Jose Mourinho must work his magic and other Man United talking points

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Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho during the defeat to Tottenham.

After being well beaten in midweek against Tottenham, the comeback trail begins on Saturday for Manchester United when they host Huddersfield (19:00) – the promoted side which shocked them in October.

Manager Jose Mourinho has his work cut out since the trip to Wembley included a defensive meltdown and an inability to mesh all his wonderful attacking talent into a coherent XI.

Here, we examine three major talking points ahead of the big kick-off.

WHAT TO DO AFTER A DEFENSIVE DISASTER?

It would have been an uncomfortable watch for centre-back Phil Jones when the postmortem into the Spurs debacle was carried out at United’s Aon Training Complex.

In a first-half to forget, he was first outmuscled in the build-up to Christian Eriksen’s crucial opener after 11 seconds before soon comically slotting into his own goal from Kieran Tripper’s cross.

It’s important to remember that the axis between Jones and Chris Smalling axis had earned clean sheets in the club’s last five matches. Is a reactionary change the correct approach?

The alternatives will not fill Mourinho with hope. Summer buy Victor Lindelof looked physically feeble in the FA Cup at League Two’s Yeovil Town and had a shocker at Huddersfield, while Argentina international Marcos Rojo is still finding his way back to match sharpness.

Jones and Smalling could then remain the safe option – despite their Spurs stumbles – until superb Ivory Coast star Eric Bailly is back in contention “around the end of the month”, as Mourinho confirmed on Friday.

Phil Jones after his own goal at Spurs.

Phil Jones after his own goal at Spurs.

THE POGBA PROBLEM

All the talk pre-Spurs was about fitting in new buy Alexis Sanchez, but it’s now more than 16 months since Paul Pogba was brought back to Manchester and Mourinho seems no closer to knowing how to best utilise him.

Wednesday’s game saw Pogba abandon defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic, argue on the touchline with Mourinho about his positioning and then be unceremoniously hooked after 63 minutes.

In a staccato season, the France superstar is running at a top-flight assist every 143 minutes. But it is only Everton away, when his stationing at Juventus on the left side of a three-man centre midfield was replicated, where he’s looked at his best.

A start for Spain’s Ander Herrera is advised.

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho in conversation.

Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho in conversation.

REST FOR THE WICKED

United supporters have quickly grown used to the sight of summer buys Romelu Lukaku and Matic.

The pair are the club’s only outfield players to register more than 2,000 Premier League minutes this term, Matic’s 130 minutes ahead of his Belgian colleague on 2,214 minutes from a possible 2,250 minutes.

Even though Huddersfield handed out a 2-1 defeat in the previous meeting, a rare chance at rotation should be grasped. Sanchez, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford should all being capable of biting the Terriers – who have not won in the league since December 16.

In defensive midfield, men at opposite sides of the age spectrum in Scott McTominay or Michael Carrick could deputise.

Veteran United midfielder Michael Carrick.

Veteran United midfielder Michael Carrick.

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Mohamed Salah on cusp of Liverpool record and other stats as Reds host Tottenham

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Mohamed Salah is one away from 20 Premier League goals for Liverpool.

Liverpool and Tottenham go head to head in the Premier League on Sunday, with the Reds sitting two points above fifth-placed Spurs in third spot.

The Kop side will be looking to gain revenge on the north London club after suffering a 4-1 hammering in the reverse fixture back in October.

Here, we take a look at five stats before the clash at Anfield.

– Liverpool are unbeaten in each of their last 14 Premier League games at Anfield (W8 D6) – they last went on a longer run in December 2016 (17 games).

– Spurs have won seven points from their last nine available on the road in the Premier League (W2 D1 L0), after collecting just one point from the previous 15 up for grabs (W0 D1 L4).

– Jurgen Klopp has lost just one of his six encounters in all competitions with Tottenham as a manager (W2 D3 L1) – although this defeat came in the reverse fixture this season at Wembley (1-4).

– Harry Kane has had a hand in six goals in six Premier League appearances against Liverpool (four goals, two assists), including three in the reverse fixture this season (two goals, one assist).

– Mohamed Salah has scored 19 Premier League goals in 24 games this season – the quickest a player has got to 20 goals in the competition for Liverpool is 27 games (Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge).

Stats provided by Opta.

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Liverpool v Tottenham: Key talking points ahead of crucial Premier League clash

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Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino

Liverpool host Tottenham on Sunday in what could prove to be a pivotal match in the race for the Premier League top four.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the game at Anfield.

VICTORS IN THE DRIVING SEAT 

A few weeks ago, Spurs appeared to have left themselves a mountain to climb to seal Champions League qualification but after Wednesday’s impressive win over Manchester United, they are right back in contention.

Now only two points behind Liverpool and Chelsea, and five adrift of United, Tottenham can jump above their opponents on Sunday with a victory.

But Jurgen Klopp’s men are in form, the only side to have taken more points from their last six league games than Spurs. Both teams might settle for a draw.

TOTTENHAM’S ANFIELD WOES

It is seven years since Tottenham last won away at Liverpool, who have emerged victorious from five of the last seven meetings on their home turf.

Spurs’ problems at Anfield are not a one-off. While strong at home against the top sides, they have struggled away, winning only one out of 18 games on their travels against the top six under Mauricio Pochettino.

It suggests a team that has been either tactically naive or mentally fragile but there are signs of progress this season. They took four points from trips to Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. Now they need to do it domestically.

Tottenham celebrate their win over Real Madrid

Tottenham celebrate their win over Real Madrid

KANE TO HIT PREMIER LEAGUE No.100

Kane moved onto 99 Premier League goals with his header against Southampton last month but has had to wait two weeks to make the century.

An excellent all-round display against Manchester United on Wednesday was not accompanied by a goal but it will not be long before the striker reaches this latest milestone.

Kane scored twice as Tottenham thrashed Liverpool 4-1 in the reverse fixture back in October and against Liverpool’s shaky defence, he will fancy his chances again.

ALL EYES ON VAN DIJK

Since his eye-watering £75million move to Liverpool at the start the January transfer window, Virgil van Dijk has not had an easy ride.

He scored on his debut against Everton but then struggled in defeats to Swansea and West Brom, before being left on the bench for Tuesday’s win over Huddersfield.

Jamie Carragher has said Van Dijk needs to lose weight and it will be interesting to see if Klopp brings him back in this weekend. If selected, there will be no room for rust, given his opponent is likely to be the razor-sharp Harry Kane.

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk

LIVERPOOL’S PACE TO HURT SPURS

They may not boast the resilience, or even organisation, of Tottenham but Liverpool’s speed in attack is their most dangerous weapon.

Last season, this fixture was decided by Sadio Mane, who scored twice and ran Ben Davies – not the quickest of full-backs – ragged.

With Danny Rose still regaining fitness after injury, Davies is likely to play again this weekend and it would not be a surprise if Klopp pinpointed that flank as an area to exploit.

Spurs will press Liverpool up the pitch with a high defensive line and that will leave their opponents with ample space to run in behind. Liverpool, and Mane, will be looking to capitalise.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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