Will Power

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jose 'Lets His Horses Run Free'

Jose Mourinho praised the "confidence, consistency and discipline" of his Man Utd team after their comfortable 4-0 win at Swansea.

United, who beat West Ham by the same scoreline in their opening Premier League game, have now scored at least four goals in their opening two league games for the first time in 110 years.

Eric Bailly put the visitors ahead before three goals in less than four minutes dispatched Swansea, with Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial also on the scoresheet.

Mourinho was delighted with his team's performance but insists they are not getting carried away by their strong start to the season.

"It was a different performance [to West Ham] but I think the same kind of consistency, confidence, discipline, I think we had that again," he told Sky Sports.

"It happened to me so much with my teams - you're winning 1-0 and you can can concede. There was no need to close the door. Just let the horses run freely.

"The team was confident from the first minute. We had a little period in the first half when they created a chance in the set-piece and they brought a bit of emotion to the game.

"But the game was always under control and you can only do that with a quality performance. We were very calm, we had the ball and moved it when they were playing with five at the back, we explored very well the freedom of Antonio Valencia and Daley Blind.

"When they changed to four, I had Martial fresh to come to the team and exploit more spaces. Everything was very calm and under control.

"The players are not carried away, that's not a problem for us. We have to improve. We have to use these weeks - and we have one more - when we have one match per week.

"When you have one per week your team has to be much better than when you have two or three and you have no time to train properly."

Pogba was already on a booking when he was penalised for a late challenge on Martin Olsson in the first half but he escaped further sanction.

On the tackle, Mourinho said: "There is always a risk but Paul is a clean player, he wants to play football all the time.

"I was a bit surprised with his yellow card because Mr [referee Jon] Moss before that had certain criteria with Swansea players and didn't give the yellow card.

"After that Paul played like he always plays. I didn't feel the risk was big."

Mourinho went on to praise his substitutes after Martial stepped off the bench to score for the second consecutive game but the United boss also had a warning for his team.

"Our bench is really good and strong," he added. "You see the players I brought to the game and they are players with a lot to give.

"We knew in the last 20 minutes the clean sheet would give us three points. We thought let's go for more and try to explore the fragile moment of the opponent and I think this is confidence.

"I saw this from the bench and you feel that from the players. I am really pleased with the team but last season we won our first two games and we finished sixth."

Credit: Skysports.com

Lukaku's Movement Not Good Enough

Alan Pardew praised Romelu Lukaku's finishing ability against Swansea but said the forward still has areas to improve.

The £90m summer signing from Everton scored his third Premier League goal for Manchester United in two appearances as his new team beat Swansea 4-0 at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

But Lukaku had just 25 outfield touches in the match and Pardew believes he needs to work on his movement to take his game to the next level.

"Lukaku needs to improve at Man Utd on when they regain possession," Pardew told Sky Sports.

"His movement today was not good enough, to go short or long, to play quick. He needs more of that [movement] and he'll get more touches.

"There were times when the ball changed hands to United and he was static. He needs to think a little bit quicker but when the chance comes, he doesn't miss. He's a great finisher.

"We were talking earlier about [Ruud] van Nistelrooy, Teddy Sheringham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He needs to get some of that cleverness about where to be without the ball.

"He's at the best place to learn that because he's going to be watching the videos with Jose Mourinho after the game."

Fellow Sky Sports analyst Thierry Henry agreed, adding: "That's something he needs to bring to his game. We all know what he can do.

"If you want to take it to another level at Man Utd - four goals in three official games is remarkable - it is about getting better. He will work on it, he's with special players and he's with Mourinho.

"Mourinho will help him to develop that side of the game. We all know he has the one thing that's most important, when you feed him in the box, he will score."

Henry, who is part of Roberto Martinez's management team with Belgium, works with Lukuku at international level and believes the striker has the work-rate required to improve.

"Some of the stuff we talk about I won't share here! But he knows what he needs to do," Henry said. "That guy is driven, he knows what he wants, he knows what he has to do.

"Let's not forget, he is still young in the game in terms of playing in a team like United. When you play for Manchester United, it is totally different.

"You play a friendly against LA Galaxy and miss a goal, that goes viral. When he missed a goal in a friendly for Everton, nobody knew about it.

"Now even when you score people say you should do more, that's the way it is.

"He is strong enough to deal with it, arriving at Man Utd is not easy and he has arrived well. You ask him to score goals and he's scoring goals.

"We are talking about the future, about what he needs to bring. He has been at United for two minutes and he's already on four goals. The best is yet to come with Lukaku."

Credit: Skysports.com

Four Positives For Jose Mourinho

Manchester United continued their storming start to the season with a second consecutive 4-0 win as they saw off Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

It is the first time in 110 years that United have scored four or more goals in their opening two league games of a season and only the second time in top-flight history that any side has won by four or more goals to nil in those games.

Eric Bailly, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial got the goals for Jose Mourinho's side, adding to the already optimistic mood at the club. Here, we pick out four more positives for Manchester United…

Balance in midfield
Nemanja Matic got much of the praise after the opening weekend win over West Ham and his partnership with Pogba once again looked solid at Swansea. Both offer a physical presence, Pogba pushing that to the limit with two first-half fouls, but it is the chance to change things up by moving the Frenchman further forwards that adds a new dynamic.

For the second game in a row, Pogba ran through to score late on following the introduction of Marouane Fellaini in a deeper role. It is reminiscent of the way that Manchester City used Yaya Toure - moving him into more advanced areas as the game opened up. Pogba looks capable of playing both roles within the same game and that gives Mourinho more options.

Lukaku's fast start
The mockery that greeted Lukaku's missed chance during the European Super Cup defeat against Real Madrid highlighted the added attention on the forward following his arrival at Old Trafford. As a result, a quick start was required and he has certainly produced it - scoring in each of his first three appearances for the club.

Although Lukaku endured a relatively quiet game at the Liberty Stadium, he finished confidently to double the lead and looks in determined mood. "I am telling you that guy is driven," said Sky Sports pundit Thierry Henry, Lukaku's coach with the Belgium national team. "He knows what he wants to do." It has been a brilliant start.

Mkhitaryan magic
Having scored in both of the first two matches, Lukaku and Pogba will earn plenty of plaudits but the man of the match was Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The attacking midfielder got only one Premier League assist in 24 appearances last season. After getting two against West Ham last week, he delivered another two to take the game away from Swansea.

The Armenian is a delightful player who grew into his role at both Shakhtar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund - each time producing his best returns in his third campaigns there. The early signs are that Mkhitaryan is ready now. He spoke of "luck" and "team spirit" being factors in the improvement afterwards but his high quality was obvious against the Swans.

Partners in defence
Amid the late flurries of goals in each of the first two games, United's defensive solidity could easily be overlooked. Although Andre Ayew's mishit cross struck the underside of David de Gea's crossbar early on, this was another fine display with the partnership between Bailly and Phil Jones looking particularly promising.

Victor Lindelof was the big-money buy but keeping Phil Jones could prove just as important. He dealt well with the threat of Tammy Abraham after coping with the pace of Javier Hernandez last time out. Jones and Bailly started only one game as a pairing last season - a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace - but Mourinho may have belatedly found his best partnership.

Credit: Skysports.com

Reaction To United Win At Swansea


We've gathered a selection of post-match quotes from the players and manager Jose Mourinho following Manchester United's thumping win over Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium.

The Reds built on last week's 4-0 victory over West Ham at Old Trafford with another four-goal rout to maintain the impressive start to the Premier League season.

Boss Mourinho, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Daley Blind and Paul Pogba all spoke to MUTV and Sky Sports after the game and we have summarised their key points below.

Jose Mourinho: “I think the team is confident and in both matches winning 1-0 at half-time, we didn't start the second half looking like we had to keep a clean sheet to win the match. We always looked to control the game by having the ball and trying to score more goals. The players on the bench, great quality. Easy for me to make decisions, easy for me to make changes. Good players, they make managers look even better and I really thank their fantastic attitude, all of them, even the ones that weren't selected because we know that we need a squad to do something good this season, we need a squad.”

Henrikh Mkhitaryan: “It was a tough game, especially in the first half, because they were playing five at the back. But we had passion and we did what we had to do, and we managed to score in the first half from a set-piece. And in the second half it became much easier because in there was more spaces to play in behind their defensive line and that’s why we scored the second, and third and fourth goal like that.”

Paul Pogba: “I think we’re more confident [than last year]; we know each other more in the second year, in the first year with a new manager then you have to change the team – it’s not easy but we still won trophies. This year we are more confident and everybody knows each other well, and works for each other and I think that’s easier for us.”

Daley Blind: “We kept another clean sheet, so it feels very good. As defenders, as a group, you always want a clean sheet and two times in a row is a good start. But the defending starts with the attackers and we do that as a team very compact. We have started very well. We are very excited as a team and also with the fans, but it’s up to us now to keep that spirit going and know that it’s not coming from nothing, you have to work hard every day to keep getting these results.”

MUTV’s Paddy Crerand: “It’s not just the result, it’s the way the team played. United have been magnificent in the two games so far. We said before the game, can they keep up what they did last week, winning 4-0 at home, and they have done it again today. Can they keep going? Hopefully they can. Another great performance by United. We’ve got a squad of players now all wanting to be in the first team and on the pitch playing – that’s a big bonus in itself. It’s been great to watch United again. The Man of the Match was everybody!”

