Manchester United winning run continues 5/5 (2)

Manchester United’s unbeaten run continues also in London. Rashford and De Gea effectively ended Tottenham’s hopes to push Liverpool and Manchester City for the title.

The leading duo continues to prove that Premier League will be decided between them. However, there is no shortage of fights down the table.

Manchester Utd’s new old face

After 5 successes on the trot, Solskjaer had his first maturity exam this weekend in London against Tottenham. For this occasion, the Norwegian care-taker relied on less adventurous tactics.

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Some might argue that if United would present the same attitude under Mourinho he’d be crucified for negative approach. And rightfully so!

Even if performance at Wembley resembled what the team showed under the Portuguese manager, this time has a different story behind it.

Despite dominant and free-scoring displays in the last few weeks, Manchester United doesn’t have a clear identity and rehearsed mechanisms that Spurs have. Wins against mid-table oppositions were achieved due to superiority in class and quality.

But Pochettino’s team can match United’s quality, therefore, Solskjear had to revert to tactics best known to the squad; keep it tight at the back and hit on the counter.

De Gea miracles

With De Gea at his scintillating best everything is possible. A little “help” from the opponents is always welcome and with a bit of luck, you have all the ingredients for a joyful afternoon.

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Because, truth to be told, Tottenham perhaps had more to do with visitor’s win then United itself.

Pogba’s pass and Rashford’s finish were as good as you can hope for. The French midfielder later confessed that similar moves were trained during the week. If that’s true then hats off!

Anyway, without the unintentional Trippier’s assistance, it would never happen.

De Gea made 11 saves, big and small miracles, but can thank Dele Alli for one of them. Midway thru the second half, ironically after a counterattack, Alli came face to face with the Spanish goalie.

United’s keeper has to be given credit for not rushing his reaction however Alli had to take that chance. A player of his caliber has to score that kind of opportunity in every match. Even more so in such important fixtures.

Apart the goal, the Northern giants had a few good situations most notably with their prime star left to shoot from the edge of the box. It could cost Manchester the win if Tottenham managed to take advantage of one of the opportunities created.

It didn’t, Manchester United won and its winning run continues.

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Winning helps winning and with another month or so facing mid-to-low table opposition, the Red Devils have a great chance to catch Chelsea in the Champions League zone.

Liverpool’s struggles

Liverpool lost top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City which allowed Guardiola’s team to reduce the gap and ply pressure on Klopp’s men.

City deserved the victory abundantly and despite numerous absences to partially justify a submissive performance, Liverpool doesn’t have the squad to keep the pace.

Defeat at the Ettihad Stadium was followed by FA Cup exit at the hands of Wolverhampton. Two false steps in a row after 20 games in domestic competition without a loss.

The Reds redeemed themselves with a narrow but ultimately extremely important triumph at the weekend. As much for the points as for the morale!

Whereas Klopp can’t be satisfied with the teams’ performance. That’s 3rd consecutive under-par showing.

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Be it for congested fixtures, injuries or form loss, every team has its off period during a season. And Liverpool is currently in such cycle.

Accumulating points in times when your game isn’t at the very top is crucial to maintain title hopes.

Manchester City’s rise

Manchester City had its own dark period last month with a couple of somewhat undeserved defeats against Chelsea and Leicester City.

However, they picked themselves up and now produce the kind of football everybody’s expecting from them.

Unbeaten Solskjaer has every right to celebrate however needs to give his side an identity if he’s to challenge the big boys.

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Solskjaer manager leads MU comeback 5/5 (2)

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer achieved a historical result last night in Newcastle! Second manager in United’s history and first after Sir Alexander Matthew Busby to win 4 games on the trot after taking charge at the Theatre of Dreams.

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Taking control of the team just before the most hectic period in Premier League the baby-faced killer demonstrated what was clear to everybody; Manchester United doesn’t need new signings! All is needed is to let the team play!

Solskjear’s early success

It’s been a while since 12 points in 4 consequtive games have been seen in the red half of Manchester for quite some time. Especially not with such commanding displays and free-scoring!
Since Solskjaer took over the reins United scored 14 goals, half of what the same team managed in 17 games under Mourinho!

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And some of the goals were a genuine feast for sexy-football lovers! Goal #3 against Cardiff City, ironically Solskjaer’s only other club managed in England, was an exhibition of what the talent at disposal is capable of.
Neat first time passing, smart movement and clinical finishing. It probably is the best team goal United fans have seen in a very long time.

Naturally, to perform actions as such you need more than two players in opposition’s half. Another rare sight for the fans!
All of that happened only a couple of days after the legendary Norwegian took charge!

Solskjaer manager play

What could Solskjaer do in 2 training sessions? What magical advice, tactical genius twist or inspiring team talk could lead to such drastic change of play?
Simple, there isn’t any! There’s only one thing he could do and he did it; let the team play!

Attacking kind was the only kind of interpreting the game Manchester United ever knew. Stepping up, taking control, intimidate the opposition and ultimately getting what they want. That’s the United way!

Certainly, even under Sir Alex Ferguson, they didn’t win every game. That’s impossible. They did lose games but they were seldom beaten!
And that’s all the squad needed to hear. No accusations, personal resentments or serving as an example.

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Just go out there and play to your strengths. Keep the ball as much as possible, attack in numbers and don’t be afraid of mistakes. They’ll happen in any case.
Once out of possession press high and make them work hard to get near our goal.

