea, but the game ended in stalemate.

Neville admitted there were parallels with the same fixture last year - another goalless draw in which Mourinho used defensive tactics - particularly in the second half.

"In the first half I thought that United, to be fair, were definitely different to a year ago, there was more intent," the Sky Sports pundit told Martin Tyler on the Gary Neville Podcast.

"The second half drifted back towards a year ago, I have to say, where Liverpool were the only team pressing. United's intent and quality in the second half were nowhere near good enough. They started to resign themselves to a draw.

"[Anthony] Martial, [Marcus] Rashford, [Romelu] Lukaku and [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan were all on the pitch at various points. I expected more confidence and authority from them on the counter-attack."

But Neville was disappointed by Liverpool too. "I'm sure the headline out of this game will be that Jose has parked the bus," he said. "Liverpool put in a good performance but Jurgen Klopp could have turned it up in the second half if he had wanted to.

"He could have taken off [Emre] Can, [Jordan] Henderson or [Georginio] Wijnaldum and brought [Philippe] Coutinho back into the midfield three and made it a more attacking team and taken more chances.

"He dared not lose. They were trying to attack and be positive but they were still measured in their positivity. There wasn't that what I would call Liverpool gung ho, that wasn't Liverpool today.

"They didn't want to leave the counter-attack open. They were making sure United didn't cut through them.

"So whilst Liverpool were the better team in terms of performance, it wasn't with reckless abandon that we have sometimes seen from Jurgen Klopp because he's not in a situation at the moment where he can afford to lose this game.

"That's what we saw in the second half, when they were pushing but they weren't pushing as hard as we have seen them in the past."

Neville was full of praise for De Gea, whose reflex save from Matip was a rare moment of quality in a largely forgettable encounter.

"Over these last five, six, seven, eight years there have been debates about who's the best goalkeeper in the world," he said. "De Gea has certainly been growing and maturing - he must be getting there now.

"De Gea now, there isn't a weakness to his game. You think of his journey coming to England. He was physically immature. He was unable to deal with any long balls. For a couple of years I was genuinely concerned that he would ever be able to cope with the physicality. But he's grown.

"The save today and the save at Stoke a few weeks ago are world class. I don't think you can win this league without a great goalkeeper. David de Gea is the standout world-class player in Manchester United's team by a street. He's wonderful, he really is."

Neville's man-of-the-match, however, was Liverpool right-back Joe Gomez, who produced an assured performance up against Martial and Rashford.

"Nowadays we talk about whether he is an attacking right-back or a defensive right-back. Actually he looks like he can do both. To me, it was a really good performance. He has handled a very difficult game."

Neville believes Gomez has the potential to rival the injured Nathaniel Clyne for his place for both club and country.

"I think he could be a late charge for a World Cup spot in terms of pushing for that position," he said. "He's mobile, he's quick, he's good on the ball, he's solid. I was really impressed with him."

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The De Gea Factor

David de Gea underlined his importance to Manchester United as he kept Liverpool at bay at Anfield, writes Nick Wright.

There were 34 minutes on the clock at Anfield when Roberto Firmino's powerful cross found Joel Matip eight yards from Manchester United's goal.

The centre-back's first-time effort seemed certain to ripple the net, but when David de Gea is involved you can never be sure. With only a split second to react, the Spaniard stuck out his left leg and pulled off an extraordinary save.

"I tried to react quickly and it hit my foot," was De Gea's typically understated assessment in his post-match interview with Sky Sports. But others were rather more generous. Gary Neville used the words "world class" in the commentary box. Graeme Souness called it "sensational". Matip, denied his first Liverpool goal in seemingly impossible style, admitted he saved it "brilliantly".

"What I like with him is the decision he takes straight away: I'm going to go with my feet," added Thierry Henry. "Because if you go with your hand, by the time you go down it's a goal. Matip would have been celebrating. That's not the first time that he has done that. What a save. This is, for me, the best action of the match."

Indeed, in a game of fine margins and minimal goalmouth action, it was certainly a decisive moment. Jose Mourinho employed his trademark stifling tactics to good effect as United claimed the point they came for, but they departed Merseyside knowing it would have been a different story without the man between the posts.

"How many times have we seen him stopping efforts with his feet?" said Souness. "Right place, right time. It's a great reaction by Matip but an even better one by De Gea. He's alive to every situation. Whenever the ball is anywhere near him he is on his toes. He is a top goalkeeper."

Liverpool did not give De Gea too much else to worry about - he gathered their four other shots on target with ease - but his concentration never wavered. The 26-year-old was there when United needed him and it wasn't the first time. According to Opta, no Premier League goalkeeper has saved more big chances (five) this season.

His instinctive stop from Matip was just the latest example of what he gives Mourinho's side. The signings of Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic have been widely lauded, with both players having a transformative impact on the team this season, but keeping De Gea from the clutches of Real Madrid is arguably their most significant piece of business in recent years.

