Monday, December 10, 2018

Hit or Miss? Rating Mourinho´s signings as Man United boss demands more

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 Dec 2017

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Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Nemanja Matic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Jose Mourinho has spent close to £300million since replacing Louis van Gaal as Manchester United manager in May 2016. Yet, the Portuguese does not believe the significant investment is enough to compete with neighbours Manchester City.

City, meanwhile, have lured the likes of Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo, Ederson and John Stones to the Etihad Stadium in the same period – Pep Guardiola forking out almost £225m in the last transfer window alone.

Mourinho moaned about United’s transfer business after the Red Devils fell 12 points adrift of runaway Premier League leaders City – a deficit which could extend to 15 before the weekend – following Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at home to Burnley.

With the January window set to open and pressure on Ed Woodward and United’s hierarchy to please a disgruntled boss, we rate Mourinho’s work in the market so far.

 

PAUL POGBA – in region of £89m

A world-record signing at the time, Pogba’s return to United from Juventus last year was the Hollywood arrival that the Red Devils so desperately craved. Woodward delivered his man to Mourinho. After a topsy-turvy first season back in Manchester, where he turned down Alex Ferguson’s pleas to stay put in 2012, amid the weight of expectations and a huge transfer fee on his shoulders, the flamboyant Frenchman is starting to deliver on a more consistent basis. Free of the world-record price tag, Pogba has firmly established himself as the heart and soul of United’s XI, with his pace, range of passing, penetration and now goals setting the tempo both home and away. Such is his importance – which has developed into an over-reliance – to Mourinho’s side, the midfielder’s absence due to suspension or injury has crippled United’s title pursuit.

 

ROMELU LUKAKU – £75m

If a fax machine had not prevented Real Madrid from luring David de Gea to the Spanish capital, Alvaro Morata may well have joined United. Because of Madrid’s stance, Mourinho turned to another familiar face instead – former Chelsea forward Lukaku. United broke the bank for the Belgium international, sending social media into a frenzy. And the 24-year-old made a seamless transition from Merseyside to Manchester, scoring at will with 11 goals in his first 14 matches in all competitions. However, Lukaku has only managed four in 19 dating back to October. His record against the ‘Big Six’ has come under the microscope, scoreless against City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham this season. In fairness, the Belgian has been starved of quality service in recent weeks as United go off the boil.

 

NEMANJA MATIC – £40m

Of all the Mourinho signings, the capture of Matic has been his best piece of business. Eyebrows were raised when reigning Premier League champions Chelsea allowed Matic to reunite with Mourinho. Though he may not be a star name like Pogba and Lukaku, the Serbia international has provided a calming influence and a touch of class while helping to break up the play in the centre of the pitch – a problem area, which had been neglected even during the Ferguson era. More importantly, Matic has freed up Pogba, allowing his high-profile midfield partner to roam, having been weighed down by defensively responsibilities last season. Game after game, week after week… Matic gets the job done at the Theatre of Dreams.

 

VICTOR LINDELOF – £35m

Like Mkhitaryan last season, Lindelof has had some teething issues but the Sweden centre-back is starting to show why Mourinho and United were so desperate to sign him from Benfica. Life in the Premier League proved a difficult beast for Lindelof to master initially – Mourinho reluctant to rely on the 23-year-old defender following a number of errors and costly mistakes amid doubts over his quality and capabilities to cope with the rigours of English football. However, the composed centre-back has won over his Portuguese boss, playing more regularly and even providing cover at right-back. The future is bright for the cool Swede.

 

HENRIKH MKHITARYAN – £30m

Of all the United recruits, the Armenian icon’s future is the most at risk. Mkhitaryan played an important role in his first season in Manchester, helping the Red Devils win the Europa League and EFL Cup after leaving Borussia Dortmund in 2016. The classy playmaker, though, has not been able to build on his debut campaign, falling out of favour with Mourinho. Mkhitaryan has not started a Premier League match since the 1-0 loss to Chelsea on November 5 – only managing substitute appearances in the EFL Cup and draws with Leicester City and Burnley amid intense speculation over his future and links with Inter. Mourinho has even opted for Ibrahimovic in the number 10 role, such is his lack of faith in the diminutive 28-year-old. The jury is out.

 

ERIC BAILLY – £30m

Injuries have crippled the start of Bailly’s United career but the Ivory Coast international is already a fan favourite. Searching for the next Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic, United paid big money to bring the 23-year-old to Old Trafford. Google quickly became United fans’ best friend when the club plucked Bailly from LaLiga outfit Villarreal but there have been no doubts over his quality. While prone to a rush of blood or rash challenge, the centre-back’s physicality – reminiscent of the days of Vidic and Steve Bruce – has provided much needed steel to Mourinho’s defence. And the former Real Madrid and Inter boss is desperate to get Bailly back fit and healthy as soon as possible after undergoing ankle surgery.

 

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC – Free

Having endured seasons of mediocrity under David Moyes and Van Gaal, United needed a sprinkle of star dust and some leadership in the dressing room. They got that in Ibrahimovic after he decided to leave French giants Paris Saint-Germain. The 36-year-old proved age is just a number by scoring 28 goals during his first season in Manchester having shouldered much of the scoring burden as United won the Community Shield, Europa League and EFL Cup. That tally could have been more if not for a serious knee injury suffered against Anderlecht in April. He has since returned to Carrington after becoming a free agent temporarily during his rehabilitation, although his role has changed significantly. No longer the main man, that label has gone to Lukaku, Ibrahimovic is spending more time on the bench, albeit as he returns to full fitness. However, the former Barcelona, AC Milan, Inter and Juventus forward looks a yard slower, evident against Burnley. The end could be nigh for one of the game’s greats.

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SoccerNews

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