Shortly, enjoy football!

Future success

For all fanfare surrounding Solskjaer’s initial prosperity, teams faced up to now weren’t on United’s level and winning those matches should be expected with virtually anybody on the bench. Well, almost anybody!

Nevertheless, the same squad managed 7 victories in nearly half-a-season. Therefore without the managerial change possibly another defeat and a draw would most likely occur since December 19th.

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United played relegation-threatened teams and won more or less comfortably. Displaying long lost authority and creativity building up confidence and relieving public pressure.

Another similar match awaits them this weekend in FA Cup against Championship strugglers Reading. A side that hasn’t won in 2 months and has a total of 4 wins in English 2nd tier.

Considering Solskjaer’s team current form and high spirits, surely no contest. It is final fine-tuning before first real maturity test.

Maturity test

Sunday, 13th January, will give feedback what United can aspire to this season. A trip to Wembley to face Mauricio Pochettino and his well-oiled Tottenham (tickets available here)!

Solskjaer manager rival

A team that inflicted one of the largest defeats at Old Trafford in recent history earlier in the season.
Pochettino is tipped as possible future MU manager, openly pursued and held in extremely high regard by United’s hierarchy.

A good showing and possibly a win would surely increment Solskjear’s chances to keep managing his beloved club after current campaign is over.

He’s aware that any talks of such possibility will be held near the end if results will match set goals and expectations. Anyhow a win against one of the competitors would speak loudly.

After that, a run of apparently straightforward fixtures against mid-to-low table adversaries follows before next big test comes; Champions League clash with PSG.

Solskjaer manager rival 2

Till then Solskjaer will have to implement also some tactical improvements and possibly add a defender to the roster, if viable.

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Fortune favors the brave. Up to now, the new manager was courageous with team selection and game-plan applied. Will he maintain fearlessness also in key matches?

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Premier League half time report 5/5 (3)

Premier League is half way thru and it’s time to draw some conclusions from what we saw up to now.
There’s still time to correct and improve till the end but 19 games are more than enough to evaluate team’s values and predict final results.

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Results usually don’t lie and if the Reds are looking down at everybody else it’s because they deserve so.
However, I’ll go a bit against the public opinion and declare my surprise! Big surprise!

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Listing thru roster at Klopp’s disposal my astonishment increases! Even more drastically when you consider Liverpool’s domestic invincibility.
Because at international level it’s something different, particularly away from home but let’s focus on the Premier League.

Liverpool’s squad has 26 players registered for this campaign. Beside Salah, up to a point Van Dijk and Alisson there isn’t any other member that would walk into competing teams. At least not holding regular starting berth!
And even Mo isn’t scoring as he did in previous season!

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That’s the reason for my amusement! All are valuable members and have quality however beside the mentioned trio nobody else would be a candidate for world’s top 5 in respective position.

Some of them not even top 5 in Premier League!

Summer signings

Taking a look at the summer purchases doesn’t make your heart sing!
A couple of reliable holding midfielders. A flamboyant attacker that failed in every big club he’s been at.

And a goalkeeper. Excellent and expensive but ultimately a goalie!

And that’s it! Nothing more!

Surely not the staff to recover 25 points and 33 goals deficit to Manchester City shown at the end of last season!

So, how do they do it? How did they manage to stay undefeated in supposedly the toughest and most competitive league in the world?

As already established not much has changed since last campaign, therefore, there aren’t any rabbits pulled out of the hat on regular basis.

Klopp effect?

Jurgen Klopp has been in Beatles city for over 3 years now and considering everything now is picking up the fruits of his work. Or so it seems.
His men are still to taste the bitterness of losing a league game, defence looks rock solid with only 7 goals conceded and the attack is scoring at will. Is it possible that it’s all due to him?

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His tactics, for all the praise gegenpressing gets, isn’t anything new.
Lot’s of managers apply the same approach. It was something new in the 1990s when Sacchi had his AC Milan team press high, but not now.

Going down the exclusion procedure it must be his man-management skills!

One excellent, two very good and a bunch of goods players playing known style of football and arriving at the turn of the league undefeated. It has to be the manager!

His unorthodox way of behavior on the bench, frank communication with the press and emotional reaction to any situation make him a stand-out performer.
I say performer because for me it depicts him better than the word coach, manager or any other available to describe his job.

Previous achievements

He’s known for losing cup finals, both with Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool, however, he won a national league in Germany. Twice in a row!
And the league is even more balanced! Besides has a club prescribed to win the title some 80% of the times in the last couple of decades or so.
Therefore, he has a winning mentality to match his border-line theatrics and results to support that!

Anyway, I just can’t see Liverpool winning the title!

With crucial Champions League matches coming on February, domestic cup competition reaching its climax and increasing pressure on the team to finally bring home Premier League golden medal it all might crumble.

Klopp has a past of faltering in decisive moments and the club has a tendency to self-sabotage (yes, I’m referring to Gerard’s famous slip) when it matters.

Premier League

You might argue that Ranieri and Leicester City had an even worse reputation when the Foxes won the title. However, that was a season when all giants had a transition year.

This time beside Manchester City there’s also Tottenham close enough to push the Reds till the end.

Whatever has been done up to now will matter only statistically if the famed trophy won’t parade around Anfield. And I can’t see that happening.

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