Man United brimming with confidence after perfect January, says Jose Mourinho

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Jose Mourinho claims the feeling at Manchester United is is one of a “happy camp” after finding form in January.

After ending 2017 with a disappointing run of three successive draws, Mourinho’s side have won all five of their games in the new year.

United, who are second in the Premier League, will now hope to carry that momentum into Wednesday’s tricky contest against Tottenham at Wembley.

Alexis Sanchez, whose signing last week has further buoyed the club, is poised to make his United league debut.

Mourinho told MUTV: “We have managed to win every match in January, I think three Premier League matches and two cup matches, so five victories makes a happy camp.

“We are playing with a good balance. It is not easy to not concede goals because of the high quality of football in this country but scoring goals and winning matches is very important because we need points. We are playing well and we deserved these results.”

Spurs are eight points behind United and are facing a fight to get back into the top four but Mourinho has no doubts about the quality of Mauricio Pochettino‘s side, who were runners-up last season.

United will travel to Wembley next to take on Spurs.

United will travel to Wembley next to take on Spurs.

The Portuguese said: “Spurs are one of the top teams in the country – not a title contender because they are too far away, but I say honestly they are a Champions League contender. They can reach that level.

“They have some of the best players in the country, a very good manager and are a very difficult opponent.

“It is a really big game. The difference between us and Spurs is seven or eight points, but the reality is they are a top team in terms of their quality and ambitions, and a team of our level, so it is a big match.”

Mourinho has close to a fully-fit squad – Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly are the only absentees – and is pleased they are fighting on despite trailing leaders Manchester City by 12 points.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Portuguese said: “It’s hard. Last season was hard, this season is hard.

“Last season we gave up that fight when we felt it was going to be very difficult to do it, plus the injuries, plus the Europa League. But this season everybody is there.”

Mourinho is expecting a good occasion at Wembley, although its status as Spurs’ home ground for the fixture will make for a different atmosphere than usual at the national stadium.

He said: “I was at Wembley for Tottenham versus Chelsea and I had that feeling that Wembley is Spurs’ home, because it was full of their supporters. I am used to going to Wembley when it is 50-50 with supporters, so it was the first time I went like that. It is an amazing stadium and one for us to enjoy.”

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Jesse Lingard's growing importance at Man United illuminates club's legacy

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3,902 games and counting. That’s the number of consecutive Manchester United matchday squads to feature at least one academy player. It’s a record you’re probably familiar with… largely because the club’s supporters scarcely miss an opportunity to celebrate it.

And who can blame them? It’s a phenomenal record which stretches back to October 1937 and given the current climate where nearly 70 percent of all players in the Premier League are foreign, it’s one to appreciate and take pride in.

However, as impressive as the numbers are by themselves, it’s players like Jesse Lingard who give the record its authenticity and credibility. Like so many academy graduates before him, his performances and promise have ensured that any appearance he makes in the first team squad are not mere formality to keep that record ticking over for the sake of prestige.

In fact, as Jose Mourinho has gradually found out this season, Lingard’s presence is more a necessity for immediate success than a means to keep the club’s longstanding traditions alive.

The midfielder has scored 12 goals in all competitions this season, that’s second only to £75million striker Romelu Lukaku. Since the start of December, Lingard’s goals have won United five points in the league. He’s proven his worth, failing to start just once in United’s last 11 Premier League outings.

And on that one occasion, he came off the bench at half-time to score a brace away to Burnley and rescue a point for his side who were 2-0 down at the break. Talk about making a statement.

Jesse Lingard takes centre stage

Jesse Lingard takes centre stage

His form has prompted more cries of ‘Messi Lingard’, a nickname derived from fondness and humour but with an undertone of mockery.

It’s hilarity stems from the notion that Lingard is a rather unspectacular player and associating him with arguably the best of all-time is as amusing as it is audacious.

There’s truth to it of course. Lingard is hardly among the game’s elite, despite former United assistant coach Rene Meulensteen’s questionable decision to compare him with Andres Iniesta.

The Manchester local doesn’t boast the kind of natural talent or flawless technique the aforementioned Barcelona icon is celebrated for but can nevertheless be proud of his own unique skillset.