De Gea's ability to conjure up big saves at key moments is invaluable to United but so too is his consistency. The 26-year-old rarely makes mistakes. In fact, he has only made three errors leading to shots since the start of the 2015/16 campaign. Hugo Lloris, Thibaut Courtois and Petr Cech have all made more. This season, his 90.9 per cent save percentage is the highest in the Premier League.

"Is there anybody better now in the world than David de Gea? I'm not sure," said Neville at Anfield. "[Thibaut] Courtois I love to pieces, but this guy is just doing things that are absolutely stunning.

"He is a brilliant, brilliant goalkeeper. The save there and the one at Stoke a few weeks ago were absolutely outstanding. You need that. I don't think you can win things if you haven't got a good goalkeeper."

United's disjointed performance at Anfield suggests they still have plenty to work on if they are to kick on and win the biggest prizes this season, but De Gea's moment of brilliance was a reminder of the big advantage they have over their rivals. No one else has a goalkeeper quite like David De Gea.

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Why Any Criticism Of Lukaku Is Unjustified

It seems unfair for Romelu Lukaku to be attracting any criticism after his red-hot start to life at Manchester United.

The Belgian provided the Reds' only shot on target in the 0-0 draw at Liverpool and his fellow countryman Simon Mignolet dived to push it away, with Ashley Young unable to profit from the rebound.

This single moment has already been used in some quarters to continue the narrative that the 24-year-old does not deliver in the big games. Yet it's nonsense and I am sure he will dispel the myth in the months to come as the high-profile fixtures continue.

It is difficult to understand why his goal against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, the current European champions and one of the best sides on the planet, is conveniently excluded in this particular argument.

Lukaku wasted no time settling in at Old Trafford and, unlike a host of centre-forwards going back years and years, has racked up enviable stats right from the off. With a second blank of the entire campaign, including internationals for Belgium, coming on Saturday, he is now only on 11 goals in 11 games for the club. If that ratio continues, certainly nobody can complain.

Any statistics used to support a suggestion Lukaku is ineffective against the big sides ignores his hat-trick for West Brom against United in Sir Alex's final game in charge and, in fact, his work for the Baggies was impressive in this field. Admittedly, for Everton his 14 goals in 49 league and cup games against the top six was not as impressive as his overall tally but the Toffees had a poor record in such fixtures (winning nine of 49 outings).

So let's look at his display on Merseyside this weekend in a little more detail. Ploughing a lone furrow in attack, he often cut an isolated figure and had to deal with the close attentions of the Liverpool centre-backs throughout. It is fair to say he was not afforded too many opportunities to show the attacking thrust that has wreaked havoc against other clubs this term.

There was just one opening, towards the end of the first half, when he was on the end of the Reds' best move of the match and his shot had the power, but not the direction, to beat Mignolet, who beat it away. It looked a decent stop by the Liverpool keeper and, with the visitors failing to trouble him again afterwards, there is a sense of inevitability that it will go down as a missed chance to take the points.

Yet that would be exceptionally harsh on the big striker. Even if he is disappointed he could not convert that solitary chance, it should not be used to argue he is a flat-track bully. You only have to look back to this time last year, when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was unable to divert his header on target from our only clear sight of goal. Rightly so, nobody would ever accuse the Swede of not being the man for the big occasion, as he has proved countless times in his glittering career.

Lukaku still has that to do, of course. But he is only 24 and that is often forgotten. His record is simply incredible and the way he has adapted to life at Old Trafford can only be applauded. He'll be there at the sharp end again, in Lisbon against Benfica, and will be out to get back on the goal trail. After all, those who felt he would not impress in the Champions League have gone quiet after his three strikes in his opening two group-game appearances.

In time, there won't be any debate about his ability to find the net in the biggest games. He's at a club where he will get the chance to do so and have ample opportunity to silence any doubters once and for all.

The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.

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Opinions: Reaction To Liverpool v United

ManUtd.com has gathered a selection of post-match quotes from the players and manager Jose Mourinho following Manchester United's goalless draw against Liverpool on Saturday.

The Reds maintained our unbeaten run in all competitions this season and David De Gea kept another clean sheet as Jose Mourinho's men played out a 0-0 stalemate at Anfield for the second successive season in a game of few chances on Merseyside.

After the match, Matteo Darmian, David De Gea and Nemanja Matic all spoke to MUTV and boss Mourinho also gave his reaction to a hard-earned point. We’ve summarised their key points below.

Jose Mourinho: “We came for three points but in the second half we found it hard to do that with the dynamic of the match. I was waiting for Jurgen [Klopp] to change to go more attacking but he kept the three strong midfield players all the time and he had control. The second half was like a game of chess but my opponent didn’t open the door for me to win the game.”

