Manchester United vs Fulham

Manchester United vs Fulham: Where’s the consistency?

Manchester United and Arsenal played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in Wednesday’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford. United’s guests from North London twice led through goals from Shkodran Mustafi and Alexandre Lacazette, but Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard earned a share of the spoils for the home side.

Jose Mourinho’s side have now gone four games without a win and remain in eighth place in the standings, while Arsenal are down to fifth despite having extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to an amazing 20 matches.

Which manager will be happier with this result? It could easily be Unai Emery. Old Trafford seemed like an impossible puzzle for Arsenal for many years, so to go and maybe deserve to win is testament to what the Basque manager is doing this season. He’s doing a great job in transforming Arsenal into a more organized and serious side than was seen in the later years of Arsene Wenger’s reign. Read More

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace: Did United learn their lesson?

Jose Mourinho registered yet another loss against Pep Guardiola and it seems their eternal battle came to an end. It’s been a long time since we had the opportunity to live up to the hype of the Manchester derby. The clash between the two Manchester sides at the Etihad was rather one-sided and saw the home side go 12 points clear of their neighbors after just 12 games of the 2018/19 Premier League season.

The brightest spark in Mourinho’s side was once again Anthony Martial. The young French starlet made it five straight Premier League games with a goal from the penalty spot after Ederson had brought down Romelu Lukaku.

But that was all from United at the Etihad. Their only shot on target was the penalty, and Ilkay Gundogan wrapped up the points for City after an amazing 44 passes between City players prior to the third goal five minutes from time. Read More

Bournemouth vs Manchester United

Bournemouth vs Manchester United: A turning point for both sides

Manchester United successfully recovered from their midweek Champions League defeat against Juventus as they recorded a 2-1 win against Everton in the Premier League on Sunday afternoon. That win put the 20-time English champions above the Toffees into the eighth position in the table ahead of their trip to in-form Bournemouth this weekend.

The French connection worked well as Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial both got on the score sheet. The latter once again proved to be one of the best, if not the best, attacking option of Jose Mourinho’s side. Martial has got a chance because of Mourinho’s decision to axe the struggling Romelu Lukaku from his starting line-up which saw a somehow different United on the pitch.

Still, not for the first time this season, it was a far from convincing performance from United as a late Gylfi Sigurdsson penalty left the hosts with a nervy final fifteen minutes. Ultimately, Everton hadn’t picked their chances as United improved on a miserable run that had brought just one win from their previous seven games. Read More

Manchester United vs Juventus Champions League Preview

Manchester United vs Juventus Preview: xG king of Italy comes to town

José Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge this weekend, to seek revenge and break Manchester United’s curse at their bogey ground. It looked like a new United catastrophe performance when Antonio Rudiger headed the hosts into the lead.

The visitors were beheaded, but Anthony Martial scored twice in the second half to almost give United an unlikely victory. Ross Barkley had different plans, though, as he scored a dramatic equalizer deep into stoppage time to salvage a 2-2 draw. Read More

Manchester United vs Newcastle Premier League Preview

Manchester United vs Newcastle Preview: Not easy for Red Devils

Manchester United missed a chance to get a morale-boosting win as they drew 0-0 at home in the Champions League on Tuesday night. Not that they were the better side, but a win against Valencia would have dragged them from the toxic vortex in which they have been floundering for some time.

Though both teams responded well from their previous domestic clashes, the match ended goalless. United put in a better performance than in their 3-1 defeat against West Ham United, but the problems for Jose Mourinho’s men remain the same. Everything in the red half of Manchester seems irreparable.

The Portuguese coach is constantly under fire from various directions and everything suggests his time at the club is over. Following United’s latest poor performance, Mourinho was heavily criticized by club legends Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.

The latter was “surprised that he survived after Saturday” and said that Mourinho is “embarrassing the club” at the moment. The whole situation is hugely debatable, as surely nobody can blame only Mourinho for this, nor the players alone either. The problems run far deeper and certainly include the board. As rumours of Zinedine Zidane becoming the new Manchester United coach are rising, Ed Woodward will soon have to make a final decision. Read More

West Ham vs Manchester United Premier League Preview

West Ham vs Manchester United: Was Pogba right to attack Jose’s tactics?

