THE Manchester clubs return to action tonight for the first time since the derby on Sunday, and it’s United who have the catching-up to do as they take on Bournemouth at Old Trafford with their manager and main striker thrust into the spotlight in PREMIER LEAGUE WEEKLY.
Does the making up have to begin here for Mourinho and Lukaku?
BARELY 48 hours has passed since the Manchester derby and yet still the fixture and its fall-out is dominating the Media agenda. Of course, most of that has focused on what did or did not happen in the tunnel and Manchester City’s dressing room afterwards.
However, what is set in stone is the result and a 2-1 victory for City which has taken them 11 points clear of United at the top of the table after only 16 games. Having spoken to fans of both sides subsequently and listened to pundits and independent observers, what has been most striking has been the condemnation of United’s play, especially in the first half.
Despite naming four attacking players and having two converted wingers as his full-backs, Jose Mourinho’s side had very little possession and was forced to retreat and hit aimless long balls somewhere in the direction of Romelu Lukaku. The tactics were unsophisticated and they did not work. The margin by the end was only 2-1 and that included a brilliant late double save from City’s Ederson, but there was no denying that City deserved the victory.
Yet this performance was only eight days after an excellent win at Arsenal, which suggested that Mourinho had decided to unleash the shackles a little bit in the bigger games after limp performances at Liverpool and Chelsea earlier in the season. Yes, there was no Paul Pogba, but surely United’s aspirations don’t stand or fall just by one player. As befitting one of the biggest clubs in the world, United have a duty to play on the front foot home and away, against virtually all opponents, the same as it is for Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Those are the traditions of Sir Matt Busby and Sir Alex Ferguson.
So while United have already won the League Cup and the Europa League under Mourinho and continue to make money from virtually every revenue stream possible, the fans on the terraces – the life blood of every club – want a return of genuine excitement and thrilling football in keeping with the club’s traditions. Whether a manager like Mourinho can change his win-at-all-costs mentality is another matter, but the Portuguese has to at least adapt.
If the Manchester derby was bad for Mourinho on the sidelines, it was possibly even worse for Romelu Lukaku on the field. Starved of possession for most of the game, he proceeded to inadvertently set up both of City’s goals when back defending at set pieces and missed the one chance he had to equalise which would have salvaged a precious point. At £75 million, Lukaku has a huge price tag, but that brings lofty expectations. Doing the business at home to West Ham and Newcastle is a given for a United striker. It’s scoring the big goals in the big games that makes the difference and at the moment, the Belgian cannot shake off the tag that he is a flat-track bully, feasting on weaker opposition when everything is in his favour.
It’s just two goals in his last 14 games after he had plundered 11 in his first ten matches for United, so he badly needs to get up and running again for his confidence. Scoring against Bournemouth won’t make up for missing against City, but Lukaku has to start regaining the trust of the Stretford End quickly.
Stat of the Day:
5 – OF Romelu Lukaku’s 51 Premier League goals in the last two-and-a-half seasons, only 5 have been scored against any of the ‘Big Six’ clubs.
Adam’s Wednesday Scores:
LIVERPOOL 3 WEST BROM 0
JURGEN KLOPP’S men won’t throw away two points like they did on Sunday. West Brom’s long winless run won’t end here.
MANCHESTER UNITED 4 BOURNEMOUTH 0
THIS type of fixture has not been a problem for United all season and it won’t be here.
NEWCASTLE 2 EVERTON 1
NEWCASTLE desperately need a win after one point from their last seven games, and they could take advantage of Everton’s derby exertions.
SOUTHAMPTON 1 LEICESTER 1
TWO very evenly-matched teams and it could be a point apiece for Claude Puel’s old club against his new one.
SWANSEA 0 MANCHESTER CITY 2
CITY have to beware the ‘After the Lord Mayor’s Show’ scenario in South Wales following the win in the Manchester derby, but they should be too strong for Swansea.
TOTTENHAM 2 BRIGHTON 0
SPURS thrashed Stoke on Saturday and they should follow that up with another comfortable 90 minutes, if not as many goals.
WEST HAM 1 ARSENAL 2
WEST HAM grabbed a vital win against Chelsea at the weekend but they haven’t beaten Arsenal at home for over a decade and expect that bad run to continue.
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe