Building up to the big match at Old Trafford, the current Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho suggested that his players, the players he has spent quite a lot of money on, didn’t have the ‘mad dog spirit’ he likes to see.
Last night, Jose had to admit that his players had shown spirit as they managed to get a 2-2 draw against an Arsenal team who will be kicking themselves over their inability to defend properly having just scored.
So if the players showed hunger, spirit, cojones and all the other things Jose has been bemoaning the lack of in recent weeks, now can we point the finger at his tactics?
No, of course we cannot. Jose is not ‘under siege’ believe it or not. Funny that, because for long spells in the match last night his team were. Arsenal played very, very nicely and Matteo Guendozi showed Marouane Fellaini that it is possible to have stupid hair and be able to play a bit. So much so that Fellaini had to resort to pulling Guendouzi’s hair at one point to stop him from running away, again. There has to be some kind of irony there somewhere.
We can all agree that David de Gea’s form has been patchy since last season but when he actually starts throwing the ball into the back of his own net then you have to start wondering what kind of shape Lee Grant is in. Yes, De Gea then responded with a couple of good saves, both from Yo-Pierre, but that is not the point. It was the initial goal that did the damage. Mind you, Marcos Rojo, playing his first game of the season, clearly felt bad for the Spaniard and wanted to reduce the heat on him by at least sharing some of the blame.
But it was not just United that were feeling free and easy about gifting their opponents some early Christmas presents in front of goal. Bernd Leno probably should have done better with Rojo’s free kick which ended up being turned home by Martial and, equally, Arsenal’s defence probably could have done more than standing still watching Herrera’s ‘cross’ trickle across their six-yard box before the Frenchman chipped Lucas Torreira from four yards. Yes, Torreira is that small.
And, having just seen Lacazette just about do enough to claim their second, Arsenal should be shot for conceding another equaliser just 15 seconds after the restart. Tony Adams, in the TV studio, must have been saying the serenity prayer over and over.
Post-match Jose gave a nod to Gary Neville saying that the ex-United right-back must be ‘very happy to see United have a good right-back for the next ten years’ making reference to the first Premier League start for Diogo Dalot. Now, don’t get me wrong Jose. I am sure Dalot has lots of potential but Saed Kolasinac was made to look like Ryan Giggs in his prime over and over again over the course of that 90 minutes. Have the standards for a good United right-back dropped so low since Valencia and Young have been playing there?
At Turf Moor, Liverpool managed to turnaround going behind to Burnley and keep themselves within touching distance of City if only on paper. Jurgen Klopp was ‘angry’ at Burnley’s rough-housing whereas Sean Dyche was happy to see some more ‘reasons’ he could point to as to why his side had lost again. Sean, mate, you can come up with 100 but until you see the big one standing in your goal you are going down.
One team that are no longer in touching distance of City, on paper or anywhere else, are Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea. Sarriball officially needs a reboot right now as Chelsea fell to a 2-1 defeat to Wolves. I like Sarri, he doesn’t make excuses even when there a couple of very questionable refereeing decisions that could have influenced the outcome. He just comes out and says the team were not good enough. In fact, Sarri is ‘very worried’ about the attitude of the players, especially their non-reaction to Wolves equalising. Work to be done, Maurizio, lots of it.
I do like Nuno Espirito Santo as well, as it goes. His mini-crisis can be put back to bed again following this win. It was also good to see him give a debut to Morgan Gibbs-White, a very talented young Englishman who slips under the radar a little bit because he isn’t at Chelsea, United, City or Liverpool. Oh, or Spurs or Arsenal.
Mark Hughes has left a right old mess for Ralph Hasenhuttl to sort out. The Austrian was officially unveiled as Southampton boss yesterday and his special treat at the end of his first day was to go to Wembley and watch his new charges get totally spanked by Spurs. Southampton did actually play quite well for a little spell. The problem was, that little spell was after Spurs were already 3-0 up.
Apparently, Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has four £300m bids on the table. I’ve never really understood this. Given that the playing squad is probably just about worth more than £300m, how can the club be worth less? Anyway, Peter Kenyon is believed to be spearheading one of the consortiums interested in taking on the club and it is unclear whether this is believed to be a good thing or not. Rafa called it ‘business as usual’ which must mean that nothing is actually going to change at all.
On the pitch, that ‘greatest Everton team in years’ didn’t live up to their post-Merseyside Derby hype falling behind to a Rondon goal. Richarlison bailed them out but maybe the Everton fans should calm down a little before booking time off work for a July jaunt in the Europa League.
Claudio Ranieri is already having a positive impact at Fulham. They conceded twice in his first two games in charge (I think, might have been three against Chelsea – who’s counting?) and already he has got that down to just one in the game against his old boys, Leicester City. Fulham led 1-0 but were unable to hold on but if he can just stop them shipping over 2.5 goals on average per game then he might just keep them up.
Crystal Palace have many problems at the moment but I am sure they were not expecting a mouse to be one of them. Their kitchens have been closed down due to the lack of health and safety. Poor Uncle Roy cannot catch a break at the moment.
We will end today with a little bit of transfer chat because that window will be open again before we know it.
Juventus’ Sporting Director has admitted that the idea of Pogba returning to Turin has been discussed ‘many times’. He did not go on to say, however, that considering the player is a ‘virus’ and ‘lazy with no mad-dog spirit’ that a deal was unlikely.
Manchester City have decided that Phil Foden is a bit lonely on the substitutes bench and could do with some friends his own age to play with. As a result, Peppy G is being linked to Jack Clark, 18-years-old and of Leeds United.
Finally, Arsenal have identified the player they’d like to replace Danny Welbeck. Step forward AS Roma’s Cengiz Under. I am sure Arsenal fans are all over that deal.