Micah Richards has backed Man City to sign a new striker this month, calling it the ‘icing on the cake’ of their title challenge.

Pep Guardiola’s men have won their last five league matches and are back in the top two.

Their most recent victory was a dominant display against Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace.


FEATURE: Ranking Premier League clubs by games missed through injury


After Liverpool’s 0-0 draw with Man Utd, City are three points behind the Red Devils with a game in hand.

When asked who will win the title, Richards said: “City, I’ve backed them from the start of the season, just because of the size of their squad.

“I know they are winning games but just when you want to break down a side later on like Liverpool, United or Chelsea, I think they need a striker, just to put the icing on the cake.

“And if they get a striker in January, I’ll still say Man City. I backed them at the start of the season.

“Liverpool have done well without [Virgil] Van Dijk and [Joe] Gomez, so I’ll always give them a shout as well.

“I still think it’s between Man City and Liverpool, I really do. I just think there’s a little bit more quality in the squads.”

City have been linked with a move for Harry Kane to replace Aguero.

The Argentinian international is now 32-years-old, which means he is nearing the end of his career in the Premier League.

Guardiola has used Ferran Torres and Raheem Sterling as forwards this campaign to replace him.

Phil Foden and Sterling have both scored eight goals this term, making them the top scorers at the Etihad.

Gabriel Jesus is also available, although the Brazilian has yet to hit the heights expected of him.

Jesus played in the 4-0 victory over Palace but failed to score.

City’s next match is against Aston Villa on Wednesday 20th January.

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Jamie O’Hara claims Jose Mourinho has “brainwashed” the Spurs squad into thinking they have to play a certain way to get results after they drew 1-1 with Wolves.

Tottenham went in front through Tanguy Ndombele after just 57 seconds but then, just as they did at Crystal Palace a fortnight ago, retreated en masse and could not see the game out.

Incessant Wolves pressure was finally rewarded in the 86th minute as Romain Saiss headed home a thoroughly-deserved equaliser from a corner.


OPINION: Arsenal top Premier League winners and losers


The performance and result, which meant Spurs failed to make up ground at the top of the table, will ensure their approach comes under scrutiny as they threw away points from a winning position for the fourth time this season.

Victory would have taken Spurs third, four points off leaders Liverpool, but they showed no desire to add to their early goal.

“I think the 2009 team was a better team than Spurs have got now,” O’Hara said on talkSPORT.

“You are talking about Modric, Berbatov, Keane, Bale, Lennon. I think Spurs need an Aaron Lennon and that should be Lucas Moura and should be Steven Bergwijn.

“Aaron Lennon was someone who had blistering pace, could get beyond and when he got the ball he could make things happen.

“When I’m seeing Bergwijn and Moura get the ball, they’re not making things happen.”

O’Hara added: “At the end of the day, Spurs haven’t won a trophy and they’ve brought Mourinho in and changed the mentality of how they want to play and how they do things.

“If at the end of the season he has a trophy to show for it then it’s a huge success.

“He’s brainwashed the players into thinking ‘this is the way we are going to do things and we are going to get results playing this way’.

“It hasn’t quite worked out in the last couple of weeks and they’ve dropped away but they still have enough quality in the team to win games.”

 

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Send your thoughts on the player of 2020 Bruno Fernandes and more to theeditor@football365.com

 

Why United will not win the league
So, we have a chap who’s one of the best strikers of his generation. His finishing ability has been the positive difference between us and the opposition in few games he’s been involved in. In actual fact, he scored the kinda goal no other player in the squad is capable of, in the very previous game.

So of course he starts on the bench against one of the best sides in the league, whilst a lazy pretender in the number 9 shirt (travesty, that), who is completely devoid of any cold-blooded finishing instincts, faffs around the pitch. You can expect this exact same scenario to play out in the next game. And the one after that etc.

A world where Martial starts ahead of Cavani. Strange times indeed.
Olu Omoloso, Lagos (this is also why Ole would never amount to more than a half decent coach). 