View from the opposing dug-out – Paul Clement: “We were competitive for long periods in the game and up until the second goal the difference was a set-play. At 2-0, we played into their strengths and they punished us. United are so strong in set-plays and the counter attack aspect of the game. Overall, it's a hard one to take. Jose has shown in his career that once his teams go 1-0 up, they control the game so well. It's a different Man United this season.”

Mourinho Reflects On United Win At Swansea


Jose Mourinho spoke to MUTV and reporters at his post-match press conference following Manchester United's 4-0 Premier League win at Swansea City...

STRONG FINISH AND LATE GOALS
"Yes, but in the last few minutes it's because the opponent is losing and trying to get the ball. The reality of the game was 75 minutes, 1-0 and the result open. Okay, I always felt on the bench the game was under control and the team was confident to have the ball. We were winning 1-0 and not defending and trying to score more goals but the game was open. I feel very happy with the difficulty of the match and the way we explored their fragile moments at the end of the game.

BACK-TO-BACK 4-0 WINS
"I think the team is confident and in both matches winning 1-0 at half-time, we didn't start the second half looking like we had to keep a clean sheet to win the match. We tried to control the game by keeping the ball and creating chances and we did that in both matches. The players that came on from the bench did well. Easy for me to make decisions, easy for me to make changes. The players make the manager look better and I thank their fantastic attitude, even the ones that weren't selected because we know we have to have a squad to do something special this season."

IT'S NOT ALWAYS MOTORWAY
"The word that describes better the team now is confidence. The team is confident, the team starts the game confident, the team starts the second half confident. But I want to see the way we emotionally react to losing it because it’s also another stage - be losing and try to change a result because in this moment everything is going in our favour. You know, it’s not always motorway. You always find difficult roads and we have to be ready."

LET'S BUILD ON THIS
"Of course, this time last season we had six points from our first two games and we finished sixth. This start means nothing. The important thing for me is we’ve played well in these two games and we have to keep that going. I don’t like that people are looking at these matches and thinking they are easy matches, but the team is consistent and confident and we have to carry on."

Premier League: Swansea City 0 Man. United 4

Manchester United made it two comfortable wins from two Premier League games at the start of the season with an impressive victory over Swansea City.

Eric Bailly prodded home his first United goal from close range on the stroke of half-time before Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and substitute Anthony Martial scored in a deadly three-minute spell late on to give the scoreline a more convincing look.

After brushing aside West Ham at Old Trafford last Sunday, United issued another early statement of intent and have begun the campaign with back-to-back 4-0 wins, signalling the club's best start to a season for 110 years.
 
The Reds made the trip to a sunny South Wales in buoyant mood and Jose Mourinho named an unchanged team from the side that recorded his biggest Premier League win as United boss last weekend.

In an open start to the game, both sides had early opportunities as Swansea's Jordan Ayew burst down the left flank and his cross with the outside of his left foot clipped the top of the crossbar, before Lukaku flashed a shot wide of the post as United broke quickly at the other end.

It was United's turn to hit the woodwork in the 10th minute as Phil Jones met a pinpoint Juan Mata free-kick from the left-hand side and saw his close-range header rebound back off the crossbar.

The early tempo dissipated somewhat, with both teams offering an occasional threat but niggly fouls often broke up the rhythm. Up against a rigid Swansea back five, the Reds struggled to create clear-cut chances but got the all-important breakthrough on the stroke of half-time as Bailly reacted well to poke home on the goalline after Pogba's header from Daley Blind's corner came back off the underside of the bar.

With confidence high after opening the scoring, United began the second half brightly as Henrikh Mkhitaryan drilled an effort wide and Pogba curled a free-kick off target from 20 yards.

As he did against West Ham last week, Mourinho sent on Marouane Fellaini and Martial in place of Mata and Marcus Rashford and the latter helped to inspire another late goal glut as the Reds seized control and ran riot in the closing stages with three goals in the space of just four minutes.

Fresh from scoring twice on his Old Trafford debut last weekend, Lukaku got on the scoresheet again as he collected Mkhitaryan's pass and rifled past Swansea keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Just as they did against the Hammers last time out, Pogba and Martial both got in on the act as substitutes, with Pogba clipping in a delightful finish from another incisive Mkhitaryan ball before turning provider for his French compatriot Martial, who ran to the edge of the box and rolled the ball into the far corner from eight yards to round off another resounding win for United in the first away game of 2017/18. 

THE LINE-UPS

Swansea City: Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez (c), Bartley (Routledge 67), Mawson, Olsson; Roque Mesa (Narsingh 67), Fer, Carroll; Ayew, Abraham (McBurnie 82).  

Subs not used: Nordfeldt, van der Hoorn, Angel Rangel, Fulton.

Booked: Fer.

United: De Gea; Valencia (c), Bailly, Jones, Blind; Matic, Pogba; Mata (Fellaini 75), Mkhitaryan (Herrera 85), Rashford (Martial 75); Lukaku.

Subs not used: Romero, Lindelof, Smalling, Lingard.

Booked: Pogba.

TALKING POINTS:

Lukaku offers more than just goals

Romelu Lukaku exemplified why he can offer United something different and more than just a goal threat, while bringing an extra dimension to the game. The Belgian frontman chased and harried every ball, occupying Swansea's three centre-backs well and often dropping deeper into pockets of space in order to start attacks. As all good strikers do, he rounded off his performance by finding the back of the net late on and once again showed plenty of promise, which bodes well for the season ahead. The 24-year-old also became only the fifth player to net in his first two league outings for United after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Louis Saha, Marcus Rashford and Federico Macheda.  

Jones and Bailly working well 

Once again, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly lined up at the heart of the United defence and the pair put in another solid performance. The two centre-backs were rarely tested against West Ham last week but had more defending to do, up against Swansea's athletic forwards Tammy Abraham and Jordan Ayew. The pair read the game and communicated well throughout to ensure the hosts were kept at bay. Bailly capped his excellent display with his first goal since joining United last summer, while Jones was among the candidates for the club's Man of the Match award. 

Mkhitaryan the creative force 

United fans became accustomed to seeing Henrikh Mkhitaryan pulling the strings as last season wore on and the Armenian illustrated his ability to be United's chief playmaker against the Swans, constantly on the move, keeping the ball moving and using his intelligence to know where Rashford and Lukaku were at all times. He instigated many of United's best attacking moments and was inspirational as United carved open the Swans late on, providing two pinpoint passes for Lukaku and Pogba to score. As was often the case last term, Mkhitaryan can be pleased with his personal contribution to a brilliant team display. After just one league assist in 2016/17, he has already recorded four so far this term!
 
WHAT'S NEXT FOR UNITED?

The Reds complete the first month of the new season by welcoming 2015/16 Premier League champions Leicester City to Old Trafford for an evening kick-off next Saturday, 26 August. United beat the Foxes three times last season, including in the Community Shield, and will be confident of building on an encouraging start to the league campaign by making it three wins out of three. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jose: No Excuses For Chelsea

Jose Mourinho says Chelsea can have no excuses if they fail to mount a strong Premier League title defence this season.

The Manchester United boss believes the defending champions should still be considered favourites for the title this season, despite suffering a 3-2 opening day home loss to Burnley, an ongoing rift with Diego Costa, and the sale of midfielder Nemanja Matic to United.

Mourinho appears to have his own team well placed for a title tilt following last weekend's 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, but has scoffed at the suggestion United are in a more stable position than their rivals.

"If they have problems the problems are going to finish in a couple of weeks because, in a couple of weeks, the market is closed and they don't have problems anymore," Mourinho said.

"If they have - and I don't know if they have - in a couple of weeks the problems are over.

"They have very good teams, very good players and I don't see any reason for them not to be fighting for the title.

"When people say, for example, Chelsea lost an important midfield player, you know if you lose one but you buy (Tiemoue) Bakayoko and (Danny) Drinkwater (who has been linked with a move from Leicester to Stamford Bridge) for example, what's the problem?

"The problem is when you sell and you don't buy. But when you sell and you keep buying, what's the problem?

"You are probably even stronger, so I think every top team in the Premier League is strong enough to be fighting for everything.

"And when everybody is also in Europe - five in the Champions League and then two in the Europa League - you have the top seven teams playing for everything and all of them are strong."

And, ahead of Saturday's Sky Live trip to Swansea, Mourinho suggested Chelsea remain title favourites.

"For me the favourite is the champion - always," said the United boss.

"Because, for some reason was the champion.

"It doesn't mean you are going to win it but I think it is the stamp that you have when you are champion, it is that the next season you are the favourite."

Credit: Skysports.com

Mourinho: Martial Will Improve This Season

Jose Mourinho has expressed his total faith in Anthony Martial and backed the Manchester United forward to become a better player throughout the season.

Martial was a revelation during his first campaign with the Reds, in 2015/16, when he scored 17 goals in 49 appearances. His second term was less successful on an individual basis, after scoring eight times in 42 games, but he did lift the FA Community Shield, EFL Cup and Europa League.