David De Gea: “I think we defended really well today, the same as the last games, and we needed to be at that level in the defensive part. Romelu Lukaku had a good opportunity to score but he missed the chance. We need to keep doing well. It’s away from home at Anfield – a difficult stadium and a difficult team, so we’re happy with the point.”

Nemanja Matic: “It’s always hard, especially when Liverpool are at home and they know they have to win in front of these supporters. It’s hard, the motivation was at a high level for them and for us. We didn’t have many chances but we had two good chances that we didn’t take. But this is football and the most important thing was we didn’t lose the game.”

Matteo Darmian: “I think yes [it is a good point] because I think, even before we come here, it’s always difficult. Today was a difficult game, a tough game and, in the end, a good point, I think. We defended well, maybe we can create a bit more but we take this point and we’re looking forward and thinking about the next game.”

MUTV's Paddy Crerand: “To be fair, it was a pretty even game in actual fact and not the best game in the world but it was a great defensive display from United, which says it all. Before the game, you can ask any United fan, we’d have been happy coming away from here with a point today before the game, without question. We have and we’ve not conceded.”

View from the opposing dug-out – Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp: “When an opponent has this kind of defensive approach, you will not create 20 chances. We were unlucky in at least two, maybe three situations, of course [David] De Gea made the save with the biggest chance.”

View from the fans: @BAKERMUFC1999 on Twitter said: “Good point, clean sheet and still top of the league [note: until Manchester City beat Stoke City]. Mourinho masterclass.”

Credit: Manutd.

Mourinho's Verdict On Liverpool Draw


Jose Mourinho has described Manchester United’s 0-0 stalemate against Liverpool at Anfield as “a positive point”.

The Reds kept another clean sheet and maintained our unbeaten run in the Premier League by playing out a goalless draw against Jurgen Klopp’s men on Merseyside, but drew a blank for the first time this season. 

Here is what the boss had to say in his post-match interview with Sky Sports  and in his press conference…

REFLECTING ON THE GAME  
“In the first half, we had the ball and were always compact. We had a few shots in the second half. They played with a very strong midfield of [Emre] Can, [Georginio] Wijnaldum and [Jordan] Henderson for 90 minutes but, in the second half, I had no-one on the bench to change the direction of the game. I thought they were afraid of our counter attack. I just tried to improve in attacking areas where I could surprise them, but they kept a strong organisation in midfield. I was waiting for him [Jurgen Klopp] to break it [the play] a bit more. But he didn’t let it break. A point, in this long marathon? A point at Anfield is OK.”

FEW OPTIONS ON THE BENCH
“The opposition was good today, but we played our game. In the first half, we had a couple of very good chances and good control of the game. In the second half, [Nemanja] Matic tired and I had no solutions on the bench. I tried with my substitutions to make us more dynamic in attack but, in reality, we lost power and energy and control in midfield.”

THE APPROACH FROM BOTH TEAMS
“I think he [Klopp] did well. He didn’t let the game break. I think [Jesse] Lingard and [Marcus] Rashford were waiting for the game to break but it did not. I think they were very good team from a defensive point of view, much pressing. The only chance I had to change the direction of the game was to bring players on with speed and maybe, they are going to change their formation but they didn’t. The second half was like a game of chess but my opponent didn’t open the door for me to win the game.”

TACTICAL INSIGHT
“We came for three points but in the second half we felt it difficult to do that with the match and the dynamic it had. I was waiting for Jurgen to change to go more attacking but he kept the three strong midfield players all the time and he had control. I had only Herrera and Matic. When I brought on Rashford and Lingard, I expected him [Klopp] to change but he kept the three which means his midfield was stronger today. At times, I was waiting for my team to do something but I couldn’t do anything with no midfielder on the bench. The second half was like a game of chess but my opponent didn’t open the door for me to win the game.”

Premier League: Liverpool 0 Man. United 0

A dogged and determined defensive performance from Manchester United helped the Reds earn a point against rivals Liverpool after a stalemate inside a typically raucous Anfield.

A first-half wonder save from David De Gea, aided by a completely professional defensive performance was enough for a point to extend the unbeaten run all season in the Premier League. Romelu Lukaku, despite being isolated in attack, could have even grabbed all three points if he had converted a first-half effort which was saved by Simon Mignolet.

Boss Jose Mourinho opted to start with a stubborn-looking formation away from home against one of the Reds' title rivals with Chris Smalling joining the returning Phil Jones and Matteo Darmian replacing the injured Eric Bailly in a central three at the back. Ander Herrera came in for the injured Marouane Fellaini in midfield, while Anthony Martial, who scored on his debut against Liverpool, played on the left flank.