 

As a forty something year old Utd fan, a few months ago I was scalded for making the observation that I had never seen a Utd player have so much rapid influence over a team and control game since those days of King Eric, as Bruno Fernandes is now doing. I would also go as far as to say the quality of passing is as joyous and influential as another famous attacking midfielder in the the no. 18 shirt.

If anyone would care to argue with me now, let them present a better example; especially in this era.

Bruno’s stats are starting to look like he will develop the team single handedly into a world beater, and his love of the game is a joy to see, especially when he is so new to the English game.

His goals are impressive in numbers and for those who want to complain a lot are cheap penalties, just look who is creating the balls and passes which lead to the present day VAR decisions.

When he skips and smashed them in, it’s the perfect circle for his efforts.

For those Utd fans like me, who have rightly despaired at the majority of terrible football of the last 10 years masked with a sideshow of Ed and Raiola imports etc, we finally have the player which is bringing the very best of the rest of the team. Some are brilliant individuals; the majority are simply not, but all of a sudden there’s a cohesive unit out to win games; orchestrated by Bruno Fernandes.

Better than that, he appears quiet off the pitch, courteous to his peers, and a sound family orientated bloke…..and for those of old enough to remember, all that’s missing in the Eric comparison is that infamous short Gallic fuse, as he genuinely looks happy when scythed down, given he’s fairly handy with a dead ball too.

I can’t wait to be able to be in the stands with this Portuguese Magnifico in front of us soon. I couldn’t care a less what the defence do and don’t do. We have always been about intuitive and inventive attacking football.

It appears to be have returned and with it a hunger not seen for years.

Long may it continue
Chris, Utd……believing again

 

Hello gang

Happy Christmas & that.

Got a half baked idea for some #content. What about the one player each team wouldn’t want injured (eg Wilson, Bruno, etc) and then ranking the teams 1-20 for who is most reliant on their main man?

I would totally read that.

Anyway, keep up the good work!
Graham, DHFC / NUFC

 

Alli or Nothing
Ade Guilford
would take Dele Alli at Liverpool but I think the “All or Nothing” documentary has ruined his chances of playing for a top club unless someone is willing or desperate to take a risk on him. Edwards and Klopp definitely wouldn’t want to spoil our dressing room harmony.

The issue is that Alli comes across like an arrogant child. Mourinho tells him that he’s a “f**king lazy guy in training” and Alli laughs. I’m no expert but I am pretty confident Mourinho values work ethic above most things in football. If he said that to me I would take heed and work my balls off every day that followed. Alli seemed to make no adjustments from what you can see in the show and what has followed in real life.

If I were Klopp and saw that I would feel it’s no surprise his performances can swing from great to awful so much; Klopp and Pep are obsessed with repeating attacking drills to perfection so that on the pitch they look so fluid going forward. An attacker who won’t commit to this in training can’t perform to the expected standard when the pressure is on. Alli has elite level potential but doesn’t have the intelligence or ambition to fulfill it. He’s more likely to be a nearly man like Joe Cole rather than a true elite like Lampard at this point in time.
Minty, LFC

 

What’s the point in Palace?
Watching Palace against Villa and wondering what is the point of Crystal Palace? Its like a nothing club, like burnley. I mean What the actual f**k?
Darryl, Cape Town. 

 

Aston villa are genuine title contenders and Grealish and Watkins have made me fall in love with football again.

Tremendous stuff, from an Everton fan
Fat Man

 

Neverton
Short and sweet- at what point are Everton going to get any sort of media acknowledgment/ recognition?

2nd in the league- missing four key starters.

No goals conceded from open play in last four games.

Seems everyone else gets called “title challengers” except us.

Why so?
Ian, EFC

 

Paucity of pundits
Why are there so few good TV pundits in the UK?

Football is one of the most commonly talked about subjects in the UK – it might even be the most talked about. Why is it then that broadcasters can’t seem to find many people who can talk about it effectively on tv?