The 21-year-old completed his first pre-season training camp with United over the summer and that appears to be paying dividends on the pitch, following a number of impressive performances in friendlies and his excellent finish in last weekend’s 4-0 win over West Ham in the Premier League.

“I have faith in him,” Mourinho said of Martial. “Probably, the player I was looking at [in the transfer market] was not a pure winger, because I have pure wingers. The player I was looking for would allow me to play three at the back and do the wing-backs. As a pure attacking player, Martial is a good player.

“He is one of the players who will have a better season than last season. I look at my players and I am sure some will be better than they were last season, and Anthony is one of those, for sure.”

Mourinho has assembled a young squad and, like Martial, he expects them all to get better as time goes on. The experience of playing in the Champions League - some for the first time - will also benefit them.

“They’re all young,” Mourinho explained during his pre-match press conference. “Micki and Mata are close to their 30s. Romelu is 24, Lingard and Rashford are a good age and they’re all playing. They are also national team players with the chance to play international games.

“We are in the Champions League, so it is the first time for Rashford to play Champions League. Anthony had a bit with Monaco, Lingard had a few matches but not more than that. For Romelu, it is the first time. For them, the Champions league can be a great experience with their development.”

Shaw & Young Set To Return

Jose Mourinho has provided a positive update on long-term absentees Luke Shaw and Ashley Young, by revealing both will play for Manchester United’s Under-23s on Monday, live on MUTV.

Shaw has not played since last season’s Premier League match against Saturday's opponents Swansea City on 30 April, while Young has been absent since the UEFA Europa League semi-final tie at Celta Vigo on 4 May. 

Both players travelled to America in the summer for Tour 2017, presented by Aon, to continue their rehabilitation as part of the squad. They each returned to full training in the last week and will be back on the pitch with the Under-23s on Monday, against Swansea at Leigh Sports Village (19:00 BST kick-off).

Asked for an update on the squad, Jose told MUTV: “Everybody is fine. The next week, on Monday, in the Under-23s game, Luke Shaw and Ashley Young are playing their first minutes of competition this season. 

"It is like a pre-season match for them. But it is good news because, when they can play with the Under-23s, it is because the last week they trained with us all week so they are both coming [back].” 

Mourinho In Favour Of An Earlier Deadline


Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has admitted that he would welcome an earlier finish to the transfer window.

Premier League bosses are set to vote on proposals to reset the deadline before the first round of fixtures begin each season.

The window currently closes on 31 August, almost three weeks after the start of the Premier League, and Mourinho confessed he would like to see the window close before the matches start in future years.

“My opinion is that we have to adapt to the situation, no matter what,” he told reporters. “But, as a football manager, I would prefer the window to close as soon as possible, so everyone knows the players they will have, the business is done earlier, and nobody is waiting until the last week.

“Then we wouldn’t have the situation where a player plays game one for one team and game two for another team. And, on the questions about if other leagues' [transfer windows] don’t close at the same time, that we [would be] in danger of losing players in the last weeks - the question is how many clubs are powerful enough to buy the best players in the Premier League?

“The answer is - there are not that many, so the risk is minimal. And even with these powerful clubs, they would know that if we can’t buy players after [the start of the Premier League season], then we are not going to sell. So if they’re interested in players from the Premier League they have to do it before the deadline. I repeat – as a football manager, I would like it to close before the first match.”

Mourinho also revealed that he is pleased with the business United have conducted in the transfer window this summer, and how his squad is shaping up after the arrivals of Victor Lindelof, Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku.
“My club did phenomenally well,” the boss noted. “I had four targets and we got three, and we got all of them before the first match of the season.

“So my club did great for me. We are in a stable situation - I told them to be cool, there is no pressure from me. We will be together again for another window in January and again next summer, but I am happy with the squad we have, and I’m ready to go without the fourth player.”

Pogba Joins Exclusive Goalscorers Club


Manchester United midfield maestro Paul Pogba started the 2017/18 Premier League season how he ended the 2016/17 campaign – with a goal.

The Frenchman’s goals versus West Ham on Sunday and against Crystal Palace in May made him the 10th Red to find the net on the opening day of one Premier League season, after scoring in the final match of the previous campaign.

In doing so, Pogba followed some of United’s best-ever midfielders onto the list, along with some of the club’s most prolific goalscorers. Here, ManUtd.com takes a look at the other players to achieve the noteworthy feat.

BRYAN ROBSON
09.05.1993 v Wimbledon, 15.08.1993 v Norwich City

United’s longest-serving captain started this exclusive club, as he netted in the 2-1 win over Wimbledon on the final day of the 1992/93 term, before following it with a goal at Carrow Road on the opening day of the 1993/94 season in the 2-0 defeat of Norwich.

The 1993/94 campaign turned out to be the last of the dynamic central midfielder’s Reds career as, at the end of the season, he left for Middlesbrough with 461 United appearances across all competitions to his name, as well as 99 goals.

TEDDY SHERINGHAM
10.05.1998 v Barnsley, 15.08.1998 v Leicester City

Sheringham became the second player to achieve this record as he scored on the Premier League’s final day in 1998, as United beat Barnsley 2-0, and he later netted in the 2-2 draw with the Foxes in United's opener to the Treble-winning season.

The 51-time England international finished his United career in 2001, by which time he had scored 46 goals in 153 league and cup outings.

RUUD VAN NISTELROOY
11.05.2003 v Everton, 16.08.2003 v Bolton Wanderers

The Dutchman followed fellow striker Sheringham onto the list, as he found the net in the 2-1 victory over the Toffees on the final day of the 2002/03 Premier League campaign, as well as in the following season’s opening day 4-0 win over Bolton.

Van Nistelrooy’s five-year spell at Old Trafford saw him become one of the club’s most prolific goalscorers ever, as he netted 150 goals in 219 appearances in all competitions before leaving for Real Madrid in the summer of 2006.

RUUD VAN NISTELROOY
15.05.2005 v Southampton, 13.08.2005 v Everton

Ruud is the only player on this list to have achieved the feat twice, as he did it again in 2005 by scoring in the 2-1 win at St Mary’s in the 2004/05 Premier League’s final day, and again in the following season’s 2-0 victory on Merseyside.

CRISTIANO RONALDO
07.05.2006 v Charlton Athletic, 20.08.2006 v Fulham

Ronaldo was on target in the 4-0 demolition of Charlton on the last day of the 2005/06 season, before following it up with a goal in the 5-1 annihilation of Fulham at Old Trafford on the 2006/07 Premier League’s opening weekend.

The Portuguese ace found the net on 118 occasions in his 292 appearances for the Reds, before departing for Los Blancos in 2009, where he has since become one of the game’s real megastars.

LOUIS SAHA
07.05.2006 v Charlton Athletic, 20.08.2006 v Fulham

The pacey Frenchman achieved the feat in the very same games as Ronaldo did, as he too netted in the beatings of Charlton in 2005/06, and former club Fulham in 2006/07.

Saha registered 124 appearances in his four seasons in red, which yielded 42 goals, before he left for Everton.

DARREN FLETCHER
09.05.2010 v Stoke City, 16.08.2010 v Newcastle United

Fletcher joined the exclusive club in 2010, as he found the net in the 4-0 defeat of Stoke on the final day in 2009/10, as well as scoring in the 3-0 beating of the Magpies on the opening day of the following Premier League term.

A real fan favourite at Old Trafford, by the time the Scot left for West Brom in 2015, he had amassed 342 United appearances across all competitions.

RYAN GIGGS
09.05.2010 v Stoke City, 16.08.2010 v Newcastle United

There are not many records which escaped this Old Trafford legend, and the Welsh wizard joined Fletcher on the scoresheet against Stoke and Newcastle, earning a place on this list.

Giggs, who filled in as caretaker United manager briefly, enjoyed an incredible 24-year spell at the club as a player, which saw him win 25 major honours with the Reds.

ROBIN VAN PERSIE
19.05.2013 v West Brom, 17.08.2013 v Swansea

RVP achieved the feat by first netting in the famous 5-5 draw at The Hawthorns at the end of the 2012/13 season, which marked Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge, as well as carrying his form into the 2013/14 campaign with an opening-day brace against Swansea.

The former Arsenal man now plays his football in Turkey with Fenerbahce but, during his stint with the Reds, he bagged 58 goals in 105 league and cup appearances.

WAYNE ROONEY
17.05.2016 v Bournemouth, 14.08.2016 v Bournemouth

Another true United great, Rooney scored both his goals in 3-1 wins over the Cherries, the first at the end of the 2015/16 season in a rearranged clash, and the second a header in 2016/17’s opener at the Vitality Stadium.

Rooney departed Old Trafford this summer to return to boyhood club Everton, ending a 13-year association with the Reds, which saw him become the club’s all-time leading goalscorer with 253 strikes.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Matic: United My Biggest Club

Nemanja Matic says Manchester United are the biggest club he's played for and Jose Mourinho was the reason he joined.

The Serbia international, a £40m signing from Chelsea this summer, made his Premier League debut for United in their 4-0 win over West Ham last Sunday.

He won the league title under Mourinho at Stamford Bridge and now hopes to do the same at Old Trafford.