In the build-up, Mourinho stated the Reds' clash with Liverpool was 'just a match', but try telling the fans that! Prior to kick-off, Anfield’s Centenary Stand was renamed the Kenny Dalglish Stand in honour of the Scottish club legend, and a special mosaic was revealed so it only added to what was a stirring Anfield atmosphere. United, however, set up to silence the crowd early on with deep-lying defensive play which saw the team use similar tactics to grab a dogged 0-0 draw here last season.

Georginio Wijnaldum tried his luck from 25 yards but De Gea saved comfortably, before Mo Salah failed to flick home Roberto Firmino's near-post cross. Nemanja Matic, who was patrolling the United midfield, unleashed a fierce half-volley from 30 yards which fizzed past Mignolet's right-hand post as both sides reduced each other to long-range efforts.

Liverpool should have taken the lead on 35 minutes, though, as Firmino's cross found Joel Matip, but his shot was wonderfully saved by De Gea's feet and, after Jones partially cleared, Salah's effort from 15 yards narrowly evaded the far post.

At the other end, Lukaku had a glorious chance to draw first blood in front of The Kop. Cute one-touch football around the box between Martial and Henrikh Mkhitaryan allowed the big Belgian to strike at goal, but his compatriot, Mignolet, palmed the ball away, ensuring the sides went in level at the break.

Liverpool nearly caught United napping after the break as Philippe Coutinho crossed for Firmino, but Jones slid to block, before De Gea grasped the rebound. Firmino was then flagged offside when clean through after a delicate pass from Coutinho before Emre Can should have broken the deadlock, but he volleyed Joe Gomez's right-wing cross over from 10 yards with just De Gea to beat.

Jurgen Klopp's men continued to probe in possession, but United were holding firm at the back with the home crowd becoming increasingly frustrated. Mourinho recognised that and the speedy duo of Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard came on to try and secure a 'smash and grab'-style win.

Chances were few and far between as the game wore on and that would have satisfied Mourinho and United. A point gained at Anfield.

THE LINE-UPS:
 
Liverpool: Mignolet, Gomez, Matip, Lovren, Moreno, Henderson (c), Can, Wijnaldum, Salah (Oxlade-Chamberlain 78), Firmino (Solanke 87), Coutinho (Sturridge 78). Subs not used: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Klaven, Milner.
 
United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Jones, Smalling, Darmian; Herrera, Matic, Young (Lindelof 90+3), Mkhitaryan (Lingard 63), Martial (Rashford 65); Lukaku. Subs not used: Romero, Blind, Darmian, Carrick.

Booked: Smalling, Young.

MATCH STATS

Possession: Liverpool 62% United 38%
Shots: Liverpool 19 United 6
Shots on Target: Liverpool 5 United 1
Corners: Liverpool 7 United 3

TALKING POINTS: 

REDS BREAK CLEAN-SHEET RECORD
Jose Mourinho's men beat their best-ever clean sheet record when it comes to the start of a Premier League campaign with today's shut-out of rivals Liverpool. With 18 clean sheets now in 2017 - the most in the Premier League, another thoroughly professional defensive performance restricted Liverpool's attacking firepower.

A POINT GAINED
Jose Mourinho will look at this game as a point gained rather than two points lost. As we all know, Anfield is never an easy place, especially after an international break. With Bailly missing along with a number of other notable absentees, United can be pleased with their afternoon's work. Liverpool have now failed to beat United in six Premier League games since since a 3-0 victory at Old Trafford in March 2014 (D2, L4).

WHAT'S NEXT FOR UNITED?
Another tough trip awaits, this time as the Reds travel to Portugal to face Benfica at the Estádio da Luz. United got off to the perfect start in the UEFA Champions League after a 3-0 win over Basel before an emphatic 4-1 win over CSKA Moscow in Russia. We are all hoping United can back that up with another win on Wednesday with kick off at 19:45 BST.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Taking A Short Break

Dear Readers,

Will Power will be taking a short break and will be back in a week's time.

Stay tuned

Regards,

Will Power

Cole Joins Zlatan In The Gym

Manchester United great Andy Cole has partnered up with Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the gym as the Swede steps up his recovery from a knee injury.

Cole, who scored 121 goals in 275 United appearances from 1995 to 2001, posted a picture of himself with the current United forward, who re-committed to a new contract in August.

Cole, who underwent a kidney transplant earlier this year, posted the caption "good morning my new gym partner" along with the picture, which included them both wearing United training gear.


Ibrahimovic signed a new one-year deal at United on August 24 after the first serious injury of his career cut short a stellar first season at Old Trafford earlier this year.

Although the veteran forward has shown strength in the joint in numerous social media posts in recent months, his doctor Freddie Fu has warned against rushing his return and United boss Jose Mourinho has suggested he will not play for the club in January.

After signing his new deal before the summer transfer deadline, Ibrahimovic said: "I am back to finish what I started. It was always mine and the club's intention for me to stay.