In my view, pundits should provide one of three skills / capabilities:

1) Technical analysis: ie providing viewers with new views / explanations of tactics such as low blocks, pressing, etc, etc. Example: Gary Neville

2) Football experiences: ie providing interesting story’s from their playing days (eg how it was to play with messi, play in a champions league final, etc) Example: Thierry Henry

3) Entertainment / humour: if they can’t do the two above they should at least be funny / entertaining to watch Example: Crouch

The problem with a lot of pundits is that they either don’t prepare well enough or don’t read up enough on modern tactics so really struggle with 1). A lot of the mainstay pundits used to know there stuff but are now outdated and simply repeat the same stuff over and over again (eg players not “working hard” enough). They could easily solve this by reading up more on the modern game in my view. I would also like to see more non-player pundits given airtime – particularly football journalists, football data analysts and tacticians, and more managers – as this would provide different points of view.

There is a lot of 2) on tv but story’s are only really interesting the first time your hear them so my view is that this is best covered by guest pundits who aren’t on tv too frequently and so can bring new and interesting stories from their careers

On 3) I would like to see more creativity in areas such as post match interviews – too many of these are v processy and formulaic – perhaps things like interviews with both managers at the same time or both captains could mix it up a bit and allow for a bit of a different dynamic
Alex

 

World class Klopp
Andy Flint of Brighton should have a look at the following before declaring Klopp inherited a squad full of world class players.

Of those present, Coutinho and Firmino would be the closest to that description. I’m not sure Henderson yet qualifies in that category but, if he does, his improvement and current level has been overseen by Klopp. Whatever he has spent in his time in charge has massively increased the value of the squad and club.
Steve

 

I almost choked on my leftovers, Andy Flint says ‘But I think you need to look at where both Klopp and Ole started from before making those sort of statements. Klopp joined a Liverpool team containing a lot of world class players that needed a few additions to challenge for the title’

Let’s look at those team sheets from Klopps 1st game vs OGS 1st game.

The line ups:

Liverpool XI: Mignolet, Moreno, Sakho, Skrtel, Clyne, Can, Lucas, Milner, Lallana, Coutinho, Origi
Subs: Bogdan, Toure, Sinclair, Texiera, Randall

Man Utd XI: De Gea; Young, Jones, Lindelof; Shaw, Herrera, Matic, Pogba; Lingard, Rashford, Martial
Subs: Romero, Bailly, Dalot, Fellaini, Fred, A. Pereira, Mata

Now i don’t know what Andy’s definition of world class is but if by ‘a few additions’ he means 11 players, than i fully agree.

Long live the Glazers.
Ryan ‘looking forward to ‘Coutinho’ was World class responses’ Liverpool Fan

 

Loved the reaction to the net spend point and how Ole has spent big no matter what way you look at it.

Huge gross and net spend. That was my point. He has been backed.

I never claimed he bought Pogba by the way. Read the original email.

Donough Carlow brings up the fact that the Coutinho sale is a big factor in how the net spend looks.Absolutely it is but you have to look at that both ways and say the same about the VVD & Alisson purchases for £150m.Would Liverpool have bought them if the Coutinho sale hadn’t gone through?

We’ll never know but if you’re going to mention Coutinho sale you have to mention the other 2 to give a balanced argument.

Andy Flint claims Klopp took over a “World class squad” & had to make a few additions unlike Ole.
Klopps first squad/ starting 11 included Mignolet,Clyne,Toure,Skrtel,Moreno,Allen,Lucas,Lallana,Origi,Ibe,Benteke and Adam Bogdan.

Not exactly the core of the 2019 CL winning team and 2020 title winning team. Only Lallana and Origi were there when the title was lifted and both were very much squad players.

Who,pray tell were these “world class players” he inherited?? Henderson wasn’t doing great at the time,Firminio had hardly played under Rodgers and was a virtual unknown at Anfield when Klopp took over. Salah, Mane, Wijnaldum, VVD, Robertson, Matip, Jota, Thiago weren’t at the club. TAA was but was a kid.

Who were these world class players? Am I missing something?
Ferg,Cork.