"He [Mourinho] was very important for me," Matic told Sky Sports ahead of United's game at Swansea on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

"He bought me to Chelsea from Benfica and now when I decided to come to Manchester, he was a reason to come here.

"Mourinho was the reason and so was the club, Manchester United, so you don't need to think a lot about if you are going to come. My decision was very quick and very clear."

When asked if United are the biggest club he's played for, Matic, 29, replied: "Definitely, everyone knows what Manchester United is about.

"When you say Manchester United, it is different. Also Chelsea is a big club, Benfica are the biggest club in Portugal. But Manchester is Manchester.

"When I came here for the first day, I could feel that the people at the club help you every day if you need something and supporters are very important for this club.

"After every training session, they are waiting for us outside the training ground to take pictures, to give a signature so I think the club is one of the biggest in the world.

"Maybe you have two or three clubs similar to United, but Manchester is one of the biggest clubs in the world for sure."

Matic impressed on his league debut and was named man of the match playing alongside United club-record signing Paul Pogba in midfield.

"I've played as a defensive midfielder for many years so I will try to continue to do my job the best that I can," he added.

"I will do my best but when I have the opportunity to do something more or to go up front, I will do it but supporters and my team-mates know my job is to give balance to the team, to defend well and I will try to do the same job like I did before. I think I can still improve and I will do it of course.

"Everyone has a freedom to do something good for the team, nobody can tell you not to move two metres to the left or right if you can do it, you have to do it to help the team.

"If this gives you the result, then it is good for the team, for the club and for the supporters. If I have the chance to go forward and score some goals this season, I will do it."

Credit: Skysports.com

Bailly: Ramos My Defensive Hero

Eric Bailly admits that Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos is the benchmark when it comes to defending.

The 23-year-old Manchester United centre-back said he has always looked up to Ramos, who has won 16 major honours at club level and the World Cup and European Championship with Spain.

And Bailly, who has already become a fans' favourite at Old Trafford, explained that he would like to follow in the footsteps of former United defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

The Ivory Coast international said: "As a young child I always like to play football in different positions.

"As a child I was following Marseille, looking up to my compatriot playing there, Didier Drogba, and my team was Marseille as a child.

"I would try to be as a striker even though I wasn't and once I started growing up and seeing that professional football was a step closer I would look at Sergio Ramos that I liked a lot.

"I always looked up to Ramos as an example footballer and watched him a lot."

Bailly, who began his professional career at Espanyol, before moving to Villarreal, joined United for £30m in the summer of 2016.

Regarding his United future, he added: "You have to take the example of who has played here. Vidic, Ferdinand, they are players I cannot do the same as they did but I have to try to follow in their steps.

"It is very difficult but everything is achieved with hard work, keeping my head high to keep moving forward and I hope that happens in my case.

"I've had the luck to have a manager, Jose Mourinho, to learn more, work hard and listen to what he says.

"When I came to Manchester, it was a bigger step from when I was in Villarreal and I was very happy with my signing here at Manchester.

"The manager had confidence in me and brought me as his first signing. It is something that is not easy, when you come to the team there are players that have more experience in the English league and I had to see how the football was played.

"For me, it wasn't difficult because I had very good team-mates that helped me and were always worried about me, all of this helped me to join the group and that is why it wasn't that difficult."

Credit: Skysports.com

Robson: Manchester United's Signing Of Nemanja Matic A 'Masterstroke'

Manchester United’s signing of Nemanja Matic has been hailed as a “masterstroke” by former club captain Bryan Robson.

The Serbian international was signed from Chelsea in a £40m deal last month and has been an instant success as he quickly formed a formidable partnership with Paul Pogba at the heart of United's midfield.

Both players were impressive during Sunday's 4-0 victory over West Ham, with Pogba scoring and Matic winning man-of-the-match honours.

Robson, who was at United for 13 seasons, believes Matic was a shrewd addition by Jose Mourinho.

"To have signed Matic was a masterstroke for me," Robson said, speaking to Jim White on talkSPORT.

"The signs there at the weekend were brilliant and I think he is going to be a great player for Manchester United over the next few years."

Matic and Pogba were among five Mourinho signings in United's side against West Ham, joining Romelu Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Eric Bailly.

Those five players were part of an imposing spine for United and Robson believes the team is well poised to succeed in Mourinho's second season in charge.

"You look at the squad in depth and we have got power and pace as well as the quality," said Robson.

"We are going forward and we are going forward in a real good way.
"All of Mourinho's signings have been very good and they have definitely strengthened us.

"Winning a couple of competitions last season gives the players loads of confidence and you can see the way they were bonding together on the tour to America that the lads get on really well together.

"There is a real good spirit amongst the players at this moment in time."

Credit: Skysports.com

Matic Happy To Be Playing With Pogba

Manchester United summer signing Nemanja Matic is confident he and Paul Pogba can become a formidable central midfield partnership that will bring the best out of one another.

Matic joined from rivals Chelsea in early August and has quickly impressed supporters with his industrious performances, particularly in the 4-0 Premier League win over West Ham United at Old Trafford when he claimed the club’s Man of the Match award with 74 per cent of votes cast by fans.

The Serbian is an expert in that defensive midfield position and many people believe his arrival will permit Pogba to enjoy a more attacking role in the team, which certainly appeared evident against the Hammers when the Frenchman notched his first goal of the season with a late finish.

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Swansea City and the Liberty Stadium, MUTV sat down with Matic to discuss his new partnership with Pogba and how much he is enjoying the alliance.

“I think we play together very well,” he told us. “We help each other. I have to say he played good in attack and also helped a lot when we were defending. He always played next to me. We are there on the pitch to fight for each other. We will continue like this and I’m happy to have him in the team.”

READY FOR SWANSEA

Matic also spoke to us about the test of facing Swansea in Wales, as well as his former Chelsea team-mate Tammy Abraham. “We know this is just the beginning,” he said. “The season is long and we have a difficult game on Saturday. We have to focus on that. It’s always hard to win at that stadium, they are a good team and we watched some videos of them. They have good players and also a good coach. I expect a hard game for us but we are Manchester and we know what we have to do.

“Tammy is a big talent. I remember him from Chelsea. If he continues to work like this and grow up like this, he can be a great striker. He’s already a good striker but he can still improve. He is always dangerous as he’s very quick with his long legs. I think he will be a great striker in the future.”

MY FIRST UNITED AWAY

Having experienced Old Trafford as a United player for the first time, Matic is impressed by the club’s supporters and is looking forward to playing in front of the hardcore away fans in Wales.

“I think Manchester United fans are amazing. I saw Old Trafford and know that they really love the club and support us during 90 minutes. I think away, they’re even better. When I played against Manchester, I could feel they are good and always support so I’m looking forward to that game.”

Van Nistelrooy Amazed By Rashford's Rise

Legendary Manchester United striker Ruud van Nistelrooy admits he has been blown away by Marcus Rashford’s meteoric ascent from Academy prospect to first-team star.

The 19-year-old made his name in February 2016 by scoring a brace on his senior debut, in a UEFA Europa League tie against FC Midtjylland. He repeated that feat on his Premier League bow against Arsenal three days later, before playing for England at Euro 2016.

Rashford has since become an integral part of Jose Mourinho’s team and that is highlighted by the fact he registered 53 appearances across all competitions last season, scoring 11 goals in total.

Van Nistelrooy first saw Marcus playing when he scored twice in the UEFA Youth League back in 2015, and even then he knew the Wythenshawe lad was one to watch.

“I watched him playing in the Under-19s against PSV,” says Ruud. “He was a huge talent even then. It’s amazing how he has developed so far. I couldn’t imagine that he would be playing in the first team just six months after I saw that game.

“And now he has won the Europa League, too! He has experienced such a quick development and that says something about his ability to learn. That’s a good characteristic to have.”

Rashford’s rapid rise has also seen him recognised at international level and he currently has nine England caps, plus 73 United appearances. Despite his early success, Ruud is keen to point out the importance of him staying grounded in the future.

“Now he’s made his debut for England, the key is to stay focused on football. If you can learn as quickly as he has and stay stable, then he will be an excellent player for United.”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Bigger Picture: Reds Can Up Pressure

It may sound ridiculous to talk about pressure after a single Premier League game, but Manchester United have the perfect opportunity to kick on after Sunday's impressive win over West Ham.

The table is largely irrelevant at the moment, as Jose Mourinho has indicated, but the Reds are at the summit and the fixture schedule means - after being involved in the last game of round one - it is United who kick round two off at Swansea City.

The early start (12:30 BST) allows a chance to quickly put six points on the board and then relax while the rest of the division scrap it out over the remainder of the weekend and into Monday night. It will be far from easy at the Liberty Stadium, and it is thought Paul Clement will swiftly reinvest after Gylfi Sigurdsson completed his transfer to Everton, but Mourinho will be emphasising the importance of making a good start to the season. That is something he achieved time and time again during his time at Chelsea.

Saturday's later games include Liverpool meeting Crystal Palace on the back of a draw at Watford and 2-1 victory at Hoffenheim in the Champions League qualifier. The Eagles have upset the Merseysiders in the past but started poorly with a 3-0 home defeat to new boys Huddersfield Town. The tea-time kick-off poses Arsenal a challenge they traditionally find difficult - an away clash at Mark Hughes's Stoke City.