"I cannot wait to get back out on that Old Trafford pitch, but I also know that I have to take my time to make sure that I am ready. I have been working hard and will continue to do so to make sure I am in the best possible condition for my return to the pitch."

Credit: Skysports.com

Who Is The World's Best Keeper?

Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian believes David De Gea is the best goalkeeper in the world.

The full-back is well placed to judge keepers as he operates in front of De Gea at club level and is an international colleague of Gianluigi Buffon with Italy. When asked to assess their capabilities last year, he suggested Azzurri star Buffon had the edge but De Gea's outstanding form this term has prompted a little rethink.

While, in Darmian's eyes, Buffon is the greatest keeper ever, he concedes it is impossible to ignore the consistently top-class form of a man who now has over 100 clean sheets for United and is playing better than ever.

"I know David very well and I think, at this moment, he is the best goalkeeper in the world," the defender told ManUtd.com. "He is very important for us and I think that save at Stoke [from Jese Rodrigues) was incredible.

"I think Gianluigi is the best goalkeeper of all time. He's also a good guy. So I am lucky to play with two goalkeepers like this. Of course, it's close [between the two]. I don't know. I think David is the best goalkeeper in the world and Gianluigi is the best goalkeeper of all time.

"I think they are similar because they are very strong and they make very good saves. They also have good personalities."

The two keepers faced off in a recent World Cup qualifier in Madrid, won 3-0 by Spain, as both countries bid to reach next year's finals in Russia.

"We are in a tough group," Darmian conceded. "Spain are, I think, one of the big teams but we try to reach our objective and that is to reach the World Cup. And I hope to see David in Russia!"

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mata’s Common Goal And The Ambitious Plans To Change Football

Juan Mata caused a stir when he launched Common Goal in the summer, pledging to pay one per cent of his salary to charity. Adam Bate spoke to Mata's co-founder Jurgen Griesbeck to discuss their ambitious plans and discover the extraordinary inspiration behind the venture...

There is no hint of bombast. Jurgen Griesbeck is softly spoken. As a result, it takes time for the weight of the words to hit home. "You could argue that football is one of the very few movements that could inspire the idea of one humanity," says the 52-year-old German.

"Religions and political leaders actually struggle to achieve that but if we really aim for the stars this could be something beyond aligning an industry behind doing something for social good. It could be an example of how the world could and should work. It is much more than just a project."

It is two months since Juan Mata launched the Common Goal initiative, a pledge to give one per cent of his salary to charity. He has since been joined by fellow World Cup winners Mats Hummels, Giorgio Chiellini, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe. A sixth player, Serge Gnabry, was confirmed on Thursday.

But the kernel of the idea began long ago. In Medellin, Colombia, in 1994 to be precise. It was then that Griesbeck, Common Goal's co-founder alongside Mata, was inspired to abandon his academic studies in the country to devote his life to utilising football for good.

The catalyst was the murder of Andres Escobar, Colombia's captain at that summer's World Cup in the United States. Escobar had scored an own goal in the defeat to the United States. Six days later he was killed in a Medellin car park. Shot six times with a handgun.

"I went to university the next day and told them I would not be coming back," recalls Griesbeck, who was in the country doing a field study as part of his PhD. "I handed over my assignment and started to think about how to build a legacy out of what had happened.

"It was a bad time in Medellin. There were about 5,000 dead young people every year just in the city. I could see that football created the possibility of non-violent communication and a peaceful dialogue. From there to translate it into everyday life, that was the initial step."

Griesbeck launched Football for Peace in Colombia and then something similar back home in Germany. He understood that by developing a network of charitable organisations he could create something much more powerful and efficient, forming streetfootballworld in 2002.

"Today we are 125 organisations working out of 80 countries," he says. "On a daily basis we are working with two-and-a-half million young people and there are so many individual stories we have come across over the years. I admire the leadership shown by people.

"They identify a problem locally and see that there is nobody taking care of it, not the government, nobody, so they create the solutions out of nothing. Often they face life-and-death risks with no resources but they still do what they need to do.

"There are also the young people who are just ignored by society but through football are integrated into that society and find a future. It inspires them to be someone in life and convince them that they can create a sustainable livelihood out of their own skills.

"Football attracts them and allows them to build trust with other people. It exposes them to a dignified environment and makes them believe in themselves. There are so many stories, whether it is girls in India, HIV positive people in South Africa or homeless people in the UK."

It is clear that football's power is already being mobilised. FIFA and UEFA have projects of their own. Many players have foundations in their name. But what was missing was the big idea. Griesbeck feels the time has come to stop acting in isolation and do something bigger.

Player foundations, in particular, can prove problematic. Administrative costs can spiral out of control with studies suggesting up to 80 per cent of them are underperforming. Many close down. Some have even found themselves investigated by the Charity Commission.

'Power for social good'

"Many times there is not the necessary expertise in place," explains Griesbeck. "So from an efficiency perspective, relative to the amount of money that is put into these foundations and the administrative costs behind them in order to make them happen, it is inefficient.

"I think in the first instance, any player looking to do something should be applauded. Hats off to them. But then they need help. They need to do it with the right motivation behind it and listen to the experts in that social field with the efficiency knowledge behind it."

Griesbeck is keen to stress that it does not need to be a choice between a foundation and Common Goal. "This is more of an attempt to embed philanthropy at the core of what football is about," he adds. "This is why we talked about one per cent and not 10 per cent.

"The idea was to say that football has this massive power for social good so why don't we make it part of what football is all about. Let's take one per cent of everything that is generated from football, put it into a central fund and maximise its impact.

"Let's just do it and make the new 100 per cent in football, the 99 per cent instead. We can integrate this power for social good. With the football industry having developed into an economic powerhouse in the last 20 years, we felt it was the right time."

Griesbeck was not alone. There were other people in football increasingly uncomfortable with the staggering wealth generated by the game. People uncomfortable with the juxtaposition between the richest players and the poverty-stricken fans who adore them.

People like Juan Mata.

"My initial awareness of Juan as a person came from a Spanish television interview where he said that football is happening in a bubble and that real life was happening outside," says Griesbeck. "He also said that he would actually be prepared to accept a pay cut.

"We did further research into the person and we saw the integrity of the man. We saw that he was walking the talk. So we linked up with him through a shared friend and it clicked very quickly. We realised it was something that we could actually do together.

"We ended up more or less co-creating it. Very genuinely, I thought it was quite courageous of him. Juan is someone who believes in it, who lives up to it and who is in a position to talk eloquently about it. He has captured people's imaginations.

"Now people are starting to follow him. I also think that shows this was the best way to go about it strategically. The players themselves have to lead it. That is quite powerful. A lot of people are now really attracted by the idea of what it can be if everyone gets behind it."

Griesbeck has been overwhelmed by the public response. He has received long letters from people who are proud to be football fans again. The man who can now reconcile his love of the sport with his beliefs. The woman who can finally see light at the end of the tunnel.

But there is still some scepticism. Outside of football there are what Griesbeck describes as the "sarcastic comments" by those who say a one per cent donation is hardly worthy of praise. Within the game, there is caution about do-gooders seeking a slice of the pie.

"There is still a huge protective wall around most players," Griesbeck admits. "People try to avoid players actually thinking about what they do. Clubs and agents want them to focus on just playing football because this is the immediate value they get out of the players."

But such logic could be flawed. What if players are better outside of the bubble? "They could perform better because they feel better about who they are and what they do when there is a bigger purpose behind it than just playing football and winning trophies," he adds.

"Before being a football player they are human beings and they feel the same as the rest of us do. So they want to be in charge of their own lives. I think people will be surprised to see that players will be very open to this proposition and actually feel empowered by it."

While five players have been announced so far, many more are signed up. Some are well known, others are not. All have a story to tell. All are ready to contribute by playing the game they love. "These are football players united by this shared vision," says Griesbeck.

The ambition is for this to extend well beyond the playing careers of Mata and the rest. For example, it is anticipated that those involved will continue to contribute during their coaching and media careers. "The idea is to make this the standard," adds Griesbeck.

In doing so, it could also restore the game's standards at a time when it risks being diminished by the ever-growing gulf between the richest and poorest in society. As a result, maybe Common Goal can even help to save football from itself.

"We believe this is an investment," Griesbeck goes on. "It is a donation but from a football industry perspective it is an investment with a huge return. Reputation is one thing but we are talking about lifting a big part of the bottom billion people into an active part of society.

"Many of those billion people love football. In many cases, they have survived thanks to football. They will definitely be consuming football if they are in a financial position to do so. So there is a lot that football stands to gain from Common Goal.

"If everyone can get behind it, this is something that could raise 300 to 500 million pounds a year. This sounds like a lot of money but for everyone involved it is just one per cent to the 99 per cent. I think it would be a very clever investment."

And an unexpected legacy of the tragic events in Medellin 23 years ago.

Credit: Skysports.com

Fabregas: I Threw Pizza At Fergie

Cesc Fabregas has finally confessed he threw pizza at Sir Alex Ferguson during the famous 'Battle of the Buffet' at Old Trafford.

The Chelsea midfielder had long been suspected as the culprit in 2004 after Manchester United had beaten Arsenal 2-0 to end their 49-game unbeaten Premier League run and he has confessed on Sky One's A League Of Their Own.

On the upcoming episode, host James Corden asks Fabregas: "Tonight, can we finally put the case of the flying pizza to bed once and for all? Were you the culprit that thew the pizza?"

"Yes," replied Fabregas.

"All of a sudden, I heard noises (from the tunnel) and I thought what's happening? So I go out with my slice of pizza and I saw Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Martin Keown... everyone pushing each other.

"I was like, I want to get in but I don't know how to and I threw... peeew... just threw it. Once I saw it was hitting, like, who it was hitting, which I didn't mean…"

Fabregas confirmed the pizza hit Ferguson in the face and added: "I apologise Sir Alex, really didn't mean to do that!"

The game itself was given extra spice due to Keown's treatment of Ruud van Nistelrooy in the same fixture a year earlier, after the United striker had missed a penalty.

Arsenal were furious at Gary and Phil Neville for 'kicking' Jose Antonio Reyes, as well as Van Nistelrooy raking his studs down Ashley Cole's shin, and Ferdinand bundling over Freddie Ljungberg when clean through on goal.

Their sense of injustice grew when Wayne Rooney threw himself over Campbell's outstretched leg to win a penalty that turned the game in United's favour.

Credit: Skysports.com

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Smalling: Kane, Lukaku 'The Full Package'

Chris Smalling says in-form strikers Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane "have got near enough the full package".

Smalling plays with Lukaku for Manchester United and Kane for England and says the duo are among a select group of elite forwards.

"There aren't many players that you can compare either of them to," Smalling told Sky Sports.

"I think I am lucky that I have got Rom at United and, when we come away with England, if I can do my job and stop the goals going in, it is inevitable that we are going to score at least one or two up top."

Lukaku and Kane are both enjoying excellent seasons so far and Kane does not think either player has many deficiencies.

"I've gone against both of them, be it for Spurs and (Lukaku's former club) Everton, and obviously now Rom in training," said Smalling.

"They are both handfuls.

"I think they are two strikers who have got near enough the full package, which makes them so successful."

Saturday's 4-0 win over Crystal Palace was Smalling's first Premier League start of the season but he has featured regularly in other competitions and is enjoying the tussle for places.

"We are lucky that we have got four centre halves and, more often than not, we play one game a week," he said.

"I have been lucky the past couple of weeks to play all the games, but it is something you do have to accept.

"It isn't easy, I would much rather play every game but, if you put in a performance every week, you make it hard to change you.

"I think I am lucky to be at a top club and play for a top nation that has many opportunities to select good centre-backs.

"Be it United or England, there is always that competition, and that is what we need to keep improving."

Credit: Skysports.om

Tuanzebe On His Maturing Football Style

Axel Tuanzebe feels he has progressed well with his football style and says spending more time with the first team has helped him mature as a player.

The 19-year-old was part of the Tour 2017 squad in July and although a minor back injury disrupted the early part of his campaign, he was part of the travelling squad to Moscow for the 4-1 Champions League victory last week.

Tuanzebe sat down with MUTV recently to discuss his progress so far and how he is continuing his learning curve.

“I’d say I’ve matured and my football style has matured. I think I make better decisions now, you learn about prioritising the team more rather than playing for yourself,” he explained. “That’s a massive part of getting into the team because everything you do is about trying to benefit the team.

“I’ve been with the first team now for more than half a season and you just keep learning. There is no point where you stop learning or you’ve seen enough, it’s always a continuous journey. The Moscow trip was a great experience and a different type of preparation, we were there for longer and we trained there, so you pick up little things.”

Tuanzebe is yet to feature for the senior team this term but was on the bench in Moscow. He’s been a keen observer of the Reds’ superb start to the campaign and had high praise for team-mate Romelu Lukaku.

“Since the start of the season all the performances have been very good. It’s been built up from pre-season and there is kind of a brotherhood spirit in the team and pushing on during the season I think we’ll be one team to watch out for,” he added.

“Everyone is happy. The manager has rotated the squad and had players in and out and we’ve been getting great results.

“For us as a team Romelu has been magnificent,” continued Tuanzebe. “He’s been the standout guy as the big man up top. He’s settled in very well. He can speak about seven languages so he can interact with everyone in the squad. He’s been a big inspiration to the team and a good role model. He’s a really good guy and off the pitch he talks to everyone and I think that’s a great attribute to have.”

Mourinho Has Setubal Road Named After Him

Jose Mourinho has received a special honour after a road in his native Portugal has been named after him.

The United manager attended a ceremony in his hometown of Setubal on Tuesday for the grand unveiling, as the local authority renamed the former Rua da Saude road on the seafront as 'Avenida Jose Mourinho' in recognition of his achievements in football.

Afterwards, Mourinho spoke of his immense pride and the love he has for the town on the Portuguese coast. "If you ask me, if I'm grateful, excited and proud, yes of course I am. I say yes to everything," he told reporters.