 

Andy Flint from Brighton mistakes the situations of Klopp and OGS when they took over. You’d be hard pressed to name a single world class player in the Liverpool squad when Klopp took over. Coutinho had the potential but only realised it for a few months in 2017 before his sale. Of the remainder of the squad, Henderson has probably now reached world class level but no one would argue he was in 2015. Milner was and is still an excellent pro but not in world class bracket. Gomez had just been signed and had the potential to be world class but that’s about it. The rest of the squad has been sold or upgraded on since with judicious work in the transfer market.

Liverpool finished 6th in 2014-15 with 62 points, got knocked out of the CL in the group stages and of the Europa League in the first knockout stage. They had to sell their best player, Sterling, that summer as well as losing their iconic captain, having lost their previous best player (Suarez) the summer before.

Mourinho had imploded in late 2018 but the squad OGS inherited had won the league cup and Europa League in 2017 and finished the 2017-18 season with 82 points, a very respectable points total that only looks bad by comparison with City’s 100 points..

It’s absolutely right to say that Utd can and should spend big given their revenue but with that spending power comes expectations and scrutiny about how that money is spent, not just in fees but on wages too. Utd have underperformed in the transfer market and on the pitch since Ferguson left. They have made steps under OGS but major questions remain unanswered, both domestically and in Europe.

They are hugely reliant on Bruno Fernandes (his involvements accounting for half of all Utd’s goals since his arrival) and he is the only signing who has kicked on significantly since arriving. Klopp has succeeded at Liverpool because of excellent recruitment and coaching, we’re yet to see either with any consistency at Utd under OGS but we may have a better clue by the end of this season.
Andrew, Cambridge 

 

Sorry Donough, writing a very long email to say that Net Spend is not a good metric and, instead, you need to use a percentage of revenue, is a bit precious and totally offside. Especially when you maintain that Utd have oodles of cash abs they are all just rolling around in it in the executive boardroom or in a safe in Switzerland because who wants it in the bank with such low interest rates.

Revenue  on its own is a worthless comparator. What if the club has a huge debt or is losing money or both? Perhaps we should measure against profit or debt? If I am not mistaken Utd has a debt of £474m and most recently had a loss of £23m. So not sure Utd are ‘rolling’ in it at this time. The debt is increasing because they don’t have the income to cover their debt. Rather than spending the money on buying players, perhaps they ought to be thinking of paying down some of that debt which is at a rate higher than the current interest rate.

As a publicly traded company they also pay out dividends to shareholders every year – especially when the Glazers decided to sell shares in the club (at lesser voting rights.)

Finally, as has been commented a lot recently, the stadium is in dire need of some ‘touch ups.’ What was once considered the jewel of the Premier League, when Utd were truly leading in every way – on the pitch and in the boardroom – has now become a big tatty. Given you may not be able to have too many fans in the stadia right now, but can seem to still do construction work, what a perfect opportunity to show the fans it is thinking of them by engaging in some long overdue updates and maintenance.

However, regardless of OGS’s capabilities, Utd have fallen from the pinnacle of football management, which does impact his ability to buy more players. But they have bought many players except Utd are not the (sole EPL) attraction they once were and can’t buy the players they want. Plus Utd don’t seem to have a very good ‘scouting’ team anymore or did they ever really have one given the prior point.

And to the point Dave made, which is related, Of the team Klopp inherited, only Firmino has been playing in the recent games. I doubt few others, let alone Liverpool fans, would have claimed he was taking over a team with plenty of world class players. What has been done is a testament not just to Klopp but the overall club management. FSG were laughed at when they first came it but I would dare say are doing a better job than the Glazers right now.
Paul (Hi to my Scottish friend Steve) McDevitt

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Game to watch – Man United v Leeds United
We’ve waited a while, haven’t we? These two old rivals haven’t met in a league game since February 2004. And there are plenty of reasons to think this should be worth the wait. Leeds are a force of nature, winning and losing 4-3 within their first two games on return to the Premier League. They’ve won 3-0 and 5-2 since then, as well as losing 4-1 twice. Man United are a more predictable but equally oddball side, whose season has comprised thrilling wins on the road but humiliations and disappointment at home.