All eyes will be on Wembley Stadium on Sunday when Tottenham Hotspur face Chelsea in a London derby. Two of the likely title contenders colliding head-on at this early stage is bound to crank up the pressure and the outcome will be eagerly awaited. The champions, without suspended duo Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas, could find themselves already six points adrift of the leaders if they are beaten by Spurs.

Manchester City must wait until Monday evening for their action and Ronald Koeman's Everton should provide stiff opposition after a summer of spending, which included the arrivals of ex-Reds Michael Keane and Wayne Rooney. Pep Guardiola's men will be favourites to take the points at the Etihad Stadium, but let's hope United have laid down a marker by already securing a second victory of the new season.

United's final game in August will follow against 2015/16 champions Leicester City at Old Trafford before a break for international football, and the next league outing is not until 9 September at Stoke.

A positive start from these three opening games is essential for United, as it is for all of the title hopefuls. With Liverpool and Chelsea already dropping points, a win in Wales will allow every Reds fan to enjoy the weekend and watch the others playing catch-up.

Martial Outlines Ambitions For 2017/18 Season

Anthony Martial is unwilling to reveal his appearances and goals targets this season, but the Manchester United forward is open about his ambition to win the Premier League title.

The Reds began the 2017/18 campaign with a superb 4-0 win over West Ham United at Old Trafford on Sunday, which has placed Jose Mourinho’s at the top of the table following the opening weekend.

Martial scored one of three second-half goals against the Hammers with an excellent finish, and then set up another for Paul Pogba, capping his terrific 11-minute cameo appearance as a substitute.

Speaking exclusively to Inside United magazine on the eve of the season, the Frenchman discussed his and the club’s aims for the term ahead. “As a squad, we haven’t really talked about specific aims for the season too much so far, but the goal is to win as many titles as possible,” said Martial.

“That is what we tried to do last year and it's what we are going to try to do this year. Personally, my main goal is to win titles and medals, of course. I also want to play the most. I have always wanted to play since I was young and so now I've got to do my best to win the title. I do set myself targets for appearances and goals but I keep that to myself.”

Winning the Premier League title is always a challenge and this season will be no different, with a handful of clubs all expected to fight for the championship after spending heavily in the summer transfer window. But Martial feels that will only add to the excitement and entertainment.

“Everybody in the league has been reinforcing, buying players, so it is going to be ever better and much more exciting for everyone – both for us and for those watching the Premier League,” he told us.

“We also have the Champions League to look forward to again and I think that is a competition that every team wants to win. It is a difficult competition and you have to work hard from the beginning to the end. We will see how it goes. Anything is possible.

“But the main aim is the Premier League title. That is what we want. When you play football you're playing to win, not to be second or third. So we're going to do everything we can to achieve this.”

ANALYSIS

ManUtd.com's Mark Froggatt...

"Now in his third season with United, Martial is growing in confidence and the 21-year-old hopes to enjoy a more consistent campaign in 2017/18. Anthony was impressively sharp throughout the pre-season tour and his well-taken goal against West Ham bodes well for the future, considering he only notched eight times in 42 appearances last term. He has stiff competition for a place in Mourinho's starting XI, of course, but that isn't a bad thing - such a challenge can extract the best out of a player and, judging by our conversation in Los Angeles last month, he is ready to work hard. Whether he starts or steps off the bench, such pace and unpredictability can be a devastating weapon for the Reds. Watch this space with Martial."

Carrick Patient On First-team Chances

Michael Carrick is philosophical, rather than frustrated, as the midfielder waits to make his first competitive appearance as Manchester United's new skipper.

The long-serving 36-year-old midfielder was named captain following Wayne Rooney's departure after 13 years at Old Trafford.

However, Carrick's elevation has not guaranteed him any minutes on the pitch, having been an unused substitute in United's Super Cup defeat by Real Madrid, and then left out of the squad entirely for the Premier League opener against West Ham.

The midfielder watched the 4-0 win at Old Trafford from the directors' box and admitted: "We've got a great squad.

"It's a long season and there will be a lot of games. Hopefully, we can go far in the cup competitions.

"There will be a lot of games, just like last year and there is going to be a lot of rotation of the squad."

Carrick made 38 appearances in all competitions last season, having found opportunities hard to come by at the start of the campaign.

As for the captaincy, he added: "It's a big honour for me, it's very special to be in the position I am.

"It probably comes with me being here for quite some time now and being the oldest in the squad. It doesn't really change an awful lot from day-to-day.

"There's obviously more responsibility but I think that's a natural thing. You've got to try to lead in certain ways but I'm just trying to be myself.

"You can't suddenly change because you're put in a different role. You just got to be yourself and respect all the lads like I do."

Credit: Skysports.com

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Liberation Of Pogba

Nemanja Matic could free up Paul Pogba to enjoy a huge season at Manchester United, writes Adam Bate.

Paul Pogba returns to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, the scene of the best Manchester United goal of his career so far. That arrowed effort last November earned Pogba third spot in the club's end-of-season awards and was seen as a glimpse of what was to come. But his late strike in last weekend's 4-0 win over West Ham was potentially far more significant.

This was Pogba unleashed.

There is a feeling within Old Trafford that the midfielder was judged too harshly last term. Five league goals and four assists told only some of the tale. There were trophies too. There was the fact that Pogba topped the list for chances created and dribbles completed, hinting at a much greater influence. Putting the package together was the challenge that remained.

"He reminded me at times of when United signed Juan Sebastian Veron," Phil Neville told Sky Sports. "He was a brilliant midfield player, one of the best in the world, but he kept chasing the ball and vacating areas. That is difficult to play with and Pogba was like that last year. Every time we watched Pogba last season it was, 'Where do you play him?'."

The summer arrival of Nemanja Matic was supposed to solve that particular problem. "He is a signing designed to let Pogba off the leash a little bit," said Denis Irwin. Another United great, Ryan Giggs, agreed. "I expect Pogba will improve a lot this season," said the Welshman. "The introduction of Matic is a good because it frees him up."

Forty-two per cent of Pogba's touches came in his own half last season, but with Matic and Ander Herrera in support, this year offers an opportunity to get the France international into better areas. Instead, Jose Mourinho, perhaps surprisingly, kept Pogba in his midfield two against West Ham, changing the personnel rather than the tactics. And it worked.

Matic did his job spectacularly against West Ham. He was a one-man warning light, alert to danger and intercepting passes. Matic covered 11.69 kilometres in the game - 890 metres more than anyone else on either side - and it was even his challenge that helped to set up the opening goal. It was his performance that liberated Pogba to express himself.

Often, it was Matic feeding the ball to his midfield partner. He found him 14 times in the match, six more times than he passed to anyone else, and Pogba did the rest. The result was that United's No 8 played more passes in the opposition half than anyone on the pitch and completed more dribbles than in all but one of his Premier League appearances last season.

The suspicion remains that Pogba is better suited to a three-man midfield. After all, even his last-minute goal against West Ham, surging onto an Anthony Martial pass, came once Marouane Fellaini had replaced Juan Mata. But Matic's commanding performance on Sunday will encourage the notion that Pogba can play from deeper with the right partner.

Interestingly, perhaps Pogba's most reckless display last season came in the home defeat to Manchester City when he had Fellaini behind him for protection. It was the same story for the 3-1 loss at Watford. In contrast, United were unbeaten in all 10 league games that Pogba started alongside Michael Carrick - the first of which being that win at Swansea.

As a result, Mourinho may feel persuaded that the Matic-Pogba partnership can be the way forward for United as they seek to find greater potency against weaker opposition at Old Trafford. And there is always the option of switching to a midfield three for potentially tougher matches. It is that possibility that still intrigues when it comes to Pogba.

Former United defender Rio Ferdinand insists that the midfielder is "best when not tied down" and draws a comparison with Frank Lampard. "Frank scored all his goals when he didn't have to look behind him, when he was in a three-man midfield," Ferdinand told the Sunday Times last year. Lampard himself spoke about that on Sky Sports in March.

"I was fortunate in the Jose Mourinho years, and years after, that it was set up to get the best out of me," said Chelsea's all-time top goalscorer when discussing Pogba's optimum position on Monday Night Football. "I had a defensive midfielder behind me and I had a great target man to play off. I was fortunate the set-up at Chelsea was always good for me."

Whether it is Cristiano Ronaldo, who enjoyed the best scoring season of his career under Mourinho, or Lampard, the man he converted into the game's outstanding goalscoring midfielder, the current United boss has a way of getting the best from the best. With Pogba, the system was not the only issue. The personnel to complement him was needed too.

Matic can play a big part in that, whether it's a two or three-man midfield. Belatedly, Pogba will have his platform. Now the onus is on him to use it. There were flashes of his brilliance last season, never more so than away at Swansea. But Pogba returns to the ground with the opportunity to show that he is now truly ready to help carry a team to the title.

Credit: Skysports.com

Lingard Reveals Manchester United's Dressing Room Shift

Jesse Lingard says the mood in the Manchester United dressing room has shifted and has welcomed talk of winning the title.

United sit top of the Premier League following a 4-0 win over West Ham in the opening round of fixtures last weekend, with new £90m signing Romelu Lukaku scoring twice in the victory.