It’s been a rough week for Manchester United. The building momentum I wrote about last time collapsed in the next 90 minutes of Premier League football. In between, José Mourinho’s men made a positive start to the Champions League season against Young Boys, but their domestic winning run came to a frustrating end with the 1-1 draw against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Not once, but many times throughout the pre-season Mourinho pointed out this could be a difficult season for his team. It seems he was right. The Wolves draw was followed by an unexpected exit from the Carabao Cup as Frank Lampard’s Derby County won at Old Trafford on penalties. But that’s not the only problem United are facing at the moment. The most recent one is Paul Pogba losing his captaincy due to negative comments about the team’s tactics. Read More

Young Boys vs Manchester United Champions League preview

Young Boys vs Manchester United: Mourinho’s momentum building

Manchester United will look to get their 2018/19 Champions league campaign off to the perfect start when they travel to Switzerland to take on Young Boys on Wednesday night. The last time United were in the elite European competition wasn’t memorable for them, as they lost to Sevilla in the first knockout round. This will be Young Boys’ first-ever appearance in the group stages of the competition, and they will be hoping for a historic win.

United’s momentum is building

United have now won two games in a row, and victory against Watford represented a huge win for Jose Mourinho’s struggling side. This may not seem like an impressive achievement, and United didn’t show a dominant performance, but two tricky away games against Burnley and Watford are behind them and Mourinho’s side’s momentum is starting to build.

And it’s thanks to a change in tactics. Read More

Burnley vs Manchester United Preview

Burnley vs Manchester United Preview: Mourinho’s last chance?

Instead of lifting the gloom, Manchester United sunk deeper into it. The Red Devils earliest ‘must win’ game of the season went badly wrong and José Mourinho’s men lost to Tottenham 0-3 in front of their own fans at Old Trafford.

Never before had Mourinho seen one of his teams lose 3-0 in their own back yard, making Monday’s match his worst-ever home defeat. For the first time in his 18 year managerial career, Mourinho has lost two of his first three league games.

3-5-2 against Spurs saw some positives

After United’s insipid defeat to Brighton, the manager made his moves. In total, Mourinho made six changes to his starting line-up. Andreas Pereira, Juan Mata and Anthony Martial were the three players substituted at the Amex Stadium, and none of them even made the squad against Tottenham. Read More

Brighton vs Manchester United preview

Brighton vs Manchester United Preview: Can Pereira become the new Carrick?

While Manchester City have already won one trophy and beat Arsenal in their first match of the new season, the black clouds are hovering over Old Trafford. The red part of Manchester has still not been reconciled with the lack of transfers as United remain weak in some positions that need to be strengthened.

In spite of that, Jose Mourinho’s men delivered a 2-1 win against Leicester City in front of their own fans. It wasn’t a performance to remember, but three points with some positives meant fans could be proud in these days of negativity around the most crowned club in England.

Toby is not needed when you have Bailly-Lindelof pairing

It is obvious from the last season that the Manchester United back four requires changes. José Mourinho didn’t get what he wanted this summer and that was a new world-class central defender. Harry Maguire, Diego Godin, Yerry Mina and Toby Alderweireld were all very close to signing for United according to press speculation, but the first game of the season proved that the Portuguese boss has maybe found the perfect combination.

The young Swede has grown a lot in his first year at the club and seems ready to push on. Lindelof made a team-high nine clearances and was incredibly composed in defence and attack with some fantastic balls forward. That put him as the best United defender against Leicester as per Twelve’s algorithm. Just in front was Eric Bailly who walled the Foxes with his tackling, blocking and well-timed interceptions.

Return of the Shaw

Another big reason for United fans to be optimistic this season is the return of Luke Shaw. He provided a really good performance last weekend, and made it into Twelve’s team of the week. Apart from scoring a goal to double the lead, Shaw constantly bombed up the left flank and recovered well. Most people already dismissed the 23-year-old because of his not-so-good pre-season performances, and because a lack of options in his position was a big cause of frustration.

Mourinho wanted to replace Shaw with Alex Sandro this summer, but we never saw that deal happening, so the England international has got a new chance to shine. He made a couple of mistakes defensively but also had the most touches of the ball (99) which is something on which he can build his form.

Did Andreas Pereira show he can be Carrick’s heir?