At the moment, it’s hard to predict which will break first: the excellent if high-wire away wins or the drabness of those home performances. There’s absolutely no way you’re going to catch me out trying to predict this one beyond saying it is definitely going to be more interesting than the 0-0 draws against Chelsea and City and probably closer than the 6-1 against Tottenham. You should absolutely definitely watch this football match.

 

Team to watch – Tottenham
There’s been a curious reaction to Spurs’ 2-1 defeat at Liverpool this week. Seems to me that most of the criticism about Joseball and bus-parking would actually apply far more accurately to the previous weekend’s game against Crystal Palace. That day, Spurs played eye-catching progressive football right up until they scored the opening goal after 20 minutes, and again for the 10 minutes after Palace’s equaliser. They spent the hour in between trying to sit on that 1-0 lead.

Now that was Mourinho going too far and getting it wrong. What happened at Anfield was Mourinho getting it right; he thrives on taking games like that to the finest margins. It was clearly Spurs’ best chance of getting a result. Inevitably, especially against a team as good as Liverpool – who haven’t lost at home in three years – those fine margins will not always fall your way. That was the width of a post or one uncharacteristically shonky Kane header away from being a masterclass.

The second half was as good as Spurs have looked in quite a while. Against a team far more potent than Palace, they did not retreat into total one-note defence-and-counter. They had three very good chances to go 2-1 up. Mourinho took his stripped-down tactics too far at Palace and got burned; the Liverpool game was actually progress.

And this weekend could provide more. Spurs face Leicester, which is a dangerous but potentially perfect fixture. Leicester are big enough and good enough that beating them would represent a necessary statement after a couple of setbacks. But they are also a perfect fit for Spurs’ counter-attacking low-block. You don’t have to enjoy the aesthetics, but it does bring results. The blueprint for Spurs already exists from as recently as Wednesday night; not only in their own performance against Liverpool but Everton’s 2-0 win over the Foxes. Leicester struggle to break down a disciplined deep-lying defence, preferring space in behind for Jamie Vardy to explore. They also concede extremely silly and soft goals. Ah.

 

Manager to watch – Sam Allardyce
Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in. Time for another patented Big Sam Rescue Mission, and he’s got every chance. West Brom have only seven points from 13 games, but are only three adrift of safety and, more to the point, are not all that far away from being a side who can get themselves out of this.

Late heartbreakers have been the order of the day, but they hung on gamely for an unlikely point at Man City and now have the master of Premier League survival in charge.

He gets thrown straight in to a Midlands derby against Villa, who are a curious side themselves. Before Thursday’s drab goalless draw at Burnley, Villa had won four and lost four of their previous eight games. The wins included that 7-2 silliness against Liverpool and tremendous away victories at Leicester, Arsenal and Wolves. The defeats included a home twatting against Leeds and another damaging home loss to Brighton. Villa’s inconsistency plus West Brom’s new manager bounce could make for an interesting evening

 

Player to watch – Curtis Jones
Magnificent against Tottenham in midweek. It really isn’t normal for a 19-year-old to look that good, that at ease, in a game like that in a team like this. He made more successful passes than any other player on the pitch against Spurs – and his 81 passes in the opposition half was more than the entire Spurs team managed.

It’s been clear for some time that Jones has outrageous ability. In the last few weeks, a couple more things have been clear. One, he has learned how best to harness it. And two, he is now capable of not just matching but even outshining the dazzling stars around him at Anfield. On Wednesday he turned in a man-of-the-match display in the biggest game of the season so far. Now the next test. Back that up just a few days later. Totally unreasonable, of course. Absolutely no way we should expect him to be that good again. And yet we do.