Despite their sixth-placed finish last season, Lingard believes United's trophy haul - and subsequent Champions League qualification - has altered the atmosphere at Old Trafford, which has only benefited their arrivals during the transfer window.


"There's a lot of confidence flying around at the moment and it's good that we can stick together and be a part of it," Lingard, who came on as a substitute in United's win over West Ham, told Sky Sports News.

"Even the lads who weren't involved at the weekend still played a big part in the win."

Asked if the mood has changed in the dressing room, Lingard said: "You could say that. We've come off the back of three trophies, so the confidence is flowing.

"The group that we had it was easy for players to settle in, the likes of Rom [Lukaku] and Victor [Lindelof], it was always going to be easy for them. They're very down to earth guys and they want to work hard on the training pitch."

Jose Mourinho insisted his Manchester United side "played with confidence" in Sunday's victory, United's biggest win in the Premier League for nearly three years, and Lingard echoed his manager's sentiments by fuelling talk of the Premier League title returning to Old Trafford.

"I don't see why not," said Lingard. "The whole team is working hard this season and hopefully we'll win trophies. We're in a lot of competitions, the more trophies the better."

Lingard made 25 Premier League appearances for United last season and admits he will face added competition in the new campaign following the arrival of Nemanja Matic, but Lingard will not hide in his more physical team-mates' shadows.

"It's a very tall dressing room but you've got to handle yourself and let them score the headers," joked Lingard.

"I didn't really watch him [Matic] much last season but you can see what he can bring to the team. He's a player that's very stable on the ball and can keep it ticking over for us.

"We know Nemanja is a different midfield player and he can just feed the ball to Paul [Pogba] and the other midfield players and let them play their own game. He can sit back and stabilise the play for us."

Jesse Lingard was speaking at the unveiling of a mural created by graffiti artist, Alec Monopoly at Old Trafford. The mural, which depicts scenes from around the stadium was added to by Manchester United players, Paul Pogba, Michael Carrick, Jesse Lingard, Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof. This collaboration was created by TAG Heuer, Manchester United's official timekeeper and global watch partner.

Credit: Skysports.com

Van der Sar Reveals Rashford Respect

Edwin van der Sar has revealed a touching moment from Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford in the immediate aftermath of last season's Europa League final.

While some players would only have been thinking about getting hold of the trophy and their winner's medal, the young striker took time to have a word with Reds legend van der Sar, who is CEO at Ajax, United's opponents in Stockholm.

Van der Sar namechecked Rashford as somebody to watch when interviewed by ManUtd.com in May 2015, ahead of the Legends game with Bayern Munich at Old Trafford. At that point, the youngster was still nine months away from making his first-team debut against Midtjylland and forcing his way into the side on a regular basis.

With the Dutch keeper back on duty for Bryan Robson's side for the big game with Barcelona at Old Trafford on 2 September, he spoke again about the England international and relayed how Rashford asked about his son Joe, who was a team-mate of the 19-year-old growing up in the youth sides at Old Trafford.

"The moments that he got under Louis van Gaal, and the times with Jose Mourinho, we have seen his electric pace and good technique," van der Sar told ManUtd.com.

"The funny thing, that is nice, is my son also played in the Academy at United and, when the players collected the trophy [in Stockholm], Marcus asked: 'How is your son doing?'

"It was a nice little touch and I wish him, of course, all the best for the coming year in the United team."

Joe van der Sar is currently with ADO Den Haag after previously being at Ajax.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

New Boys Impress Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan believes Manchester United's new signings have made the squad much stronger.

The Armenian was speaking after two of United's three major summer signings, Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic, caught the eye in an impressive season-opening 4-0 Premier League thrashing of West Ham on Sunday.

Lukaku, the club record £75m buy, scored the opening two goals while midfielder Matic, bought for £40m from champions Chelsea, was named man of the match.

But the third new player, £31m defender Victor Lindelof, was not included in the matchday squad as manager Jose Mourinho wants to give the Swede more time to settle.

Mkhitaryan was among the starting XI and therefore got a good look at Lukaku and Matic, but he thinks all three of the new boys are likely to impress.

Asked about Matic, he said: "It was not only Matic.

"I want to mention as well the other two new signings, Lindelof and Lukaku. They are very good players.

"They are, I think, Manchester United players.

"Matic does a big job on the pitch. He tries to recover all the balls. He defensively does a big job.

"Lukaku scored his goals and Lindelof is still going to have time to show himself. So I want to say all the players are good signings and they are going to help us a lot."

Matic brought a commanding presence to United's midfield and, at 29, looks in prime condition.

Asked if he was surprised United had managed to pry Matic from Chelsea, Mkhitaryan said: "Actually, I am.

"But at the same time I am very happy that we have got him."

United won the League Cup and Europa League last season, and are now hoping to challenge for the Premier League again this term after three underwhelming campaigns.

Mkhitaryan added: "As a player and for a club, you are always going to have ups and downs.

"I think the last few years was a little bit down for the club but since last year, and this year, I hope it is going be up for the club.

"We are going to try to do our best to bring the club on the level it was at before."

Credit: Skysports.com

Matic Leaving Chelsea Surprised Mourinho

Jose Mourinho says he never thought Manchester United would be able to sign Nemanja Matic before "something special happened" for a £40m move from Chelsea.

Midfielder Matic, 29, was named man of the match in United's 4-0 home win against West Ham in their opening game of the new Premier League season.

"I didn't disturb him, I didn't disturb Chelsea," said ex-Blues boss Mourinho.

"It looked like something was happening because his agent told me we can have him, that we just had to pay."

The Serbia international became United's third summer buy after £31m defender Victor Lindelof from Benfica - who did not make the matchday squad against West Ham - and £75m striker Romelu Lukaku from Everton.

It reunited Mourinho with a player who he spent £21m on to bring back to Chelsea for a second spell in January 2014.

Matic was a key figure in the Blues' Premier League triumph under the Portuguese boss in 2014-15 and helped them win the title again last season.

He impressed on his debut league appearance for the Red Devils as goals from Lukaku (2), Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba earned an easy win against the Hammers.

Asked why Matic became available, Mourinho said: "It depends on what is happening or what was happening behind doors and we don't know.

"The only thing I know is that I brought him to Stamford Bridge because I thought he was a player with special qualities and since I left I always thought he could be a perfect player for us.

"We have him and we are very happy because he is a player that our team needs."

While Matic won the man of the match award, Lukaku also took plenty of plaudits as he announced his arrival at Old Trafford with the opening two goals on his home debut.

The Belgium international, 24, cracked in a rising drive off the post after 33 minutes, adding a glancing header from Henrikh Mkhitaryan's free-kick after the break.

Lukaku had already opened his Red Devils account by netting in Tuesday's 2-1 defeat by Real Madrid in the Uefa Super Cup.

"He likes the team and the team likes him," Mourinho said.

"For any striker, they can play phenomenally well but if they don't score goals they are not happy and the pressure is on them.

"Scoring on the first day is always oxygen. It is always happiness and confidence for them.

"He knows there is no pressure from me at all. But he knows today was good. He was very effective in the first goal especially."

Former Wales midfielder Robbie Savage on BBC Radio 5 live:

Nemanja Matic was absolutely outstanding, particularly in the first half. Everything he does is neat and tidy.

He protects Phil Jones and Eric Bailly so well. When they counter-attack they have so much pace and power going forward.

It has been very good to watch.

Credit: BBC Sport

Shearer: Why Jose Mourinho's Side Look So Menacing

Every top team looks to make a statement at the start of the season, and the one Manchester United put out with Sunday's 4-0 win over West Ham was pretty emphatic.

That was the quickest I have seen United move the ball around for a long time and there was so much energy, pace and desire in their team, particularly in the final third.

United were so sharp going forward, with exactly the kind of attacking play I was expecting and that led me to tip them to win the Premier League title last week.

Jose Mourinho's side did not have much defending to do, because West Ham offered such little resistance - but part of the reason the Hammers were poor was because United made them look it.

Last season, United's problem was failing to finish off the opposition in games like this, particularly at home, when they often dominated but did not get the win.

Drawing at Old Trafford was their Achilles heel but, once they went 1-0 up on Sunday, it was only a matter of how many goals they were going to get.

Nemanja Matic fully deserved his man-of-the-match award because he bossed the game from start to finish on his Old Trafford debut for his new side.

He was the outstanding player out there. Nobody else was going to take the glory but him, and he was brilliant.

It was the kind of complete midfield display that his former side Chelsea were badly missing in their defeat by Burnley on Saturday - someone who was able to stamp their authority on the game.

Matic was aggressive when he had to be, and put in the tackles, but his distribution was also top class. He kept it simple when he had to, but played more ambitious passes when the time was right.

Matic was forward thinking too, something he was not known for at Chelsea, and showed it with his part in United's first goal.

He won the ball back then bombed forward to provide an overlap for Marcus Rashford on the left when he played Lukaku in down the middle to score.

I also saw Matic beat three or four men down the right wing in the first half, which is not something he did too much of in his time at Stamford Bridge.

But on top of that, he influenced the players around him too. He definitely brought more out of Pogba, which was one of the reasons I assumed Mourinho wanted him so much.