"But I still want to come to Setubal and be who I am. I come to Setubal because I love Setubal. I have my mother and I feel closer to my father. I come to Setubal because my children have never lived here and love Setubal as much or more than I do."

The boss added: "Setubal remains the only city where I feel like myself, where I feel [like] Ze Mario [his Portuguese nickname], where I walk on the street and people treat me like I like to be treated."

He was joined at the ceremony by his mother Maria Julia Santos and Setubal mayor Maria das Dores Meira, who was full of praise for the United boss.

She described him as a 'son of Setubal, a man of the world, a global personality' and 'one of those Setubalenses who fill us with pride because he is really special, has a special talent, has special love for their land'.

The mayor added: "Here, on Jose Mourinho Avenue, it is Setubal that lives and affirms itself. This is a tribute of a city and a county that want to perpetuate this special name [Mourinho] which today is one of the best-known arteries of the city."

Setubal announced their intention to name the road after Mourinho back in 2013, when the town marked his 50th birthday.

Manchester City v Manchester United: How Their Statistics Compare

The two Manchester clubs are level on points at the top of the Premier League - but which team is statistically superior?

City are only ahead in the table because they have scored one goal more than United, and both teams are already five points clear of nearest challengers Tottenham.

Jose Mourinho's side have made the most of a comparatively softer fixture list - they are yet to face a top-10 team this season - while City just beat defending champions Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge.

Gary Neville told Sky Sports: "You would have said, from the fixtures, United should have been at the top at this stage, but I think the table will start to even out once we see them against tougher sides.

"I did say at the start of the season that the title would end up in Manchester and the evidence so far supports that, but it's far too early for either club to get carried away."

In an effort to help separate the two rivals, we have broken them down by position group to look at their respective stats...

GOALKEEPERS

Both 'keepers have conceded just twice, with David de Gea shipping two in United's 2-2 draw at Stoke. He has otherwise kept clean sheets in every league game and Neville believes he's one of the best in the world.

The Sky Sports expert said: "If you look at United, you saw them make mistakes at Stoke and there were chances for Everton, but ultimately the weaknesses they have shown at the back are covered by a goalkeeper who is absolutely world class."

City summer signing Ederson has impressed in his debut season in English football, showcasing smart shot-stopping (85 per cent save percentage) and impressive distribution (84 per cent passing accuracy).


DEFENDERS

Eric Bailly and Phil Jones has been Mourinho's preferred partnership, while City have typically gone with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi.

Stuart Pearce was particularly impressed by City's defensive display at Chelsea, telling Premier League Daily: "City put a marker down on Saturday to the whole footballing world and said we're serious contenders now.

"Some of the questions marks you put against City in the times gone by: the goalkeeping scenario, the defence looking a bit shaky - all of those things I think they answered at Stamford Bridge."

United's defence has often been the busier of the two, making more clearances and interceptions than their rivals.


FULL-BACKS

City spent £126m to sign three full-backs over the summer - Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo. Walker was the most expensive at £50m but Don Goodman says it's looking money well spent at this stage.

"A few eyebrows were raised when they spent big money on Walker but he's certainly one of the best attacking full-backs in world football," he told Sky Sports News.

Pep Guardiola wants his full-backs to get forward and the early returns have been very good. City have four assists and 13 chances created from the position, far superior to rivals United.

Mourinho's approach is more defensive and United are strong at right-back, where captain Antonio Valencia has been consistently good, but concerns remain over their long-term solution at left-back.


MIDFIELDERS

United's midfielders have chipped in with more goals than City and their defensive axis - led by summer signing Nemanja Matic - has made more interceptions.

Marouane Fellaini has also emerged as a key player under Mourinho, who describes the Belgian as "very important" to his United plans.

To underline that fact, the former Everton midfielder already has three goals in six league appearances this season.

When he plays with Matic and Paul Pogba it means United tower above their opponents in this area of the pitch, while City's tempo is dictated by David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne.

City's midfielders have contributed just two goals between them but Guardiola's style of play ensures the league leaders top the charts for passes completed and passing accuracy.

Goodman added: "There are different ways of winning football matches and these two clubs do it differently in midfield. The proof will be in the pudding at the end of the season."


FORWARDS

Both teams have averaged at least three goals per game through seven matches, an impressive achievement.

City, led by the now injured Sergio Aguero, have a better conversion percentage and create more chances.

They also have contributors across the front line thanks to five goals from Raheem Sterling, four from Gabriel Jesus and three from Leroy Sane.

But United striker Romelu Lukaku leads the way atop the overall Premier League scoring chart, with seven goals from 15 shots on target.

Goodman added: "Aguero is the best out-and-out striker in the world. Romelu Lukaku has the potential to be the best but he needs to keep doing what he's doing to get there.

"He is a predatory striker - different to Aguero in terms of stature - but the end result is the same."


Credit: Skysports.com