While Lingard is a colourful character as his celebrations, social media antics and general demeanour suggest, his style of play is only subtly complimented by the occasional splash of flair. His best features on the pitch are instead his work ethic, attitude, spatial awareness, link-up play and above all, goal-scoring.

He isn’t blessed with blistering pace and you won’t be treated to a series of step-overs but he’s the kind of attacking midfielder who’s always on the same wavelength as those around him, has the uncanny ability to sniff out a goal and the technique to even belt one in from distance once within range.

It’s that penchant for goal-scoring that Lingard must harness. Consistency is key. A young Frank Lampard was written off early in his career and Harry Redknapp’s insistence that he would ‘go right to the very top’ was initially dismissed as nepotism. But the Chelsea legend’s hard work and incredible goal-scoring record set him apart.

Jesse Lingard's been polishing his shooting boots

Jesse Lingard’s been polishing his shooting boots

Lingard must tread a similar path. At 25, the next few months will define his career. After already adding Alexis Sanchez to the squad, Mourinho looks certain to bring in more attacking talent over the summer with illustrious names like Antoine Griezmann, Paulo Dybala and Gareth Bale floating about.

His performances now will determine whether he goes on to play a starring role for United in the years to come or be reduced to a ‘useful’ squad player. Will he be Gary Neville or Wes Brown? Paul Scholes or Nicky Butt?

A trip to Wembley on Wednesday night will present Mourinho with his first glimpse at how Lingard fits into the team alongside a star like Sanchez and against quality opposition like Tottenham.

Strike up an understanding with the Chilean and ‘J Lings’ may only just be getting into the groove. Cue the Milly Rock music.

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Spurs v Man United: Harry Kane closing in on 100 Premier League goals and other stats ahead of Wembley clash

Dan Owen 30/01/2018
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Harry Kane (R)

Harry Kane can become the 27th player to reach 100 Premier League goals if he nets against Manchester United at Wembley on Tuesday night.

Spurs go into the game unbeaten in the last five league games, but have not fared well against their fellow top-six members this campaign.

United could give a first league start to former Arsenal man Alexis Sanchez, and despite criticism of their style of play under Jose Mourinho they currently have the longest unbeaten run in the league at eight games.

Here are the other facts and stats ahead of the game.

  • Tottenham’s defeat in the reverse fixture earlier this season was their 80th in league competition against Manchester United – 11 more defeats than versus any other opponent.
  • Manchester United have only won more league games against Aston Villa (85) and Arsenal (82) than they have against Tottenham (80).
  • Spurs have won two of their seven Premier League matches against Manchester United under Mauricio Pochettino (D1 L4), as many as they’d won across their previous 26 games against the Red Devils, spanning eight different managers (Glenn Hoddle, David Pleat, Jacques Santini, Martin Jol, Juande Ramos, Harry Redknapp, Andre Villas-Boas, Tim Sherwood).
  • The Lilywhites have won their last two home league games against Manchester United – they last won three consecutively against the Red Devils back in September 1966.
  • Manchester United have won each of their last six games at Wembley Stadium, scoring at least twice every time. They last lost at the venue in the 2011 Champions League final (1-3 vs Barcelona).
  • Spurs have picked up just three points in their five games against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City and Man Utd this season (W1 D0 L4), fewer than any other ‘big six’ side in these fixtures.
  • No team are on a current longer unbeaten run in the Premier League than Manchester United (8).
  • Mauricio Pochettino is unbeaten in his last three Premier League home games against Jose Mourinho (W2 D1), winning 5-3 against Chelsea in January 2015, and in this exact fixture in May last season.
  • Alexis Sanchez could make his Premier League debut for Man Utd in this game; he scored in Arsenal’s 2-0 win against Spurs in November, and could become the third player to score against them for two different clubs in the same Premier League season after Eric Cantona in 1992-93 and Benito Carbone in 1999-00.
  • Harry Kane has had a hand in four goals in his last four Premier League games against teams managed by Jose Mourinho (three goals, one assist).
  • Kane is just one goal shy of his 100th in the Premier League – none of the previous 26 players to reach the milestone have done so in a match against Manchester United, though Alan Shearer’s 100th in the competition for Newcastle United specifically did come against the Red Devils.
  • Anthony Martial has scored in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time – he’s only scored in one of his previous 10 top-flight games in London, netting twice against West Ham in May 2016.

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