You could see his presence freed Pogba up a little bit to go forward more and, although that is always a lot easier when you are two or three goals up in a game, they linked up well even before that too.

How that partnership progresses as the season goes on is definitely something to keep an eye on, because it could be a key one for United.

United's biggest summer signing was not far behind in the man-of-the-match stakes - Lukaku's display was everything you could ask for from a centre-forward.

Whether it was his strength, his link-up play or his finishing, he was just unplayable.

His performance was exactly what I expected of him in this United side.

He was aggressive and good in the air, and his movement in coming short or making runs behind the Hammers defence meant he was constantly asking different questions of the West Ham back line. They simply could not handle him.

The most important thing though, was he got two goals, and not just because they helped his side to such a convincing win but because it got him off the mark at the first attempt.

Whoever you are playing for as a centre-forward, if you are playing for a non-league side or, like Lukaku, you have just joined one of the biggest clubs in the world for £75m, you are absolutely desperate to get off to a good start in your first game for your new team.

I was the same after I had joined Blackburn for a British record fee ahead of the first Premier League season in 1992, and scored two goals on my debut against Crystal Palace.

It gave me great confidence and Lukaku will be the same. He will now believe he belongs on that stage.

I am sure Lukaku would have been nervous before the game, but all that will have settled down with his first goal. He is off and running now and he will guarantee United 20 to 25 goals this season if he stays injury free.

Mourinho said in his programme notes before the game that, during his managerial career, he has never worked with a group of players he likes as much as this United side. They showed exactly why that is the case.

He is optimistic, as he should be, because he has got what he wanted in the transfer window and might still get one or two more players before it shuts.

You can see there is an air of confidence about Mourinho and his players, and like Manchester City they seem better equipped than anyone else to mount a serious challenge.

I picked Manchester United to be champions before the season started and I have not seen anything on the opening weekend to change my opinion that the title race is between the Manchester clubs.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

When Lukaku Met Lou At Old Trafford

Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku put in a fantastic display on his Old Trafford debut as he netted a superb brace in the 4-0 defeat of West Ham on the 2017/18 Premier League’s opening weekend.

You may have guessed that every Reds fan across the globe, and inside the Theatre of Dreams, would have been willing the Belgian on to net a third and mark United’s first game of the league campaign with a hat-trick.

However, there was one United supporter who was pleased to see Lukaku finish with two goals, and that was Lou Macari.

The Scot, of course, famously netted a treble on the opening day of the 1977/78 season when he fired home three goals in the 4-1 Division One win over Birmingham City at St Andrews.

After the match, Lukaku shared an impromptu moment with Macari as he completed his post-match analysis for MUTV, and Macari admitted he was pleased his record was not surpassed.

“I kept saying to the manager: ‘Bring him off! He’s got two goals – bring him off’,” Macari laughed. “Today I thought he was fantastic, but you’re right I didn’t want him to get a hat-trick because [the record] goes back to 77’ – it’s the last thing I’m clinging to!”

Matic: I'll Be A United Player For A Long Time


Midfield ace Nemanja Matic has revealed he wants to be a Manchester United player for a long time after the Reds’ superb opening Premier League win over West Ham.

Jose Mourinho’s men ran out 4-0 victors at Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon courtesy of a fine brace from Romelu Lukaku, as well as late goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba.

However, it was Matic who stole the show as he was voted United’s Man of the Match, and, after the game, he admitted it was his team-mates’ warm welcome that helped him to settle in so quickly.

“Thanks to the guys, they have accepted me from my first day and I feel their support,” he told MUTV. “Thanks to them, I feel very comfortable and I feel like I will be here a long time. They have helped me, and I am happy if I give them something back, and that I helped us to win.

“We played good football, and I think our supporters enjoyed it as well. It’s good to start well with three points, the season is long but we have to collect a lot of points and we’ve had a good start.

“It was great [to play at Old Trafford], when you wear that [United] shirt you feel some kind of pressure because this is a big club, but that’s why we are here.

“We know that it’s a big responsibility to play for Manchester United and I’m happy that we have started well and that I hope we continue like this - I’m sure this group can do good things.”

The Serbian international was also keen to pay homage to new team-mate Lukaku, who also had an Old Trafford debut to remember, as he took his United goal tally to three goals in two games.

“I am happy for him – not only that he scored goals – but his amazing all-round game as well,” Matic said. “He saved a lot of balls and he gave us self-confidence up front.

“It was very important for us that he scored his first two goals and, after that, it was easier for us to play, the game was more open, and there was more space to use. I’m happy for him and that we have him on the team, and I’m sure he will continue his form.”

Monday, August 14, 2017

Gary Neville: United Have To Win Title

Gary Neville says Manchester United "have to win" the Premier League title this season, and if they don't there will be "no excuses".

After finishing sixth last year, United kicked off their 2017/18 campaign with a thumping 4-0 win over West Ham on Sunday.

Summer signing Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the win while another new addition, Nemanja Matic, impressed after his move from Chelsea.

Neville won the league eight times with United and, speaking before the game on Sunday, says his former club must now challenge again.

"You can't just drop your expectation because they haven't won it for a couple of years. They have to win the league. Jose Mourinho has to win the league here," he said on Sky Sports on Nissan Super Sunday.

"The money that's been spent, his own personal expectations and what he's always delivered has been titles, so I would say United have to approach this season to win the league.

"I don't think it's good enough to say 'they're going to get back into fourth'. That isn't an ambition when you've spent the money that's been spent and amassed the players that Mourinho has now amassed."

United have not won the Premier League title since 2012/13 when Sir Alex Ferguson retired.

But, having spent more than £145m this summer, Neville thinks they are well equipped to compete again.

"I have never seen this league won without power and pace and a really strong spine, and it looks like United have got that," he said.

"They look like they are going to mount a challenge. It's day one, but they look like they have the attributes to mount a challenge for the title because they seem like they have everything.

"There is no excuse for Man Utd not to challenge for the league. That's not putting pressure on the players or Jose Mourinho, but they have to challenge with the money that has been spent and the players that have been brought in.

"Last season was not good enough in terms of the Premier League, nowhere near good enough. It was a massive under-performance from those players, so they have to get back up there this year."

Neville also reiterated his surprise that United were able to buy Matic from last season's champions Chelsea.

"You cannot believe Chelsea have given Mourinho a piece of the jigsaw in Matic," he said. "I can't think of one reason why Chelsea sold him.

"United beat Chelsea to Lukaku and then Chelsea have handed them Matic. They look like the type of players that were needed to correct what was wrong last season, and Chelsea have helped them and had a big influence on that."

Asked what United still need to add to this squad this summer, Neville said: "I'd name a player similar to Arjen Robben - a wide player. [Marcus] Rashford did very well today but is he a wide player? Not really.

"I'm talking about someone who can generally play left side. If you could add one world-class winger to add to the squad you could say it was a complete squad…they are covered everywhere, they have such strength."

Credit: Skysports.com

Henry On United's New-look Attack

Thierry Henry praised Romelu Lukaku after his two-goal debut for Manchester United against West Ham on Super Sunday.

The £90m arrival from Everton opened the scoring at Old Trafford on 33 minutes and netted again in the second half, with Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial also on the scoresheet in a 4-0 win.

Henry believes Jose Mourinho now has a wealth of firepower to choose from this season and says United have "amazing" potential.

But the Sky Sports football expert also warned Lukaku he has things to work on, chiefly in possession, after the Belgium international lost the ball 18 times against the Hammers.


"He was close to a hat-trick, he scored goals we expected him to score, and there are bits he can work on," Henry told Sky Sports. "But what a start to his Manchester United career.

"The possession, this is the thing for me he needs to work on. He lost it 18 times and that is a tiny bit too much. Other than that he had an amazing start. He could have had a hat-trick but he did what he is supposed to do.

"I thought Marcus Rashford had an amazing game. Gary [Neville] said it, the pace they have, the size they have, and today they put the ball in the back of the net.

"That was something they were not doing last season. Lukaku was outstanding, Nemanja Matic too, and Rashford was a threat all afternoon.

"Then Martial came on and he had desire. I saw him take that first ball on the left side and he went straight at Pablo Zabaleta. That was something I didn't see at times last season.

"Pogba scored too and when you have Martial off the bench, the firepower they have and the size, with Matic commanding the midfield, they are going to be amazing."

Fellow Sky Sports analyst Graeme Souness agreed with Henry and said Mourinho has "big decisions" to make in attack if all his options are fit.

"They have Jesse Lingard as well," Souness added. "They have lots of players who can play different types of football.

"At 2-0 the game became stretched, West Ham were trying to force their way back into the match, and that suited United's pacey players.

"If you go through Manchester United's squad, they have a great goalkeeper, defensively they are solid and powerful, they have great size throughout the team and they have young guys like Rashford and Martial, and I don't think we have seen the best of Henrikh Mkhitaryan yet either.

"He came with a big reputation but wasn't at it last year. I expect him to have a great year.

"The manager has big decisions to make if everyone is fit. He has genuine quality to pick from. "

Credit: Skysports.com

Jose's New Man. United?


Could Manchester United's 4-0 thrashing of West Ham signal a new dawn for Jose Mourinho's side? We examine the signs of transformation after they kicked off their Premier League campaign in style.