Against Leicester, United set up in a 4-3-3 variation with Andreas Pereira as the single pivot with Fred and Pogba in front of him. It was the 22-year-old Belgian’s first Premier League start for the Red Devils. It seems the talented midfielder finally persuaded Mourinho that he’s capable of playing at the highest level.

Of course, Pereira only started because Nemanja Matic is injured, but José still entrusted him in an important role. Pereira, who is a more creative player than the defensively-minded Serbian, was primarily tasked to begin attacks from deeper positions.

He was very comfortable in possession, especially in situations where he needed to avoid the opposition press with his quick and vertical passes.

Twelve’s algorithm rewarded his performance against Leicester as the third best when looking overall, but what’s worth mentioning is that Pereira scored the most defence points (904), leaving Bailly and Pogba behind by almost 200 points.

Also, with Pereira’s deep and static positioning, Fred and Pogba were able to push forward more, allowing the latter to be at his best when playing with more freedom deeper in the opposing half. Yes, Pogba showed us he can play in a deeper role as France lifted the World Cup, but with United he struggled and was often disputed last season when playing in double pivot in 4-2-3-1 variance.

Can Pereira fill Michael Carrick’s boots? It would be ridiculous to expect that in full, but a very promising future lies ahead of him.

What’s for United against Brighton & Hove Albion, and vice versa?

Among all the negativity and moaning, Mourinho was still man enough to praise a „monstrously” good performance by Paul Pogba. The World Cup winner will still be the key player for the Red Devils against Brighton this weekend. We will also expect Luke Shaw to build upon his excellent performance against Leicester. There is a lot in front of Alexis Sanchez who again didn’t show any magic but wasn’t either the worst player in the team. It could just be that Mourinho’s men need more time playing together.

The Seagulls, who finished 15th last year, were downed by a deadly Roberto Pereyra double last weekend. They lost 2-0 at Watford, in the first game of their second season in the top flight since earning promotion. It’s been a busy summer on the south coast, with 16 new players arriving and 18 players departing.

Among the arrivals, it could be Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh who can pose a threat to the Red Devils. The Iranian international was directly involved in more goals than any other player in the 2017/18 Eredivisie season. Jahanbakhsh netted 21 goals while adding 14 assists to his tally. At the World Cup he created danger on the right flank where Carlos Quieroz deployed him as a winger.

If he starts here it will be a big test for him, as United comfortably denied Leicester on that side. It could also be a double-edged sword because United mainly attacked through their left side and Shaw’s forward runs often left acres of space behind him.

It will be very interesting to see how Chris Hughton copes with the pressure from last week’s defeat and a lot of new faces in the dressing room. On the other hand, Manchester United will be eager to get their revenge for last May’s 1-0 defeat. It will all be decided on Sunday.

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 1–3 Manchester United

Croatia must stop the unstoppable

Even if football is not coming home, the show must go on. Croatia continues to dream as they face France in Sunday’s final of the World Cup. Maybe not in football terms, but in historic or political ones this will be the battle of David vs. Goliath.

Croatia, a nation that became relatively newly independent in 1991 with only four million people and has only got past the group stage twice, will face giant France which has more than 60 million people and significantly richer football history.

It is interesting that France stood in the way of Croatia in the 1998 semi-final and wound up winning its first World Cup title on home soil that year. France has been to three finals over the last six World Cups and now again stands in the way of Croatia in their pursuit of winning an elusive first World Cup title.

We Croats must be honest and say this is the ‘underdog against a favourite’ type of game and all signs point to France coming out on top. Deschamps’s side is well rested, it had already been tested in the knockout stage and presents the most powerful defence of the whole tournament.

On the other hand, Croatia somehow scraped through three tough rounds of knockout football, going the full 120 minutes in every one and needing penalties to settle two. They’ve had to come from behind in all three of these games and have had to dig deep for those wins using all 22 players at their disposal (after Nikola Kalinic was sent home following their opening game).

There must be a lot of tired legs in Zlatko Dalic’s team, as well as injuries. Five first team players skipped the last training session with Ivan Perisic as the one who is the most questionable to start in the final. But, as it has been in the tournament so far, Croatia’s medical staff will do their magic and no major changes are expected.

The latest odds and betting lines have France as a massive favourite to come out on top, but like always, this is the final game and everything is possible.

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