 

European game to watch – Lille v PSG
A top-of-the-table clash in Ligue Un played out under the shadow of this week’s collapse of the too-good-to-be-true Mediapro rights deal. Lille owner Gerard Lopez is negotiating the sale of the club, inevitably raising concerns about their future. The timing couldn’t be worse, with Lille currently holding a slender lead over France’s biggest clubs. PSG are a point behind, Lyon a further one behind and Marseille three more back.

Lille are once again punching above their weight, but in the short-term must make sure off-field concerns don’t bleed into the on-field efforts. Long term, the picture is even less clear, even for the big boys.

 

Football League game to watch – Norwich v Cardiff
Norwich had the look of a relegated team you really feared for, the meekness of their Premier League surrender precisely the sort that looked liable to spill over into the following campaign. Especially given the truncated pre-season. But having lost their last 10 Premier League games – and scoring just a single goal in the process – they have set about the Championship in fine style and have opened up a three-point lead over Bournemouth. Indeed, the top three places in the Championship are currently occupied by last season’s relegated clubs which could mean something tremendously important and significant or just be a coincidence.

Anyway, up next for the leaders it’s Cardiff, who have hauled themselves up to mid-table with a run of five wins in six games.

Dave Tickner

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Steve Bruce was delighted with Newcastle United’s attitude as they beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Selhurst Park.

It was a closely-fought contest between the two sides on Friday night. Each team exchanged good chances throughout the game, but they were left frustrated at not being able to find a breakthrough.

They looked set to share the points until Newcastle’s forwards struck to steal all three points late on.


F365 FEATURES: Eight slapstick Premier League moments of the season


In the 88th minute, Joelinton played in his strike partner, Callum Wilson. The Englishman made no mistake as his left-footed shot went under Vicente Guaita and into the net.

Palace were causing Newcastle problems at the time, but the away side struck against the run of play to seemingly secure the victory. Two minutes later, they finished the game off as Joelinton’s effort deflected into the net off of Gary Cahill.

This victory moves the Magpies up to tenth in the table ahead of the rest of this weekend’s fixtures. Palace meanwhile are 13th having been overtaken by Newcastle on Friday night.

In his post-match interview, as cited by BBC Sport: Bruce said he was pleased with how his side responded to a tough week as they beat Crystal Palace on Friday night:

“Both teams find it difficult to score a goal and we were looking for that little bit of quality. We weren’t clinical enough and I thought it was going to cost us but then we got it for the goals. Callum [Wilson] is a goalscorer and he has that instinct, That’s his seventh goal now and that’s a tremendous return.

“There is no disputing that Joelinton has found it difficult but I’ve said many times that some take a little more time than others. But we’re delighted he’s scored a goal.”

“I’m delighted with the attitude. It’s been a difficult week but we’ve responded in the right way.”

Bruce praised Joelinton for his impressive showing after the game:

He added: “We created a few opportunities and missed the right pass and that little bit of quality. That bit of quality the two strikers did show they have both scored from. Winning late on is not a bad trait to have. The players have responded at the end of a tough week.

“It doesn’t matter about the price tag and where you come from, sometimes you need time. In Joe’s case, the price tag and number nine shirt meant he struggled at times. But the kid wants to do well. He has a lot of opportunities tonight but we are starting to see him now with his strength.”

Liverpool were meant to run out of steam. David Moyes wasn’t supposed to still be in a job. Oops.

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Mikel Arteta has been full of praise for Marcelo Bielsa ahead of this weekend’s game at Elland Road between Leeds and Arsenal.

Bielsa has overhauled the playing style and ideology at Leeds United. He has done a great job as he spearheaded the Whites’ return to the Premier League.

Leeds have made a good impression so far in the top flight. They have been involved in entertaining games against Liverpool and Manchester City.


The Treble: Jose-Pep power shift, Man Utd to toil, Anfield thriller


They have picked up victories over Fulham, Sheffield United and Aston Villa. But they have recently lost heavily to Leicester City and Crystal Palace.

Arsenal meanwhile have made an inconsistent start to the new season. They sit eleventh, with four wins and four defeats from the opening eight league games.