Mourinho's starting line-up against West Ham only featured two new faces but the difference from last season could hardly have been more striking. In place of ponderousness and profligacy, there was power and purpose. And in front of a buoyant Old Trafford crowd, Manchester United enjoyed their biggest Premier League win since September 2014.

Mourinho insisted there was room for improvement in his post-match press conference and he is right to be cautious, but he will also take immense satisfaction from the transformative impact of his summer signings. Nemanja Matic marshalled the midfield with man-of-the-match excellence, while Romelu Lukaku looked every bit a £75m striker as he dominated West Ham's backline.

The Belgian's goals showed exactly what he brings to Mourinho's side. For the first, he demonstrated his explosive acceleration to latch onto Marcus Rashford's reverse pass and blast a first-time finish in off Joe Hart's near post. For the second, he leapt high above West Ham's defenders to flick home Henrikh Mkhitaryan's free-kick.

United's failure to finish chances was their undoing in games such as these last season, but Lukaku didn't need a second invitation. He scored with each of his shots on target, and by the end of the game he was a desperate West Ham block away from becoming the first Premier League player since Fabrizio Ravanelli to score a hat-trick on his debut.

"There was real purpose about him today," said Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness afterwards. "We questioned him and whether he would be able to do it every week, but he's now put a marker down. That's how he's got to be for this crowd. He was fabulous today."

Matic was arguably even more influential. The Serb had more touches, played more passes, won more duels and even completed more dribbles than any other player on the pitch. There was no goal or assist, but it was his challenge on Pedro Obiang that started the counter-attack for the first goal, and he was involved in the build-up to the fourth, too.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of his performance, however, was the way in which he unleashed Pogba. His discipline and defensive diligence gave the Frenchman freedom to charge forwards, and he also provided a steady supply line to his midfield partner. Over the course of the 90 minutes, Matic found Pogba with more passes (14) than anyone else.

"I still can't believe Chelsea have let him go," said Gary Neville. "It just does not make sense. I thought he was outstanding today. He did everything really well. We've seen him a lot over the years but I thought he was better on the ball than I've seen him before. He was really composed and you have to say that his passing was good."

"I played as a holding midfield player and he's arguably the best around at this time," added Souness. "The untrained eye doesn't always see the value players in that position bring to the team, but I think we saw a bit of everything from him today. He was good going forward and good holding."

Pogba was not the only player who appeared to enjoy playing with his new team-mates. Rashford and Anthony Martial dovetailed nicely with the similarly speedy Lukaku, while Mkhitaryan also impressed. With a mobile target man to aim for, the Armenian contributed two assists and created the most chances (five) he has ever managed in a Premier League game.

United's attacking play was slick and West Ham couldn't cope with their physicality, either. With Matic and Lukaku adding height and strength to the team, United were able to dominate their opponents in the air. Mourinho's side won 25 aerial duels to West Ham's 15. For context, they only bettered that total on three occasions over the whole of last season.

"I've never seen this league being won without the power and pace and without there being a really strong spine," said Neville. "Looking at Manchester United now, it does seem like they've got that. It's only day one, but they do look like they've got the attributes to mount a challenge for the Premier League title. They look like they've got everything."

Neville knows far tougher challenges lie ahead and so too does Mourinho, but this opening day victory was the perfect way to get started. As they gear up for the season ahead, the early evidence suggests Matic and Lukaku are the right men to lead the way.

Credit: Skysports.com

Mata: Hugs Are Back

Each and every Monday during the season, Manchester United star Juan Mata pens a personal blog. In his first entry for the 2017/18 campaign, he looks back on a memorable opening day at Old Trafford...

Hi everyone,

I’m back, we are back :-). After quite a few weeks since the last entry, it’s time for me to restart writing, to spend some time on Sunday nights in front of my computer to tell you how the week has been for me.

I’ve been doing this for five years now, during the season, and I find it very satisfying for two reasons, mainly: it’s a quiet moment of the week when you can get some time to reflect on many things, and I also know that you’re looking forward to reading this, or at least that’s what I get from your messages on the social media. Especially if the day has been like this one at Old Trafford.

When you are working in the pre-season, you know you must get ready for the official games. By August, you can’t wait any more for the Premier League to start. The first of our list of fixtures was at home, in front of our fans, and we couldn’t have had a better start. The team worked harmoniously, we had some spells of great football and our shots on goal were good. Personally, I enjoyed myself on the pitch and I believe all my team-mates did the same. Some of them (Nemanja and Romelu) made their debut as Reds in the Theatre of Dreams and I’m sure they will always keep very nice memories of this day. Same as I do with my game against Cardiff, already a few years ago.

It was a joy to have a game like this one, we needed it after failing to win the first title of the season in Skopje. I was really pleased to see our fans happy after the game, on their way home, and also your reactions on the social media, of course. I hope we can have many more games like that, even better if they are 37 :-). Obviously we know it will be complicated, because this is the toughest league in the world and every single game is a difficult test. These are the first three points, and they will be even more important at the end of the season.

Have a nice week.

Hugs,

Juan.

2017/18 Premier League Squad Numbers

Manchester United can reveal a Premier League squad number change for the much-anticipated 2017/18 season with Andreas Pereira moving from no.44 to no.15.

The midfield prospect is also set to have 'Andreas' on his back rather than Pereira and there will be no confusion with his namesake Joel, with the keeper assigned no.40.

As revealed during pre-season, Romelu Lukaku will wear the no. 9 shirt, with fellow summer signings Victor Lindelof taking the number 2 shirt and Nemanja Matic in 31.

Young goalkeeper Kieran O'Hara has been given a first-team squad number this season, the no.45 jersey, and there is, of course, the potential for more additions as the campaign wears on.

PREMIER LEAGUE SQUAD NUMBERS FOR 2017/18*

1: De Gea 2:Lindelof 3: Bailly 4: Jones 5: Marcos Rojo 6: Pogba 8: Mata 9: Lukaku 11: Martial 12: Smalling 14: Lingard 15: Andreas 16: Carrick 17: Blind 18: Young 19: Rashford 20: S. Romero 21: Ander Herrera 22: Mkhitaryan 23: Shaw 25: Valencia 27: Fellaini 31: Matić 36: Darmian 38: Tuanzebe 40: J. Pereira 45: O’Hara.

*These numbers are provisional

Mourinho Will Have Patience With Lindelof


Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has explained that he will give Victor Lindelof time to adapt to English football following the defender's summer move from Benfica.

The boss has explained how Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic are already well versed in the Premier League and that is why they were able to make instant impacts in the 4-0 win over West Ham United.

As for Lindelof, he will be given time to settle at Old Trafford with Phil Jones and Eric Bailly starting at the back against the Hammers.

"I think Real Madrid [in the UEFA Super Cup] was too early for him," said Mourinho. "He played because Jones and Bailly were both suspended.

"I've had players coming from different leagues to the Premier League and, normally, it's not easy. It's different for Lukaku and Matic as they have had years and years in the Premier League.

"I brought Ricardo Carvalho to Chelsea in 2004 and he was a phenomenal defender, one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, but he struggled. It was difficult for him to come in and adapt in the beginning.

"I think Victor needs a little bit of time and he is going to have that time. Henrikh Mkhitaryan is not a defender but, last season, he needed his time too. So let's go step by step because Victor is a fantastic player."

Reaction To Reds Victory


Read a selection of post-match quotes from the players and manager Jose Mourinho following the Reds' thumping 4-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford.

Two home-debut goals from Romelu Lukaku, combined with strikes from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, meant United kicked off their season opener in style.

Following the game, boss Mourinho, Nemanja Matic, Lukaku and Phil Jones all spoke to MUTV and the wider media and ManUtd.com have summarised their key points below.

Jose Mourinho: "Many times last season, we deserved to win and we didn't. So the fact we ,won the match is the most important thing. Last season, we were top of the league after the first match, but we finished sixth so being top of the table means nothing. It just means we played well and confidence is high. Our challenge is to keep this level of results and confidence levels. The fans have reason to be optimistic, but I have years of experience in the Premier League and my feet are on the ground.”

Nemanja Matic: “I’m happy that everyone played a good game and everybody gave his best and played very well today. That’s why we won 4-0 against a very good team in the first game. Hopefully we can continue to play like we did today, but we will see - the season is long.”

Romelu Lukaku: “To play in front of such a great crowd for such a great club it’s a dream come true, but the most important thing was to win. The win was good – four goals and a clean sheet – we’ve started well so now we have to keep going. When you play for Manchester United everybody has a job to do, and obviously mine is to score goals and to keep the ball for the team. The team did a good job today, everybody was creative and everybody made a lot of chances to score so it’s promising.”

Phil Jones: “It was important for us all to get off to a good start today in front of our home fans and make sure we got the three points. I think everyone, to a man today, put in a great shift. I thought Matic was terrific. His position on the pitch, his awareness, he understands the game and he is always in the right position.”

View from the opposition dug-out - Slaven Bilic: "I expected more, of course, but I have to admit they were a much better side in every aspect of the game. We knew they had a strong side of course, but I expected us to do much better. It's very hard to find any positives now when you lose 4-0."