Last time out they fell to a 3-0 defeat to Aston Villa at the Emirates. Arteta and his team will be desperate to bounce back with a win over Leeds on Sunday.

Arteta recently told the Daily Mail that Pep Guardiola recently informed him about the great qualities Bielsa possesses as a coach:

“All positive and incredible things.

“First his work rate, the number of hours that he puts in, the details, and the people around him to support, help and always evolve his ideas, and then who he is as a person. And that’s all really well respected by everybody that works alongside him.

“He has a unique way of training, of putting things together, and making a team play the way that every single player believes in what they have to do, and even if he’s difficult and challenging they still do it.

“I admire him he’s had a really challenging career, but what he’s managed to do – without winning many many trophies – but put a stamp on the football world is a big merit to him.”

Just about all of the greatest uncapped Premier League players ever were pursued by England. And only four of them were English.

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Man Utd legend Peter Schmeichel believes the club ‘needs to bring new players in’ during the next transfer window.

The Red Devils signed Donny van de Beek, Edison Cavani and Alex Telles in the summer.

They also brought in youngsters Willy Kambwala and Facundo Pellistri for a total of £12.6 million.


FEATURE: Five questions for Paul Pogba at a career crossroads…


However, they’ve had a mixed start to this season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men beat PSG recently in a huge Champions League victory.

But their Premier League campaign has been dogged by numerous poor performances.

They lost to Crystal Palace in their first match and were thrashed 6-1 by Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham.

Man Utd’s most recent outing was a loss at the hands of top six rivals Arsenal.

Speaking to Bein Sports recently (via MEN), Schmeichel said that he thinks the team needs further investment: “They are inconsistent. Make no mistake, this is still a team in transition and a developing team.

“They still need to bring new players in. It’s still a team that needs to find its identity and to find the main characters of the team. That was evident [against Arsenal].

“It was very hard to see what we were trying to do. I have to say, it was made fairly easy for Arsenal. It’s something that needs to be worked at. I still think we’re trying to recover from the 27 years of one manager [Sir Alex Ferguson] and finding a new identity.

“I think some of the big players need to improve. There are a few players in there that are recovering from a lot of unwanted media attention that has nothing to do with football.

“A few big players are under pressure from external things, like Maguire and Greenwood. You have to be happy, the camp has to be happy, to challenge for titles.”

Schmeichel also spoke recently about the team’s lack of natural leaders.

United’s next match is in the Champions League tomorrow against Turkish side Basaksehir.

There are no Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City representatives in our rundown of the top ten players of the season. Nor Manchester United, of course, but Jay Rodriguez gets in?!

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

“(In terms of) the positives, I see a clear identity about my team,” Scott Parker said after the 1-1 draw with Sheffield United. “I think the first six games, there’s been a lot of bright things, there’s been a lot of good things, a lot of things that I’ve been really impressed with.”

The party line was the same a week later. “I constantly see improvements,” Parker parroted. “There were a lot of good things against Crystal Palace that I see and that I have seen in games, some real positives.”

“Scoring first is key,” Parker added. Fulham did just that on Monday, the “identity” was clear and the “real positives” – this time – resulted in a crucial 2-0 win. It wasn’t quite the error-free football Parker has been prescribing – they were playing a Championship-standard team unable to punish mistakes they did make – but it was a win to take the sting out of Premier League life.

Fulham scored two very good goals. The first: a flowing team move through the pitch featuring a lovely clipped cross from Antonee Robinson, a smart cushioned header from Aleksandar Mitrovic; finished off by Bobby Decordova-Reid. The second: A stunning strike from 20 yards from Ola Aina after further link-up between Decordova-Reid and Mitrovic.

They were goals that illustrated the “identity” Parker refers to. Energy and quality in wide areas, improved through the acquisitions of Aina, Robinson and Kenny Tete – who has impressed since his move from Lyon but missed out through injury – providing enough for their Premier League quality striker to score the goals to keep them up, or – on this occasion – the touches of class to set up his teammates.

Fulham’s defence too, looks a lot better. Loan signing Joachim Andersen was solid on debut: progressive in his passing; calm in possession. Alongside Man City loanee Tosin Adarabioyo they limited West Brom to very little.

That said, they weren’t tested. The Baggies’ style and game plan is comparably inconspicuous. Their two true creative talents – Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana – were atypically lax in possession and worryingly uninterested out of it. Karlan Grant got very little service and lost the ball when he did. Jake Livermore looks as cumbersome and sterile as when West Brom were last relegated from the Premier League.

Parker described this game as “massive” for Fulham, aware that defeat would be a crushing psychological blow. Lose to West Brom at home and talk of lowest points totals and Premier League unworthiness would have been rife.

This win by no means puts Fulham doubts aside. There were occasions when sloppiness and dawdling on the ball could and probably would have been punished by a superior team. And because it was only West Brom – a particularly poor iteration at that – on the surface this could look little more than one piece of relegation fodder slightly bettering another.

But Fulham weren’t slightly better: the gulf was akin to a mid-table side against one at rock bottom. And although that says more about how bad West Brom were than whether or not Parker’s side can climb that high (they almost certainly can’t), it was an assured performance to build on. One in which their identity was clear to us as well as the manager.

 

Will Ford is on Twitter

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Fulham boss Scott Parker has insisted that his side are constantly improving despite their poor start to the season.

Parker’s side have found adapting to life back in the Premier League really difficult so far. They have lost five of their opening six league games this season.

This form places them bottom of the top flight, with their only point of the season coming via a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United.


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The London outfit have been amongst the busiest clubs in the transfer market this summer. They have made a total of 12 signings and they have splashed out over £30m on new incomings.

Despite this, they have conceded 14 goals so far and they have scored just five times as they remain winless.

 

Next up for Fulham is fellow promoted side West Brom at Craven Cottage on Monday. You feel this is a game the Cottagers must win if they want to get their season going.

Speaking during his press conference, as cited by The Independent, Parker said he has been encouraged by Fulham’s recent showings:

“I constantly see improvements. There were a lot of good things against Crystal Palace that I see and that I have seen in games, some real positives.

“But there has been 10, 11 new players that have come into the building and a lot of young players.

“I think we’ve brought players here that have massive potential but, in saying that, don’t have a lot of Premier League experience. This is constant improving, constant chipping away trying to improve, trying to get better as individuals and as a team.

“We are disappointed that we’ve only got one point on the board, bitterly disappointed, none of us are happy about that. There’s also elements that I am happy with and I feel like we’re moving in the right direction really.”

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has insisted that his future is still at Chelsea, despite joining Fulham on a season-long loan.

The midfielder has struggled for regular first-team opportunities at Chelsea throughout his time at the club. This is despite him being one of their highest-rated youngsters in recent years.

Loftus-Cheek enjoyed a successful loan spell with Crystal Palace in 2017/18. His form for Chelsea’s London rivals led him to be included in England’s squad for the 2018 World Cup.


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The 24-year-old returned to Chelsea that summer and enjoyed a great season for the Blues in 2018/19. He made 40 appearances for them in all competitions, scoring ten goals.

But an Achilles injury hampered his development as he missed a few months of action. He only managed to make seven league appearances for Chelsea last season before he joined Fulham on loan for the whole 2020/21 Premier League campaign.

In a recent interview, as cited by the We Ain’t Got No History blog, Loftus-Cheek reiterated that he wants to return to Chelsea next summer:

“I was the one who initiated it. I felt like it was paramount that I played a lot of football this season.

“With the strength in depth at Chelsea and how I was feeling, I was not sure being out for so long that when I had the opportunity that I could play fantastically and hold down a place in the starting XI. I was not 100 per cent I could do that, because I need to build my confidence back up. That was basically the theme of the chat. The gaffer agreed on that and things went on from there.”

“I still see my future at Chelsea. I believe in my ability 100 per cent. This is obviously not a permanent move. This is a platform for me to go and express myself and find that form that was showing a couple of seasons ago. I believe in my ability, and we will see where that takes me.”

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League